The economy & us: What an exceptionally busy week told us

If you’re reading this, it means you’ve survived the busiest week of the summer. Congratulations.

The last week of July came with an overwhelming confluence of economic dataearnings reportsFederal Reserve announcements and spending deals in Congress.

The impact of these past seven days will reverberate for the next several weeks around the abandoned halls of Wall Street and Washington DC as politicos and investors retreat to the Hamptons or Martha’s Vineyard or wherever they summer.

Are we in a recession? It’s hard to say, but hopefully by September the knowledge we gleaned during this treacherous week will be fully absorbed, and our understanding of the US economy will be more clear.

So what are we working with here? Let’s recap.

  • The Federal Reserve raised interest rates by another 75 basis points. The market expected this move but it was still a historically large hike. The Fed’s actions increased the rate that banks charge each other for overnight borrowing to a range of between 2.25% and 2.50%, the highest since December 2018.
  • Key inflation gauges showed prices remain elevated. The personal consumption expenditures price index rose 6.8% in June — that’s the biggest 12-month move since January 1982.
  • Consumer spending was higher, which is typically a sign that the economy remains strong. This time, however, the increase is likely due to rising prices, not thickening wallets. Personal consumption expenditures increased 1.1% for the month, above the 0.9% estimate.
  • The economy shrank for the second quarter in a row. GDP contracted at an annual rate of 0.9%. That decline marks a key symbolic threshold for the most commonly used — albeit unofficial — definition of a recession as two consecutive quarters of negative economic growth.
  • Americans grew more pessimistic about the economy. The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index decreased in July for the third straight month. About 43% of 3,000 respondents said they think there’s a greater than 50% chance that the US will fall into a recession in the next 12 months, while just 13% said that in April.
  • Home price growth slowed for the second straight month. Prices in May were still robust, clocking in 19.7% higher compared with the same month last year, according to the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller National Home Price Index. But the market is cooling because of higher mortgage rates and concerns about inflation. In April, they grew by 20.6%.
  • Congress passed a $280 billion package to bolster the domestic chipmaking industry. The bill will increase the production of essential computer chips in the US to prevent future supply chain issues and increase competition with China.
  • Senators Chuck Schumer and Joe Manchin reached a $700 billion deal on a sweeping climate, tax and health care bill. The plan includes $370 billion in energy and climate spending, about $300 billion in deficit reduction, subsidies for Affordable Care Act premiums and tax changes.
  • 170 companies reported second-quarter results including Microsoft, Alphabet, Meta Platforms, Apple, and Amazon. Results were mixed, with many companies warning about inflation and slowing growth in the future. Still, markets managed to end the week and month higher.

That’s a lot to digest. Especially in a very persistent heat wave.

Unfortunately, we do have another data-heavy week before we get a break.

Earnings continue next week with Starbucks, Uber and Airbnb reporting.

We also expect the release of some important economic data: JOLTs (job openings) unemployment rates, and PMI, a key indicator of US economic activity, are all headed our way.

So hold off on the swimsuits and SPF for now. Or don’t, and bring the beach to your deskVacation is a state of mind right?

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