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US economic growth and consumer spending show resilience – The Tri-City News

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WASHINGTON — The U.S. economy, which only recently was flashing warning signs of a worrisome slowdown, is finishing the year in stronger shape, thanks to a resilient consumer, a healthy job market and interest rate cuts by the Federal Reserve.

The Commerce Department said Friday that the gross domestic product — the economy’s total output of goods and services — expanded at a moderate annual rate of 2.1% in the July-September quarter. A separate report showed that consumer spending grew by a solid 0.4% rate in November, the strongest gain since July, and that incomes rebounded after a weak reading in October.

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The brisk pace of spending in November is a reassuring sign that consumers, who account for about 70% of economic activity, are helping the economy offset drags ranging from President Donald Trump’s trade wars to a global economic slump. Many economists are forecasting that the economy is expanding at a decent 2% annual rate in the final quarter of the year.

Just over a month ago, some tracking polls had been flashing alarm that growth could slow sharply in the fourth quarter to a 0.5% annual pace or less. But since then, Trump has stepped back from imposing a new round of tariffs on billions of dollars of popular consumer goods such as cellphones made in China. And several sectors of the economy have shown signs of resilience. The housing market has rebounded, aided by three interest rate cuts this year from the Fed. Most significantly, the job market is looking healthy: In November, hiring jumped to its highest level since January, with U.S. employers adding 266,000 jobs.

‘’The economy is still solid,” said Diane Swonk, chief economist at Grant Thornton. “What this economy has lacked in momentum, it has made up for in stamina, and the Fed gave it a shot of adrenaline this year with three rate cuts.”

The government’s estimate Friday that GDP grew at a 2.1% annual rate in the July-September quarter was unchanged from its previous estimate. Though the overall growth figure was unchanged, some of the individual components of GDP were revised.

Consumer spending for the quarter, for example, grew at a 3.2% annual pace, the government estimated, up from its previous estimate of 2.9% growth. The new strength was led by higher spending on personal services such as barber shops and nail salons. And housing, which had fallen for six straight quarters, posted a solid 4.6% increase in the third quarter.

On the other hand, the government revised down its estimate of business inventory restocking. Business investment was revised to show a slightly smaller 2.3% annual decline, still the second straight quarterly drop in that key category.

Economists are forecasting moderate growth in the current quarter and for at least the first three months of next year. But they say annual growth could be reduced by about one-half percentage point to 1.5% in the first quarter, reflecting Boeing’s temporary production shutdown of its troubled 737 Max jetliner, before regaining that lost output later.

Though 2% annual growth is below the gains of 3%-plus growth that Trump has pledged, it is far stronger than the recession many analysts feared just a few months ago, when concerns were escalating over the tensions in the U.S.-China trade dispute and weak growth overseas.

For all of 2019, the expectation is that GDP growth will come in at 2.3%, down from the 2.9% gain of 2018, which was the best since 2015. For next year, analysts generally think growth will slow further to 1.8% as the boost from the $1.5 trillion tax cut measure passed in 2017 fades further.

The economy may be getting some help from a preliminary trade deal announced last week that should at least cool tensions between the United States and China. That announcement, along with better economic data recently, has helped lift stock markets to new highs.

Three rate cuts by the Fed this year, partly reversing four rate increases last year, have helped fuel the rebound. And a budget agreement passed this week is expected to shower billions of dollars in increased spending on the military and domestic programs in the coming year, helping to support growth.

Yet even with those gains, analysts are forecasting that growth will slow further in 2020, hurt by continued overseas weakness.

Another headwind could be the 2020 presidential election. It is expected to raise business anxiety about the course of government policies, given the sharp differences between Trump and his Democratic challengers.

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Economy

Canadian retail sales slide in April, May as COVID-19 shutdown bites

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december retail sales

Canadian retail sales plunged in April and May, as shops and other businesses were shuttered amid a third wave of COVID-19 infections, Statistics Canada data showed on Wednesday.

Retail trade fell 5.7% in April, the sharpest decline in a year, missing analyst forecasts of a 5.0% drop. In a preliminary estimate, Statscan said May retail sales likely fell by 3.2% as store closures dragged on.

“April showers brought no May flowers for Canadian retailers this year,” Royce Mendes, senior economist at CIBC Capital Markets, said in a note.

Statscan said that 5.0% of retailers were closed at some point in April. The average length of the closure was one day, it said, citing respondent feedback.

Sales decreased in nine of the 11 subsectors, while core sales, which exclude gasoline stations and motor vehicles, were down 7.6% in April.

Clothing and accessory store sales fell 28.6%, with sales at building material and garden equipment stores falling for the first time in nine months, by 10.4%.

“These results continue to suggest that the Bank of Canada is too optimistic on the growth outlook for the second quarter, even if there is a solid rebound occurring now in June,” Mendes said.

The central bank said in April that it expects Canada’s economy to grow 6.5% in 2021 and signaled interest rates could begin to rise in the second half of 2022.

The Canadian dollar held on to earlier gains after the data, trading up 0.3% at 1.2271 to the greenback, or 81.49 U.S. cents.

(Reporting by Julie Gordon in Ottawa, additional reporting by Fergal Smith in Toronto, editing by Alexander Smith)

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Canadian dollar notches a 6-day high

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The Canadian dollar strengthened for a third day against its U.S. counterpart on Wednesday, as oil prices rose and Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell reassured markets that the central bank is not rushing to hike rates.

Markets were rattled last week when the Fed shifted to more hawkish guidance. But Powell on Tuesday said the economic recovery required more time before any tapering of stimulus and higher borrowing costs are appropriate, helping Wall Street recoup last week’s decline.

Canada is a major producer of commodities, including oil, so its economy is highly geared to the economic cycle.

Brent crude rose above $75 a barrel, reaching its highest since late 2018, after an industry report on U.S. crude inventories reinforced views of a tightening market as travel picks up in Europe and North America.

The Canadian dollar was trading 0.3% higher at 1.2271 to the greenback, or 81.49 U.S. cents, after touching its strongest level since last Thursday at 1.2265.

The currency also gained ground on Monday and Tuesday, clawing back some of its decline from last week.

Canadian retail sales fell by 5.7% in April from March as provincial governments put in place restrictions to tackle a third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, Statistics Canada said. A flash estimate showed sales down 3.2% in May.

Still, the Bank of Canada expects consumer spending to lead a strong rebound in the domestic economy as vaccinations climb and containment measures ease.

Canadian government bond yields were mixed across a steeper curve, with the 10-year up nearly 1 basis point at 1.416%. Last Friday, it touched a 3-1/2-month low at 1.364%.

(Reporting by Fergal Smith; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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Economy

Toronto Stock Exchange higher at open as energy stocks gain

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Toronto Stock Exchange edged higher at open on Wednesday as heavyweight energy stocks advanced, while data showing a plunge in domestic retail sales in April and May capped the gains.

* At 9:30 a.m. ET (13:30 GMT), the Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index was up 16.77 points, or 0.08%, at 20,217.42.

(Reporting by Amal S in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila)

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