May 3, 2017

Federal Reserve meets as economic picture darkens

U.S. economic data have turned south just in time for the Federal Reserve to conclude its May meeting Wednesday, when Wall Street expects the central bank to maintain interests rates at between 0.75% and 1.00%. The Fed has raised interest rates twice in the last four months.

Troubling numbers: The U.S. economy grew at just 0.7% on an annualized basis in the first quarter of 2017, a sharp decline from the previous quarter's 2.1%. What's more, inflation fell for the first time in more than a year in March, while consumer spending numbers were flat.

Why Janet Yellen won't worry: Shehriyar Antia, a former Fed economist and Chief Market Strategist at Macro Insights Group, emails Axios to argue that GDP growth will recover in the second quarter. The latest numbers, he says, were depressed by seasonal adjustments from the Commerce Department. Antia blames sluggish consumer spending growth on unseasonably warm winter weather, which produced low gas prices and utility bills. He predicts that the Fed's statement, to be issued at 2 p.m. Wednesday, "will look past recent stumbles and remain upbeat." Investors should expect another rate hike next month, he said.

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America's funeral homes buckle under the coronavirus

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Morgues, funeral homes and cemeteries in hot spots across America cannot keep up with the staggering death toll of the coronavirus pandemic.

Why it matters: The U.S. has seen more than 10,000 deaths from the virus, and at least tens of thousands more lives are projected to be lost. The numbers are creating unprecedented bottlenecks in the funeral industry — and social distancing is changing the way the families say goodbye to their loved ones.

Navarro memos warning of mass coronavirus death circulated in January

Image from a memo to President Trump

In late January, President Trump's economic adviser Peter Navarro warned his White House colleagues the novel coronavirus could take more than half a million American lives and cost close to $6 trillion, according to memos obtained by Axios.

The state of play: By late February, Navarro was even more alarmed, and he warned his colleagues, in another memo, that up to two million Americans could die of the virus.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 2 hours ago - Health

Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus Index: The virus hits home

Data: Ipsos/Axios poll; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

The share of Americans who know someone who's tested positive has more than tripled in just a few weeks, to 14%, according to the latest installment of our Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus Index.

  • It's still highest in the Northeast, but last week alone it doubled in the South — and it's becoming most pronounced among people who still must leave home to work.
Go deeperArrow2 hours ago - Health