Manufacturing activity in New York State, Home Builders remained optimistic, Retail sales declined

April 17, 2017

Manufacturing activity in the New York State region declined in April from March, further indicating that economic growth continues to decrease. The Empire Manufacturing Index fell 11 points to 5.2 and below the 13 expected. Within the report it showed that the new orders index declined, while the employment component continued to signal strength in the labor market. Looking ahead, the report showed fairly widespread optimism about future conditions.

Home builders remained optimistic, but cooled a bit in April, though they reported strong interest among potential home buyers. The National Association for Home Builders Housing Market Index, a measure of home builder sentiment, fell three points in April from March to 68 and below the 70 expected. Any number over 50 indicates that more builders view conditions as good rather than poor. “The fact that the measure of current sales conditions has been over 70 for five consecutive months shows that there is continued demand for new construction,” said NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz.

The Commerce Department reported on Friday that Retail Sales declined for the second month in a row in March, posting their worst two-month stretch in two years. Lower sales for automobiles and gasoline led the 0.2% drop in March. February also was revised lower to -0.3% from 0.1%. The negative numbers for Retail Sales in the last two months will be a key metric when first-quarter 2017 Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is released on April 28 because consumer spending makes up two thirds of overall economic activity. The latest estimate from the Atlanta Fed’s GDPNow Forecast sees first-quarter GDP coming in at an anemic 0.6%, down from the previous estimate of 1.2% on April 4.