In the US, Conference Board’s consumer confidence weakened for a second straight month in April. Consumer confidence dropped from a downwardly revised 69.5 to 69.2, marginally below the consensus, which was looking for a drop to 69.6. The details show that sentiment regarding the present situation improved from 49.9 to 51.4, while expectations weakened from 82.5 to 81.1. The labour market differential improved from -31.7 to -29.1, quite remarkably after the weaker payrolls and upward trend in the claims recently. Overall however the deterioration in consumer confidence over the previous two months remains very limited and there is no reason to worry at all. Conference Board’s consumer confidence remains close to the recent highs, but in a longer term perspective remains rather weak as the LT average is at 93.5.
After the strong drop in March, the Richmond Fed manufacturing index reversed part of the losses in April. The Richmond Fed index rebounded from 7 to 14, while the consensus was looking for another, but slight drop (to 6). Also the details are encouraging and suggest that last month’s drop was probably an exaggeration. Shipments (18 from 2), capacity utilization (15 from 6) and number of employees (10 from 6) improved significantly, while a more moderate rebound was seen in new order volume (13 from 11), average workweek (3 from 2) and wages (14 from 11). Order backlog (2 from 4) and vendor lead time (8 from 11) weakened somewhat at the start of the second quarter. Prices paid rose further (2.71 from 2.50), while prices received slowed (1.19 from 1.50), suggesting that profit margins are narrowing. After the strong drop in March, the rebound is an encouraging sign, which suggests that the decline was probably an exaggeration. It will be interesting to see whether this will be confirmed by other business confidence indicators as signs had appeared that the momentum is slowing in the US manufacturing sector.
In March, US new home sales dropped sharply, but this was more than offset by a strong upward revision in the previous month’s data. New home sales dropped by 7.1% M/M to 328 000, while the previous figure was upwardly revised from 313 000 to 353 000. The consensus was looking for an outcome of 319 000. The details show a mixed picture as new home sales dropped sharply in the West (- 27% M/M) and Midwest (-20% M/M), while they rose in the Northeast (7.7% M/M) and South (3.1% M/M). The number of new homes for sale dropped from 146 000 to 144 000, while months’ supply picked up from 5.0 to 5.3. New home sales remain at depressed levels as the inventory of new homes for sale is very low and the market faces strong competition from existing homes which often sell at a cheaper price. New home sales will probably remain depressed over the coming months as the inventory of existing homes needs to be worked off first.