MARY REICHARD, HOST: Coming next on The World and Everything in It, the Monday Moneybeat.
NICK EICHER, HOST: Three reports last week taken together suggested an economic slowdown: First, though, the good news. Weekly applications for unemployment benefits fell to a low level, 216,000. What that number tells is that the strong job market remains strong and stable, because lower jobless claims mean fewer layoffs.
Second, and this has been a nagging problem for at least a year now, home sales. In January overall home sales fell again, a decline of 1.2 percent. The National Association of Realtors says it’s the slowest sales rate since November 2015. So for the past 12 months, home sales have fallen 8-and-a-half percent.
Third, a government report on durable goods. These are big-ticket manufactured items built to last three years or more. That number went up 1.2 percent in December, but for a better picture of the overall strength of the economy, you really have to exclude sales of aircraft, because that’s a highly volatile number. It’s either way up or way down, and in December it was way up. So for the rest of the category, excluding airplane purchases, durables fell seven-tenths of a percent, after falling a full percentage point in November. It suggests a weaker-than-expected final quarter of 2018 for economic growth. We should know for sure this week, when the Commerce Department releases its report on Gross Domestic Product.
REICHARD: The Federal Reserve issued its semi-annual report to Congress. The big takeaway from the report is the Fed’s official about-face on interest rates. Last July, it was intent on continuing to increase interest rates. Now, it says it’s prepared to be “patient” on rate hikes, given signs of weakness in the global economy. Tomorrow, Fed chair Jay Powell testifies before a Senate committee and on Wednesday, a House committee.
EICHER: On Wall Street, stocks continued posting modest gains. For the Standard & Poor’s 500, it was the fourth straight winning week. The S&P up six-tenths of a percent. The Dow Jones Industrials did the same. The Nasdaq gained seven-tenths, and the Russell 2000—that’s an index of smaller-company stocks—picked up 1.3 percent.
And that is today’s Monday Moneybeat.