The numbers: The huge service side of the U.S. economy sped up at the end of 2019, coinciding with solid holiday sales and reduced trade tensions with China.
The Institute for Supply Management’s survey of service-oriented companies such as banks retailers and restaurants rose to a four-month high of 55% in December, from 53.9% in the prior month.
Numbers over 50% are viewed as positive for the economy and anything above 55% is seen as exceptional. The index is still well below its postrecession peak of 60.8%, however, that was reached just a little over a year ago.
Service-oriented companies that derive most of their sales in the U.S. have been better shielded from the conflict with China than more internationally oriented manufacturers.
The ISM’s manufacturing gauge fell to a more than 10-year-low of 47.2% in December, staying below the key 50% cutoff line for the fifth straight month.
What happened: The index for business production in the service sector rebounded in December, rising 5.6 points to 57.2%. Production has dropped in the previous month to a nine-year low.
New orders grew more slowly, however, as did employment. Both indexes were still positive, though.
“The respondents are positive about the potential resolution on tariffs,” said Anthony Nieves, chairman of the services survey.
Altogether, 11 of the 17 industries tracked by ISM said their businesses were expanding. A year ago all but one were growing.
“Growth remains steady,” said an executive at a hospitality company.
“Business activity and growth in our business continues to expand,” said an executive at a management firm.
What they are saying? “There was trepidation ahead of the U.S. nonmanufacturing ISM report after its manufacturing cousin hit a 3-year low in the same month,” said senior economist Jennifer Lee of BMO Capital Markets. “Thankfully, there was no need for it. And this is arguably more important as it accounts for 80% of the private sector economy.”
Big picture: The most of Americans now work for service-style companies and that is why the economy is still growing despite a slump in manufacturing.
Sales inside the U.S. have held up well, negating the need for companies to reduce payrolls. Firms say one of their biggest problems is finding enough skilled labor to fill empty positions, forcing them to either raise wages, retrain new hires or invest more in automation.
A strong service sector bodes for the economy in 2020, especially if the U.S. and China continue to ratchet down tensions.
Market reaction: The Dow Jones Industrial Average
and S&P 500
fell in Tuesday trades on ongoing worries about tensions in the Middle East after the U.S. killed a top Iranian general in Iraq.
The 10-year Treasury yield
Turkey’s Erdogan replaces finance minister amid economic turmoil – Aljazeera.com
Nureddin Nebati takes on the role of finance minister after Lutfi Elvan resigns.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has replaced the country’s finance minister after weeks of economic turmoil in which inflation soared as the lira plummeted to record lows.
The currency has lost more than 40 percent of its value against the US dollar this year, making it the worst-performing of all emerging market currencies.
According to a presidential decree issued near midnight on Wednesday, Erdogan accepted the resignation of Lutfi Elvan and appointed his deputy, Nureddin Nebati, as the new finance minister.
Nebati, 57, has a bachelor’s degree in public administration and a master’s degree in social sciences from Istanbul University. He also holds a doctoral degree in political science and public administration from Turkey’s Kocaeli University.
His predecessor had only been in the role since November 2020, when he was appointed after the resignation of Erdogan’s son-in-law, Berat Albayrak.
Elvan’s year-long tenure was marked by numerous crises.
Earlier on Wednesday, the Turkish Central Bank intervened in markets to prop up the nosediving lira, which has lost nearly 30 percent in value against the dollar in just a month.
Under pressure from Erdogan, Turkey’s officially independent central bank lowered its key interest rate in November for the third time in less than two months. It did so despite inflation approaching 20 percent – four times the government’s target.
Erdogan believes that high interest rates cause high inflation – the exact opposite of conventional economic thinking – and has insisted he would keep rates low.
Turkey’s currency hit yet another record low of more than 14 to the dollar before recouping some losses on Wednesday after a central bank move to sell reserves. One dollar bought 13.22 lira as of Wednesday afternoon.
The recovery, however, was short-lived after Erdogan appeared again to defend his “new economic model” against the “malice of interest”.
Since 2019, Erdogan has sacked three central bank governors who opposed his desire for lower interest rates. The president, who has blamed the lira’s troubles on foreigners sabotaging Turkey’s economy and on their supporters in the country, believes lower rates will fight inflation, boost economic growth, power exports and create jobs.
On Tuesday, figures showed Turkey’s economy had grown by 7.4 percent in the third quarter, compared with a year earlier, but some analysts believe the surge could be short-lived due to the high inflation and currency meltdown.
Meanwhile, public discontent appears to be on the rise.
Last week, demonstrators protested economic policies in the largest city of Istanbul and the capital, Ankara, while the main opposition Republican People’s Party plans a rally for early elections on Saturday in the southern city of Mersin.
Dollar recovers in face of Omicron; commodity currencies slide
The U.S. dollar recovered from a loss on Wednesday after reports the Omicron coronavirus variant is spreading and oil prices turned down, hurting commodity currencies.
The dollar index against major currencies was up 01% in the afternoon in New York after having fallen 0.3% in the morning. The greenback gained against the dollars of Canada, Australia and New Zealand and against the euro and British pound.
“What you are seeing is a classic risk-off move in FX markets and that means the dollar outperforms against the commodity currencies,” said Erik Bregar, an independent foreign exchange analyst.
The dollar lost to the Japanese yen currency, which is often seen as a safer haven, giving up 0.3% to 112.805.
The shifts underscored the hour-to-hour fragility of foreign exchange rates as traders weigh what the Omicron variant might do to plans that Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell signaled on Tuesday to move more quickly to raise U.S. interest rates.
The variant is becoming dominant in South Africa and has appeared in the United States.
“We’ve gotten these conflicting claims about the new variant, and Powell’s comments really threw the markets for a loop,” said Marc Chandler, chief market strategist at Bannockburn Global Forex.
“People are still pretty nervous,” Chandler said.
The dollar’s rebound started as a report from the Institute for Supply Management came out showing that U.S. manufacturing activity picked up in November amid strong demand for goods, keeping inflation high as factories continued to struggle with pandemic-related shortages of raw materials.
An earlier report on U.S. private payrolls suggested that Friday will bring a “solid jobs report” when the government posts more comprehensive payroll numbers, Chandler said.
“Friday’s U.S. jobs data is the next big thing,” he said.
The greenback is up nearly 7% this year. November was its strongest month since June.
The euro lost 0.2% on the day to $1.1314 at 3:21 pm ET (1507 GMT).
The British pound, often considered a risk-on currency, fell back 0.2% against the dollar after having been up 0.4%. The pound is struggling to recover after reaching its lowest level in nearly a year earlier this week on fears over vaccine effectiveness against the Omicron variant.
The Australian dollar lost 0.4% to $0.7103 and the New Zealand dollar lost 0.3% to $0.6805. [AUD/]
Prior to the tailspin caused by Omicron’s advent, the main driver of exchange rates had been expectations of the different speeds at which central banks will raise interest rates.
In cryptocurrencies, bitcoin was up less than 1% at $57,220 at 3:17 pm ET (2017 GMT).
(Reporting by David Henry in New York; Additional reporting by Joice Alves and Elizabeth Howcroft in London; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Andrea Ricci)
Biden says economy 'in strong shape' ahead of holidays – BBC News
The US economy is in a strong position, President Joe Biden has said, thanks to action taken by the government to free up supply chain blockages and tackle the rising cost of living.
He predicted that prices, which have been rising sharply, would ease.
The president said policies to tackle bottlenecks at ports and lower the price of fuel were working.
“We’re heading into a holiday season on very strong shape,” he said. “It’s not because of luck,”
Asked how supply chains would weather disruption from the new variant of coronavirus, President Biden said he was an “optimist”, but that it was too soon to know what the impact might be.
As a result of the economic recovery a typical American family was now better off than before the pandemic struck, the president said, describing a 40% reduction in child poverty as “a moral victory”.
“Americans on average have about $100 (£75.33) more in their pockets every month than they did last year [and] about $350 more each month than they did before the pandemic, even after accounting for inflation,” the president said.
Since taking office, the Biden administration has pumped billions of dollars of stimulus into the US economy, including direct cheques to households and tax breaks.
Economic growth has rebounded as the impact of the pandemic began to ease, and after shrinking 30% in the first six months of 2020, the economy is now back at the size it was pre-pandemic.
However, higher demand for goods, and on-going disruptions to the supply and delivery of those goods, has helped push inflation up to 6.2% – the highest it has been for 31 years.
“I’ve used every tool available to address the price increases,” President Biden said.
Releasing part of the US’s oil reserves last month, in an action coordinated with several other nations, to try to bring down the price of fuel had been “making a difference”, he added.
Independent economic analysis indicated his Build Back Better bill would reduce inflationary pressures, he stressed.
The bill was fully paid for, and would contribute to deficit reduction, by “making the largest corporations and the richest Americans pay a little more in taxes”.
A change in mindset
The $1.9tn (£1.4tn) Build Back Better bill, which includes social and climate spending, still needs to be voted on in the US Senate.
Asked why he believed he would be able to bring down inflation when previous administrations in the 1970s and 1980s failed, the president said: “This is the first time I’ve seen labour and business so ready to cooperate.
“People are in a different state of mind than in the Carter and Nixon years.”
Earlier this week, President Biden hosted the chief executives of several of the countries’ largest manufacturers and retailers, including Walmart and CVS Health, Mattel and Best Buy.
The executives reported that their inventories were up and shelves well-stocked, ready to meet the consumer demand for the holidays, he said.
Biden said the administration had “broken up log jams” in the supply chain through various methods, such as by encouraging port operators to work longer hours.
He also pointed to the easing of rules over truck drivers’ hours. The measures were working, he said, with the number of containers left sitting on docks for over eight days down by 40%.
Michael Pearce, US economist at Capital Economics, thinks the president was right to suggest that some of the stresses on the economy were starting to ease, but that all the problems wouldn’t go away overnight.
“It’s still the case that there are very severe supply problems. Even if they’re starting to fade, it’ll take some time for that to work its way through, especially now that inventory for a lot of goods is so lean,” he told the BBC.
Inflation which remained would therefore persist well into next year, he said, in part thanks to the trillions of dollars pumped into the economy through the pandemic.
The Omicron variant, and expectations that it will hurt economic growth, were probably having a greater impact on the price of fuel, than the move to release oil reserves, Mr Pearce added.
Diane Swonk, chief economist at Grant Thornton, thinks Mr Biden’s Build Back Better bill could have a pro-inflationary impact in the short term unless it was tweaked further by lawmakers.
She felt Omicron, the easing of supply chain problems, and a reduction in government stimulus over the coming months would “take the steam out of inflation but it won’t cool it down enough”.
“The risk is until we can really wrestle the virus to its knees we’ll continue to see disruption, even as demand starts to slow again,” said Ms Swonk.
“We’re starting to see more broader based inflation that likely will linger longer.”
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