The Philadelphia Fed manufacturing index fell sharply back in May, for the second straight month. The headline figure plunged from 18.5 to 3.9, while a slight rebound to 20.0 was expected. The details were not better as only employment (22.1 from 12.3) improved. New orders (5.4 from 18.8), shipments (6.5 from 29.1) and average workweek (3.9 from 17.7) weakened sharply and unfilled orders (-7.8 from 12.9), delivery time (-2.3 from 11.2) and inventories (-5.4 from 1.7) fell even back into contraction. Upward price pressures eased somewhat as both prices paid (48.2 from 57.1) and prices received (16.8 from 27.5) fell in May. While the details of the Empire State manufacturing index were still strong, which was in sharp contrast with the headline figure, the Philly Fed manufacturing index shows overall weakness, providing further evidence that growth is easing in the US manufacturing sector.
In the week ended May the 14th, US initial jobless claims fell for a second consecutive month and even surprised on the downside of expectations. Initial claims dropped by 29 000 from an upwardly revised 438 000 to 409 000, while the consensus was looking for a more moderate decline (to 420 000). The four-week moving average, on the contrary, continued to move higher, rising from 437 750 to 439 000. The US labour department added that there were no special factors affecting the claims last week. After the uptick in April, the claims are falling back to more normal levels, raising expectations that the higher claims readings were probably due to special factors and not to a worsening in labour market conditions. Nevertheless, we hope to see a further decline in the coming months with claims falling back below 400 000. Continuing claims surprised on the downside too, falling from 3 792 000 to 3 711 000, while a decline to 3 728 000 was expected.
In April, US existing home sales fell back slightly after a rebound in March. Existing home sales dropped by 0.8% M/M to a total level of 5.05 million, while the consensus was looking for an increase by 2.0% M/M. The details show that sales of both single (-0.5% M/M) and multi-family (3.1% M/M) homes fell in April. Regional details indicate that existing home sales fell in the Northeast (-7.5% M/M), South (-1.0% M/M) and West (-1.6% M/M) while they rose in the Midwest (5.7% M/M). The number of existing homes available for sale increased from 3.520 million to 3.870 million and months’ supply jumped from 8.3 to 9.2. While we were hoping for an improvement in the US housing market due to the start of the spring selling season, this outcome provides further evidence that US housing market conditions remain weak.