November 21, 2017

Consumer Sentiment Ended June Near a Six-Year High

Consumer sentiment improved, ending this month close to a six-year high set in May, as optimism among higher-income families rose to its strongest level in six years, a survey released on Friday showed.

The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan’s final reading on the overall index on Americans’ consumer sentiment was 84.1 points, slightly below the 84.5 in May. The new figure was higher than the preliminary reading of 82.7.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast the final June reading of 82.8.

“Consumers believe the recovery has achieved an upward momentum that will not be easily reversed,” Richard Curtin, survey director, said in a statement.

He added that the recent drop in stock prices and the jump in mortgage rates had not caused a deterioration in consumers’ view on the economy.

“To be sure, few high- or low-income consumers expect the economy to post robust gains or think the unemployment rate will drastically shrink during the year ahead,” Mr. Curtin said.

Consumer sentiment is considered by some economists as a predictor on consumer spending, which accounts for 70 percent of the United States economy.

Also on Friday, the Institute for Supply Management-Chicago said its index on Midwest business activity posted a steeper-than-expected drop in June to 51.6. A reading below 50 points suggests business contraction.

“It’s not firmly in expansion territory where businesses are ready to hire and invest,” said Tim Quinlan, an economist at Wells Fargo Securities in Charlotte, N.C.

In the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan’s data, there was a divergence in outlook between higher-income families and lower-income ones.

Higher-income households showed increased optimism about their incomes and wealth, while lower-income ones reported less optimism. Families in the top third of incomes were the most optimistic since the June 2007 survey.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/29/business/economy/consumer-sentiment-ended-june-near-a-six-year-high.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Chinese Journalist Said to Be Detained in Beijing

Two copies of an unsigned police warrant dated June 1 found recently by friends in the apartment of the journalist, Du Bin, said that it had been issued for “disturbing order at a public place.” That falls under an administrative statute the police can use to hold people for up to 15 days for minor offenses, said Jerome A. Cohen, a scholar of Chinese law at New York University.

The police could release the detainee during that period, move that person to China’s “re-education through labor” system, or seek a formal criminal charge, Mr. Cohen said.

One friend of Mr. Du said he had heard that the police were investigating the journalist, who is 41, for illegal business activity related to his books, many of which are on politically delicate subjects. It is a charge that officials have used before against Chinese journalists writing books on such subjects even when, as with Mr. Du, the books have been published outside mainland China.

His most recent book, “Tiananmen Massacre,” is mostly a compilation of previously published accounts from various sources of the government crackdown of June 4, 1989. It was released in late May by Mirror Books, which has offices in New York and Hong Kong.

Friends of Mr. Du, a self-taught photographer, also said they believed the authorities had been angered by his work on the hourlong documentary film he recently completed on the Masanjia labor camp and what inmates described as abuses there.

Many of the Masanjia camp’s prisoners are petitioners seeking redress from the state for perceived wrongs. Other prisoners include practitioners of Falun Gong, a spiritual movement that is banned in China.

Mr. Du had also shown the film at least once in Hong Kong, and a version was posted online on May 1.

Mr. Du was escorted from his apartment on May 31 by more than 10 police officers, two of them in uniforms and the rest in plain clothes, according to two friends who had spoken with the landlord’s family. Relatives of Mr. Du said the police had not notified them of his whereabouts or why he is being held.

Human rights advocates say the new party leadership under President Xi Jinping has continued the hard-line approach toward outspoken Chinese liberals and dissidents that characterized the decade-long rule of his predecessor, Hu Jintao. On Sunday, a brother-in-law of Liu Xiaobo, the imprisoned winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, was given an extraordinary sentence of 11 years in prison on fraud charges.

Mr. Du’s photography work, some of which has appeared in The Times, has covered a wide range of subjects, from petitioners to the Three Gorges Dam to the village of Liangjiahe, where Mr. Xi lived for seven years during the Cultural Revolution. Among the subjects of his books are Mao Zedong’s reign, the Japanese invasion of China and the rebel artist Ai Weiwei. A novella, “Toothbrush,” is set in a dystopian society ruled by a single party.

Jonathan Ansfield contributed reporting from Beijing, and Chris Buckley from Hong Kong.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/13/world/asia/chinese-journalist-beijing.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Service Industry Expanded in April, but at Slower Pace

WASHINGTON (AP) — A survey of United States service companies showed that the industry expanded at a slower pace in April than in March, as companies reported less business activity and could not raise their prices.

The Institute for Supply Management said on Friday that its index of nonmanufacturing activity fell to 53.1 in April from 54.4 in March. Any reading above 50 indicates expansion. The report measures growth in industries that cover 90 percent of the work force, including retail, construction, health care and financial services.

The decline in the overall index suggested that some service companies may be starting to see less consumer demand, in part because of higher Social Security taxes.

April’s weakness was largely caused by a steep drop in a measure of prices, to 51.2 from 55.9 in March. Nearly 70 percent of the companies surveyed said they did not change their prices last month, while 10 percent reduced them.

A measure of business activity also declined. Still, a gauge of new orders was mostly unchanged, and businesses stepped up restocking, typically a sign that they expect consumer spending to pick up.

Growth in the service industry depends largely on consumers, whose spending drives roughly 70 percent of economic activity. Americans increased their spending from January through March at the most rapid pace in more than two years, despite the increase in Social Security taxes that kicked in on Jan. 1.

And other trends may offset some of the impact of the taxes this year. Consumers have cut their debts. Rising home values and stock prices have increased household wealth And average gas prices nationwide have dropped 27 cents from their peak this year to $3.52 a gallon, according to AAA.

In manufacturing, orders fell 4 percent in March, the largest amount in seven months, but a crucial category that signals business investment plans increased. The drop in factory orders reflected a plunge in the volatile category of commercial aircraft, the Commerce Department reported on Friday. Orders were up 1.9 percent in February. But in core capital goods, a category considered a proxy for business investment plans, orders rose 0.9 percent after a 4.8 percent decline in February and a 6.7 percent surge in January.

Weaker economies overseas and the impact of across-the-board government spending cuts have made businesses more cautious, dampening demand for manufactured goods. But even with the March decline, total orders stood at $467.3 billion, 43 percent above the recession low in March 2009.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/04/business/economy/service-industry-expanded-in-april-but-at-slower-pace.html?partner=rss&emc=rss