DSV plans Shanghai-Alabama cargo flights to ease capacity constraints amid coronavirus

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) – Freight-forwarder DSV Panalpina said on Friday it would start direct cargo flights between Shanghai and Huntsville, Alabama from next week to cope with capacity constraints caused by the coronavirus outbreak in China.

The global freight industry has been hard-hit by uncertain demand and crews’ health concerns following the outbreak of the deadly virus in China, leading airlines and freight firms to scale back services, causing delivery delays and mounting backlogs.

Starting on Feb. 25, DSV plans to operate flights between Shanghai and Huntsville thrice weekly using the firm’s Boeing 747-8 freighter plane, it said in a statement.

“Due to the risk of spreading of the coronavirus (COVID-19), multiple airlines have either suspended or reduced the number of flights to and from mainland China,” it said.

Crew on DSV’s plane would rest in South Korea before flying to Shanghai and would virtually not disembark the plane while in Shanghai before returning to the United States with cargo.

“By doing it this way we can safely have this setup,” Flemming Nielsen, executive vice president, told Reuters.

Last week DSV said the coronavirus was squeezing air and sea freight capacity, but that it was still possible to ship goods on airplanes to countries neighboring China and fly them out from there.

DSV said it estimates capacity has shrunk by 5,000 tons a day due to the suspension of flights to China.

(Reporting by Nikolaj Skydsgaard; Editing by Susan Fenton)

Fed policymakers cautiously optimistic on U.S. economy despite new risks, minutes show

By Lindsay Dunsmuir

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Federal Reserve policymakers were cautiously optimistic about their ability to hold interest rates steady this year, minutes of the central bank’s last policy meeting showed, even as they acknowledged new risks caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

The readout on Wednesday of the policy discussion, at which policymakers unanimously voted to keep interest rates unchanged in a target range of between 1.50% and 1.75%, also showed Fed officials were skeptical about any big rethink of the central bank’s inflation target.

“Participants generally saw the distribution of risks to the outlook for economic activity as somewhat more favorable than at the previous meeting,” the Fed said in the minutes of the Jan. 28-29 meeting. It went on to say the current stance of monetary policy was likely to remain appropriate “for a time.”

Coming into this year the Fed had made clear that, after three interest rate cuts in 2019, it plans to hold interest rates steady, barring a significant change in the U.S. economic outlook.

Policymakers have pointed to U.S. consumer spending levels, dissipating U.S-China trade tensions and loose financial conditions as supporting their view, but how long such an upbeat assessment can last has already been tested by escalating concern about the global economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak that started in China.

On Monday Apple Inc <AAPL.O> issued a revenue warning due to the disruption the epidemic is causing to its supply chain. China, the world’s second-largest economy, is still struggling to get its manufacturing sector back up and running after imposing severe travel restrictions to contain the flu-like virus.

Fed Chair Jerome Powell said last week it was too early to tell if the knock-on economic impact on the United States would be severe or sustained enough to cause the Fed to change its current path.

Since the outbreak began investors have brought forward their bets of when the Fed will cut interest rates again, to around June of this year. In the minutes, policymakers said the threat “warranted close watching.”

Despite that, Fed officials offered a fairly upbeat assessment of the economy, expecting consumer spending to “likely remain on a firm footing,” job gains to expand at a healthy pace, continued moderate economic expansion and inflation returning to its 2% goal. The Fed is forecasting the economy growing 2.0% this year.

That is at odds with some economic data released since the meeting. The Commerce Department reported last week a slowdown in consumer spending in January. Business investment has also experienced a deepening downturn and the U.S. manufacturing sector remains weak.

As part of a discussion on rethinking the Fed’s inflation goal during the central bank’s review of its main policy tools, there were vocal doubts about adopting an inflation range.

“Most participants expressed concern that introducing a symmetric inflation range … could be misperceived as a signal that the Committee was comfortable with continued misses below its symmetric inflation objective,” the Fed said.

BALANCE SHEET

Elsewhere in the minutes, Fed policymakers discussed how to handle its growing balance sheet. The Fed has been buying $60 billion monthly of U.S. Treasury bills since October to increase the level of reserves in the banking system in response to a liquidity crunch.

Powell has said the Fed would aim to begin scaling back that amount sometime in the April-June period, when the level of reserves in the banking system would likely be deemed adequate.

After that, “regular open market operations would be required over time in order to accommodate trend growth in the Federal Reserve’s liabilities and maintain an ample supply of reserves,” Fed policymakers noted in the minutes.

The Fed also expects to continue offering support in the market for repurchase agreements, or repo, at least through April but in the minutes staff floated a plan that included phasing out the term repo operations after April. Those policymakers who commented on the plan were comfortable with the idea, according to the minutes.

Several policymakers asked for more discussion “before long” on the possibility of creating a standing repo facility, which would allow banks to borrow cash as needed at a fixed rate.

(Reporting by Lindsay Dunsmuir in Washington; Additional reporting by Jonnelle Marte in New York; Editing by Andrea Ricci and Matthew Lewis)

Oil back in positive territory ahead of U.S.-China trade deal

By Ron Bousso

LONDON (Reuters) – Global oil benchmark Brent crude rose to more than $64.50, recovering from four days of declines on easing Middle East tensions, as the United States and China prepared to sign a preliminary trade deal.

Brent crude gained 43 cents, or 0.7%, to $64.63 a barrel by 1507 GMT. U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude futures rose 11 cents, or 0.2%, to $58.20 a barrel.

The outlook for oil demand was supported by the expected signing of a Phase 1 U.S.-China trade deal on Wednesday, marking a major step in ending a dispute that has cut global growth and dented demand for oil.

China has pledged to buy more than $50 billion in energy supplies from the United States over the next two years, according to a source briefed on the trade deal.

The trade war between the world’s two biggest energy consumers had a tangible impact on global oil demand growth last year, said Tamas Varga, an analyst at broker PVM. Varga pointed to 2019 demand growth of 890,000 barrels per day (bpd), compared with initial forecasts of 1.5 million bpd.

“This year, however, the pace is expected to pick up again and average 1.25 million bpd … In the event of a trade deal upward revisions can be anticipated,” Varga said.

Regardless of trade wars, China’s crude oil imports in 2019 surged 9.5% from the previous year, setting a record for a 17th straight year as demand growth from new refineries propelled purchases by the world’s top importer, data showed.

However, gains were limited by easing concern over possible supply disruptions as a result of tensions in the Middle East.

The recent declines came as investors unwound bullish positions built after the killing of a senior Iranian general in a U.S. air strike on Jan. 2, which sent oil prices to a four-month high, said Harry Tchilinguirian, global oil strategist at BNP Paribas in London.

“As geopolitical tensions take a back seat for now, we may see more of the same in the short term,” Tchilinguirian told the Reuters Global Oil Forum.

Saudi Arabia’s energy minister, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, said his country will work for oil market stability at a time of heightened U.S.-Iranian tension.

He also said it was too early to talk about whether the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its allies, a group known as OPEC+, would continue with production curbs that are due to expire in March.

Separately, U.S. crude oil inventories were expected to have fallen last week, a preliminary Reuters poll showed on Monday.

The poll was conducted ahead of reports from the American Petroleum Institute (API), an industry group, and the Energy Information Administration, an agency of the U.S. Department of Energy.

(Additional reporting By Jessica Jaganathan; Editing by Louise Heavens and David Goodman)

China says in touch with U.S. on signing of Phase 1 trade deal

China says in touch with U.S. on signing of Phase 1 trade deal
BEIJING (Reuters) – China and the United States are in touch over the signing of their Phase 1 trade deal, China’s commerce ministry said, which will see lower U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods and higher Chinese purchases of U.S. farm, energy and manufactured goods.

The Phase 1 deal was announced last week after more than two years of on-and-off trade talks, although neither side has released many specific details of the agreement.

Both the Chinese and U.S. trade teams are in close communication, Gao Feng, a spokesman at the Chinese commerce ministry, told reporters at a regular briefing on Thursday, adding there is no specific information on the deal to disclose currently.

“After the official signing of the deal, the content of the agreement will be made public,” Gao said.

U.S. officials say China agreed to increase purchases of U.S. products and services by at least $200 billion over the next two years.

According to Washington, that would include additional purchases of U.S. farm products of $32 billion over two years. That would average an annual total of about $40 billion, compared to a baseline of $24 billion in 2017 before the trade war started.

Chinese officials have so far not publicly confirmed much of Washington’s version – especially on goods purchase commitments. But China said on Friday when the deal was announced that it will import more U.S. wheat, rice, corn, energy, pharmaceuticals and financial services.

Earlier on Thursday, China unveiled a new list of tariff exemptions for U.S. imports, mostly chemical products, days after the world’s two largest economies announced the Phase 1 deal. China said the second part of the waiver list will be released at an appropriate time.

Washington said the deal also includes stronger Chinese legal protections for patents, trademarks, copyrights, including improved criminal and civil procedures to combat online infringement, pirated and counterfeit goods.

The two countries have reached a consensus over the protection of trade secrets, guarding intellectual property rights for pharmaceutical products, and cracking down on counterfeits and pirated goods on e-commerce platforms, Chinese Vice Minister of Commerce Wang Shouwen said on Friday.

China will step up protection of intellectual property but at its own pace, Wang said.

(Reporting by Stella Qiu and Martin Pollard; Writing by Ryan Woo; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman, Lincoln Feast and Giles Elgood)

Mexico steps up pressure on U.S. Congress to approve trade deal

By Dave Graham

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexico’s government on Monday ramped up pressure on Democratic lawmakers to approve a new North American trade deal, urging U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to push it through Congress and rejecting demands for greater oversight of its labor market.

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said he would this week send another letter to Pelosi, a Democrat, pressing for the ratification of the three-nation deal agreed last year known as the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).

“I’m sure that Mrs Pelosi and the lawmakers of the Democratic Party are going to help us,” Lopez Obrador told a regular news conference, saying he believed the U.S. Congress would approve the deal before the end of 2019.

Mexico also wrote to Pelosi last month.

Lopez Obrador said his understanding was that both U.S. President Donald Trump, who had pushed for the deal, and Republican lawmakers agreed the USMCA should be ratified soon.

Still, standing alongside Lopez Obrador, Jesus Seade, deputy foreign minister for North America and the Mexican official in charge of USMCA negotiations, said he was “pessimistic” the accord would be approved by U.S. lawmakers before 2020.

“Far from reaching a deal, in the last two weeks, statements from certain labor sectors have re-emerged, floating ideas that would be totally unacceptable to Mexico,” Seade said.

Mexico, which ratified the USMCA earlier this year, is eager for the agreement to be approved because the country’s exports and foreign direct investment are heavily dependent on having unfettered access to the U.S. marketplace.

U.S. lawmakers, notably Democrats, have held up the process over concerns that lower-cost Mexico will continue to be able to attract investment at the expense of U.S. workers.

Lopez Obrador’s left-leaning government has pledged to improve workers’ pay, and earlier this year pushed through a labor bill that will strengthen the rights of trade unions.

The president, Seade and Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard all underlined that Mexico had fulfilled its commitments under the USMCA framework as they urged Congress to pass the deal.

However, Democrats have sought assurances from Mexico that measures to strengthen workers’ rights will be enforced, causing friction with the Lopez Obrador administration.

Among the sticking points have been U.S. attempts to establish dispute panels for labor, Seade said. Mexico’s position is that panels should be allowed across the board, not for specific areas, he noted.

Enforcement remained a bone of contention, Seade said, noting that there were those on the U.S. side seeking to impose “more intrusive” mechanisms to bind Mexico.

“We told them we won’t accept that,” he said.

The USMCA was agreed after a lengthy negotiation to replace the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

(Reporting by Dave Graham; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Nick Zieminski)

Phase one trade deal with China is in good shape: U.S. Commerce Secretary

Phase one trade deal with China is in good shape: U.S. Commerce Secretary
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The initial “phase one” trade pact with China appears to be in good shape and is likely to be signed around mid-November, although a finite date is still in question, U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said on Friday.

“We’re pretty comfortable that the phase one is in good shape,” he told Fox Business Network in an interview.

U.S. President Donald Trump and other administration officials had looked toward the Nov. 11-17 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit as a possible venue to sign the deal with Chinese President Xi Jinping before Chile this week canceled its plan to host the international summit.

“Hopefully we can resurrect a date right in that range,” Ross told the television network, adding that the question of a new location remained.

Lead trade negotiators from both the United States and Chine are expected to speak by telephone on Friday as Ross prepared separately to travel to Asia for a three-day summit of Southeast Asian nations in Thailand.

“There will some transactions announced — some very good-sized transactions — announced while I’m on this trip,” he said, but gave no other details.

(Reporting by Susan Heavey; Editing by Catherine Evans and Louise Heavens)

Fed cuts rates on 7-3 vote, gives mixed signals on next move

By Howard Schneider and Ann Saphir

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Federal Reserve cut interest rates by a quarter of a percentage point for the second time this year on Wednesday in a widely expected move meant to sustain a decade-long economic expansion, but gave mixed signals about what may happen next.

The central bank also widened the gap between the interest it pays banks on excess reserves and the top of its policy rate range, a step taken to smooth out problems in money markets that prompted a market intervention by the New York Fed this week.

In lowering the benchmark overnight lending rate to a range of 1.75% to 2.00% on a 7-3 vote, the Fed’s policy-setting committee nodded to ongoing global risks and “weakened” business investment and exports.

Though the U.S. economy continues growing at a “moderate” rate and the labor market “remains strong,” the Fed said in its policy statement that it was cutting rates “in light of the implications of global developments for the economic outlook as well as muted inflation pressures.”

With continued growth and strong hiring “the most likely outcomes,” the Fed nevertheless cited “uncertainties” about the outlook and pledged to “act as appropriate” to sustain the expansion.

U.S. stocks, lower ahead of the statement, dropped further, and Treasury yields ticked up from their lows of the day. The S&P 500 was last down 0.64% and the 10-year Treasury note yield inched up to 1.77%.

The dollar gained ground against the euro and yen.

“Another rate cut from the Fed to try to shield the U.S. economy from global headwinds,” said Joe Manimbo, senior market analyst at Western Union Business Solutions in Washington. “Today’s move was more of a hawkish easing in that the Fed’s median forecasts for rates suggested no more cuts this year, while some officials dissented.”

New projections showed policymakers at the median expected rates to stay within the new range through 2020. However, in a sign of ongoing divisions within the Fed, seven of 17 policymakers projected one more quarter-point rate cut in 2019.

Five others, in contrast, see rates as needing to rise by the end of the year.

The divisions were reflected in dissents that came from both hawks and doves.

St. Louis President James Bullard wanted a half-point cut while Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren and Kansas City Fed President Esther George did not want a rate cut at all.

There was little change in policymakers’ projections for the economy, with growth seen at a slightly higher 2.2% this year and the unemployment rate to be 3.7% through 2020. Inflation is projected to be 1.5% for the year, below the Fed’s 2% target, before rising to 1.9% next year.

Fed Chair Jerome Powell is scheduled to hold a press conference at 2:30 p.m. EDT (1830 GMT) to elaborate on the policy decision.

The rate cut fell short of the more aggressive reduction in borrowing costs that President Donald Trump had demanded from Fed officials, whom he has insulted as “boneheads” who have put the economic recovery in jeopardy.

The Fed also cut rates in July, the first such move since 2008.

Fed officials have said the rate cuts are justified largely because of risks raised by Trump’s trade war with China, a global economic slowdown and other overseas developments.

Their aim, they say, is to balance the potential need for lower rates against the risk that cheaper money may cause households and businesses to borrow too much, as happened in the run-up to the financial crisis more than a decade ago.

(Reporting by Howard Schneider and Ann Saphir; Additional reporting by Richard Leong in New York; Editing by Paul Simao and Dan Burns)

Trump threatens new tariffs as U.S.-China trade tensions spike again

FILE PHOTO: Farmer Dave Walton holds soybeans in Wilton, Iowa, U.S. May 22, 2019. Picture taken May 22, 2019. REUTERS/Kia Johnson

By David Lawder and Andrea Shalal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday moved to impose a 10% tariff on a remaining $300 billion list of Chinese imports starting Sept. 1, after U.S. and Chinese negotiators failed to kickstart trade talks between the world’s two largest economies.

The levies – which would hit a wide swath of consumer goods from cell phones and laptop computers to toys and footwear – ratchet up tensions in a war of tit-for-tat tariffs that have disrupted global supply chains and roiled financial markets for more than a year.

U.S. stocks fell after the news and oil prices plummeted, and further fallout was expected. The IMF has warned that tariffs already in place will shave 0.2% off global economic output in 2020.

The benchmark S&P 500, which had been in solidly positive territory on Thursday afternoon, lost significant ground after Trump tweeted about the tariffs, and was last down 0.6% on the day. Benchmark U.S. Treasury yields also fell.

“Trade talks are continuing, and during the talks the U.S. will start, on September 1st, putting a small additional Tariff of 10% on the remaining 300 Billion Dollars of goods and products coming from China into our Country. This does not include the 250 Billion Dollars already Tariffed at 25%,” Trump tweeted.

Trump also faulted China for not making good on promises to buy more American agricultural products and criticized China’s President Xi Jinping for failing to do more to stem sales of the synthetic opioid fentanyl.

The president’s tweets followed a briefing by Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on their talks in Shanghai, their first face-to-face meeting with Chinese officials since Trump and Xi agreed to a trade ceasefire at a G20 summit in June.

The talks ended on Wednesday with little sign of progress, although both countries described the negotiations as constructive. Another round of meetings between the negotiators has been scheduled for September.

Trump had been pressing Xi to crack down on a flood of fentanyl and fentanyl-related substances from China, which U.S. officials say is the main source of a drug blamed for most of more than 28,000 synthetic opioid-related overdose deaths in the United States in 2017.

Xi promised Trump at a summit in Argentina in December that Beijing would take action. China had pledged that from May 1 it would expand the list of narcotics subject to state control to include the more than 1,400 known fentanyl analogs, which have a slightly different chemical makeup but are addictive and potentially deadly, as well as any new ones developed in the future.

Talks between the United States and China collapsed in May after U.S. officials accused China of pulling back from earlier commitments. Washington sharply hiked tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods and Beijing retaliated, escalating the trade dispute.

Trump subsequently threatened to impose 25% sanctions on the remaining $300 billion in Chinese imports, prompting warnings from Walmart and other major U.S. retailers of a sharp spike in consumer prices. Thursday’s tweets indicated those goods would face a lower tariff rate than initially threatened.

While the United States bemoans the lack of larger Chinese agricultural purchases, Beijing has been pressing Washington to relax restrictions on sales to Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei as it had promised.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Thursday confirmed private sales to China of 68,000 tonnes of soybeans in the week ended July 25.

The sale was the first to a private buyer since Beijing offered to exempt five crushers from the 25% import tariffs imposed more than a year ago. Soybean futures opened lower on Thursday as traders shrugged off the small amount, and losses accelerated after Trump’s tweets.

(Additional reporting by Stella Qiu and Beijing Monitoring Desk; additional reporting by David Lawder, Jonathan Landay and Andrea Shalal in Washington and Mark Weinraub and Karl Plume in Chicago; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)

U.S. economy slows in second quarter; consumer spending accelerates

FILE PHOTO: Shoppers carry bags of purchased merchandise at the King of Prussia Mall in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, U.S., December 8, 2018. REUTERS/Mark Makela/File Photo

By Lucia Mutikani

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. economic growth slowed less than expected in the second quarter as a surge in consumer spending blunted some of the drag from declining exports and a smaller inventory build, which could further allay concerns about the economy’s health.

The fairly upbeat report from the Commerce Department on Friday will probably not deter the Federal Reserve from cutting interest rates next Wednesday for the first time in a decade, given rising risks to the economy’s outlook, especially from a trade war between the United States and China.

Despite the better-than-expected GDP reading, business investment contracted for the first time in more than three years and housing contracted for a sixth straight quarter. Fed Chairman Jerome Powell early this month flagged business investment and housing as areas of weakness in the economy.

But robust consumer spending, together with a strong labor market, further diminish expectations of a 50 basis point rate cut and could raise doubts about further monetary policy easing this year.

Gross domestic product increased at a 2.1% annualized rate in the second quarter, the government said. The economy grew at an unrevised 3.1% pace in the January-March quarter. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast GDP increasing at a 1.8% rate in the second quarter.

The economy has expanded for 10 years, the longest run in history. Activity is slowing largely as the stimulus from the White House’s $1.5 trillion tax cut package fades. The tax cuts together with more government spending and deregulation were part of measures adopted by the Trump administration to boost annual economic growth to 3.0% on a sustained basis.

The economy grew 2.9% in 2018 and growth this year is expected to be around 2.5%. Economists estimate the speed at which the economy can grow over a long period without igniting inflation at between 1.7% and 2.0%.

The GDP report showed a pickup in inflation last quarter, though the trend remained benign. A gauge of inflation tracked by the Fed increased at a 1.8% rate last quarter, just below the U.S. central bank’s 2% target. Inflation increased 1.5% compared the second quarter of 2018.

The government also published revisions to GDP data from 2014 through 2018. The updated data showed growth in the second and third quarters of last year was not as robust as previously estimated, and the economy grew much more slowly in the fourth quarter than had been reported in March. Revised price data showed moderate inflation last year.

The dollar extended gains versus a basket of currencies after the data, while prices for U.S. Treasury fell. U.S. stock index futures pared gains.

STRONG CONSUMER SPENDING

Growth in consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, surged at a 4.3% rate in the second quarter, the fastest since the fourth quarter of 2017. Consumer spending grew at a 1.1% rate in the first quarter.

Some of the slowdown in consumer spending early in the year was blamed on a 35-day partial shutdown of the government.

Spending is being supported by the lowest unemployment rate in nearly 50 years, which is lifting wages.

The jump in consumer spending helped to offset some of the weakness from exports, which fell at a 5.2% rate last quarter, in a reversal of the strong growth experienced in the first quarter.

The plunge in exports caused a deterioration of the trade deficit. As result, trade subtracted 0.65 percentage point from GDP growth last quarter after contributing 0.73 percentage point in the January-March period.

The acceleration in consumer spending also helped businesses to whittle down an inventory overhang, leading to a smaller inventory build.

Inventory investment increased at a $71.7 billion rate, slowing from the first quarter’s $116.0 billion pace of increase. While inventories cut 0.86 percentage point from GDP growth in the second quarter, the smaller pace of stock accumulation is a potential boost to manufacturing.

Businesses have been placing fewer orders with factories while working through stockpiles of unsold goods, which contributed to undercutting manufacturing production. Inventories added 0.53 percentage point to GDP growth in the first quarter.

Business investment fell at a 0.6% rate in the second quarter, the first contraction since the first quarter of 2016. It was pulled down by a 10.6% pace of decline in spending on structures, which includes oil and gas well drilling.

Investment in structures was depressed by decreases in commercial and healthcare, and mining exploration, shafts and wells. Spending on intellectual products, including research and development, increased. Business spending on equipment rebounded at a 0.7% rate in the second quarter. It is seen constrained by design problems at aerospace giant Boeing.

Boeing reported its biggest-ever quarterly loss on Wednesday due to the spiraling cost of resolving issues with its 737 MAX airplane and warned it might have to shut production of the grounded jet completely if it runs into new hurdles with global regulators to getting its best-selling aircraft back in the air.

The plane was grounded worldwide in March after two fatal crashes in Ethiopia and Indonesia. Production of the aircraft has been reduced and deliveries suspended.

Growth in government investment accelerated, notching its best performance in 10 years, but spending on homebuilding contracted for a sixth straight quarter.

(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Andrea Ricci)

Graphic: America’s economy and wages are cooling but not its female workforce

A female construction worker stands outside a construction site in Manhattan, New York, U.S., October 3, 2018. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

By Jason Lange

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Data released on Friday showed a return to strong job growth in the United States, allaying some fears the U.S. economy is on a short path to recession. But the data also reinforced the view that economic growth is slowing.

Here are five take-aways from a report by the U.S. Labor Department on U.S. employment during June.

SLOWING GROWTH

Every month the Labor Department surveys payrolls in the private sector to calculate how many hours employees across the nation worked. Seen as a proxy for economic growth, this index of the national work effort grew 0.2% in June, a rate near the muted gains clocked in recent months. That suggests the U.S. economy, which grew at a 3.1% annual rate in the first quarter of this year, could be cooling.

COOLER WAGE GROWTH?

Growth in private sector average hourly earnings accelerated throughout 2018 and through February of this year, when year-over-year growth hit the strongest rate since 2009 at 3.4%. June’s growth rate, however, was a more modest 3.1%. It is probably too early to tell if there has been a break in the upward trend.

Average earnings graphic

WAGE LAGGARDS

The manufacturing sector added 17,000 jobs in June after several months of weak growth or outright decline. Wage growth in the factory sector, however, has underperformed the national average. Wage growth has also been lower in the education and health jobs category tracked by the Labor Department.

leaders_laggards: https://tmsnrt.rs/2FUH8hw

LABOR FORCE INCREASE

A bright spot for the U.S. economy over the last few years has been the increase in the share of the population that either has a job or is looking for one. This so-called labor force participation rate ticked slightly higher in June, both for a key demographic of people of prime working age and for the general population. But the rate for prime-age workers has been mostly falling since January. This suggests the economy might be running lower on its supply of people available to work, which could depress future job growth.

participation rate graphic

WOMEN LEAD

In June, the participation rate fell for men of prime working age, while it rose for women. This is in line with the trend over the last few years. Indeed, the share of men who have jobs or are looking for one was slightly lower in June than it was in January 2017.

Women lead graphic 

(Reporting by Jason Lange; Editing by Dan Grebler)