U.S. Economic Strength on Display This Week

Much has been made in the press recently about the strength of the U.S. economy relative to the rest of the world.  Sharp year/year increases in home prices, the stock market and consumer confidence have created optimism about America’s prospects.  This perceived strength will be tested this week when data on manufacturing, services and the all-important nonfarm payroll number are released.  It is interesting to note that in the midst of this optimism, economists are expecting all of these measures to come in flat versus the prior few months.  In the case of manufacturing, ISM manufacturing was reported this morning at 49 (below 50 indicates contraction).  For the jobs number, a gain of 166k jobs with the unemployment rate holding steady at 7.5% is expected.  We will be watching closely to discern popular opinion from the data, to see if they line up or begin to diverge.  We expect continued volatility and a lack of direction in these statistics, leading to continued uncertainty for investors and the Federal Reserve alike.