It’s Friday and that means it’s time to review the latest economic data and identify which pockets of the economy are heating up and which are slowing down. Don’t worry about catching every headline and every report throughout the week—I recap all of the most important news impacting your wealth right here every Friday. Let’s take a look at this week’s big headlines:
Housing Starts & Building Permits Soar to Record Highs
Housing starts increased 4.4% in December to an annual rate of 1.089 million, while building permits for single-family homes rose 4.5%. Housing starts for fiscal year 2014 were up 8.8%. Meanwhile, starts for single-family homes climbed at a rate of 728,000, the highest rate in nearly 7 years. While the housing market remains unpredictable, low mortgage rates are starting to encourage U.S. consumers to break ground on or purchase new homes. So the increase in housing starts and building permits is an encouraging sign that we may see a robust spring season.
Initial Claims Slip
For the week ended January 17, jobless claims fell by 10,000 to a seasonally adjusted 307,000 annual rate. Economists were expecting 300,000 new claims. For the week ended January 10, claims were revised up to 317,000 from the originally reports 316,000. The four-week moving average is now at 306,500. Jobless claims have been above the 300,000 threshold for three weeks now, which is causing some concern that improvement in the job market is slowing. However, it is not unusual to see jobless claims rise early in the year, after companies lay off holiday help and dismiss temporary employees. Even at the current rate, jobless claims remains near historic lows.
Index of Leading Economic Indicators Beat Estimates
The National Association of Realtors announced this morning that existing home sales increased 2.4% in December to a 5.04 million annual rate. This beat economists’ expectations for a 0.4% increase. This was the fourth-straight gain for the Conference Board’s leading economic index, and that bodes well for the health of the U.S. economy.
That’s all I have for you this week. I’ll be in touch with the latest Portfolio Grader changes and Stock of the Day on Monday.
Have a great weekend,