See below for data table with various index performance.
- Employment: The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 255,000 new jobs were added in July, while the unemployment rate remained at a relatively low 4.9% (7.8 million unemployed). For the month, job gains occurred in professional and business services, health care, and financial activities. Average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls increased by $0.08 to $25.69 in July. Over the year, average hourly earnings have risen by 2.6%.
- FOMC/interest rates: Since there was no FOMC meeting in August, investors carefully scrutinized Fed Chair Janet Yellen's remarks at a late-month event in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The highlight of her presentation was the statement that, "in light of the continued solid performance of the labor market and our outlook for economic activity and inflation, I believe the case for an increase in the federal funds rate has strengthened in recent months."
- Oil: After rising sharply throughout the month on speculation that oil-producing countries would agree to cut production, oil prices fell back at month's end due to both a strong dollar and reports that U.S. reserves had increased more than expected, to a record high.
- GDP/budget: According to the second estimate released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the gross domestic product increased at an annual rate of 1.1% in the second quarter of 2016. July's advance estimate had the second-quarter GDP increasing by 1.2%. The increase in real GDP in the second quarter primarily reflected positive contributions from personal consumption expenditures (PCE or consumer spending) and exports that were partly offset by negative contributions from private inventory investment, residential fixed investment, state and local government spending, and nonresidential fixed investment. Imports (a subtraction in the calculation of GDP) increased. The budget deficit through the first 10 months of the fiscal year totaled $513.7 billion--about 10% higher than the deficit over the same period last year ($465.5 billion).
- Inflation: Following a mundane report showing that producer prices fell 0.4% in July, the Consumer Price Index remained unchanged in July after rising each of the previous 4 months. Over the prior 12 months, the CPI rose 0.8%. Energy prices dropped 1.6% from June after advancing each of the previous 4 months. The index for all items less food and energy increased a scant 0.1%--the smallest increase since March 2016.
- Housing: The housing market continued to show momentum during the heat of the summer. The Census Bureau reported sales of new single-family homes increased 12.4% compared to June, and were 31.3% above July 2015. The median sales price of new houses sold in July 2016 was $294,600; the average sales price was $355,800. The seasonally adjusted estimate of new houses for sale at the end of July was 233,000, representing a supply of 4.3 months at the current sales rate. On the other hand, lack of inventory in many parts of the country has been curtailing the sale of existing homes, reported the National Association of Realtors®. Total existing home sales fell 3.2% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.39 million in July, down from 5.57 million in June. For only the second time in the last 21 months, sales are now below (1.6%) a year ago (5.48 million). With inventory at a premium, the lack of affordable homes for sale is discouraging prospective buyers despite low mortgage rates. The Census Bureau also reported that housing starts were up 2.1% in July, while building permits and privately owned completions were down 0.1% and 8.3%, respectively.
- International markets: Early in the month, Japan approved a $274 billion stimulus package, which included a payment of approximately $147 to each of about 22 million low-income workers. Also, in the wake of the Brexit vote, the Bank of England cut interest rates to 0.25% and introduced a series of new measures designed to stimulate growth, citing as rationale a potentially faster rise in inflation due to the drop in the pound. Later in the month, the UK reported an uptick in retail sales due to its weak currency, which seemed to be attracting foreign consumers. In China, further evidence of an economic slowdown was reported in weakening industrial production and retail sales.
- Consumer sentiment: The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index® improved to 101.1 in August from 96.7 in July, the highest level in nearly a year. "Consumers' assessment of both current business and labor market conditions was considerably more favorable than last month," said Lynn Franco, Director of Economic Indicators at The Conference Board, in the August 30 news release.
Eye on the Month Ahead