The look ahead: Is the US economy slowing or growing? Consumers may hold the answer

Consumers are a huge part of the US economy. And in the coming week, economic numbers may show how job security is influencing consumer confidence and the nation’s GDP growth, which appears to be slowing.

On Tuesday, Thomson Reuters and the University of Michigan are scheduled to release final May figures for their monthly consumer sentiment index. Preliminary figures, released early in the month, showed that consumer confidence hit a four-year high after a relatively flat April.

On May 31st, the numbers will show how that sentiment lines up with GDP. The US Bureau of Economic Analysis will release its second estimate of first-quarter GDP figures, which consist of purchases of domestically produced goods and services by individuals, businesses, foreigners and government entities. After a slowdown at the end of 2010, GDP increased slowly throughout 2011, accelerating in the fourth quarter of 2011. But initial estimates showed sluggishness during the first quarter.

On June 1st, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics will release its monthly Employment Situation Report, which will tell whether the private sector continued to create more jobs than it cut in May. The US unemployment rate has been on a steady descent, reaching a three-year low of 8.1% in April. Other jobs reports are due out in the coming week, but this one provides the most comprehensive picture of the U.S. employment situation.

European confidence

Two indicators due for release will provide clues to whether the economic situation in Europe is deteriorating or stabilising.

  • On Wednesday, the European Commission will release the May economic sentiment index, a broad measure of business and consumer confidence. In April, the economic sentiment index for the EU deteriorated for the first time in 2012. The drop was enough to wipe out all the gains made since December.

  • On June 1, Eurostat will release the euro zone’s April unemployment rate, which hit a new high of 10.9% in March, when a record 17.4 million people were out of work.

Brazilian borrowing costs

Brazil’s central bank may lower its benchmark interest rate below the record low 8.75%, when the bank’s board meets Tuesday.

In April, the Selic rate dropped 75 basis points to 9%. It was the second 75-point cut in a row, and the bank signaled it may lower the rate further, Bloomberg reports. Analysts expect investors to bet on a 25-point or 50-point cut next week.

While the global economy remains sluggish, President Dilma Rousseff’s administration has been trying to boost growth in the world’s sixth-largest economy by cutting taxes and increasing public investment.

EEG goes to Argentina

Argentina, whose GDP growth is slowing in 2012 after an 8.9% gain in 2011, will host an IASB Emerging Economies Group (EEG) meeting Monday and Tuesday.

Created in 2011, the EEG is designed to enhance the participation of emerging economies in the development of IFRS. The group focuses on the application and implementation of IFRS in emerging economies and considers how the IASB can provide educational guidance for interested parties in those economies.

For more information, consult the IASB’s website.

Webcast: Business intelligence as a management tool

A CGMA webcast on June 1st aims to show that business intelligence is more than just storing and extracting data for reports and analysis. It’s also a strategic asset.

The webcast, “Unlocking Business Intelligence: The Role of Management Accountants”, explores trends in business intelligence, challenges of implementing systems and keys to success.

It runs from 10 to 11 a.m. EDT. To register, click here.

Comments on related parties due

Comment letters on one of the most prominent items on the US Public Company Accounting Oversight Board’s standard-setting agenda are due May 31st.

The PCAOB on Feb. 28th proposed a standard, “Related Parties”, designed to improve the auditor’s evaluation of a public company’s identification of, accounting for and disclosure about its relationships and transactions with related parties.

Also up for public comment are proposed amendments designed to enhance the auditor’s identification and evaluation of a company’s significant unusual transactions. Additional proposed amendments were crafted to improve the auditor’s understanding of a company’s relationship with its executive officers.

PCAOB Chairman James Doty said in a statement that the board is considering the changes because related-party transactions and significant unusual transactions have played a recurring role in financial failures.

Information on how to comment is available on the PCAOB’s website.

—From CGMA Magazine staff reports