The housing sector received some good news on Tuesday as the National Association of REALTORS® reported that June Existing Home Sales rose by 2.6% from May to an annual rate of 5.04 million units. That was slightly above the 5.0 million expected. However, the 5.04 million is 2.3% below the 5.16 million recorded in June of 2013. The median sales price in June was $223,300, a 4.3% increase from last year, marking the 28th consecutive month of year-over-year gains. Sales are based on single-family, town homes, condominiums and co-ops.
Higher prices for gasoline in June led consumer prices higher, which was somewhat offset by moderating food costs. The Consumer Price Index, a key measure of consumer inflation, rose by 0.3% last month, which matched expectations. Since May of 2013, prices have risen 2.1%. Gasoline prices jumped 3.3%, the biggest increase in a year, while overall food prices rose by a modest 0.1%. The conflict in Iraq pushed oil prices higher in June, which led to the higher gas prices, but most believe that prices at the pump have peaked for the summer.
In earnings news, Coca-Cola reported lower than expected revenues in North America, failing to show growth for the second consecutive quarter. Coke sales as well as Pepsi have been declining as developed countries such as the U.S. become more health conscious and look for healthier alternatives. The soda maker reported earnings per share of 58 cents, which was lower than the 59 cents recorded in the same period last year.
Home price appreciation in the past few years may have topped out, says a report from Bank of America Merrill Lynch. The bank said that Americans should prepare for a few years of stagnant prices. Home prices were undervalued by 6% at the end of 2011, says the report, but are now nearly 10% overvalued. Merrill Lynch doesn’t feel like this is a housing bubble like the one back in 2006 when prices were overvalued by 59%, which resulted in price declines of 35% over the next six years.
With summer at full blast, the season calls for outdoor grilling on your propane tank grill. Your propane gas grill could be a ticking time bomb if not used correctly. Each year there are 7,000 gas grill fires, according to the National Fire Prevention Association, many from leaking propane. People continue to turn on the gas, leave the cover down, then hit the grill igniter and they get an explosion from a buildup of gas. The proper way to light the grill is to open the cover, turn on the gas and quickly hit the igniter. And don’t lean over the grill for fear of your face getting singed or worse. Be safe this summer.
Wall Street Stock prices are lower to begin the week due to the ongoing geo-political news out of Russia and the Gaza Strip. The European Union minister meeting is this week and one of the main topics being considered is whether or not further sanctions are to be levied against Russia over its alleged involvement in the downing of Malaysia Flight 17 last week and its continued military presence in Ukraine.
he foreclosure numbers continue to decline year-over-year, but there was an increase from April to May, as reported by analytics firm CoreLogic. Completed foreclosures fell by 9.6% to 47,000 in May from the 52,000 recorded in May of 2013. However, from April to May there was a 3.8% increase in foreclosures. By comparison, before the decline in the housing market in 2007, completed foreclosures averaged 21,000 per month nationwide between 2000 and 2006.
In labor market news, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that job openings rose to 4.64 million in May from 4.46 million in April to the highest level since June 2007. Compared to last year this time, job openings have risen 19%. Those workers who have either quit or have been laid off, fell to 4.5 million in May from 4.55 million in April. The labor market has been improving since early in the year when job growth was stagnant due to the harsh winter.
The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) reported today that after a promising three month run, June’s Optimism Index fell 6.1 points to 95.0. Only two components improved, two were unchanged, and six declined. The NFIB said that while actual net job creations were positive, consumer business optimism remains low, with both spending growth and sales expectations weak.
Low home loan rates fueled the surge in mortgage applications in the latest week as the spring buying season nears its end and summer buying begins. The Mortgage Bankers Association reported that its Market Composite Index, a measure of total loan application volume, increased by 10% in the latest week. The refinance index was up 11%, while the purchase index gained 9%.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said Wednesday morning that the economy is gaining traction and should grow stronger the rest of the year as the nation overcomes the effects of the harsh winter weather. However, Mr. Lew said that millions of Americans are still feeling the impact of elevated unemployment and slow economic growth. The Secretary went on to say that government and the private sector should seek out ways to boost the hiring of the long-term unemployed.
U.S. Stock prices are under pressure today after the World Bank cut its global economic forecast, which included reducing estimates for the U.S. and China. The World Bank reported that its forecast calls for global growth of 2.8%, down from the 3.2% projected in January. Growth of less that 3% is considered to be sub-par. Growth in the U.S. is expected at a tepid pace of 2.1%, down from 2.8%. The U.S. economy expanded at an anemic rate of -1% when the latest reading on first quarter 2014 Gross Domestic Product was released in May.
Despite the spring buying season being in full bloom and mortgage rates at lows not seen in almost a year, mortgage application volume barely budged last week. The Mortgage Bankers Association reported that its Market Composite Index, a measure of total loan application volume, rose by 0.9% in the latest week, while the refinance index increased 4%. The purchase index fell by 3%.
Zillow reported today that the national negative equity rate fell to 18.8% in the first quarter of 2014, meaning more is owed on the home than it is currently worth. In Q4 of 2013, negative equity stood at 19.4%. Zillow said that negative equity tends to limit inventory, which pushes home values higher, which in turn makes those homes that are available, that much less affordable.
Government controlled mortgage finance giant Fannie Mae said today that it has cut its outlook for home sales in 2014, as well as 2015. The move comes after markets for new and existing homes experienced weakness in the first quarter. Fannie is now forecasting that existing home sales will hit 4.98 million this year, down from the 5.04 million originally projected. Single family homes are forecasted to see sales of 476,000 this year, down from 494,000.
Whether you have a green thumb or you’re barely able to keep a cactus alive, it never hurts to review a little helpful advice for giving your home some great curb appeal. Here are a few tips to keep your lawns green and your gardens lush:
Soil is everything
For around $12, you can purchase a soil testing kit at your local garden center. This will tell you the pH levels of your soil and help you to correct any imbalances.
Choose your plants wisely
Pick plants that will thrive in your yard’s particular environment. Sunlight, shade, moisture, and exposure to the elements are all factors that should be considered.
Sketch out any landscaping ideas
Whether you’re planting a garden or hiring a landscaper, putting your ideas on paper first is never a bad idea. Remember, it’s a lot easier and cheaper to erase than it is to replant.
Feed the lawn
After your lawn’s initial springtime growth spurt or after mowing it several times, fertilize your lawn with a high-quality, slow-release nitrogen fertilizer. Be sure to follow the instructions on the label, and take any necessary precautions if you have small children or pets.
Equip yourself properly
Aside from getting your lawnmower ready for action, you may want to take an inventory of your gardening tools. Here are the top ten tools every aspiring gardener should own: a gardening trowel, a spade, a shovel, a hoe, pruning sheers, a 5-gallon bucket, a wheelbarrow, a hose, a watering can, and gloves.
Annual home price gains are beginning to slow due to rising mortgage rates along with difficulties in qualifying for a mortgage, reports the Case Shiller 20-city Index in February. The Index fell to 12.9%, just below the 13% expected and down from the 13.2% recorded year-over-year in January. The 12.9% is down from a recent high of 13.7% with 13 of the 20 tracked cities posting lower annual rates.
The Conference Board reported this morning that its Consumer Confidence Index fell in April to 82.3, down from the 83.9 registered in March. The 82.3 missed expectations of 83.2. The Conference Board said that consumers assessed current business and labor market conditions less favorably than in March. However, consumers do not see the economy or the labor markets losing the momentum that has been building up over the past several months.
The U.S. homeownership rate fell to its lowest level in nearly 19 years due to rising mortgage rates and higher home prices. The Census Bureau reported that the homeownership rate fell to 64.8% in the first quarter of 2014, down from the 65.2% in the final quarter of 2013. That is the lowest rate since the 64.7% recorded in the second quarter of 1995. The rate peaked at 69.2% in June 0f 2004.