Weekly Economic Update: May 13, 2019

The Markets (as of market close May 10, 2019)

Only a late rally last Friday saved the benchmark indexes from their worst week of the year. As it was, each of the major stock indexes fell at least 2.12%, with the Global Dow and the Nasdaq falling more than 3.0%. During the week, the small-cap Russell 2000 temporarily sank into correction territory as it drifted more than 10% below its August 2018 high. Once again it appears trade fears stoked investor concerns following President Trump’s 25% tariff rate hike on some Chinese imports. Not surprisingly, bond yields fell as prices rose following increased investor demand. Also notable last week was the initial public offering of Uber, which raised more than $8.1 billion, making it the largest IPO since Alibaba Group’s 2014 public launching.


  • The trade deficit was $50.0 billion in March, up $0.7 billion from February’s revised total. March exports were $2.1 billion more than February exports. Imports in March were $2.8 billion more than February imports. Year-to-date, the goods and services deficit decreased $5.8 billion, or 3.7%, from the same period in 2018. Exports increased $14.0 billion, or 2.3%. Imports increased $8.2 billion, or 1.1%.
  • Consumer prices continued to surge in April. The CPI increased 0.3% for the month following a 0.4% jump in March. Over the last 12 months, the CPI has increased 2.0% — right at the target inflation rate set by the Federal Reserve.
  • The Producer Price Index rose 0.2% in April, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Producer prices rose 0.6% in March and 0.1% in February. For the 12 months ended in April, producer prices have risen 2.2%.
  • The federal government deficit increased to $160,305 billion in April after reaching $146,945 billion in March. Through the first seven months of the fiscal year the deficit sits at $530,870 billion, up from the $385,445 billion deficit over the same period last year.
  • According to the latest Job Openings and Labor Turnover (JOLTS) report, the number of job openings increased by 346,000 in March. Job openings increased in a number of industries, with the largest increases in transportation, warehousing, and utilities (87,000), construction (73,000), and real estate and rental and leasing (57,000).


Retail sales, which got a boost in March, may see sales pull back a bit in April. The April report on industrial production is out this week. The manufacturing sector has been lagging despite a relatively strong economy over the past few months. Finally, the April report on import and export prices is likely to follow the trend of revealing export prices rising at a faster rate than import prices. The number of hires and separations in March remained relatively the same as in the prior month.

Since our economy is doing so well, realize that the estimated additional tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods, mentioned in the recent trade discussion would only shave two tenths to three tenths of a percent off of our GDP if and when it happens, and only four tenths to a half percent if tariffs are added on the additional $320 billion kick in which is the number on the high end. But with full year GDP expected to be around 3% or more, these potential reductions from tariffs’ effects are not necessarily catastrophic, to say the least.

So the market and the economy are otherwise strong, and a trade deal with China could send the markets soaring, but traders and media talking heads remain on high alert wringing their hands for now. Cooler heads might benefit from this latest volatility in both the short term and the longer term.