Don’t be fooled by what you hear from the mainstream media and the politicians. The U.S. economy continues to struggle. In fact, looking at the economic data closely, it suggests we are headed for an outright slowdown.
U.S. Economy to Be Fine Without Consumer Spending?
Consumer spending makes up two-thirds of U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) and right now, Americans are refusing to spend, as evidenced by meager consumption figures.
Between November 2014 and February 2015, personal consumption expenditure declined by 0.3%. (Source: Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis web site, last accessed March 31, 2015.) All this time, we were told Americans would spend more because gas prices were declining; that didn’t happen.
Consumer spending looks to be flat, as Americans are opting to save as opposed to spend. In February, Americans saved 5.8% of their disposable income—a multi-year high. Between November and February, the personal savings rate in the U.S. increased by 32%. (Source: Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis web site, last accessed March 31, 2015.)
Business Investment Slumps
Other factors I look at to assess the health of the U.S. economy are saying our growth is in trouble.
In February, orders for capital goods at the durable goods manufacturers declined 2.6% from January. Orders for capital goods have declined in six of the last seven months. Since July of 2014, capital goods orders at the durable goods manufacturers have declined 43%. (Source: Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis web site, last accessed March 31, 2015.)
Stock Market Can’t Rise on Backdrop of Poor Economic News
An economic slowdown for the U.S. seems inevitable. The economic data being released suggest the opposite of what we are hearing from the mainstream media. How can we have economic growth when the majority of what’s included in the GDP (consumer spending and capital goods) is contracting?
Dear reader, the first quarter of 2015 is behind us and during that quarter, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down. For months, the stock market has been running ahead of itself. But now that corporate earnings are actually in contraction (the first-quarter 2015 estimate is that earnings growth for the S&P 500 was negative 4.9%—see “Corporate Earnings to Fall This Quarter at Fastest Pace Since 2009”) the weak economy is starting to affect corporate America (despite record stock buybacks) and the market. As I have been writing since the beginning of the year, we’re in for a bumpy ride in 2015.