NEW$ & VIEW$ (24 MAY 2013)

Pretty quiet day, just as market volatility returns…

Jobless Claims Fall to 340,000

The number of U.S. workers seeking new unemployment benefits fell last week by more than expected, another sign of slow improvement in the labor market.

Initial jobless claims, a proxy for layoffs, decreased by 23,000 to a seasonally adjusted 340,000 in the week ended May 18, the Labor Department said Thursday. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires had forecast 345,000 new applications for last week.

With the drop, a broader measure of layoffs returned to near five-year lows. The four-week moving average of claims, which smooths week-to-week volatility, decreased by 500 to 339,500 from the previous week’s revised 340,000.

Claims for the week ended May 11 were revised up to 363,000 from a previously reported 360,000.

New-Home Prices at High; Builders Cap Supply

Home buyers are paying more for newly built homes than they ever have, as U.S. home builders continue pushing up prices and limiting the number of properties hitting the market.

Thursday’s new-home sales report showed that builders were on pace in April to sell 454,000 homes this year, up 2.3% from March and up 29% compared to the same month last year. (…)

In many markets, rising new-home prices reflect the fact that builders are selling fewer lower-priced starter homes and more move-up homes, which tend to be more expensive.

The average and median prices for April are based on 45,000 signed contracts. In the month of April 2006, when median new home prices were nearly as high as they are today, builders sold 100,000 homes. Nationally, home prices stood 29% below their 2006 peak, according to the most recent S&P/Case-Shiller index. (…)

While the gains in sale volume have been relatively strong, some building-company executives and market experts say that sales aren’t as strong as they could be because some builders are deliberately holding back sales as a way to control supply and maximize prices. There were 156,000 new homes for sale in April, adjusted for seasonality, the report said, representing a 4.1-month supply of homes at the current sales pace—slightly above the lowest level of inventory in more than eight years. (Chart from Haver Analytics)

Taiwan Cuts 2013 GDP Growth Forecast as Global Recovery Falters

Gross domestic product rose 1.67 percent in the three months through March from a year earlier, the statistics bureau said in a revised estimate released in Taipei today. Its preliminary report last month was 1.54 percent, while the median in a Bloomberg News survey of 18 economists was 1.5 percent. (…)

The economy grew a revised 3.97 percent in the fourth quarter, the statistics bureau said today. It cut its 2013 growth estimate to 2.4 percent from 3.59 percent, and lowered the inflation forecast to 1.23 percent from 1.37 percent. Taiwan expanded a revised 1.32 percent in 2012, the bureau said.

Because it is a quiet day and the weekend is coming, two charts FYI:

Thumbs up Thumbs down Which way next? Strange divergence in this ISI chart.


And this one from Goldman Sachs which does not wonder which way lines should go. Straight up is so much simpler!


Have a good one.


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