NAROFF ECONOMIC ADVISORS, Inc.
Joel L. Naroff
President and Chief Economist
INDICATOR: November Pending Home Sales/Weekly Unemployment Claims
KEY DATA: Pending Sales: +7.3%/Weekly Claims: 381,000 (up 15,000)
IN A NUTSHELL: “Most housing reports are looking up but prices are still in the dumps.”
WHAT IT MEANS: It is hard to get really strong growth if home construction remains weak, so any good news about that sector should be trumpeted. So here is today’s blast: Housing sales are beginning to climb. The National Association of Realtors reported that pending home sales, which are contract signings, jumped in November to the highest level since April 2010. Since that was when the government’s “first time, long time” buyers’ incentives were in place, it looks like we are now in the midst of a real, not policy-hyped recovery. Improvement was seen in all regions with the West and Northeast leading the way.
In a separate report, unemployment claims jumped last week. That was expected though the rise was somewhat more that predicted. Still, the trend is down as the four week moving average fell fairly sharply. It is now at a level that tends to signal declining unemployment rates.
MARKETS AND FED POLICY IMPLICATIONS: Most housing data have been coming in better than expected and that is an indication that the log jam is beginning to break. The jump in pending home sales should lead to a further rise in sales over the next few months. With affordability at a record high, if we can only make it a little easier to get a mortgage we just might see the sector show some real strength. Unfortunately, the huge number of distressed houses overhanging the market will continue to put downward pressure on prices and limit the uptick in home construction. Still, this report adds to the belief that the weakest link in the economy, housing, is starting to come out of it.
Next week is a big one as we get the December jobs report on Friday. While the rise in the claims number is a warning that the labor market is still not strong, there are real hopes the payroll numbers will be quite solid. The bigger question is the unemployment rate, which gapped down in November. A modest rise, which is expected, would be a positive sign that conditions are firming and that seems to be the message coming from the claims numbers. So we are ending the year on an up note and I want to wish everyone a
HAPPY NEW YEAR
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