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Retail sales were flat in July, except for a surge in vehicle sales of 1.1% M/M (without auto sales, the M/M retail sales change would have been -0.3%). The increase in vehicle sales is a positive sign of consumer confidence, as was the continued strong upward trend in ecommerce (1.3% monthly gain), but spending in other sectors was otherwise generally weak and slightly dims the possibility of an interest rate hike in September.
Jobless claims remain at historically low levels, suggesting a low rate of layoffs and general economic strength. Initial claims dropped by 1,000 to 266,000 for the August 6 week, although continuing claims increased by 14,000 to 2.155M in the July 30 week. The 4-week average for both indicators has not changed significantly.
On the hiring side of things, there was a positive Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) report, a lagging indicator that nevertheless provides deeper insight into the labor market. Job openings increased by 2.0% in June to a 5.624M annualized rate, although this is still lower than April’s peak of 5.845M. Construction and manufacturing were both higher, as were openings in professional & business services, a category that usually foretells further hiring strength.
Tues August 16 — Housing Starts (economic activity indicator)
Tues August 16 — Consumer Price Index (inflation indicator)