“The recovery is accelerating and the needed rebuilding of the economy is underway.”
NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz
WASHINGTON – With more vaccines in arms, federal stimulus putting money into pockets and consumers shopping again, the U.S. economy has made dramatic progress since the coronavirus pandemic brought activity to a near-standstill this time last year, National Retail Federation Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said today.
“The economy has come a long way compared with a year ago,” Kleinhenz said. “Both monetary policy set by the Federal Reserve and fiscal policy set by Congress and the White House have responded with swift and overwhelming force to support the economy. NRF is optimistic that the recovery is accelerating and the needed rebuilding of the economy is underway. The rate of vaccinations is ramping up, and the numbers paint an increasingly encouraging picture.”
Kleinhenz’s remarks came in the April issue of NRF’s Monthly Economic Review, which said conditions have “improved dramatically” after the “unpredictable shock” of the pandemic brought widespread shutdowns of retailers and other businesses beginning in March 2020.
This time a year ago, 22 million Americans had lost their jobs in two months, unemployment shot from a 50-year low of 3.5 percent to 14.7 percent and economic output fell by 31 percent, according to NRF’s report. By contrast, more than half the jobs lost have been recovered, the Federal Reserve expects gross domestic product to grow 6.5 percent this year and household net worth is at an all-time high at $122.9 trillion.
Kleinhenz said the increase in net worth came as home values rose and savings accumulated as consumers stayed home rather than eating out, traveling or attending entertainment or sports events. The wealth “provides consumers with plenty of purchasing power” that will likely be seen across consumer-facing industries.
The new round of $1,400 stimulus checks currently being distributed under the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act are certain to “fuel another leg of growth,” although they could be split between spending, saving and paying down debt, Kleinhenz said.
While the economy is stronger, the recovery has been uneven, Kleinhenz said. Despite continuing gains, employment remains soft with around 10 million still out of work and unemployment at 6.2 percent. Low-income workers and members of minority communities have been disproportionately impacted.
While some economists have expressed concern that the quickly growing economy could lead to inflation, Kleinhenz said he agreed with Federal Reserve officials who believe higher prices are unlikely to be sustainable. Supply will catch up with demand, the labor market is keeping wages in check and competitive ecommerce is limiting sellers’ pricing power, he said.
NRF has forecast that 2021 retail sales – excluding automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants – will grow between 6.5 percent and 8.2 percent over 2020 to between $4.33 trillion and $4.4 trillion. That could top 2020’s growth of 6.6 percent, which broke the previous record of 6.3 percent set in 2004 despite the pandemic.
The National Retail Federation, the world’s largest retail trade association, passionately advocates for the people, brands, policies and ideas that help retail thrive. From its headquarters in Washington, D.C., NRF empowers the industry that powers the economy. Retail is the nation’s largest private-sector employer, contributing $3.9 trillion to annual GDP and supporting one in four U.S. jobs – 52 million working Americans. For over a century, NRF has been a voice for every retailer and every retail job, educating, inspiring and communicating the powerful impact retail has on local communities and global economies.
Canada’s budget to include pandemic and childcare supports, luxury tax
By Steve Scherer
OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canada will present a budget on Monday with billions of dollars for pandemic recovery measures as COVID-19 infections skyrocket, C$2 billion ($1.6 billion) toward national childcare, and new taxes on luxury goods.
Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s first budget in two years will also set aside C$12 billion ($9.6 billion) to extend wage and rent subsidy programs to the autumn, the Toronto Star reported on Sunday.
Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland is due to present the budget at about 4 p.m. (2000 GMT).
The document promises in excess of C$2 billion as a “starting point” for a national childcare program, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp said, adding that the 2020-2021 federal deficit had come in under C$400 billion.
In November, the government forecast a deficit of C$381.6 billion, which would be its highest level since World War Two. [https://tmsnrt.rs/3wSJPcm]
The budget will also include a luxury tax effective from 2022 on new cars and private aircraft valued at more than C$100,000 ($79,970), and boats worth over C$250,000, government sources familiar with the document told Reuters.
There will be a sales tax for online platforms and e-commerce warehouses from July, and a digital services tax for Web giants like Alphabet Inc’s Google and Facebook Inc from 2022.
Freeland promised in November up to C$100 billion in stimulus over three years to “jump-start” an economic recovery during what is likely to be an election year, and the government so far not backed away from that commitment.
Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson, speaking to the CBC, confirmed that the budget would be “ambitious” and that the government would “invest for jobs and growth to rebuild this economy,” although he added there would be “fiscal guardrails” to put spending on a “sustainable track.”
Amid a spiking third wave of infections, Ontario, Canada‘s most-populous province, announced new public health restrictions on Friday, including closing the province’s borders to non-essential domestic travel.
Canada has been ramping up its vaccination campaign but still has a smaller percentage of its population inoculated than dozens of other countries, including the United States and Britain.
($1 = 1.2514 Canadian dollars)
(Reporting by Steve Scherer; Editing by Nick Zieminski and Peter Cooney)
TSX extends gains as gold prices rise, set to rise for third week
(Reuters) -Canada’s main stock index extended its rise on Friday after hitting a record high a day earlier as gold prices advanced, and was set to gain for a third straight week.
* At 9:40 a.m. ET (13:38 GMT), the Toronto Stock Exchange‘s S&P/TSX composite index was up 24.24 points, or 0.1%, at 19,326.16.
* The Canadian economy is likely to grow at a slower pace in this quarter and the next than previously expected, but tighter lockdown restrictions from another wave of coronavirus were unlikely to derail the economic recovery, a Reuters poll showed.
* The energy sector climbed 0.6% even as U.S. crude prices slipped 0.1% a barrel. Brent crude added 0.1%. [O/R]
* The materials sector, which includes precious and base metals miners and fertilizer companies, added 0.3% as gold futures rose 0.7% to $1,777.9 an ounce. [GOL/] [MET/L]
* The financials sector gained 0.2%. The industrials sector rose 0.1%.
* On the TSX, 117 issues advanced, while 102 issues declined in a 1.15-to-1 ratio favoring gainers, with 14.26 million shares traded.
* The largest percentage gainers on the TSX were Cascades Inc, which jumped 4.2%, and Ballard Power Systems, which rose 2.9%.
* Lghtspeed POS fell 5.6%, the most on the TSX, while the second biggest decliner was goeasy, down 4.9%.
* The most heavily traded shares by volume were Zenabis Global Inc, Bombardier and Royal Bank of Canada.
* The TSX posted 23 new 52-week highs and no new low.
* Across Canadian issues, there were 160 new 52-week highs and 12 new lows, with total volume of 29.68 million shares.
(Reporting by Shashank Nayar in Bengaluru;Editing by Vinay Dwivedi)
Canadian economy likely to slow, but COVID-19 threat to growth low
By Indradip Ghosh and Mumal Rathore
BENGALURU (Reuters) – The Canadian economy is likely to grow at a slower pace this quarter and next than previously expected, but tighter lockdown restrictions from another wave of coronavirus were unlikely to derail the economic recovery, a Reuters poll showed.
Restrictions have been renewed in some provinces as they struggle with a rapid spread of the virus, which has already infected over 1 million people in the country.
After an expected 5.6% growth in the first quarter, the economy was forecast to expand 3.6% this quarter, a sharp downgrade from 6.7% predicted in January.
It was then forecast to grow 6.0% in the third quarter and 5.5% in the fourth, compared with 6.8% and 5.0% forecast previously.
But over three-quarters of economists, or 16 of 21, in response to an additional question said tighter curbs from another COVID-19 wave were unlikely to derail the economic recovery, including one respondent who said “very unlikely”.
“Canada is undergoing a third wave of the virus and while case loads are accelerating, the resiliency the economy has shown in the face of the second wave suggests it can ride out the third wave as well, without considerable economic consequences,” said Sri Thanabalasingam, senior economist at TD Economics.
The April 12-16 poll of 40 economists forecast the commodity-driven economy would grow on average 5.8% this year, the fastest pace of annual expansion in 13 years and the highest prediction since polling began in April 2019.
For next year, the consensus was upgraded to 4.0% from 3.6% growth predicted in January.
What is likely to help is the promise of a fiscal package by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau late last year, which the Canadian government was expected to outline, at least partly, in its first federal budget in two years, on April 19.
When asked what impact that would have, over half, or 11 of 20 economists, said it would boost the economy significantly. Eight respondents said it would have little impact and one said it would have an adverse impact.
“The economic impact of the federal government’s promised C$100 billion fiscal stimulus will depend most importantly on its make up,” said Tony Stillo, director of Canada economics at Oxford Economics.
“A stimulus package that enhances the economy’s potential could provide a material boost to growth without stoking price pressures.”
All but two of 17 economists expected the Bank of Canada to announce a taper to the amount of its weekly bond purchases at its April 21 meeting. The consensus showed interest rates left unchanged at 0.25% until 2023 at least.
“The BoC is set to cut the pace of its asset purchases next week,” noted Stephen Brown, senior Canada economist at Capital Economics.
“While it will also upgrade its GDP forecasts, we expect it to make an offsetting change to its estimate of the economy’s potential, implying the Bank will not materially alter its assessment of when interest rates need to rise.”
(Reporting and polling by Indradip Ghosh and Mumal Rathore; editing by Rahul Karunakar, Larry King)
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