March 4, 2013
New home sales surged 15.6% in January to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 437,000 units — the highest level since July 2008 — from a revised rate of 378,000 units in December. On a year-over-year basis, new home sales were up 28.9% compared with January 2012. At the current sales pace, there is a 4.1-month supply of new homes on the market.
The Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller 20-city housing price index — on a non-seasonally adjusted basis — rose 0.2% in December after a 0.1% decline in November. On a year-over-year basis, prices rose 6.8% compared with December 2011, the largest annual gain since 2006.
Pending home sales, a forward-looking indicator based on signed contracts, rose 4.5% in January after a revised 2% decrease in December. On a year-over-year basis, pending home sales were up 9.5% compared with January 2012.
Orders for durable goods — items expected to last three or more years — fell $11.8 billion or 5.2% to $217 billion in January. This decrease follows a revised 3.7% increase in December. Excluding volatile transportation-related goods, January orders posted a monthly increase of 1.9%.
The Commerce Department announced that gross domestic product — the total output of goods and services produced in the U.S. — increased at a revised annual rate of 0.1% in the fourth quarter of 2012, compared to the initial estimate of a 0.1% decrease.
Manufacturing activity rose to 54.2 in February after a reading of 53.1 in January. A reading above 50 signals expansion.
Total construction spending fell 2.1% to $883.3 billion in January, following an upwardly revised 1.1% increase in December. Compared to January 2012, construction spending has risen 7.1%.
Initial claims for unemployment benefits for the week ending February 23 fell by 22,000 to 344,000. Continuing claims for the week ending February 16 fell by 91,000 to 3.074 million. The less volatile four-week average of claims for unemployment benefits was 355,000.
Upcoming on the economic calendar are reports on factory orders on March 6 and unemployment on March 8.