The April inflation reports were a bit on the soft side of expectations, reducing somewhat the fears that we’re on the verge of an upside breakout in inflation. There’s no sign that a strong economy is putting much upward pressure on consumer prices.
Nonfarm payrolls rose by a little less than one million in April – that is, prior to seasonal adjustment – up by 2.932 million from January to April (vs. +2.708 million for the same three months a year ago). Seasonally adjusted, the trend in private-sector payroll growth has remained strong in recent months.
Real GDP rose at a 2.3% annual rate in the advance estimate for the first quarter, a bit stronger than anticipated (the median forecast was +2.0%), but “close enough for government work.” These figures will be revised, but the underlying story is unlikely to change much.
The Bureau of Economic Analysis will report the advance estimate of 1Q18 GDP growth on April 27. These figures will be revised, but the underlying story is not expected to change much. Growth was likely moderate, not horrible, but far short of the lofty expectations that some had put forth at the start of the quarter. Nobody appears too worried about that.
The March reports remained consistent with the view that inflation will move toward the Fed’s 2% goal, perhaps sooner than expected. The FOMC minutes were not expected to surprise, but several Fed officials felt that it might be appropriate to move the federal funds rate above a neutral level for a time.
Nonfarm payrolls rose less than expected in March (+103,000), but the trend remained strong, well beyond a pace consistent with the growth in the labor supply.
Recent economic data suggest the overall growth was at a moderate pace in the first quarter, respectable, but short of the very lofty expectations seen at the start of the quarter.
Financial market participants took the Fed policy meeting outcome as “dovish,” but the end result was a little more hawkish. The Fed’s revised economic projections weren’t much of a surprise, but they illustrate the thinking behind the expected monetary policy outlook. Of course, there are risks, notably a major misstep on trade policy. Gulp!
The Federal Open Market Committee is widely expected to raise the federal funds target rate on Wednesday (to 1.50-1.75%). For investors, the key question is the pace of tightening that will follow.
Nonfarm payrolls rose by 313,000 in the initial estimate for February, with a net revision of +54,000 to December and January. The unemployment rate held steady at 4.1%, despite a rise in labor force participation.