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Economic Commentary

We break down timely topics, centered on the major economic events around the world and their impacts to financial markets, in order to help you simplify client conversations around important investing decisions.

Economic Commentary

January Economic Review: Rising infections lead to renewed restrictions and slower growth – but we expect improvement soon

The recovery’s slowdown intensified in December as payrolls shrank for the first time since April and consumer confidence and spending each took a hit. On the other hand, bright spots included faster growth in both the manufacturing and (surprisingly) service sectors. Recent and likely future stimulus packages should help spending in the months to come, but it will ultimately take sufficient vaccinations for the recovery to take off again. See Nationwide Economics’ take on what's happening and why this month in the economy.  

Economic Commentary

Retail spending slumps to end 2020

Retail sales dropped by 0.7 percent for December, the third consecutive month of decline, as consumers avoided in-person activity with COVID cases at record levels. Moreover, there were downward revisions to previous months as overall consumer activity slowed sharply in the fourth quarter, in part due to steadily increased government restrictions in response to the jump in infections. Even so, retail sales were still up by 2.9 percent from a year earlier on the back of the post-lockdown surge in spending over the May-September period. 

Economic Commentary

COVID/lockdowns hit the job market

Nonfarm payrolls fell by 140,000 for December, the first decline since the record drop for April. The effects of increasing government restrictions on in-person activity in response to record COVID infections were stark. Payrolls in the restaurant sector contracted by 372,000 for December with declines for hotels, recreation, and educational services, as well. These pullbacks offset solid construction, manufacturing, and (perhaps surprisingly) retail hiring, among other positive sectoral gains. 

Economic Commentary

Growth to be boosted by new stimulus

The pandemic stimulus bill signed into law by President Trump last week serves two primary positive purposes (albeit at the cost of an even larger federal budget deficit). First, it creates a bridge to a period of stronger economic growth and an ebbing of the coronavirus later in 2021 for the large number of people still unemployed as a result of the COVID recession and smaller businesses at risk of shutting their doors in the near term. And second, it will boost economic activity for the year, especially early in the year when it is needed most as the stimulus payments are front-loaded.  

Economic Commentary

December Monthly Dashboard: Virus resurgence threatens near-term growth even as vaccines/stimulus lift expectations

The sharp uptick in COVID-19 infections slowed the economic recovery in November and early December even as positive vaccine news and new fiscal stimulus lifted the prospects for a strong rebound next year. Renewed, but mostly less stringent than at the start of the pandemic, state/local government restrictions to curb the spread of the virus helped to sharply slow service sector hiring for November — along with reduced seasonal hiring with fewer customers visiting stores. Consumer spending trends have worsened with rising infection worries and increased layoffs. 

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