Discretionary Spending Drops Despite Lower Oil Prices

Economists expected the consumer savings reaped at the gas pump to translate into higher discretionary spending and boost the economy as much as 3%. Contrary to those predictions, retail sales fell 0.8% in January after declining 0.9% in December. Despite this decline, with steady increases in employment and rising wages, the consumer is well-positioned to drive economic expansion, according to the April edition of “the BRIEFING,” a report compiled by Transwestern that covers the national and global economy, capital markets and commercial real estate.

Highlights from the report included the following:

  • Overall average GDP growth for 2014 was 2.4%, up slightly from average growth rate of 2.2% in 2010 through 2013
  • Unemployment dropped slightly to 5.5% in February
  • February labor force participation grew to 62.0%, up 20 basis points
  • Factory orders down 0.2% in January, on top of declining 3.5% in December and 1.7% in November
  • Crude oil dipped as low as $43.88 on Nymex, a six-year low, amid fears of easing Iranian sanctions
  • Strengthening dollar is wreaking havoc on U.S. exports and dramatically lowering the cost of imports
  • 31 major banks passed the stress test – Goldman Sachs and Zions had the smallest cushion, while Deutsche Bank and Banco Santander failed the test
  • FDIC fourth-quarter 2014 banking profile shows slowing profits despite increased revenues

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