The U.S. economy expanded in the first quarter at the slowest pace in two years as American consumers reined in spending and companies tightened their belts in response to weak global financial conditions and a plunge in oil prices.
Gross domestic product rose at a 0.5 percent annualized rate after a 1.4 percent fourth-quarter advance, Commerce Department data showed Thursday. The increase was less than the 0.7 percent median projection in a Bloomberg survey and marked the third straight disappointing start to a year.
Shaky global markets and oil’s tumble resulted in the biggest business-investment slump in almost seven years, and household purchases climbed the least since early 2015, the data showed. While Federal Reserve officials on Wednesday acknowledged the softness, they also indicated strong hiring and income gains have the potential to reignite consumer spending and propel economic growth.
Economists’ projections for GDP, the value of all goods and services produced in the U.S., ranged from gains of 0.1 percent to a 1.5 percent. This is the government’s first of three estimates for the quarter before annual revisions in July.
Household purchases, which account for almost 70 percent of the economy, rose at a 1.9 percent annual pace last quarter, compared with 2.4 percent in the final three months of last year.
Spending, while slightly better than the 1.7 percent median forecast, was a disappointment in light of the consumer-friendly fundamentals including low gasoline prices, cheap borrowing costs, increased hiring and warmer-than-usual winter weather.
Americans have more job security. A separate report from the Labor Department showed filings for unemployment benefits held last week around four-decade lows. Jobless claims rose to 257,000 from the prior week’s revised 248,000 that were the fewest since 1973.
The GDP report showed disposable income adjusted for inflation climbed 2.9 percent in the first quarter, an improvement from the 2.3 percent gain in final three months of 2015. The saving rate ticked up to 5.2 percent from 5 percent.
The biggest factor weighing on the economy last quarter came from companies. Nonresidential fixed investment, or spending on equipment, structures and intellectual property, dropped at a 5.9 percent annualized pace, the biggest decline since the second quarter of 2009.
Last year’s slump in oil prices that extended into early 2016 led to an 86 percent annualized plunge in capital spending on wells and shafts, the most in records back to 1958.
Investment is also languishing as corporations struggle to boost profits against a backdrop of weak overseas demand and restrained domestic purchases.
Customers in the U.S. also limited orders as companies trim stockpiles to bring them more in line with sales. Inventories subtracted 0.33 percentage point from growth after a 0.22 percentage-point drag in the three months ended in December.
Progress in trimming inventories, along with receding headwinds from abroad and a comeback in the prices of oil and other commodities, may keep investment from deteriorating further.
A dearth of eager overseas customers led to a drop in exports in the first quarter. Trade subtracted 0.34 percentage point from overall growth, the most in a year.
Stripping out unsold goods and trade, the two most volatile components of GDP, as well as government expenditures, so-called final sales to private domestic purchasers increased at a 1.2 percent rate, the weakest advance since the third quarter of 2012.
Government spending rose at a 1.2 percent pace, led by states and municipalities.
If the past two years are any guide, the economy will shake off the first-quarter softness. In 2015, GDP rose 0.6 percent before rebounding to a 3.9 percent pace in the second quarter. A year earlier, the economy shrank at a 0.9 percent rate and then advanced 4.6 percent in the April-June period.
Fed policy makers, after skipping an interest-rate hike for a third straight meeting on Wednesday, suggested they remain upbeat about the underpinnings of U.S. growth. Central bankers also said they will continue to “closely monitor” inflation.
The GDP price index rose 0.7 percent in the first quarter. A measure of inflation tied to personal spending and excluding volatile food and fuel costs climbed 2.1 percent, the most in four years and in line with policy makers’ target.
Oil Prices News: Oil Gains Following Drops in US Crude Inventories
Oil Prices Gain Following Drops in US Crude Inventories and OPEC High Compliance Level
Global oil prices extended their 2 percent gains on Thursday after data showed U.S crude oil inventories declined last week.
The price of Brent crude oil, against which Nigerian oil is measured, gained 0.2 percent or 7 cents to $43.39 a barrel as at 12:10 pm Nigerian time. While the U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude appreciated by 8 cent or 0.2 percent to $41.12 barrels.
Oil prices extended their three days gain after the American Petroleum Institute said the U.S crude inventories declined by 5.4 million barrels in the week ended October 9.
The report released after the market closed on Wednesday revealed that distillate stockpiles, which include diesel and heating oil, declined by 3.9 million barrels. Those stated drawdowns almost double analysts’ projections for the week.
“Much of the fall is due to the effects of Hurricane Delta shuttering U.S. production in the Gulf of Mexico, and as such, will be a transitory effect,” said Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst, Asia Pacific at OANDA.
“Therefore, I am not getting too excited that a turn of direction is upon markets, although both contracts are approaching important technical resistance regions.”
Also, the report that the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its allies, referred to as OPEC+ attained 102 percent compliance level with their oil production cuts agreements bolstered global oil outlook. Suggesting that demands for the commodity are likely not growing and could drag down prices in few weeks, especially when one factor in the reopening of Libya’s Sharara oil field, workers returning to operation in Norway and the Gulf of Mexico.
Oil Prices Gain on Tuesday Despite Expected Surge in Global Oil Supplies
Oil Prices Rise Despite Expected Surge in Global Oil Supplies
Oil prices gained on Tuesday despite Libya opening Sharara oil field for production, labour in Norway reaching an agreement with oil firms to return back to work and oil workers in the U.S returning to the Gulf of Mexico region after the Hurrican Delta.
Brent crude oil, against which Nigerian oil price is measured, gained 1.77 percent to $42.46 per barrel as at 11:15 am Nigerian time on Tuesday.
While the US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil gained 2 percent to close at $40.22 per barrel.
The improvement in prices was after oil prices plunged as much as 3 percent on Monday following a resolution reached by Libyan rebels and government to commence oil production at the nation’s largest oil field, Sharara Oil Field.
This coupled with labour agreement with oil firms in Norway was expected to boost global oil supplies and eventually weighed on prices and disrupt OPEC+ production cuts strategy.
However, prices surged after Nancy Pelosi said she would commence talks on $1.8 trillion stimulus package following President Trump’s return to the White House after he was rushed to hospital following a positive COVID-19 test.
Joe Biden Win Could Boost Oil Prices, Says Goldman Sachs
Oil Prices to Surge Once Joe Biden Wins -Goldman Sachs
Goldman Sachs, one of the world’s largest investment banks, has said Joe Biden win could boost global oil prices despite weak global economic outlook and COVID-19 negative impacts on the world’s growth.
The investment bank, however, remains bullish on both oil and gas prices regardless of the election outcome in November.
The bank sees oil and gas demand rising enough in 2021 to supersede election results but explained that Biden win could bolster prices by making production more expensive and more regulated for producers in the U.S.
In a note written by the bank’s commodities team on Sunday, it said “We do not expect the upcoming U.S. elections to derail our bullish forecasts for oil and gas prices, with a Blue Wave likely to be in fact a positive catalyst.”
“Headwinds to U.S. oil and gas production would rise further under a Joe Biden administration, even if the candidate has struck a centrist tone.”
Goldman Sachs explained that if incumbent, Trump, is re-elected with pro-oil and gas policies in place that “its impact would likely remain modest at best,” Goldman’s analysts wrote, “given the more powerful shift in investor focus to incorporate ESG metrics and the associated corporate capex re-allocation away from fossil fuels.”
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