Wholesale inventories rise in May, sales decline

WASHINGTON, Wed Jul 11, 2012 – U.S. wholesale inventories edged higher in May despite a big drop in stocks of oil, a U.S. Commerce Department report showed on Wednesday.
Total wholesale inventories increased 0.3 percent to $484.1 billion, matching the median forecast in a Reuters poll of economists.
The government revised slightly lower its estimate for inventory growth in April.
Inventories are a key component of the government’s calculation of gross domestic product. Many economists think economic growth slowed in the second quarter, and the data on wholesale inventories appeared unlikely to change that view.
Stocks of durable goods, such as autos, computer equipment and machinery, rose 0.6 percent. Petroleum stocks fell 3.6 percent.
Sales at wholesalers in May fell 0.8 percent, held back by a 4.7 percent decline in petroleum sales. It was the sharpest drop for both readings since March 2009.
At May’s pace of sales, it would take businesses 1.18 months to clear their inventories, the highest such reading since July 2011.

U.S. home prices rose in May: CoreLogic

NEW YORK, Mon Jul 2, 2012 – U.S. home prices rose in May in a fresh sign the battered sector is stabilizing, data analysis firm CoreLogic said on Monday.

CoreLogic’s home price index gained 1.8 percent from April and was up 2.0 percent from a year earlier.

Excluding distressed sales, prices fared even better, gaining 2.3 percent in May and 2.7 percent from a year ago. Homeowners in danger of foreclosure, or in “distress”, often sell their homes at a significantly reduced price.

“The recent upward trend in U.S. home prices is an encouraging signal that we may be seeing a bottoming of the housing down cycle,” Anand Nallathambi, CEO of CoreLogic, said in a statement.

“Tighter inventory is contributing to broad, but modest, price gains nationwide and more significant gains in the harder-hit markets, like Phoenix.”

The report’s pending home price index indicates home prices will rise by at least another 1.4 percent in June and 2.0 percent excluding distressed sales, CoreLogic said.

Of the top 100 statistical areas measured by population, 29 showed year-over-year declines, down from 41 in April.

Durable goods orders rebound in May

WASHINGTON, Wed Jun 27, 2012 – Demand for long-lasting U.S. manufactured goods rebounded more than expected in May and a gauge of business spending plans increased, but slowing global growth suggest the momentum might not be sustained.

Durable goods orders increased 1.1 percent, the Commerce Department said on Wednesday, after a revised 0.2 percent decrease the prior month.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast orders for durable goods, which range from toasters to aircraft and are meant to last more than three years, rising 0.4 percent after previously being reported as being flat in April.

Orders were lifted by a 2.7 percent jump in transportation equipment as aircraft bookings picked up and motor vehicles demand increased, though at a slower pace than in the prior month.

Excluding transportation, orders rose 0.4 percent after dropping 0.6 percent in April. Economists had forecast this category rising 0.7 percent.

Slower growth in China and a looming recession in the debt-crisis ridden euro zone have taken some of the shine off the domestic manufacturing sector, leaving the economy mired in a soft patch.

Regional surveys of factory activity have mostly shown a weakening in orders this month, a trend that is likely to be highlighted in a report on national manufacturing next week.

Non-defense capital goods orders excluding aircraft, a closely watched proxy for business spending plans, increased 1.6 percent after dropping 1.4 percent in April and snapping two straight months of declines.

Economists had expected this category to rise 1.7 percent after a previously reported 2.1 percent drop.

Shipments of non-defense capital goods orders excluding aircraft, used to calculate equipment and software spending in the gross domestic product report, rose 0.4 percent after declining 1.5 percent in April.

Last month, orders for civilian aircraft rose 4.9 percent and motor vehicles climbed 0.5 percent.

Boeing received eight orders for aircraft, according to the plane maker’s website, up from four in April.

Outside transportation, details of the report were fairly mixed, with increases in machinery, electrical equipment and appliances and capital goods orders increasing. Demand for primary metals and computers fell.

New home sales race to two-year high in May

WASHINGTON, Mon Jun 25, 2012 – New single-family home sales surged in May to a two-year high and prices rose from a year ago, further signs the housing market recovery was gaining some momentum.

The Commerce Department said on Monday sales jumped 7.6 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted 369,000-unit annual rate, the highest since April 2010.

That was well above economists’ expectations for a 346,000 pace and the highest since April 2010, when sales were inflated by a homebuyer tax credit.

The report was the latest evidence of a broadening recovery in the housing market even as the economy is weakening. The sector had long been the Achilles heel of the economy’s recovery from the 2007-09 recession.

“The housing market recovery remains on track. While we still have a long ways to go, healing is taking place and we are starting to see improvement,” said Sam Bullard, a senior economist at Wells Fargo Securities in Charlotte, N.C.

Reports last week showed a jump in home building permits and a fourth straight month of gains in the median price of previously owned homes.

Underscoring the firming tone, new home sales in May were up 19.8 percent from their year-ago level.

Chrysler new-car sales in May miss estimates

DETROIT, Fri Jun 1, 2012 – Chrysler Group posted a 30 percent increase in May new-car sales in the U.S. market but fell short of what analysts had expected.

Chrysler, controlled by Italy’s Fiat, reported May sales of 150,041 vehicles, up from 115,363 in the same month last year. While it was the best May sales performance for Chrysler in five years, the results were below several analysts’ estimates.

The rest of the U.S. auto industry is scheduled to report sales results later Friday. Economists polled by Thomson Reuters expect an annual sales rate for the month of 14.5 million vehicles.

Some industry officials expect the rate to be lower, however, as warmer weather earlier in the year pulled demand forward and led to stronger-than-expected sales. In addition, falling gas prices have reduced the pressure on consumers to get rid of gas-guzzlers and buy more fuel-efficient cars.

Auto sales have been one of the bright spots in the economy for several months and the monthly sales results offer an early snapshot of consumer demand.

Sales have shot up this year despite cooling consumer confidence and mixed economic data that illustrates how shaky the recovery has been over the last three years.

One factor fueling the sales growth has been Americans’ increasing need to replace their aging cars and trucks, which are now a record 10.8 years old on average.

Higher fuel prices in the first quarter prompted some consumers to swap older, less fuel-efficient models to lock in fuel savings. According to Swiss bank UBS, 63 percent of dealers said higher gasoline prices increased demand in the first quarter.

With gas prices falling again, the pace of new-car sales may moderate in the second and third quarters, but the underlying consumer appetite for new cars and trucks as a result of pent-up demand remains strong, UBS analyst Colin Langan said.

Retailers report strong May same-store sales

NEW YORK, Thu May 31, 2012 – Several top retailers reported stronger-than-expected sales in May, as shoppers overcame growing anxiety about the U.S. economy and the job market.

Victoria’s Secret parent Limited Brands Inc said on Thursday that sales at stores open at least a year had risen 6 percent in the four weeks ended May 26. The report came the day after department store chain Macy’s Inc posted a 4.2 percent increase. Both companies beat Wall Street forecasts, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Meanwhile, Costco Wholesale Corp’s May same-store sales rose 4 percent, hurt by the strong dollar’s impact on overseas sales. Analysts were expecting a 4.3 percent increase.

Other top retailers reporting May sales later on Thursday morning include Kohl’s Corp., Gap Inc., Target Corp. and Nordstrom Inc.

Many analysts had warned that May sales might suffer because an unusually warm spring in much of the country prompted many shoppers to make clothing purchases earlier. Still, many chains benefited from the timing of Mother’s Day — this year it fell on May 13, five days later than last year.

Fred’s Inc and teen retailer Zumiez Inc. were among the other chains to report higher-than-expected May sales, while home furnishings chain Pier 1 Imports Inc. said its same-store sales for the first quarter ended on May 26 had risen 7.2 percent.

Macy’s May same-store sales beat Wall Street forecast

NEW YORK, Wed May 30, 2012 – Macy’s Inc. reported better than expected May same-store sales on Wednesday, helped by its growing e-commerce business.

For the four weeks ended May 26, Macy’s same-store sales, which include online sales and sales at its department stores open at least a year, rose 4.2 percent, slightly above the 4 percent increase Wall Street analysts were projecting.

Online sales rose 42.3 percent. Total sales for the period were up 4.1 percent to $2.02 billion. Macy’s also owns the upscale Bloomingdale’s chain.