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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

Soft landing hopes for U.S. economy brighten outlook on stocks – The Globe and Mail

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Optimism is seeping back into the U.S. stock market, as some investors grow more convinced that the economy may avoid a severe downturn even as it copes with high inflation.

The benchmark S&P 500 has rebounded about 15% since mid-June, halving its year-to-date loss, and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite is up 20% over that time. Many of the so-called meme stocks that had been pummeled in the first half of the year have come screaming back, while the Cboe Volatility Index, known as Wall Street’s fear gauge, stands near a four-month low.

In the past week, bullish sentiment reached its highest level since March, according to a survey from the American Association of Individual Investors. Earlier this year, that gauge tumbled to its lowest in nearly 30 years, when stocks swooned on worries over how the Federal Reserve’s monetary tightening would hit the economy.

“We have experienced a fair amount of pain, but the perspective in how people are trading has turned violently towards a glass half full versus a glass half empty,” said Mark Hackett, Nationwide’s chief of investment research.

Data over the last two weeks bolstered hopes that the Fed can achieve a soft landing for the economy. While last week’s strong jobs report allayed fears of recession, inflation numbers this week showed the largest month-on-month deceleration of consumer price increases since 1973.

The shift in market mood was reflected in data released by BoFA Global Research on Friday: tech stocks saw their largest inflows in around two months over the past week, while Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities, or TIPS, which are used to hedge against inflation, notched their fifth straight week of outflows.

“If in fact a soft landing is possible, then you’d want to see the kind of data inputs that we have seen thus far,” said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at B. Riley Wealth. “Strong jobs number and declining inflation would both be important inputs into that theory.”

Through Thursday, the S&P 500 was up 1.5% for the week, on track for its fourth straight week of gains.

Until recently, optimism was hard to come by. Equity positioning last month stood in the 12th percentile of its range since January 2010, a July 29 note by Deutsche Bank analysts said, and some market participants have attributed the big jump in stocks to investors rapidly unwinding their bearish bets.

With stock market gyrations dropping to multi-month lows, further support for equities could come from funds that track volatility and turn bullish when market swings subside.

Volatility targeting funds could soak up about $100 billion of equity exposure in the coming months if gyrations remain muted, said Anand Omprakash, head of derivatives quantitative strategy at Elevation Securities.

“Should their allocation increase, this would provide a tailwind for equity prices,” Omprakash said.

Investors next week will be watching retail sales and housing data. Earnings reports are also due from a number of top retailers, including Walmart and Home Depot, that will give fresh insight into the health of the consumer.

Plenty of trepidation remains in markets, with many investors still bruised from the S&P 500′s 20.6% tumble in the first six months of the year.

Fed officials have pushed back on expectations that the central bank will end its rate hikes sooner than anticipated, and economists have warned that inflation could return in coming months.

Some investors have grown alarmed at how quickly risk appetite has rebounded. The Ark Innovation ETF, a prominent casualty of this year’s bear market, has soared around 35% since mid-June, while shares of AMC Entertainment Holdings , one of the original “meme stocks,” have doubled over that time.

“You look across assets right now, and you don’t see a lot of risks priced in anymore to markets,” said Matthew Miskin, co-chief investment strategist at John Hancock Investment Management.

Keith Lerner, co-chief investment officer at Truist Advisory Services, believes technical resistance and ballooning stock valuations are likely to make it difficult for the S&P 500 to advance far beyond the 4200-4300 level. The index was recently at 4249 on Friday afternoon.

Seasonality may also play a role. September – when the Fed holds its next monetary policy meeting – has been the worst month for stocks, with the S&P 500 losing an average 1.04% since 1928, Refinitiv data showed.

Wall Streeters taking vacations throughout August could also drain volume and stir volatility, said Hogan, of B. Riley Wealth.

“Lighter liquidity tends to exaggerate or exacerbate moves,” he said.

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Malaysian economy smashes forecasts, growing 8.9 percent in Q2 – Al Jazeera English

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Southeast Asian country continues strong pandemic recovery after reopening its borders in April.

Malaysia’s economy grew at its fastest annual pace in a year in the second quarter, boosted by an expansion in domestic demand and resilient exports, but a slowdown in global growth is expected to pose a risk to the outlook for the rest of 2022.

Gross domestic product (GDP) in April-June surged 8.9 percent from a year earlier, the central bank said. This was faster than the 6.7 percent growth forecast in a Reuters poll and was up from the 5 percent annual rise in the previous quarter.

It was also quicker than any annual rate seen since the second quarter of 2021, when GDP was 16.1 percent higher than a low year-earlier base.

Seasonally adjusted GDP for April-June was up 3.5 percent on the previous three months, when quarterly growth was 3.8 percent.

Malaysia’s economy has been on a strong recovery path since the country reopened its borders in April.

“Going forward, the economy is projected to continue to recover in the second half of 2022, albeit at a more moderate pace amid global headwinds,” Central Bank of Malaysia Governor Nor Shamsiah Mohd Yunus told a news conference.

Full-year growth for 2022 would likely be at the upper end of the previously forecast range of 5.3 percent to 6.3 percent, Nor Shamsiah said.

Headline and core inflation were expected to average higher in 2022, though Nor Shamsiah said any adjustments to the overnight policy rate would be measured and gradual to avoid stronger measures in the future.

The central bank lifted its benchmark interest rate for the second straight meeting in July.

Capital Economics said in a note it expected Malaysia’s economic growth to slow in coming quarters, as commodity prices dropped back and the boost from border reopening fades.

“That said, the slowdown is likely to be relatively mild, with the reopening of the international border set to provide decent support to activity,” said Gareth Leather, the group’s senior Asia economist.

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The UK Economy, and Sterling, Face Next Big Crisis This Winter – BNN Bloomberg

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(Bloomberg) — Headwinds for the UK economy spell trouble for sterling, and the real test for the Bank of England and the currency may still be in store.

The cost-of-living crisis is about to intertwine with the energy crisis this winter, leaving the BOE in a bind. UK wholesale natural gas prices have more than tripled in the last year and are more than four times higher than the seasonal average over the previous five years. Household energy bills are forecast to rise while the government plans for organized blackouts in a worse-case scenario in January.

If the energy crisis gets out of hand, the market might expect the BOE to pivot because rates can only do so much in the face of supply-driven forces such as Russian gas supplies, inventories, and alternate energy sources that are being tested by climate change.

There is also the question of fiscal support and the uncertainty surrounding it. The BOE has forecast inflation topping 13% in coming months and a recession through 2023 as it raises rates. The central bank is an apolitical body that has no say over government fiscal policies, making whoever becomes the next prime minister that much more significant. Front-runner Liz Truss is pledging an emergency budget and more borrowing to stimulate the economy, while the competing former chancellor Rishi Sunak is advising caution while also vowing to offer more cost-of-living support.

Currency traders aren’t convinced that economic data Friday is enough to prove the economy’s resilience, which is why even as money markets are raising their BOE tightening bets, the pound is the second worst-performing G-10 currency against the dollar on the day.

But it’s fair not to read too much into the curious gross domestic product print. A small contraction was expected given the Jubilee bank holiday, but June’s drop is smaller than in comparable periods, as Samuel Tombs, chief U.K. economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, noted. July data will likely offer a better picture. It’s possible that numbers would either be revised lower or show that the economy has indeed been more resilient than many expect. Looking ahead, however, there aren’t many other concessions that the pound can give way to.

NOTE: Nour Al Ali writes for Bloomberg’s Markets Live. The observations are her own and not intended as investment advice. For more markets commentary, see the MLIV blog.

©2022 Bloomberg L.P.

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