Last Week in the News

According to the Federal Reserve, consumer credit debt fell in July by $21.6 billion, an annual rate of 10.5%. It was the biggest decline since recordkeeping began in 1943. Economists had forecast consumer debt would drop $4 billion. Total consumer credit debt in July was $2.47 trillion. Meanwhile, the figures for June were upwardly revised. Consumers reduced their borrowing in June by $15.5 billion.

The Mortgage Bankers Association said its seasonally adjusted index of mortgage applications for the week ending September 4 rose 17% to 648.3 from 554.1 in the prior week. Purchase volume rose 9.5% to 304.1. Refinancing applications increased 22.5% to 2,651.2.

The Commerce Department reported gains in both trade imports and exports, which indicates that the worst recession since the 1930s may be ending. Imports in July rose 4.7% to $159.6 billion. It was the largest monthly advance since recordkeeping began in 1992 and the second monthly increase after 10 monthly declines. Exports rose 2.2% to $127.6 billion, the third straight monthly increase.

Initial claims for unemployment benefits fell by 26,000 to 550,000 in the week ending September 5. The figure was lower than the 560,000 that economists had forecast. The number of people continuing to claim jobless benefits in the week ending August 29 fell by 159,000 to 6.09 million.

The Reuters/University of Michigan consumer sentiment index for September increased to 70.2 from 65.7 in August. Economists had forecast a reading of 67.5.

The Commerce Department said wholesalers reduced their inventories by 1.4% in July, following a revised 2.1% drop in June. It was the 11th straight monthly decline. Meanwhile, sales at the wholesale level rose 0.5% in July, the third consecutive monthly gain.

Upcoming on the economic calendar are reports on retail sales on September 15, the housing market index on September 16 and housing starts on September 17.

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