On a positive note, consumer sentiment hit a seven-year high this month, as the Reuters/University of Michigan sentiment index rose to a reading of 89.4 – the best since July 2007. An improving labor market and lower gas prices are brightening consumers’ moods just as holiday spending gets underway. This reading comes after the Conference Board’s gauge of consumer confidence also rose to a seven-year high last month.
Consumers spent more on shopping and dining out last month on a windfall from lower gas prices. Retail sales snapped back in October, rebounding from the first decline in eight months, on broad-based gains as 11 of 13 major categories rose.
The number of job openings eased to 4.74 million in September, but held near a 13-year high, according to the JOLTS report. At the same time, companies ramped up hiring, with hires rising to 5.03 million, matching the strongest since December 2007.
Small business optimism improved modestly, on a slight rise in the number of business owners who plan to increase capital spending and an increase in those who expect higher sales. Otherwise, the NFIB reading on optimism was mixed, as owners were less optimistic about conditions over the next six months: “They’re making capital investments and trying to fill positions despite that they cannot anticipate a better economy. Basically they’re preparing to taxi the runway but they don’t expect to take off anytime soon.”
On a negative note, the number of foreclosure filings is on the rise, with notices reported on 123,109 properties in October – a 15% increase from September. While most of the problem loans aren’t new and a backlog of troubled properties is moving through the system, there was a slight increase in foreclosures on loans made in 2013 and 2014. October’s filings mark the largest monthly growth since foreclosure activity peaked in early 2010.