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Business & Financial
Dr. Constantine G. Soras, Economics Editor

Fed Holds On Interest Rates As Economy Growth Slows

By Dr. Constantine G. Soras, Economics Editor

I ndustrial output rose 0.2 percent in June, which was the smallest increase in nine months. Growth in factory output slowed down to 0.3 percent after rising 0.4 percent in May and 0.6 percent in April. Despite the slowdown, industrial output grew at a booming annual rate of 7.0 percent in the second quarter, following a strong 6.5-percent gain in the first quarter of this year.
The operating rate edged down to 82.1 percent in June from 82.2 percent in May.

Housing starts declined 2.6 percent in June to 1.554 million units. Starts dropped 3.4 percent in May and are down 14.7 percent from the February high of 1.822 million.

The nation’s trade deficit in goods and services ballooned to a record $31.04 billion in May, from $30.50 billion in April. U.S. exports fell 1.0 percent to $85.75 billion, as exports of capital goods declined, and the dollar continues to be strong. Imports slipped 0.3 percent to $116.79 billion due to a decline in shipments of autos.
Business sales advanced 1.0 percent in May after falling 0.6 percent in April, while business inventories rose 0.8 percent.

The inventory-to-sales ratio remained intact at 1.32 in May. This means that inventories are relatively low, which bodes well for sustained growth.


Factory Jobs Rebound; New Jobs Created In Private Sector

The latest economic reports indicate that the pace of the U.S. economy, while still growing at a healthy rate, has slowed down from the booming rate in the first quarter. As a result, the Federal Reserve has indicated that there is no need for another rate hike in August.

Nonfarm payrolls increased 11,000 as employment of 190,000 temporary census workers ended. The private sector created 206,000 jobs in June after falling in May, bringing the average to 177,000 per month.

Factory jobs rebounded by 8,000 in June, and construction payrolls were in the plus column by 3,000. The civilian jobless rate edged down to 4.0 percent in June from 4.1 percent.

The Producer Price Index (PPI) surged 0.6 percent in June as energy prices shot up 5.1 percent. The PPI was unchanged in May and was down 0.3 percent in April. The core rate of the PPI, which excludes food and energy costs, declined 0.1 percent in June, after rising by 0.2 percent in May and 0.1 percent in each of the previous two months.

Consumer prices also jumped 0.6 percent in June, following a 0.1 percent increase in May and no change in April. Energy prices surged 5.6 percent in June, after easing 1.9 percent in each of the previous two months. From a year ago, consumer prices are up 3.7 percent, as energy costs skyrocketed by 21.3 percent. The core inflation, however, was up by a modest 2.4 percent.

Textile Industry Jobless Rate Drops; Prices Higher For Carpets, Home Furnishings

Results for textiles and apparel were mostly negative. The industry’s payrolls rose 0.2 percent in June, while the average weekly hours worked increased 0.7 percent. The industry’s jobless rate dipped to 3.2 percent from 3.3 percent.

Shipments by textile producers dropped 1.1 percent in May and were down 0.9 percent in April. Inventories grew 0.5 percent in May. As a result, May’s inventory-to-sales ratio climbed to 1.60 from 1.57 in April.

Textile production edged down 0.1 percent in June after taking a 2.4-percent dive in May. Textile output plunged 6.1 percent at annual rate in the second quarter, after slipping 0.4 percent in the first quarter. Meanwhile, the June operating rate for textiles eased to 82.3 percent from 82.4 percent in May.

Consumer spending rose 0.5 percent in June, after gaining 0.3 percent in May. Excluding autos, retail sales were up 0.2 percent in June and 0.5 percent in May.

Producer prices of textiles and apparel edged down 0.1 percent in June. Prices jumped 0.9 percent for carpets, gained 0.3 percent for home furnishings and for synthetic fibers, and inched up 0.1 percent finished fabrics. Prices dropped 1.3 percent for greige fabrics and went down 0.3 percent for processed yarns and threads.


August 2000