The Federal Reserve Raises Interest Rates Signals a Stronger Second Half
We are rapidly approaching the ninth anniversary of the 2008 Great Recession, it will not be remembered fondly by Americans. When President Bush addressed the Nation on September 24 of that year he warned us of the coming crisis and the depravation that was going to occur. You may remember that thousands of companies declared bankruptcy in 08 and 09, many in the appliance and furniture industry. Global giants also struggled, we lost Lehmann Brothers, Bear Stearns and Merrill Lynch. The loss of these iconic corporations signaled that all was not well in our little universe.
As we approach the end of first decade after this great calamity, I think it is important to reflect on the fact that Appliance and Furniture businesses are still here and represent a major factor in their respective industries. We have Independent Dealers operating successful retail locations throughout America, serving customers, competing with Big Box stores and turning a profit.
We are witnessing another evolution in the retail business as Amazon is reaching critical mass and driving independent businesses into bankruptcy. Fortunately, the impact of online sales are being felt more in the fashion industry than in the furniture and appliance business. The possible demise of Sears and the exit of HH Gregg are opportunities to capture market share and grow revenue in ways not seen over the past ten years.
After eight years of expansion, we are now beginning to hear the echoes of pundits who are predicting the next recession. These naysayers are apparently not looking at the numbers, as of June the U.S. had a nine year high in consumer confidence, our unemployment rate is the lowest it has been since 2007, consumer spending has improved and while Q1 GDP was a weak 1.4% we are optimistic the second half will come in with growth around 2.3%.
One indicator of recession is the global economy, while I can’t say it is moving into high gear, we have seen economic growth this year in France, Germany and Britain. China, while their growth rate has fallen from 14% eight years ago to around 7% today, they have stabilized and appear to be poised for an increase. South America is imploding and there is little hope of a rebound in Brazil or Venezuela but Europe and Asia are turning an economic corner and that is good news.
The American economy is healthy and the Fed confirmed that by raising interest rates in March. Janet Yellow commented recently that, “the economy appeared to be in a virtuous loop of hiring, spending and investment,” this is a strong indication that growth will continue into 2018.
The economy added 220,000 jobs in June, which beat economist’s expectations and the unemployment rate ticked up to 4.4% as more people came back into the workforce to take available jobs. Over the last quarter job creation has averaged 194,000 jobs per month.
Car sales improved markedly in June and are now annualized at around 17.1 million new vehicles.
U.S. factory activity spiked in June to the highest level in three years giving the Fed some more ammunition to raise interest rates again in the fourth quarter. The only downside is that only 1000 factory jobs were created in June, continuing a growing trend for corporations to use robotics in manufacturing and thus fewer jobs for people.
The bottom line is this, everything you have to look forward to in the next decade is significantly better than what you have lived through in the past nine years.
America has been through a lot of change since 2008 but our economy is moving in the right direction, the second half of 2017 should continue the slow but steady expansion of this business cycle without the cloud of recession.