U.S. Economic Indicators This Week: Home Sales Up; Confidence Rose; Jobs Strong

This week saw a slew of good economic indicators in U.S., as consumer confidence jumped at an 8 month high, new homes sales and existing homes sales showing positive turns, and the job market resilient with only 1,000 rise in jobless claims. 

Consumer Confidence:

U.S. consumer confidence soared to an eight-month high of 109.0 in December, signaling that the worst of the downturn for the battered housing market may be over, according to The Conference Board.

Existing Home Sales:

The National Association of Realtors reported that sales of existing homes edged up 0.6% in November to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 6.28 million units, after a 0.5% rise in sales in October. It marked the first back-to-back increases in sales of existing homes since the spring of 2005.

This year sales of existing homes are likely to fall by about 9% with a smaller 1% decline expected in 2007.

New Home Sales:

Sales of new U.S. homes rose a higher-than-expected 3.4% in November, but they were down 15.3% from a year ago, according to the Commerce Department. New single-family home sales rose to an annualized rate of 1.047 million units from an upwardly revised rate of 1.013 million units in October. 

In November, the median sales price of a new home rose 3.2% to $251,700 from $243,800 in October.

The supply of homes available for sale at the current sales pace fell in November to 6.3 months' worth from 6.7 months' worth in October. There was a total of 545,000 homes available for sale at the end of November, down slightly from the 553,000 reported in October.

In the Northeast, new home sales rose 22.5%. They were up 22.4% percent in the Midwest, and they gained 19% in the West. Sales fell 9.3% in the South, the biggest region covered in the report.

Initial Jobless Claims:

On Thursday the Labor Department reported that the number of laid off workers filing applications for unemployment benefits rose by only 1,000 last week to 317,000, indicating that the job market was remaining strong in spite of the slowdown in overall economic growth.

Chicago PMI:

The National Association of Purchasing Management-Chicago business barometer rose to 52.4 from 49.9 in November, indicating that business activity in the U.S. Midwest expanded in December at a faster rate than expected as new orders improved, even as hiring contracted.

Help-Wanted Advertising Index:

The Conference Board Help-Wanted Advertising Index — a key measure of job offerings in major newspapers across America — was unchanged in November. The Index now stands at 30. It was 38 one year ago.

In the last three months, help-wanted advertising declined in five of the nine U.S. regions. Steepest declines occurred in the South Atlantic (-13.9%), New England (-7.6%) and Mountain (-4.6%) regions.

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