Friday, April 24, 2015

Durable Goods Orders Rebound in March

After falling 1.4% in February, new orders for durable manufactured goods increased by 4.0% in March according to the U.S. Census Bureau. This was the second increase over the past three months. Excluding transportation, new orders decreased 0.2%. Excluding defense spending, orders increased 2.6%.

Transportation orders rose by 13.5% after a February decline of 1.8%. Shipments of manufactured durable goods increased 1.1% after falling for the past two months. Inventories of manufactured durable goods increased 0.1% to the highest level since the index was first published in 1992. Computers and electronic products drove the increase in inventories, rising 0.7% from February.

Defense new orders for capital goods increased 17.0% in March . New orders for defense aircraft and parts increased 113%; non-defense aircraft orders also experienced large gains, increasing 30.6% in March after declining slightly in February.

Read the U.S. Census release

Thursday, April 23, 2015

New Home Sales Drop in March after February High

Sales of new single-family houses in March were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 481,000 according to the U.S. Census Bureau and Department of Housing and Urban Development. The March rate was 11.4% below the revised February rate of 543,000, but 19.4% higher than one year ago.

Sales decreased in all regions except for the Midwest, which had a 5.9% increase in new home sales. The Northeast experienced the largest decline of the regions, falling 33.3% from February. The South and West declined by 15.8% and 3.4%.

The median sales price of new homes sold was $277,400, down 1.5% from last month. The average price was $343,300, a 0.6% decline from February.

At the end of March, there was an estimated supply of 5.3 months at the current seasonally adjusted sales rate.

Read the Census release

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Existing Home Sales Accelerated in March

Existing home sales rose 6.1% in March to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.19 million, the highest annual rate in 18 months.
The median existing-home price increased 7.8% year-over-year to 212,100 in February, the largest gain since February 2014.

Total housing inventory increased 5.3% to 2.00 million homes available for sale, 2% higher than a year ago. There is currently a 4.6 month supply of total existing homes available for sale, down from 4.7 months in February.

Existing home sales increased across all four regions, with the Midwest experiencing the largest monthly gain in sales, increasing 10.1%. The Northeast climbed 6.9%, followed by a 6.3% increase in the West and a 3.8% increase in the South. “The combination of low interest rates and the ongoing stability in the job market is improving buyer confidence and finally releasing some of the sizable pent-up demand that accumulated in recent years,” stated NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun.

All cash sales were 24% of transactions in March, down two points from February and 9 points lower than March 2014.

First-time home buyers represented 30% of buyers, up from 29% last month.

Read the NAR report

Friday, April 17, 2015

Energy and Shelter Drive CPI Monthly Increase

The Consumer Price Index rose 0.2% in March on a seasonally adjusted basis, driven by increases in energy and shelter. Over the last 12 months, the CPI declined 0.1% before seasonal adjustment.

The energy index rose 1.1% in March due to advances in the gasoline index, which increased by 3.9%, the largest increase since February 2013. Fuel oil increased 5.9% from February. Over the past 12 months, all energy indices declined except for electricity, which rose 0.9%.

The food index fell 0.2%, driven by a 0.5% decline in the index for food at home – the largest decline since April 2009. The food index rose 2.3% year-over-year driven by a 2.9% increase in the index for food away from home.

The index for all items less food and energy rose 0.2%, consistent with January and February. The shelter index increased by 0.3%, up from 0.2% in February. Medical care and hospital services saw considerable gains, rising 0.4% and 0.6% after declining in February. Both used and new auto indices rose in March, 1.2% and 0.2% respectively. The index for all items less food and energy rose 1.8% over the last 12 months, up slightly from the 1.7% increase for the 12 months ending in February.

Read the BLS release

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Housing Starts Rose in March

Housing starts in March rose to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 926,000, 2% above the revised February estimate of 908,000 but 2.5% below the March 2014 estimate. Single family housing starts were at a rate of 618,000, 4.4% higher than the revised February estimate.

Housing starts were mixed across the four regions. In the Northeast housing starts increased by nearly 115%, as February starts were unusually low due to extreme weather conditions. The Midwest posted gains of 31.3% on the month, while the South and West regions posted declines of 3.5% and 19.3%.

Building permits were issued at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.039 million units, a 5.7% decrease from last month’s revised rate of 1.102 million, but 2.9% higher than the March 2014 estimate. Housing completions were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 823,000, 3.9% below February’s revised estimate, and 5.8% below the March 2014 rate.

Read the Census release

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Beige Book: “Moderate” to “Modest” Growth Reported

Economic activities continued to expand across most regions and sectors according to the March edition of the Federal Reserve Beige Book. Most of the 12 districts reported moderate to modest growth.

Banking conditions were positive across all districts. Credit demand increased at a slight to moderate pace in 7 districts. Commercial real estate loan demand was particularly strong in Atlanta and Dallas. Some San Francisco banks have generated a steady pipeline of pending loans, and have increased interest rates slightly to curb demand. C&I loans to areas associated with the energy industry have slowed due to low oil prices.

Consumer spending was mixed with 5 districts reporting higher than normal retail sales, while the other 7 districts reported sales were either down or flat—partly due to unusually cold weather. Retailers were optimistic about future sales and say that savings from lower energy prices are increasing sales for this cycle. Retailers in Dallas and New York expressed concern over the strong dollar.

Labor markets remained stable or improved in most districts. Five districts reported increases in employment; however layoffs were reported in the manufacturing and energy sectors of five districts, primarily due to declining oil and gas prices.

Manufacturing demand was mixed across districts and sectors. Aerospace reported some gains, while fabricated metal products and the chemicals industry weakened. Chemical producers attributed this to the strong dollar. The overall outlook from most districts was positive however.

Real estate activity improved or remained steady in all districts except New York, which reported softening conditions. Chicago reported that inventories were near historic lows, especially for lower priced homes. Cleveland and Philadelphia reported an absence of first time home buyers. Commercial real estate activity remained stable in most districts.

Read the Federal Reserve summary

Homebuilder Confidence Rose in April

Homebuilder’s confidence in the market for newly built single-family homes rose 4 points to 56 on the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI).

All three components of the index improved in April. Sales expectations increased from 59 to 64, buyer traffic increased from 37 to 41, and the current sales component rose from 58 to 61.

Regional HMI scores were mixed. The Midwest dropped by 2 points to 54 and the West dropped by 3 points to 58. The South rose by one point to 56 and the North was unchanged at 42.

“As the spring buying season gets underway, home builders are confident that current low interest rates and continued job growth will draw consumers to the market,” stated NAHB Chairman Tom Woods. Chief Economist David Crow added that “[Homebuilders] are feeling optimistic that the housing market will continue to strengthen throughout 2015.”

Read the NAHB/Wells Fargo release