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.

Wholesale inventories rise 0.6 percent in April

WASHINGTON, Fri Jun 8, 2012 – Wholesale inventories rose more than expected in April, as durable goods stocks grew the most in nearly a year, a Commerce Department report showed on Friday.

Total wholesale inventories increased 0.6 percent to a record $483.5 billion, after an unrevised 0.3 percent gain in March, the department said.

Economists polled by Reuters had expected stocks of unsold goods at wholesalers to rise 0.4 percent in April.

Inventories are a key component of the government’s calculation of gross domestic product.

Stocks of durable goods, such as autos, computer equipment and machinery, rose 1.1 percent, the most since May 2011.

Sales at wholesalers in April rose 1.1 percent, much more than the pre-report estimate of 0.3 percent.

Petroleum sales increased 4.8 percent, the most in a year. Car sales rose 3.8 percent, the highest since December.

Consumer spending rises modestly for April, inflation eases

WASHINGTON, Fri Jun 1, 2012 – Consumer spending rose modestly in April while incomes grew more slowly and inflation pressures eased, according to Commerce Department data published on Friday.

Spending climbed 0.3 percent, in line with forecasts in a Reuters poll and following a downwardly revised 0.2 percent gain for March.

Incomes increased just 0.2 percent, half of March’s pace and weaker than analyst estimates.

At the same, the Federal Reserve’s preferred measure of inflation remained comfortably within the central bank’s 2 percent target, at 1.9 percent.

Gross domestic product expanded just 1.9 percent in the first quarter, following downward revisions to an initial estimate this week. The softness raised new concerns about the economy’s vigor as worries about a Europe-led slowdown persist.

Americans continued tapping into their savings to sustain their spending. The savings rate continued a recent downward trajectory, dipping to 3.4 percent in April from as high as 5 percent last summer.

Housing starts rebound in April, permits fall however

WASHINGTON, Wed May 16, 2012 – Housing starts rose more than expected in April, according to a government report on Wednesday that offered signs of a nascent housing recovery, even though permits for future building fell after touching a 3½ -year high the prior month.

The Commerce Department said housing starts increased 2.6 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 717,000 units. March’s starts were revised up to a 699,000-unit pace from a previously reported 654,000 unit rate.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast housing starts rising to 680,000-unit rate. Compared to April last year, residential construction was up 29.9 percent.

The housing market is showing some signs of life after collapsing six years ago, but remains hobbled by a glut of unsold homes.

However, rising demand for rentals, which has seen builders breaking more ground on apartment projects, is helping to stabilize the market.

Housing starts last month rose across the board. Groundbreaking for single-family homes increased 2.3 percent. This segment accounts for most of the market. Starts for multi-family homes advanced 3.2 percent.

Despite last month’s overall jump in starts, they remain less than a third of their peak in January 2006. Residential construction in the first quarter grew at the fastest pace in nearly two years and is expected to contribute to economic growth this year for the first time since 2005.

Home prices rise for first time in eight months: Corelogic

NEW YORK, Tue May 8, 2012 – Home prices rose in March for the first time since last July, helped by tighter housing inventory, data analysis firm CoreLogic said on Tuesday.

CoreLogic’s home price index gained 0.6 percent from February, but was still down 0.6 percent compared with March a year ago.

Excluding sales of distressed properties, prices climbed 0.9 percent on a yearly basis. Homeowners in danger of foreclosure, or in “distress,” often sell their homes at significantly reduced prices.

“This spring, the housing market is responding to an improving balance between real estate supply and demand, which is causing stabilization in house prices”, Mark Fleming, chief economist at CoreLogic, said in a statement.

Of the top 100 statistical areas measured by population, 57 showed year-over-year declines, down from 65.

The closely watched S&P/Case Shiller index released in late April showed a rise in U.S. single-family home prices in February for the first time in 10 months, with a gain of 0.2 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis.

March foreclosures rise slightly on month, fall on year

NEW YORK, Tue May 1, 2012 – Slightly more foreclosures on U.S. homes were completed in March compared to the month before, though levels were still below those seen a year ago, data analysis firm CoreLogic said on Tuesday.

There were 69,000 completed foreclosures in March, up from a revised 66,000 finished in February, but down from 85,000 in March of last year.

In the first quarter, 198,000 foreclosures were completed, off from the 232,000 seen in the first three months of 2011. Since the start of the financial crisis in September 2008, there have been about 3.5 million completed foreclosures, CoreLogic said.

A home has completed the foreclosure process when it has been either seized by the lender or sold.

At the same time, there were fewer homes awaiting foreclosure. Foreclosure inventory fell to about 1.4 million homes, or 3.4 percent of all homes with a mortgage, down from 1.5 million, or 3.5 percent, a year ago.

The figures suggest alternatives to foreclosure, such as loan modifications and short sales, are being used to clear the inventory, Anand Nallathambi, chief executive officer of CoreLogic, said in a statement.

The share of borrowers that were more than 90 days behind on their mortgage was unchanged at 7 percent from the previous month, and down from 7.5 percent a year ago.

Hershey lifts outlook on first-quarter beat; shares rise 3 percent

HERSHEY, Pa., Tue Apr 24, 2012 –  Hershey Co. posted a higher-than-expected first-quarter profit on Tuesday, helped by price increases, and raised its full-year outlook, sending the candy maker’s shares up more than 3 percent.

The maker of Reese’s peanut butter cups, Twizzlers and Kit Kat bars said price increases were responsible for its 10.7 percent increase in first-quarter sales. Volume, which dipped slightly due to those increases, was still better than expected.

“It is unusual for any food company, in our experience, to raise guidance this early in the fiscal year, and we interpret today’s guidance raise as a particularly strong signal,” said JP Morgan analyst Ken Goldman.

Hershey’s strong results came a day after Kellogg Co. cut its full-year outlook after a disappointing first quarter that was hurt by weakness in Western Europe and in some product categories in the United States.

Hershey, the world’s largest chocolate maker, is often viewed as having more pricing power than some of its food industry peers, since chocolate often serves as an affordable luxury or indulgence.

The second quarter should see shipments of new products accelerate, with the roll out of Jolly Rancher Crunch ‘N Chew and the launch of Rolo Minis and Ice Breakers Duos. The company is also launching Hershey’s Simple Pleasures, with 30 percent less fat than the average chocolate.

BlackRock first quarter profit steady as ETFs draw billions of dollars

NEW YORK, Wed Apr 18, 2012 – BlackRock Inc., the world’s largest asset manager, said first-quarter profits were steady, bolstered by strong inflows into its popular iShares exchange-traded fund business.

But despite the inflows and booming equity markets during the first quarter, revenue at New York-based BlackRock declined $33 million, or 1 percent, to $2.2 billion, the firm said on Wednesday. Investors continued to favor the firm’s indexed funds over actively managed accounts, which typically generate higher fees, though not necessarily higher profit margins.

Chief executive Laurence Fink kept a tight hand on expenses. Even as BlackRock rolled out a new global ad campaign around the slogan “Investing for a New World,” Fink cut operating expenses by $50 million, or 3 percent, to $1.4 billion on lower office occupancy, fund and compensation costs.

Net income increased to $572 million, or $3.14 per share, from $568 million, or $2.89 per share, in the same quarter a year before.

Assets under management at BlackRock totaled $3.68 trillion, up 5 percent during the quarter and 1 percent from a year earlier.

Customers withdrew a net $10.3 billion from long-term funds; but excluding a single, previously announced withdrawal of $36 billion from an indexed fixed income account, BlackRock said it had inflow of $25.7 billion. Just in iShares alone, customers added a net $18.2 billion, a 74 percent increase from the same quarter last year. Over half the total went into bond ETFs.

The flows reflected a preference for BlackRock’s indexed offerings. For example, investors added $7.4 billion to stock index funds and withdrew $4.5 billion from active stock funds.

Durable goods orders rise 2.2 percent in February

WASHINGTON,| Wed Mar 28, 2012 – New orders for manufactured goods rose less than expected in February and a gauge of future business investment also fell short of forecasts, Commerce Department data showed on Wednesday.

Durable goods orders rose 2.2 percent last month, only partially reversing January’s revised 3.6 percent decline.

Economists had forecast orders rising 3.0 percent last month.

Durable goods range from toasters to big-ticket items like aircraft which are meant to last three years and more.

Excluding transportation, orders climbed 1.6 percent. Economists had expected that reading to increase 1.7 percent. Machinery orders increased 5.7 percent.

Non-defense capital goods orders excluding aircraft, a closely watched proxy for future business investment, edged 1.2 percent higher, missing analysts’ expectations of a 2.0 percent gain.

A 3.9 percent increase in bookings for transportation equipment – including a 6.0 percent increase in civilian aircraft orders – drove the overall increase in durable goods orders.

Boeing received 237 orders for aircraft during the month, according to the plane maker’s website, up from 150 in January.

Orders for motor vehicles edged up 1.6 percent.

Shipments of non-defense capital goods orders excluding aircraft, which go into the calculation of gross domestic product, rose 1.4 percent in February.

Oracle software sales rise offsets weak hardware

BOSTON, Wed Mar 21, 2012 – Oracle Corp. beat Wall Street’s earnings estimates as new software sales came in at the high end of the company’s forecast, offsetting a sharp drop in hardware revenue.

The software maker’s stock rose 1.5 percent after the news, in sharp contrast to the sell-off three months ago when its second-quarter profit missed analysts’ forecasts for the first time in a decade.

“The software business bounced back,” Citigroup analyst Walter Pritchard said. “If you look at where the value is at Oracle, it would be the software business.”

Oracle estimated that new software sales this quarter will range from a 2 percent drop to growth of as much as 8 percent, translating into $3.6 billion to almost $4 billion. The midpoint of that forecast, of 3 percent growth, is a sharp drop from the 19 percent increase in the fourth quarter of last year.

Yet Oracle Chief Financial Officer Safra Catz suggested on a conference call that the outlook may not be so grim. She said she had been “somewhat conservative” in calculating that forecast.

Still, shares in the company run by billionaire Larry Ellison pared half of the gains made earlier in the extended trading session. They had rallied 3 percent shortly after it posted earnings that beat Wall Street’s lowered expectations.