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US manufacturing slowed for a second straight month in May due to weak overseas demand and government cuts, according to CNBC. The US Manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index fell to a reading of 51.9 in May, down from 52.1 in April. A reading above 50 indicates an economy is growing while a reading below 50 indicates that an economy is contracting.
China’s Manufacturing Index slows
China’s manufacturing sector slowed in May with its preliminary HSBC China Manufacturing Purchasing Manager’s Index falling to 49.6 for May. This follows a reading of 50.4 in May. A reading below 50 indicates contraction in a market while a reading above that level signals growth. According to the Wall Street Journal, growth of China's gross domestic product fell to 7.7 percent in the first quarter, down from 7.9 percent in the fourth quarter. Markets fell after the figure was released.
US unemployment applications fall to 340,000
The number of individuals filing for unemployment fell last week by 23,000, according to the Associated Press. Applications declined to a seasonally adjusted 340,000, down from 363,000 the previous week. The numbers continue the trend of gradual improvement. Overall hiring, however, remains far below pre-Recession levels. More than 4.7 million Americans were receiving unemployment benefits in the week that ended May 4. That is down 23 percent from the nearly 6.2 million receiving benefits compared to a year earlier. The US still has 2.6 million fewer jobs than it did in December 2007.
Federal Reserve leaves mixed messages
On Wednesday, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke indicated that the Fed could take a first step towards reducing the bond buying program that has been boosting markets at one of its “next few meetings”. According to the Wall Street Journal, the comments provided some clarity to the markets for a few hours. That changed when a subsequent release of minutes from the Fed’s April 30-May 1 meeting disclosed that the officials may begin pulling back the program as early as June. Prior to the release of the minutes the Dow had gained more than triple digits. It ended, however, down 80.41 points, closing at 276.44.
Ralph Lauren profit increases by 35 percent
Ralph Lauren Corp. is reporting a 35 percent increase in first quarter profits, but economic challenges have cut into sales. The Associated Press is reporting the Ralph Lauren had net income of $127.2 million or $1.37 per share for the three months that ended March 30. That compares to $94.4 million or 99 cents per share a year earlier. Revenue rose only 1.2 percent.
Memorial Day travel falls
According to the auto club AAA, 34.8 million Americans will travel at least 50 miles from home for the Memorial Day weekend, a 0.9 percent dip from 2012. Approximately 31.2 million will travel by car. That’s an uptick from a year earlier despite the fact that gas prices are at their highest level in two years. In the Midwest, gas prices are above $4 per gallon but are expected to fall after the holiday weekend. About 2.3 million Americans will fly, an 8 percent drop from a year ago. According to USA Today, the drop in air travel is due to frustration with the airlines as well as the uncertain economic environment.