U.S. International Trade Monitor

Data through May suggest that U.S. international trade growth continues to accelerate. The 3-month moving average of total exports were up 5.6% year over year while imports grew 8.0%.

An annualized services trade surplus of $0.25 trillion and a goods trade deficit of $0.81 trillion net to a total trade deficit of $0.56 trillion.

The petroleum trade deficit has narrowed substantially since 2011, while the trade balance excluding petroleum is near record lows.

Shown below are the major categories of goods and services and their historical levels of imports and exports.

U.S. Auto Report

Light vehicle sales in the U.S. slowed again in June to an annualized rate of 16.41 million from 16.58 million in May. While now well down from the cycle high of 18.32 million in December, the current sales rate of around 16.6 million is still relatively strong by historical standards. Sales figures shown below are 3-month moving averages.

U.S. Construction Activity

Total U.S. construction spending in May was about 3% higher than at pre-crisis peak level in 2006. Nonresidential spending has surpassed its 2008 high while residential spending remains well below its 2006 high.

Dividing the categories into public and private sector construction spending illuminates which areas are most reliant on government funding.

U.S. GDP Watch

The BEA’s third estimate of U.S. real GDP growth in the first quarter was 1.4% annualized, an increase from the second estimate of 1.2%. Consumption was the largest contributor to growth accounting for 0.8% while government was a drag of -0.2%.

Total real GDP in Q1 was 2.1% higher than Q1 of last year. It is now up 12.5% from it’s pre-crisis peak and 17.5% from post-crisis low.

The bulk of economic growth during the recovery is attributable to the consumption component of GDP.

However, Q1 was the slowest quarter of growth for consumption since Q2 2013.

While consumption has carried the economy, investment has only recently surpassed it’s pre-crisis peak. Net trade and government have not yet recovered to their pre-cris peak levels.

Total nominal GDP has increased 4.08% from a year ago, but once dividing by the GDP price deflator of 1.93%, real GDP has increased by just 2.10%.

Economic growth has historically been consumption driven and remains so.

Consumption has grown to account for more than two-thirds of the economy.

U.S. House Prices

House prices in the U.S. continue steadily rising, with the S&P Case-Shiller index up 5.5% year over year in April. The FHFA’s index, which is derived from transactions involving conforming conventional mortgages purchased or securitized by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, has increased 6.9%.

Sales prices of previously lived in homes reflect a similar trend, while new home sales prices are often too volatile to offer a reliable signal.

All 20 of the major U.S. cities tracked by the Case-Shiller index have experienced year over year gains in house prices. The total National index is now 2.4% higher than it’s pre-crisis peak while the 20-City Composite index has not yet fully recovered.

Looking at each city individually, we can see where housing excess was most prevalent leading up to the financial crisis.

While all 20 cities tracked in the Case-Shiller index have seen gains, prices in Cleveland are up only 3.4% from a year ago.

The FHFA tracks house prices by region rather than city and offers an alternative perspective. Their index shows house prices having increased the most year over year in the Mountain region.

The Pacific experienced pre-crisis housing growth unlike any other region.

U.S. Home Sales

New home sales have been accelerating and now exceed a rate of 0.6 million. Sales of previously occupied homes are around a rate of 5.6 million. The relative share of home sales that are new remains well below the 1990 to 2008 trend.

Total housing inventory is around 2.2 million, of which 0.3 million are new and 1.9 million are existing. At current sales rates, there are 5.1 months supply of new homes and 4.1 months supply of existing homes available for sale.

Homes are being sold extremely quickly, with the median new home on the market for only 3.4 months, near historic lows.

U.S. Housing Starts

Housing starts in the U.S. were at 1.20 million on a rolling annual basis through May. Starts totaled 0.60 million in the South census region, 0.31 million in the West, 0.18 million in the Midwest, and 0.11 million in the Northeast.

Single-family starts totaled 0.81 million and multi-unit starts were 0.39 million, bringing the single-family share of the total to 67.5%.

Housing starts are increasing at the fastest relative pace in the West, up 15.2% year over year.

U.S. TIC Report

The U.S. Treasury International Capital (TIC) report for the month of April showed a net $66 billion entering the U.S on private inflows of $73 billion and official outflows of $7 billion.

Foreigners net sold $11 billion worth of long-term securities, net purchased $26 billion of short-term securities, and banks’ $USD liabilities increased by $51 billion.

Over the past 12 months, a total of $63 billion in capital has left the U.S., on private inflows of $203 billion and official outflows of $266 billion.

Foreigners have net purchased $24 billion worth of long-term securities, net purchased $57 billion of short-term securities, and banks’ $USD liabilities decreased by $144 billion.

Of the foreign net purchase of long-term securities, a $285 billion inflow was due to long-term securities transactions and a $261 billion outflows was due to other foreign acquisitions.

Of the net $285 billion inflow from long-term securities transactions, a net $120 billion came from net foreign buying of U.S. securities and the remaining $165 billion was due to foreign buying of foreign securities.

The foreign buying of foreign securities was driven by net inflows of $251 billion from bonds and net outflows of $85 billion from equities.

The foreign buying of U.S. securities was due to net inflows of $352 billion from the private sector and net outflows of $233 billion from foreign governments. Combined, U.S. Treasury securities have seen net outflows of $257 billion, U.S. Government Agency Bonds have seen net inflows of $212 billion, Corporate Bonds have seen net inflows of $106 billion, and Equities have seen net inflows of $59 billion.

The separation of U.S. long-term securities categories by private and official sector are shown below.

U.S. Retail Report

The 3-month moving average of total U.S. retail sales was at $473.9 billion in May, an increase of 4.4% from the year prior. Core retail sales, which exclude the Autos and Gas categories, have increased 3.8%.

Sales at the Census Bureau’s defined GAFO measure, comprised of department store categories, are up only 0.7% year over year while sales at all Non-GAFO categories have risen 5.5%.

Total retail sales are around 26% higher than their pre-crisis peak level.

U.S Industrial Activity

The Fed’s aggregate index of U.S. industrial production was unchanged in May and is now up 2.2% from a year ago. All major market and industry groups have increased on a year over year basis, led by Materials markets and the Mining industry.

The total industrial production level is approaching the high it reached pre-recession. Of the 3 major market groups, only Materials production has recovered beyond pre-crisis peak. Of the 3 major industry groups, only Mining production has recovered.

Total industrial capacity is at a historical high.

Industrial production has not yet caught up with capacity this cycle, meaning further investment is not yet necessary.