Analysis Roundup – January 25, 2013

A little early, in case you go home early today.

Job Announcements

Two new vacancies were announced earlier today, and we have included them to the Jobs Site:

Finance Director – Cumberland County (Open Until Filled)

Purchasing Manager – City of Raleigh (Closing 1/31/13)

LGERS Employer Contributions Increasing 4% in FY14

(From NCLM) On Thursday (Jan. 17), the Local Government Retirement System Board of Trustees approved local employer rate increases, effective July 1, 2013.  The employer contribution rate would increase from 6.74% to 7.07% (+4%) for general employees, and up to 7.28% for law enforcement officers.  The total additional cost for local employers is $18.3 million, filling actuarial losses within the system resulting from reduced market returns during 2007-2011.  Retiree groups were pushing for 2% cost of living increases for local retirees that would cost local units an additional $24 million in 2013-14, but the Board denied those requests at the urging of the League and instead mandated the actuarial required contribution.

North Carolina Indicators Continued Late-2012 Improvement

 

Dr. Michael Walden’s Leading Economic Indicators for North Carolina improved 0.3% in November, boosted by lower jobless claims, gains in manufacturing employment hours, and manufacturing earnings.

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Government Budget/Spending Improved, According to Vendor-Supported Newsletter

Government Product News is a magazine for purchasing offices featuring, for the most part, products and services offered by national manufacturers and providers (vendors). They also have some substantive articles, like their recent update to their own Keating Report on Government Budgets and Spending. It does have value from the standpoint the article includes references from several sources. However, much of the information may be out of date (published by agencies last fall) and will be updated soon (like CBO estimates and projections coming in 2 weeks).

Did Retailers Have a “Merry Christmas”?

(RBC) Retail sales in December 2012 rose by 0.5%, which represented a steady improving trend during the Christmas shopping period relative to a gain in November of 0.4%, which was revised upwardly from 0.3% previously, and a 0.2% decline in October (-0.3% previously). Expectations had been for a modest 0.2% increase in December.”

“The overall increase received support from the motor vehicle component, which rose by 1.6% in the month. This occurred despite the earlier-reported, slight drop in December unit sales although likely reflected a lagged effect from the November surge in unit sales. Excluding the motor vehicle component, sales rose by 0.3%, which more than retraced the 0.1% drop in November. Expectations had been for ex-auto sales in December to rise by 0.2%. This increase was restrained by a sizeable 1.6% drop in sales receipts from gasoline stations. Some weakness had been expected given indications of falling gasoline prices in the month although not to the extent reported this morning.”

“The so called ‘control’ measure, which excludes sales at motor vehicle dealerships, gasoline stations, and building material stores (unchanged in the month), rose a by a better than expected 0.6% and thus further built on the 0.5% increase recorded in November. The increase was led by gains in sales at clothing stores of 1.0% and sporting goods stores of 0.6%.”

“The continued growth in retail sales during the end of the Christmas shopping period was encouraging although the pace remained modest. The data are consistent with fourth-quarter 2012 consumer spending on a volumes basis rising only by 2.1% at an annualized rate and compares to the 1.6% increase recorded in the third quarter of 2012. Although the Fed will take some encouragement from the improvement, there is likely to be disappointment that this pace of growth does not provide enough of a contribution to overall GDP growth to put sustained downward pressure on the unemployment rate. Until greater progress is evident toward improving labour markets, the central bank is expected to keep monetary conditions highly stimulative. Our forecast assumes that the current range for fed funds of 0% to 0.25% will be maintained until 2015.”

Energy Costs Shift “Inflation” Down as Quickly as they Shift It Up

 

(Wells Fargo) “The Consumer Price Index for December was unchanged, as lower energy prices offset modest gains in core goods and services. The inflation outlook remains conducive for the Fed to continue its easy monetary policy… Energy prices fell for the third consecutive month…Energy services, on the other hand, rose 0.4 percent, led by a 1.3 percent rise in utility gas services, but are down 1.1 percent over the past year… Food prices continued to climb higher, increasing 0.2 percent in December. Most food categories posted modest gains over the month, although fruit and vegetable prices rose a strong 0.6 percent… Rising medical costs remain a challenge to the consumer. While the cost of medical care goods decreased for the second month in a row, medical care services continue to exceed broad inflation and are up 3.7 percent over the past year. Shelter costs continued their steady ascent, increasing 0.1 percent. Price pressures in the housing market continue to be greatest in the rental market. Demand for apartments and other rental units has been strong in this recovery, with vacancy rates falling to an 11-year low in the third quarter.”

National Leading Economic Indicators Up, Mostly Because Unemployment Claims Dropped

 

Fullscreen capture 1252013 111245 AM(Wells Fargo) “For LEI, this bouncing around in the jobless claims figure means the November reading was dragged lower and today’s “strong” report for December may be somewhat overstated… While the trend in LEI is still slightly positive, a number of components remain weak. A general lack of confidence among consumers has been a drag on the index for the better part of the past four years. Consumer goods orders as well as manufacturers’ orders have also been weak…The coincident-to-lagging ratio has weakened on trend in the past six months raising doubts about the pace of future growth.”

Small Bounce Upward in Small Business Confidence

(Wells Fargo) “The Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index rose 20 points in early January, as businesses expressed less concern about current business conditions and slightly more optimism about expectations for the coming year. The 20-point rise follows a 28-point drop during the fourth quarter, which marked the largest quarterly decline since the fourth quarter of 2008. The partial recovery from that fourth quarter plunge suggests that worries over the fiscal cliff were likely a little overdone late last year. We noted then that most of the fourth quarter’s drop was in the expectations components and that current conditions were still improving. The most recent report shows improvement in both series, with the present situation series rising 8 points to -2 and the future expectations component climbing 12 points to +11.”

“Even with the 20 point rise, the overall index remains exceptionally low, suggesting that many businesses remain concerned about changes to the tax code and the ongoing debate about fiscal policy. In such an environment, businesses are likely to continue to tread lightly when it comes to investing in new plants and equipment or hiring additional workers.”

How About Housing?

(Wells Fargo) “Existing home sales unexpectedly fell 1.0% in December to a 4.94 million-unit pace. The drop in activity was concentrated in single-family, which fell 1.4%. Median prices rose, but inventories remain tight.”

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Housing starts surged 12.1 percent in December to a 954,000-unit pace, likely reflecting seasonal noise and some year-end tax jitters. Multifamily starts rose 20.3% and single-family starts were up 8.1%.”

Articles of Interest

Walden: What State policies can boost economic growth?

Possible “wind to our back” on housing (ABFM)

Southeastern Conference for Public Administration (SECoPA) will be held in Charlotte, September 25-28, 2013

February 28th Free Webinar Addresses Public Sector Defined Contribution Plans (ABFM)

What does Gen Y value? (Fast Track)

2012 Update of Best Performing US Cities for Tech Jobs (Milken Institute)

Governors (including NC) Push Bigger Reliance on Sales Taxes (New York Times)

Berger Outlines NC Senate’s 2013 Agenda (WRAL)

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