The National Association of REALTORS® reported today that sales of Existing Homes rose by 2.4% from August until September to the highest level this year. Sales rose to 5.17 million units on an annualized basis and above the 5.11 million expected. Within the report it showed that cash sales made up 24% of all transactions and down from 33% last year this time. However, sales are down 1.7% from the 5.26 million units recorded in September of 2013.
Consumer spending for candy, costumes and decorations this October is setting up 2014 as the most ever spent for Halloween. Spending is set to hit $7.4 billion this year and is making it the second-fastest growing holiday for consumer spending. The National Retail Federation said that 43% of shoppers start Halloween shopping in the first two weeks of the month, while just under 25% wait until the last minute.
Fast food giant McDonald’s reported on Tuesday that third-quarter earnings were worse than expected as the world’s largest restaurant company struggles with sales in other parts of the globe. President and Chief Executive Don Thompson said that there was a significant decline in the numbers from the same period as last year due to a higher effective tax rate, unusual events in Europe and Asia, as well as under performance here in the U.S. McDonald’s reported a profit of $1.07 billion in the latest quarter compared with $1.52 billion a year earlier.
Bank earnings were abundant today with Citigroup, JPMorgan and Wells Fargo all reporting their quarterly numbers. Wells Fargo reported that revenues came in at $21.2 billion, above the $21.1 billion expected. JPMorgan reported a profit of $5.6 billion, a big surge from the $380 million in the same period last year, which was due to hefty legal bills. Lastly, Citigroup earned $1.15 per share, which was above the $1.12 expected.
The National Federation of Independent Business reported that its small business optimism index fell in September. Business owners are expecting an ease in profits and sales, a tightening in credit conditions, and are experiencing a harder time filling job openings with qualified candidates. The Index fell 0.8 points to 95.3, which is five points below where it was before the start of the Great Recession in late 2007.
The U.S. Stocks markets have lost some ground in the past few weeks. U.S. equities have lost almost $744 billion in values since October 8 due to slowing global growth concerns and as the Federal Reserve eases back on its latest stimulus program dubbed Quantitative Easing III (QE). The QE program was originally announced in November of 2008 to promote job and economic growth. The closely watched S&P 500 Stock Index has lost 6.3% since hitting its all-time closing high of 2,011 back on September 18, 2014.
The big gains in home prices in 2013 are coming back down to more normal levels as the final quarter of 2014 gets underway. CoreLogic, a leading global property information, analytics and data enabled services provider, reported on Tuesday that home prices, including distressed sales, rose by 6.45% from August 2013 to August 2014. A spokesperson from CoreLogic said, “continued moderation of home price appreciation is a welcomed sign of more balanced real estate markets and less pressure on affordability for potential home buyers in the near future.” The company went on to say that national home prices will rise 5.2% from August 2014 to August 2015.
The Labor Department reported its JOLTS report, Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey on Tuesday, and the numbers were mixed. The report examines the job market and collects information from employers in different industries. The data collected concerns hires, job openings, layoffs, separations and recruitments. In August there were 4.8 million job openings on the last business day, up from 4.6 million in July along with 4.6 million hires, down from 4.9 million in July.
The holiday shopping season in 2014 is expected to show some nice gains as the economy continues to recover. The National Retail Federation (NRF) said that consumer confidence is likely to pick up in November and December as consumers search for steep discounts. Sales are expected to rise by 4.1% this year, the highest increase since the 4.8% increase in 2011. Total sales for 2014 could rise to $616.9 billion.