Home prices gain again but consumer mood cools

NEW YORK, Tue Aug 28, 2012 – Home prices rose for the fifth consecutive month in June, a fresh sign of improvement as the recovery in the housing market picks up steam.

But in a reminder of how fragile the broader economy remains, another measure of consumers’ economic views released on Tuesday deteriorated in August to the lowest in nine months as Americans were more pessimistic about business and labor market prospects.

The housing sector has been a bright spot, with the stabilization in prices since February suggesting the long-struggling market has finally turned a corner.

Still, the recovery is expected to be slow as the sector faces several hurdles, including ongoing foreclosures and a large number of underwater homeowners.

The S&P/Case Shiller composite index of 20 metropolitan areas gained 0.9 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis for June, topping economists’ forecasts for a 0.5 percent rise, according to a Reuters poll.

On a non-seasonally adjusted basis, prices were even stronger, up 2.3 percent.

Prices in the 20 cities rose 0.5 percent compared with the previous year, the first time year-over-year price changes were in positive territory since September 2010.

Atlanta fared the worst, tumbling 12.1 percent from a year ago. Hard-hit Phoenix continued to bounce back and was up nearly 14 percent.

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.

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.

Pending homes sales dip 0.5 percent in February

WASHINGTON, Mon Mar 26, 2012 – Contracts to purchase previously owned homes unexpectedly fell in February, suggesting a further pullback in sales as the housing market struggles to regain its footing.

The National Association of Realtors said on Monday its Pending Home Sales Index, based on contracts signed in February, slipped 0.5 percent to 96.5, also implying a weak start to the spring selling season.

Economists polled by Reuters had expected signed contracts, which lead existing home sales by a month or two, to advance 1.0 percent after a 2.0 percent rise the prior month. Contracts signed were up 9.2 percent in the 12 months to February.

“This suggests a pretty weak start to the spring selling season. The warm weather in the winter seems to have pulled forward sales,” said Jacob Oubina, a senior U.S. economist at RBC Capital Markets in New York.

U.S. stocks held steady at higher levels after the data, while Treasury debt prices were lower.

Data last week showed sales of previously owned homes fell in February and the decline in signed contracts suggests home purchases could be weak again in March.

Other reports last week also showed declines in home building activity and new home sales in February. Despite the early signs of fatigue, both economists and realtors remain optimistic the housing market will recover this year.