Trade deficit for August widens as exports fall

WASHINGTON, Thu Oct 11, 2012 – The U.S. trade deficit widened in August, in line with analyst expectations, as U.S. goods exports fell for the fifth consecutive month, a government report showed on Thursday.

The monthly trade gap increased to $44.2 billion, from an upwardly revised estimate of $42.5 billion in July, the Commerce Department said. Analysts were expecting an August trade gap of about $44.0 billion.

Overall U.S. exports dropped 1.0 percent as troubles in Europe continue to weigh on global growth, while imports fell 0.1 percent in a sign of faltering U.S. demand for consumer products, autos and capital goods.

Exports of oil, chemicals and other industrial supplies fell to the lowest level since February 2011, helping pull down the entire goods category, despite an increase in capital goods exports to the second-highest level on record.

Services exports defied the overall trend and rose to a record $52.8 billion, due mostly to increases in professional and business services and transportation.

Services imports also set a record, reflecting licensing fees to broadcast the Summer Olympic games in Britain.

Fewer U.S. foreclosures completed in August: CoreLogic

NEW YORK, Thu Oct 4, 2012 – Lenders seized fewer U.S. homes in August, in part due to the rising popularity of alternatives to foreclosure, data analysis firm CoreLogic said on Thursday.

There were 57,000 foreclosures completed in August, down from 58,000 in July and 75,000 a year ago, according to CoreLogic.

There were approximately 1.3 million homes in the foreclosure process, accounting for 3.2 percent of all mortgages. That was unchanged from July, but it was down from the 1.4 million, or 3.4 percent, seen in August 2011.

About 3.8 million foreclosures have been executed since September 2008, the throes of the financial crisis.

August was the fourth month that fewer foreclosures were completed. The decrease was in part due to lenders turning to other methods of dealing with distressed homes, such as short sales or loan modifications, said Anand Nallathambi, chief executive officer of CoreLogic.

“The continuing downward trend in foreclosures and a gradual clearing of the shadow inventory are important signals that the recovery in housing is gaining traction,” Nallathambi said in a statement.

Still, there were higher concentrations of foreclosures in some areas. In the last year, nearly half of all completed foreclosures occurred in five states – California, Florida, Michigan, Texas and Georgia.

Private sector adds 162,000 jobs in September: ADP

NEW YORK, Wed Oct 3, 2012 – Companies added 162,000 jobs in September, more than economists expected but still pointing to slow improvement in the labor market, data from a payrolls processor showed on Wednesday.

Economists surveyed by Reuters had forecast the ADP National Employment Report would show a gain of 143,000 jobs.

The increase in private payrolls in August was revised down to 189,000 from the previously reported 201,000. July’s rise was also revised down, to 156,000 from 173,000.

The report is jointly developed with Macroeconomic Advisers LLC.

“This is consistent with a moderate pace of job growth and we still haven’t made much headway with the losses during the downturn,” said Scott Brown, chief economist at Raymond James in St. Petersburg, Florida.

“We would like to see growth on the order of 200,000 to 250,000.”

U.S. stock index futures added to gains immediately after the data, while the dollar edged higher against the yen.

The ADP figures come ahead of the government’s much more comprehensive labor market report for September due on Friday, which includes both public and private sector employment.

That report is expected to show job growth improved slightly, with employers adding 113,000 jobs. Private payrolls are seen rising by 130,000.

Economists often refer to the ADP report to fine-tune their expectations for the payrolls numbers, though it is not always accurate in predicting the outcome.

Home prices rise in August: CoreLogic

NEW YORK, Tue Oct 2, 2012 – Home prices rose in August as the housing market continued to gain traction, but recent gains could start to wane as the summer comes to an end, data analysis firm CoreLogic said on Tuesday.

CoreLogic’s home price index rose 0.3 percent from July and was up 4.6 percent compared with a year ago. It was the biggest year-over-year increase since July 2006.

Excluding distressed sales, price gains were even larger. Home values rose 1 percent compared with the month before and were up 4.9 percent on a yearly basis.

Homes that have been seized by banks or are in danger of being foreclosed are often sold at significantly reduced prices.

Many economists believe the battered housing market has finally turned a corner this year as prices have stabilized.

Still, the report forecast prices will fall 0.3 percent in September as the traditional summer buying boost wears off. Prices are expected to be up 5 percent compared with a year before.

Stripping out distressed sales, prices are seen up 0.6 percent in September and up 6.3 percent from a year ago.

Of the top 100 statistical areas measured by population, 20 showed year-over-year declines, down from 26 in July.

Home prices rise in August: CoreLogic

NEW YORK, Tue Oct 2, 2012 – Home prices rose in August as the housing market continued to gain traction, but recent gains could start to wane as the summer comes to an end, data analysis firm CoreLogic said on Tuesday.

CoreLogic’s home price index rose 0.3 percent from July and was up 4.6 percent compared with a year ago. It was the biggest year-over-year increase since July 2006.

Excluding distressed sales, price gains were even larger. Home values rose 1 percent compared with the month before and were up 4.9 percent on a yearly basis.

Homes that have been seized by banks or are in danger of being foreclosed are often sold at significantly reduced prices.

Many economists believe the battered housing market has finally turned a corner this year as prices have stabilized.

Still, the report forecast prices will fall 0.3 percent in September as the traditional summer buying boost wears off. Prices are expected to be up 5 percent compared with a year before.

Stripping out distressed sales, prices are seen up 0.6 percent in September and up 6.3 percent from a year ago.

Of the top 100 statistical areas measured by population, 20 showed year-over-year declines, down from 26 in July.

Housing starts rise, multifamily projects weak

WASHINGTON, Wed Sep 19, 2012 – Housing starts rose less than expected in August as groundbreaking on multifamily home projects fell, but the trend continued to point to a turnaround in the housing market.

The Commerce Department said on Wednesday housing starts increased 2.3 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 750,000 units. July’s starts were revised to show a 733,000-unit pace instead of the previously reported 746,000.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast residential construction rising to a 765,000-unit rate. Compared to August last year, residential construction was up 29.1 percent.

Housing starts are now a third of their 2.27 million-unit peak in January 2006. The housing market, the Achilles heel of the recovery from the 2007-09 recession, is slowly healing.

Sales have been creeping up and the house price decline has bottomed, with a tightening supply of properties on the market raising prices in some metropolitan areas. In addition, homebuilder sentiment touched a six-year high in September.

Home building is expected to add to gross domestic product growth this year for the first time since 2005.

Though residential construction accounts for about 2.5 percent of GDP, economists estimate that for every new house built, at least three new jobs are created.

The Federal Reserve moved last week to bolster the economy, announcing it would buy $40 billion in mortgage-backed securities per month until the outlook for employment improved significantly.

Last month, groundbreaking for single-family homes, the largest segment of the market, rose 5.5 percent to a 535,000-unit pace – the highest level since April 2010. Starts for multi-family homes fell 4.9 percent.

August private sector job growth beats expectations: ADP

NEW YORK, Thu Sep 6, 2012 – Private employers added a better than expected 201,000 jobs in August, a report by a payrolls processor showed on Thursday, a rare dash of good news for the country’s struggling labor market.

July’s figure from the ADP National Employment Report was revised up to 173,000 from the previously reported 163,000.

August’s job gain easily topped expectations of 140,000 new jobs, and was the highest since March.

U.S. stock futures edged higher after the ADP release, and the U.S. dollar extended gains against the yen.

The U.S. government will deliver the much more comprehensive August payrolls report on Friday, for which economists expect payrolls growth to have dipped from July.

The jobless rate was high at 8.3 percent in July, causing deep concern at the Federal Reserve, which aims for maximum employment and which could ease policy even more at a meeting next week.

“The gain in private employment in August is strong enough to suggest that the national unemployment rate may have declined,” Joel Prakken, Macroeconomic Advisers chairman, said in a statement.

U.S. new-car sales in August seen up as much as 20 percent

DETROIT, Tue Sep 4, 2012 – U.S. auto sales are expected to increase by as much as 20 percent in August as better financing deals and an improving housing market encouraged consumers to replace aging cars and trucks.

Economists polled by Thomson Reuters expect an annual selling rate for new cars and trucks in August of 14.2 million vehicles, which would mark the third straight month above 14 million. Analysts expect sales to rise in the range of 16 to 20 percent from a year ago.

However, U.S. sales in July came in weaker than expected, so analysts will be watching when automakers report results on Tuesday to see whether high unemployment and weak consumer confidence will dent demand.

“The strength in August light-vehicle sales takes some of the pressure off expectations for the balance of the year, but a high level of risk lingers,” said Jeff Schuster, senior vice president at LMC Automotive. “We expect the current seesawing in auto sales to continue for the foreseeable future, but the overall picture in 2012 remains positive.”

Auto sales, which offer an early snapshot of consumer demand, have been one of the bright spots in the U.S. economy, and car companies expect a second-half sales increase spurred partly by the introduction of a slate of new models.

August import prices fall 0.4 percent on petroleum, Labor Department reports

WASHINGTON ― Import prices fell in August due to lower fuel costs, potentially giving the central bank more room for stimulus measures to boost the economy, data showed on Tuesday.

A drop in prices for petroleum helped push import prices 0.4 percent lower following a 0.3 percent increase in the previous month, the Labor Department said in a report. Prices for food and industrial materials also fell.

Analysts polled by Reuters had expected import prices to fall 0.8 percent in August.

With unemployment stuck near 9 percent and wages stagnant, more costly imports have been a principle form of inflationary pressure in the U.S. economy. Highlighting how much oil prices have risen, petroleum import prices were up 43.5 percent in August from a year earlier.

U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said last week that such pressures would ease due to tamer prices for oil and other commodities. Less inflation pressure gives the Fed more room to try to boost growth, and policymakers are expected to unveil more stimulus measures soon.

“The decline in market energy and commodity prices in recent weeks is likely to lead to a further easing in headline import prices,” said Peter Newland, an analyst at Barclays Capital in New York.

Newland said, however, the report suggested pipeline pressures at the core level continue to build, reflecting the effects of a weaker dollar and inflationary pressures abroad.

Excluding petroleum, import prices rose 0.3 percent, accelerating from a 0.1 percent increase in July.

Bernanke had suggested a rebound in auto production following Japan’s March earthquake disaster — which created bottlenecks in the industry that pushed prices higher — would ease inflation pressures as well.

Prices for imported cars and car parts were unchanged last month, while consumer goods rose 0.3 percent when autos and parts were stripped out.

Export prices rose 0.5 percent in August after falling 0.4 percent in July. Economists had expected export prices to be unchanged last month.

Private sector adds 91,000 jobs in August, ADP report says

NEW YORK ― The pace of U.S. private sector job growth slowed in August for the second month in a row with employers adding 91,000 positions, a report by a payrolls processor showed on Wednesday.

Economists surveyed by Reuters had forecast the ADP National Employment Report would show a gain of 100,000 jobs. July’s private payrolls were revised down to an increase of 109,000 from the previously reported 114,000.

August’s gain was the smallest number of private jobs added since May’s disappointingly small reading of 35,000.

The ADP figures come ahead of the U.S. government’s much more comprehensive labor market report on Friday, which includes both public and private sector employment.

Economists often refer to the ADP report to fine-tune their expectations for the payrolls numbers, though it can be erratic in predicting the outcome.

“I don’t think this was a bad number, and I don’t think it changes people’s forecasts for Friday’s employment number. A small miss is not the end of the world, and we all know ADP can be unreliable, though it’s been better lately,” said Steven Butler, director of FX trading at Scotia Capital in Toronto.

The jobs report at the end of the week is expected to show a rise in overall nonfarm payrolls of 75,000 in August, based on a Reuters poll of analysts, and a rise in private payrolls of 105,000.

Government payrolls are expected to shrink for the ninth month in a row, but the decline may not be as steep as in the past three months since 23,000 state workers in Minnesota returned to the job after a partial government shutdown.

A strike by about 45,000 Verizon Communications Inc employees is also expected to put a dent in Friday’s numbers. Neither factor affects the ADP report and Macroeconomic Advisers LLC Chairman Joel Prakken said that could cause nonfarm payrolls to be a good deal weaker than indicated by Wednesday’s data.

While fears the economy is falling back into recession have increased this month, some of the recent data has been consistent with a slow-growth scenario rather than a contraction.

Slower than expected economic growth has fueled speculation the Federal Reserve could launch another round of bond buying — known as quantitative easing — but such a move would likely face political opposition both domestically and abroad.Markets saw little impact from the data. Wall Street opened higher open as comments from Fed officials boosted hopes of more monetary stimulus.

A separate report earlier on Wednesday showed the number of planned layoffs at U.S. firms declined in August after rising for three months in a row, but the cuts were still up sharply from a year ago amid government job losses.

Employers announced 51,114 planned job cuts, down 23 percent from 66,414 in July, according to the report from consultants Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. July’s figure had been a 16-month high.

But August’s job cuts jumped compared to a year ago, rising 47 percent from 34,768. Cuts at the federal government level led the way and more are expected to come with the United States under pressure to cut federal budgets, the report said.