The initial reading of the U.S.’s first-quarter economy performance showed that we are still far from normal. However, with more vaccines delivered and business restrictions easing, consumers are feeling more confident about the outlook and are starting to spend more freely. Gross domestic product grew by 1.6% in the first quarter of 2021. Economists predict that total economic output should return to prepandemic levels by summer.
In the way of job growth, however, the U.S. economy only gained 266,000 jobs in April. This is down significantly from widespread forecasts of 1 million plus jobs. The unemployment rate rose from 6% to 6.1%, contrary to expectations. Yet, still down from the historic peak of 14.8% last April when it was the highest since the Great Depression.
The April Purchasing Managers Index registered at 60.7%, down 4 points from March. The figure still indicates overall economic growth, however, as a score above 50 reflects expansion. The New Orders Index registered at 64.3% in April, declining 3.7 points from the previous month. The Production Index was at 62.5%, down 5.6 points from March.
Architecture firms continued to see strong business conditions in March as the Architecture Billings Index registered at 55.6 for the month. A score above 50 indicates an increase in firm billings.
The Consumer Confidence Index rose sharply again in April, now standing at 121.7, up from 109 in March.
Construction spending rose in March to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $1513.1 billion. This is a 0.2% increase from the previous month and a 5.2% increase from February 2020. Construction spending for the first quarter rose 4.5% year over year.
Pending home sales picked up after two straight months of declines, rising 1.9% in March. This is indicative of high housing demand.
Stainless steel output is rebounding strongly since the second half of last year. However, supply continues to be an issue for nickel. It is predicted the market will remain in surplus the rest of the year.
For more information, check out the Metalwest Market Insight Guide below or contact your local sales rep.