Fed: May economic activity shows signs of slowdown

Mixed bag on housing, positive news on unemployment

On Wednesday the final estimate of the first quarter GDP is expected to come in unchanged – a 0.2% contraction – owing to a number of factors including winter weather, the California port strike, and other issues.

In the meanwhile, early reports for the second quarter paint a mixed picture – according to the Chicago Federal Reserve, there was net improvement in May’s run of economic data but not much at least based on the national activity index which comes in at minus 0.17 vs a downward revised minus 0.19 in April.

The 3-month average is telling the same story of weakness, at minus 0.16 vs a revised minus 0.20 in April.
Much stronger payroll growth, at 280,000, was May’s highlight but the gain was offset by a 1 tenth tick higher in the unemployment rate to 5.5% which leaves the month’s total employment contribution to the index unchanged at plus 0.10.

Other readings were also little changed and all soft: production-related indicators at minus 0.17 vs April’s minus 0.19, sales/orders/inventories at zero vs minus 0.1, and personal consumption & housing at minus 0.09.
Housing data has been mixed, with strong news on starts and but a slowing in sales and price growth.

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