MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Monday, September 17th. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day. Good morning. I’m Mary Reichard.
NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. Coming next on The World and Everything in It, the Monday Moneybeat.
Let’s start with four government reports on economic results from August. Two of them suggest continued strength in the economy. The other two not so much, but at least they don’t suggest we’re headed the wrong direction.
First, retail sales: In August, the Commerce Department said consumer spending rose just one-tenth of a percent. That’s not bad in and of itself. But it’s substantially less than July’s increase of seven-tenths of a percent.
This is a much-monitored number. Retail purchases account for 70 percent of gross domestic product.
Rising consumer confidence suggests August may be just a blip, though. According to the private economic monitor the Conference Board, its consumer confidence index soared in August to its highest level since October 2000.
Second, consumer prices. This report matters because it’s a key data point for inflation. The Labor Department’s consumer price index for August came in 2.7 percent higher year over year versus last August.
Higher costs for gasoline and housing drove the index up. The silver lining there is that hourly wages outpaced the price hikes, and that doesn’t even take into account lower taxes.
REICHARD: The more positive reports are industrial production—that’s up a healthy four-tenths of a percent—and unemployment applications. They’re at the lowest they’ve been since December of 1969.
Gains in automobile manufacturing and domestic production of oil and natural gas drove up overall industrial production. Compared to last August, it’s up almost 5 percent. It’s not risen that substantially since 2010, when industrial production rose 5.5 percent year over year versus 2009, when the economy was in recession.
EICHER: The Census Bureau released its 2017 report on median household income. It reached $61,372 last year. And the poverty rate fell to 12.3 percent from 12.7 the previous year. The increase in income marked three straight years of growth and the poverty reduction marked three straight years of decline.
The 2017 median income is the highest in history and it’s adjusted for inflation, so it’s a straight apples-to-apples comparison.
REICHARD: Wall Street returned to its winning ways. All the major market indexes finished higher for the week. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index of stocks gained 1.2 percent. The Dow Jones Industrials, nine-tenths of a percent. The tech-heavy NASDAQ picked up 1.4 percent, and the Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks enjoyed a half-point gain for the week.
EICHER: On the year, then, the S&P 500 is up 8.7, the Dow 5.8, the NASDAQ 16 percent, and the Russell 2000 12.1.
And that’s today’s Monday Moneybeat.