June 2017 U.S. Economic Outlook

June 7, 2017 by Daniel Sanabria

An Important Summer is Shaping Up in Washington

They say “Sell in May, and go away.” However, if you do that this year you are likely to miss a lot. The upcoming June 13/14 Federal Open Market Committee meeting is shaping up to be eventful. Also, the Trump Administration is sharpening its pencils and getting to work on tax reform. National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn expects to deliver a detailed plan to Congress by the end of summer. We also look forward to seeing more details of the President’s infrastructure plan in the coming months.

Despite the clunker of a jobs report for May, we expect the Federal Reserve to raise the fed funds rate range by 25 basis points for the second time this year on June 14. Most recent U.S. and global economic data have been positive, and the weaker-than-expected 138,000 jobs increase in May looks like a fluky number. As of June 6, the fed funds futures market views a June 14 rate hike as nearly a sure thing, with an implied probability of 96 percent. In addition to a rate hike on June 14, we expect to learn more about the FOMC’s thinking about future rate hikes, both for the remainder of 2017, and also for 2018. This could come in the form of forward guidance in the monetary policy announcement on June 14, added details from Janet Yellen’s post-FOMC meeting press conference, and from the updated “dot plot.”

In the near term, we expect the Fed to raise the fed funds rate one more time this year after June 14, for a total of three, 25 basis point rate hikes in 2017. The two leading candidates for the dates of the third rate hike this year are September 20 and December 13, which coincide with scheduled press conferences by the FOMC chairwoman Janet Yellen. There is an FOMC meeting over October 31/November 1, but that meeting does not coincide with a press conference. Given the need for the Fed to communicate clearly about interest rate policy and balance sheet reduction, the odds of a significant move coming from the Fed on November 1 appear to be low.

The timing of the third rate hike in 2017 will be coordinated with the Fed’s plans for balance sheet reduction. The Fed will likely take a pause from interest rate hikes to begin balance sheet reduction, which is expected to be equivalent to a marginal tightening of monetary policy. We look for the Fed to provide some more information about balance sheet reduction on June 14. So far, they have said that they would like to start reducing the pace of reinvestment of maturing assets this year (this will begin to reduce the size of the Fed’s balance sheet). They would also like to gradually ramp up caps on reinvestments until they reach their targets, and hold the caps constant until they reach the desired size of their balance sheet. We still need to know the start date of the reinvestment caps, the scale of the caps, the mechanisms of asset roll-off and the desired final size of the Fed’s balance sheet. Right now, we are expecting to see about a $1.5 to $2 trillion reduction in assets by the Fed, to occur over about a five-year period. We need further insight into the mechanisms for Treasury bond roll-off and for mortgage-backed-security roll-off in order to understand how new Fed policy will impact financial markets and bank financial flows by the end of this year.

The Trump Administration may begin to fill some of the vacant seats on the Board of Governors this summer. Janet Yellen appears to be heading toward retirement next February. Her replacement may be vetted this fall.

For a PDF version of the complete Comerica U.S. Monthly with additional commentary, tables, and charts, click here: June 2017 U.S. Economic Outlook

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January 2017, Comerica Economic Outlook

January 10, 2017 by Daniel Sanabria

Global Reflation and the Trump Swerve

Commodity prices accelerated in the early 2000’s, encouraging the development of new supply and feeding capital investment globally. Very high commodity prices and the global financial market crisis led to significant demand destruction through the early years of this decade. With demand destruction came a downward reset in commodity prices, making high marginal cost production unprofitable. The stall in business investment fed back into demand destruction, pushing the U.S. economy to the brink of recession by the end of 2015. With commodity markets gradually rebalancing, in the presence of still highly accommodative monetary policy, the world is now reflating. U.S. demand upshifted in the third quarter of 2016, and looks set to continue in a higher gear for at least a few more quarters. China is catching a second wind. After revision, Japan GDP data looks better. European economies look stronger despite the ongoing political stress. The U.S. money supply, M2, is surging, up 7.8 percent in November on a year-ago basis.

Commodity prices are once again on the upswing. Wages are going up. Interest rates are still low as central banks respond to new conditions slowly. The global economy is reflating after a catastrophic loss of cabin pressure eight long years ago. The weak global economic recovery contributed to a rejection of the political status quo on both sides of the Atlantic. Now, as President-elect Trump prepares to take office under a mandate of change, the U.S. economy is already under the influence of the Trump Swerve. Equity markets jumped in November, and have not looked back. Measures of business and consumer confidence have surged. Anecdotal evidence suggests that businesses are set to accelerate capital spending in 2017.

The incoming administration has promised a lot. Healthcare reform, tax reform, fiscal stimulus and regulatory rollback are all expected, and soon. Major corporations have altered significant investment decisions under threat of tweet. Most policies expected of the Trump administration will support near-term growth and tend to increase inflation. With wages climbing, commodity prices up and very low inflation expectations threatening to unhinge, the Federal Reserve has ramped up the dot plot, showing upwardly revised expectations for interest rates. The dots now signal three rate hikes for 2017. If inflation warms up quickly, there may be more than three. So there is potential for a monetary offset to the Trump Swerve, in the form of higher interest rates. Fortunately, with interest rates still ultra low, the threat of interest rate drag on the U.S. economy is distant. Another key downside risk comes from rapidly inflating expectations for the stock market. The Trump Bump may morph into the Trump Slump if the administration fails to deliver this spring on the supercharged rhetoric of the 2016 political season. Trade is also a downside risk for 2017, both from the strong dollar and from the apparent potential for heavy-handed deconstruction of trade agreements.

Timing is everything. We believe that the Trump Swerve will position the U.S economy to catch a favorable tailwind from global reflation. As the threat of a near-term U.S. led recession recedes, businesses will recalibrate and extend the current expansion into the history books. At 90 months, the business cycle catches its second wind. Stronger growth, more inflation, higher interest rates and slower job creation are in store for 2017.

For a PDF version of the complete Comerica U.S. Monthly with additional commentary, tables, and charts, click here: USEconomicOutlook0117.

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December 2016, Comerica Economic Outlook

December 5, 2016 by Daniel Sanabria

After a Weak Start, U.S. Economy Set to Finish 2016 on a Stronger Note

The recent upward revision to Q3 real GDP growth, to 3.2 percent, is a look in the rear-view mirror, but it does suggest that the U.S. economy entered the soon-to-be-complete fourth quarter with more momentum than previously thought. Inventories remain a key factor in the GDP calculation. Inventory accumulation was strong in 2015 and supported a moderate 2.6 percent real GDP growth for the year. In 2016, inventory accumulation was much weaker. In fact in the second quarter of 2016, inventories declined by $15 billion (nominal), the first decline in inventories since 2011Q3. Oil inventories were part of the story, as were manufactured goods. We expect U.S. oil stocks to continue to decline through 2017, but at a slower rate than they did this summer. Also, with firmer oil prices, and firming drilling activity, we expect that manufacturers who supported the oil and gas industry will have better control over their inventories in 2017 than they have for the past two years. In our U.S. forecast, inventories contribute positively to GDP growth from 2016Q3 through 2017Q4. This is a major assumption, and it could prove to be wrong, but if it is correct, it will result in above-potential GDP growth through 2017. There are several significant risks to our inventory outlook. U.S. crude oil inventories may fall through 2017 faster than expected. Lower oil prices could result in weaker-than-expected drilling activity. A strong dollar could stifle U.S. exports, as could the fallout from any challenges to existing trade deals. Finally, the auto sector is in play. We expect U.S. auto sales to gradually ease through 2017. If auto sales are worse than expected, auto-related manufacturers could reduce their inventories significantly.

Beyond GDP, other U.S economic metrics improved late in the year. The ISM-Manufacturing Index increased from a mildly contractionary 49.4 in August, to a moderately positive 53.2 in November. Despite the concern about the strong dollar and adverse consequences of trade negotiations, U.S. manufacturers are finishing the year with some momentum. The ISM Non-Manufacturing Index is also showing more momentum, having increased from its August low of 51.4 to November’s strong 57.2. Taken together, the two indexes are consistent with real GDP growth in the neighborhood of 3 percent or more in the fourth quarter.

Add a post-election stock market rally and rising consumer confidence into the mix and 2016 looks to end on a good note, which should carry over into early 2017. As the incoming Trump Administration launches its 100-day plan, we expect to see policy measures designed to boost economic growth, including some form of fiscal stimulus and corporate tax reform. These should help to sustain economic momentum through 2017. With stronger GDP growth and a widening federal deficit, inflation expectations should firm up through 2017. Oil markets will also factor into inflation expectations. The recent OPEC agreement to cut production is more marginal than radical, but it should support slightly higher prices. Stronger inflation, in turn, is an upside risk factor for our interest rate outlook. We continue to expect the Federal Reserve to increase the feds funds rate range by 25 basis points on December 14. We have maintained our call for two more interest rate hikes in 2017. However, we recognize that there is increasing upside risk to our interest rate forecast for 2017 and 2018, which needs to be balanced against the probability of recession in a late-cycle economy.

For a PDF version of the complete Comerica U.S. Monthly with additional commentary, tables, and charts, click here: useconomicoutlook1216.


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Florida Economy Gains Momentum Heading into 2017

November 15, 2016 by Daniel Sanabria

The Florida economy continues to run hot in the second half of 2016, supported by an acceleration in employment growth in the third quarter. Employment growth for most major Florida metro areas continues to outpace the national average and gains are being seen across most major sectors. In particular, Florida manufacturing has been surprisingly strong. While the U.S. has seen stagnant to declining manufacturing employment growth over the past year, Florida manufacturing employment increased, up 4.4 percent in the 12 months ending in September. Earlier this year the state legislature passed House Bill 7099 in support of state manufacturers, which made existing sales and use tax exemptions of eligible industrial machinery and equipment permanent. The state tourism sector is weathering the drag from the strengthening U.S. dollar, which makes Florida vacations more expensive for international visitors. Year-over-year employment growth in leisure and hospitality remains above 4 percent. While the U.S dollar has appreciated by 24.4 percent against the U.K. pound in the 12-months ending in October, accelerated by the U.K.’s vote to leave the E.U., the U.S. broad trade weighted dollar has begun to stabilize, up just 3.2 percent. The housing sector began to cool off a bit with slower construction employment growth and a tick down in multifamily construction in the third quarter. However, we expect a rebound in residential housing due to strong home demand, supported by a robust labor market and population growth. The Florida economy will be firing on “most cylinders” heading into 2017.

For a PDF version of the complete Florida Economic Outlook, click here: FL Outlook 112016.


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Arizona Addresses Poverty and Education

November 15, 2016 by Daniel Sanabria

Arizona’s economic rebound in the second half of the year has been more muted than originally thought. Arizona job growth continues to move in the right direction, but recent data has us dialing back our expectations for next year. Construction employment continued its win streak with above-trend growth, up 9.2 percent in the 12 months ending in September. This is following strong new home construction throughout Arizona. The much larger services sector is growing at a more moderate pace. Arizona economic growth will outpace the U.S. average over the next few years. However, we expect Arizona, much like the rest of the nation, to experience slower growth in the quarters ahead than historical averages.

Hurdles for the Arizona economy in the long run are household income and education attainment, which impact the propensity to spend and the access to qualified workers. According to the Census Bureau, Arizona had the eighth highest poverty rate in the nation in 2015, with 17.4 percent of people in the state living below the poverty level. The state legislature is attempting to address these issues. In November, voters passed Proposition 206 which incrementally increases the state’s minimum wage from the current rate of $8.05 per hour to $12.00 per hour by 2020, increasing with the U.S. Consumer Price Index thereafter. The law also guarantees paid sick leave to workers of non-exempted businesses and is expected to impact around 700,000 workers. Earlier this year, Arizona also passed Proposition 123, increasing education funding by $3.5 billion over the next 10 years.

For a PDF version of the complete Arizona Economic Outlook, click here: AZ Outlook 112016.

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