Fed says factories supported ‘modest to moderate’ U.S. expansion

Increasing Staff

“Businesses are starting to do better and they know they have to increase staff,” Branthover said. “People are relocating more than I’ve ever seen and willing to relocate for a better job so we’ve been moving people all over the world.”

Job gains have added to signs of economic vitality. Manufacturing accelerated in November at the fastest pace since April 2011 with the Institute for Supply Management’s index rising to 57.3 from 56.4 a month earlier, a report showed Dec. 2. Readings above 50 indicate growth.

U.S. exports in October climbed to a record and the trade deficit narrowed for the first time in four months, the Commerce Department reported today. Sales of goods to China, Canada and Mexico were the highest ever, pointing to improving global demand that will benefit American manufacturers.

New Homes

Purchases of new U.S. homes surged in October by the most in three decades, signaling buyers are starting to take higher mortgage rates in stride. Sales jumped 25.4% to a 444,000 annualized pace, following a 354,000 rate in the prior month that was the weakest since April 2012, figures from the Commerce Department showed today in Washington.

Building permits increased 6.7% in October to a 1.04 million annualized rate, the most since June 2008, after a September pace of 974,000, Commerce Department data show.

Still, recent signs of strength don’t mean gross domestic product growth will snap out of a range from 1.5% to 2%, said Keith Hembre, who helps oversee about $120 billion as chief economist at Nuveen Asset Management in Minneapolis.

“The data are consistent with an ongoing trend of moderate to sluggish growth,” Hembre said. “I don’t expect much difference in the narrative, maybe this will be a little better and that will be a little softer, but the broad picture is one of this slow growth environment.”

GDP Growth

The economy grew 2.8% in the third quarter and 2.5% in the second, according to the Commerce Department. FOMC participants in September forecast economic growth of 2% to 2.3% for this year, and 2.9% to 3.1% in 2014.

Consumer spending, which accounts for 70% of the economy, is getting a boost from stocks, which are on pace for the biggest gain in a decade. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index climbed 26% this year before today.

The possibility of declining tensions over fiscal policy may lift confidence. U.S. budget negotiators are near a deal in which Democrats would accept fresh revenue from user fees and Republicans would agree to more federal spending, steps that could avert another government shutdown next year.

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