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News : US Economy Last Updated: Mar 26, 2014 - 6:30 AM


US city home prices flat in January; New home sales fell in February; Consumer confidence rose in March
By Finfacts Team
Mar 25, 2014 - 4:07 PM

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Sales of new US single-family houses in February 2014 were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 440,000, according to estimates released today by the US Census Bureau. This is 3.3% below the revised January rate of 455,000 and is 1.1% below the February 2013 estimate of 445,000.Meanwhile, S&P/Case-Shiller  home prices were flat in January while consumer confidence rose in March according to two separate reports also issued Tuesday.

The median sales price of new houses sold in February 2014 was $261,800; the average sales price was $317,500. The seasonally adjusted estimate of new houses for sale at the end of February was 189,000. This represents a supply of 5.2 months at the current sales rate.

According to the S&P/Case-Shiller home price report today, the home price index covering 10 major US cities increased 13.5% in the year ended in January. The 20-city price index advanced 13.2%, close to the 13.5% gain expected by economists.

"The housing recovery may have taken a breather due to the cold weather," said David Blitzer, chairman of the index committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices. "From the bottom in 2012, prices are up 23% and the housing market is showing signs of moving forward with more normal price increases."

On an unadjusted basis, the 10-city index was unchanged in January over December, while the 20-city index declined by 0.1% for the third month in a row. Seasonally adjusted, each composite increased 0.8%.

Meanwhile, the Consumer confidence Index which had dipped in February, improved in March. The Index now stands at 82.3 (1985=100), up from 78.3 in February. The Present Situation Index edged down to 80.4 from 81.0, while the Expectations Index increased to 83.5 from 76.5.

The monthly Consumer Confidence Survey, based on a probability-design random sample, is conducted for the Conference Board, a private research firm, by Nielsen, a leading global provider of information and analytics around what consumers buy and watch. The cutoff date for the preliminary results was March 14.

“Consumer confidence improved in March, as expectations for the short-term outlook bounced back from February’s decline,” said Lynn Franco, director of Economic Indicators at the Conference Board. “While consumers were moderately more upbeat about future job prospects and the overall economy, they were less optimistic about income growth. The Present Situation index, which had been on an upward trend for the past four months, was relatively unchanged in March. Overall, consumers expect the economy to continue improving and believe it may even pick up a little steam in the months ahead.”

Consumers’ assessment of current conditions was little changed in March. Those claiming business conditions are “good” increased to 22.9% from 21.2%; however, those claiming business conditions are “bad” also rose, to 23.2% from 22.0%. Consumers’ appraisal of the labour market was relatively unchanged. Those claiming jobs are “plentiful” decreased marginally to 13.1% from 13.4%, while those saying jobs are “hard to get” increased slightly to 33.0% from 32.4%.

Consumers’ expectations, which fell last month, rebounded in March. The percentage of consumers expecting business conditions to improve over the next six months increased to 18.1% from 17.3%, while those anticipating business conditions to worsen declined to 10.2% from 13.6%. Consumers’ outlook for the labor market was also moderately more optimistic. Those expecting more jobs in the months ahead edged up to 13.9% from 13.7%, while those expecting fewer jobs fell to 18.0% from 20.9%. The proportion of consumers expecting their incomes to grow declined to 14.9 from 15.8%, but those anticipating a decline in their incomes also decreased, to 12.1% from 13.4%.

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