“When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.”
– Helen Keller
There is no rule that says you have to stick with the same bank for 10 or 20 years when it comes to your checking account. Frequently, bank customers are able to save some money by shopping around.
This word signifies a gap between hills or mountain ranges. Yet remove just one letter, and it signifies a gap between buildings. What is this six-letter word?
Last month’s riddle:
Last month’s answer:
THE MONTH IN BRIEF
DOMESTIC ECONOMIC HEALTH
So how did consumers feel? In a word, better. The University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment survey improved for the sixth straight month, coming at a final mark of 75.3 for February. (The gauge has not posted six consecutive months of gains in 15 years.) The Conference Board’s survey also improved in February, coming in at 70.8.3,5
While concerns abounded about foreign manufacturing, our factory sector looked comparatively healthy, even if our premier purchasing managers index decreased in February. The Institute for Supply Management’s manufacturing PMI fell 1.7% to 52.4, but it was above 50 for the 31st consecutive month. ISM’s non-manufacturing index had come in at 56.8 for January; the 25th straight month of service sector growth.6,7
The Labor Department noted a 0.2% January advance in consumer prices. This was only the second rise in CPI in four months. Core CPI also rose 0.2% in January. Producer prices rose 0.1% in January with a 0.4% gain in core PPI. All this looked moderate, but one spike in prices got the attention of all Americans: the price of a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline soared 8.36% in February, settling at a national average of $3.73 a gallon on February 29.1,8
GLOBAL ECONOMIC HEALTH
China’s apparent soft landing was corroborated by its latest PMI readings. Its official PMI was but 51.0 in February, up from 50.5 in January but not far from the 49.0 reading last November. Fresh data showed that Chinese consumer inflation rose 0.4% in January to 4.5% while its GDP lessened to 8.9% in Q4 2011. India’s GDP slipped to 6.1% in Q4 but its PMI remained strong at 56.6 in February; its inflation rate hit a two-year low in February.10,11,12
From February 2 to March 1, average home loan interest rates shifted as follows in Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey: 30-year FRMs, 3.87% to 3.90%; 15-year FRMs, 3.14% to 3.17%; 5/1-year ARMs, 2.80% to 2.83%; 1-year ARMs, 2.76% to 2.72%.18
LOOKING BACK…LOOKING FORWARD
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While some analysts think things are weirdly calm on Wall Street, others feel that most of the economic signs hint at a better year for the consumer, the worker and the stock market investor. Q4 GDP was recently revised up to a decent 3.0%; the jobless rate has fallen 0.7% since September; consumer spending rose in January by the most since October; the real estate market is showing signs of improvement. Hopefully, headwinds from overseas will lose some velocity and exert less drag on our economy this spring and summer.24
UPCOMING ECONOMIC RELEASES: Scheduled news items across the balance of March are as follows: January factory orders and the February ISM service sector index (3/5), the February jobs report (3/9), February retail sales, January business inventories and a Federal Reserve interest rate policy announcement (3/13), February’s PPI (3/15), February’s CPI and industrial output and the initial University of Michigan consumer sentiment survey for March (3/16), February housing starts and building permits (3/20), February existing home sales (3/21), a new Conference Board Leading Economic Indicators index (3/22), February new home sales (3/23), February pending home sales (3/26), the January Case-Shiller home price index and the Conference Board’s March consumer confidence poll (3/27), February durable goods orders (3/28), the third and final estimate of Q4 GDP (3/29), and February consumer spending along with the final March University of Michigan consumer sentiment survey (3/30).
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6 – www.ism.ws/ISMReport/MfgROB.cfm [3/1/12]
7 – www.ism.ws/ISMReport/NonMfgROB.cfm [2/3/12]
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11 – www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2012-03/02/content_14735838.htm [3/2/12]
12 – www.aljazeera.com/news/asia/2012/02/201222995446384262.html [2/29/12]
13 – news.morningstar.com/index/indexReturn.html [2/29/12]
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17 – www.charlotteobserver.com/2012/02/29/3054668/housing-slump-continues.html [2/29/12]
18 – www.freddiemac.com/pmms/ [3/1/12]
19 – montoyaregistry.com/Financial-Market.aspx?financial-market=an-introduction-to-the-stock-market&category=29 [11/2/12]
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22 – treasurydirect.gov/instit/annceresult/press/preanre/2002/ofm10902.pdf [1/9/02]
23 – briefing.com/Investor/Calendars/Economic/Releases/employ.htm [3/2/12]