Economic Roundup: August 29, 2011




Mark Ott

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W.J. Bradley Mortgage Capital Corp.

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Investors had been hoping for Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke to announce a new round of Quantitative Easing in his speech at the Economic Symposium in Wyoming Friday, but only received some hints that QE3 may be in the works for the September Fed meeting.
"The Federal Reserve has a range of tools that could be used to provide additional monetary stimulus. We discussed the relative merits and costs of such tools at our August meeting," said Bernanke, adding, "We will continue to consider those and other pertinent issues, including of course economic and financial developments, at our meeting in September." So, the door is still open for more Fed stimulus, but nothing set yet. Earlier this month the Fed did announce that short-term interest rates would remain near zero through 2012 and 2013.
Turning to the housing market, new home sales dropped to their lowest level in six months, according to the latest figures from the Census Bureau released last week. Sales of new single-family homes in July 2011 dropped to an annual rate of 298,000, the Bureau reported. This marked a 0.7 percent drop from June's revised June rate of 300,000. That said, it was 6.8 percent above July 2010's estimate of 279,000.
In terms of price, the median sales amount for new houses sold in July was $222,000, and the average sales price was $272,300. The estimate of new homes for sale at the end of July was 165,000, which represented a 6.6-month supply at the current sales rate.
"Without any meaningful job growth, we're going to continue to look at a housing sector that is moribund," Eric Green, chief market economist at TD Securities Inc., told Bloomberg.
Where jobs were concerned, the tough market might continue. The number of initial jobless claims for the week ending August 20 jumped by 5,000 to 417,000, according to last week's release from the Employment and Training Administration. The four-week moving average was 407,500, an increase of 4,000 from the previous week's revised average of 403,500.
However, the total number of insured unemployed workers during the week ending August 13 dropped to 3,641,000, a decrease of 80,000 from the preceding week's revised level of 3,721,250. The four-week moving average was 3,701,000, a decrease of 19,500 from the preceding week's revised average of 3,720,750.
Meanwhile, new orders for manufactured durable goods in July increased $7.7 billion or 4.0 percent to $201.5 billion, the Census Bureau reported last week. The increase followed a 1.3 percent drop in June. Excluding transportation, new orders increased 0.7 percent. Excluding defense, new orders increased 4.8 percent. The largest increase was seen by transportation equipment, which saw a $6.7 billion increase, or 14.6 percent, to $53.0 billion. This was led by non-defense aircraft and parts which increased $3.2 billion.
Shipments of manufactured durable goods in July, up seven of the last eight months, increased $5.0 billion or 2.5 percent to $202.2 billion. This followed a 1.1 percent June increase. However, inventories of manufactured durable goods were at an all-time high in July. Up 19 consecutive months, inventories increased $2.9 billion or 0.8 percent to $361 billion. This was at the highest level since 1992, and followed a 0.6 percent June increase.
This week sees a number of financial headlines, starting today with personal income and spending for July from the Bureau of Economic Analysis. This is followed tomorrow by July's consumer confidence data from The Conference Board.
Wednesday the Census Bureau releases its data for July's factory orders, and Thursday the Employment and Training Administration releases its totals for initial jobless claims for last week. Also on Thursday will be new car and truck sales for August from the auto manufacturers; July's construction spending from the Census Bureau; and second quarter non-farm productivity and labor costs from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
This week's financial news wraps up on Friday with August's unemployment rate, payrolls, hourly earnings and average work week from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.



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