Though 0.0% GDP growth isn't great news, keep in mind that the economy shrank 2.1% in the first quarter of 2014 and then rebounded to grow 4.6% in the second quarter and 5.0% in the third quarter. There's no guarantee that we'll see a repeat of last year's trend, but warmer spring weather may translate into stronger consumer spending and housing market activity.
Much of the slowdown in growth can be attributed to the effects of the strong dollar and weak oil prices. While cheap oil is a windfall to U.S. consumers who benefit from lower pump prices, volatile prices are hitting domestic oil producers hard. The strong U.S. dollar, which gained over 15.0% on the euro last quarter, has also affected demand for U.S. products.
Investors were also concerned about weak overseas growth, which is affecting corporate profits. The U.S. economy has disengaged from global growth and is leaving many other economies behind. Though domestic demand is strong, lagging economic growth in Europe and other economies is complicating the global growth picture. However, the European Central Bank has stepped up to undertake its own quantitative easing program and we can hope that Eurozone growth will accelerate.
The labor market continued to make important strides last quarter, adding over half a million new jobs. The overall unemployment rate dropped to 5.5% - the lowest rate in six years. Wage growth also picked up as employers were forced to offer higher pay to attract workers. However, the March jobs report shows that the economy created just 126,000 new jobs, less than half of February's gain and the smallest gain in over a year. Was March just an off month because of oil prices and a cold winter? That's the question the Fed will need to answer as it ponders future interest rate moves.
Wednesday: EIA Petroleum Status Report, FOMC Minutes
Thursday: Jobless Claims
Friday: Import and Export Prices, Treasury Budget
Motor vehicle sales edge upward in March. Consumer demand for new vehicles picked up slightly last month. Sales were driven largely by demand for foreign cars and big trucks and SUVs from domestic manufacturers.
Factory orders surge in February. Despite the strong U.S. dollar, new orders for manufactured goods unexpectedly rose 0.2% in February after six straight months of declines. Excluding volatile transportation orders, factory orders rose 0.8%.
U.S. trade deficit narrows. The gap between imports and exports narrowed in February as a strong dollar and a labor dispute at one of America's main ports affected trade. The small deficit may raise first quarter GDP estimates.
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