1Hope for the Holidays
Consumer spending has been lackluster despite low gasoline prices. The most recent figures showed Americans saved most of their recent income gains, while consumption was nearly flat. Friday’s retail sales numbers from the Commerce Department will show whether Thanksgiving sales loosened purse strings, and the early University of Michigan consumer sentiment reading Friday will give retailers a clue on how December might shape up.
Job growth has been steady, with a seasonally adjusted 211,000 jobs added in November and the unemployment rate hovering at 5%. Tuesday brings another nuance to the picture: how confident employees are feeling about the labor market. The job openings and labor turnover survey details how many Americans quit their jobs in November, a feature of labor market “churn” which suggests workers see better opportunities elsewhere. That figure was little changed in October, although job vacancies were near a 15-year high.
Data on prices for imports and prices that producers receive for goods and services will shed some insight into whether inflation is creeping back into the economy. The strong dollar has sent import prices falling over the past four months. New data Thursday will show whether the trend held. In October, producer prices fell 0.4%, thanks to a strong dollar and cheap energy costs. Friday’s data will similarly show whether those effects are wearing thin or still weighing on inflation.
4View From the Stockroom
In September, business inventories rose but sales were flat, leading to the highest inventory-to-sales ratio since the recession. October data on business inventories, out Friday, will show whether businesses have been able to move any of that stock or if it’s just piling up. Wholesale trade data, out Wednesday, will give a sneak preview of what those ratios look like on the wholesalers’ side.
5Small Business Speaks
Tuesday morning, the release of a monthly survey of 1,400 small U.S. businesses will shed light on hiring, compensation and the general mood among the nation’s small businesses. Small-business hiring ground to a haltin October, although the economy as a whole added jobs at the fastest pace of the year that month.