1st Time Jobless Claims Remain Highly Volatile, Falling 10,000 in Last Week

By Mark Lieberman

Managing Director and Senior Economist

Highlights

  • 1st time claims for unemployment insurance for the week ended December 3 FELL 10,000 to 258,000;
  • The number of claims for the week ended November 28 was unchanged at 268,000
  • Filings remained under 300,000 for the 92nd straight week, the longest streak since 1970;
  • Four week moving average of first time claims INCREASED 1,000 to 252,500;
  • The four week moving average represented 0.166 percent of total employment, UP .001 percentage points from a week earlier;
  • Continuing claims for the week ended November 28 – reported on a one-week lag – DECREASED 79,000 – largest week-week drop since July 2015 — to 2,005,000;
  • The number of continuing claims for the week ended November 21 was REVISED UP 3,000 to 2,084.000;
  • Four-week moving average of continuing claims FELL 9,500 to 2,028,750;

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First time claims for unemployment insurance remained extremely volatile as the calendar turned to December, with a five-figure swing for the fifth straight week, according to the Labor Department.

The average change (regardless of direction) for the last five weeks has been 15,400 compared 6,600 for the previous five weeks. To be sure, the net change has been a drop of 7,000 claims over the last five weeks, but the wide swings suggest some instability in labor markets which would call into question the wisdom of tinkering with interest rates in the short term. Nonetheless, “body language” from the Federal Open Market Committee – the federal Reserve Board’s policy-setting arm – suggest the FOMC is poised to lower the target fed funds rate when it convenes next Tuesday. Though widely anticipated, the FOMC action could our a damper on holiday sales. Retailers had been anticipating strong sales, up about 3.6 percent, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF).

The NRF estimated retailers would add between 640,000 and 690,000 jobs to deal with the increased sales volume for the holiday season which, according to NRF, covers all of November and December.

The four week moving average, designed to smooth the volatility of the weekly numbers, is showing less of a swing in the last five weeks ranging from an increase of 1,000 to a drop of 6,000 and a net decline of 5,250 for the period dropping the total to 252,500, 6.7 percent below the level a year ago.

Despite the recent volatility, both initial claims and continuing claims have been on a relatively stable downward trajectory over the past year. Continuing claims, often seen as a surrogate for hiring, are down 10.7 percent from a year ago. The four-week moving average of continuing claims has dropped a more modest7.1 percent.

In raw numbers, continuing claims fell 241,000 in the last year with most of that decline, 137,000, since September 1.

You can hear Mark Lieberman every Friday at 6:20 am on the Morning Briefing on P.O.T.U.S. radio @sxmpotus, Sirius-XM 124. You can follow him on Twitter at @foxeconomics.

January Existing Home Sales Improve as Prices Drop

 By Mark Lieberman

Managing Director and Senior Economist

Highlights

  • The pace of existing home sales IMPROVED 3.3 percent or 180,000 in January to a seasonally adjusted annual sales rate of 5.69 million, the fastest pace since July 2007;
  • The December sales rate was REVISED UP from 5.49 million to 5.61 million
  • Median price of an existing single family home DROPPED 1.4 percent or $3,300 in January, the fifth month-month decline in the last six months;
  • Year-year though the median price is UP $15,200 or 7.1 percent, the largest year-year increase since January 2016;
  • Number of homes available for sale in January ROSE 2.4 percent or 40,000 to 1.69 million, under 2 million for the third straight month;
  • The months’ supply of homes for sale in November REMAINED at 3.6, the tightest supply since February 2005.

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Prices went down and sales went up. That’s the quick story of the report on existing home sales issued Wednesday by the National Association of Realtors.  Indeed it was the third time in the last five months, sales increased while prices dropped.

But while the improvement – no matter the reason – was good news, the report contained some disappointing data as the months’ supply of homes for sale remained low. Lows prices –the median price is at its lowest level since last March – will discourage sellers from putting their homes on the block. Eventually, with limited choice, buyers could start to drop away as well.

Buyers were aided by interest rates still low by historical standards, but rising. According to Freddie Mac, the average rate for a 30-year fixed rate loan was 4.15 percent in January, down a tad from 4.20 percent in December. When the Federal Open Market Committee hiked the target fed funds rate in December, the average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was 3.97 percent.

A couple of other factors pose challenges for realtors and sellers: lingering uncertainty over changes in the federal tax code as promised by candidate-now-President Donald Trump and weak earnings growth. While the President was short on specifics in his campaign, the mortgage interest tax deduction has been a favorite target of tax code changers. In addition to the weak earnings growth would-be buyers remain saddled with student loan debt which could affect their ability to even get a loan.

At the high end of the market, New York City’s Mayor Bill de Blasio is pushing a tax on sales of homes for $2 million or more. While such residences are but a small share of the market, they do influence sales – and listings – on the coasts. The increase in sales in the Northeast and West combined was about two thirds of the national increase in January.

Hear Mark Lieberman every Friday, on the Morning Briefing on P.O.T.U.S. radio @sxmpotus, Sirius-XM 124, at 6:20 am Eastern Time. You can follow Mark Lieberman on Twitter at @foxeconomics.

Housing Starts, Completions Fell in January Held Back by Multi-Family

By Mark Lieberman

Managing Director and Senior Economist

Highlights

  • The rate of housing starts in January FELL 2.6 percent to a seasonally adjusted 1.25 million units;
  • Single-family units ROSE 1.9 percent but multi-family unit starts FELL 10.2 percent;
  • The pace of building permits ROSE 1.5 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.285 million – highest since November 2015;
  • Permits for single-family homes FELL a.7 percent while permits for multi-family housing ROSE 19.8 percent;
  • The rate of home completions FELL 5.6 percent with completions of single-family homes UP 4.6 percent while completions of multi-family units FELL 27.8 percent.

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Though single-family construction activity improved in January, the improvement was subsumed by a drop in multi-family starts, the Census Bureau and Department of Housing and Urban Development reported Thursday.

Change since December 2016

  Permits Starts Completions
Total

Single-Family

Multi-Family

The report painted a picture of a housing market with no clear direction, essentially echoing the level of builder confidence in the National Association of Home Builders’ (NAHB) Housing Market Index (HMI).  After spurting upward in December, the index fell back in both January and February though remaining above 50, the scoring point separating a positive and negative outlook.

Although single-family home construction activity represents about 2/3 of all residential building, the overall direction of permits-starts-completions is determined by multi-family activity. With a market shift toward multi-family housing the data seem to belie the optimism among builders.

It doesn’t necessarily mean the “American Dream” of homeownership is defunct, but perhaps taking a bit of a respite.

The homeownership rate has been in steady decline for more than 10 years, peaking at a four-quarter average 69.0 percent in 2004 and dropping to 63.4 percent last year. At the same time, the household formation rate – often a demographic victim of a financial slowdown – has slowed. The nation, according to the Census Bureau, added 771,000 households in the fourth quarter of 2016, the smallest increase since 2Q 2014 when the number of household increased 434,000. In all of 2016, the number of households increased 4.2 million, a 35 percent decline from 2015’s 6.5 million

To be sure, the nation’s population continues to grow, adding one person every 15 seconds. But, according to the Census Bureau, that growth is largely the result of immigration. The Census Bureau calculates there is one birth every eight seconds, one death every 11 seconds and one international migrant every 29 seconds. As immigration slows, population growth and household growth will slow, reducing the need and demand for new housing.

The housing demand that remains, it appears, is more likely to be clustered around center cities which cannot necessarily accommodate single-family construction.

Hear Mark Lieberman every Friday at 6:20 am on POTUS Morning Briefing, Sirius-XM 124. You can follow him on Twitter at @foxeconomics.

Initial Claims Filings Move Up As Do Continuing Claims

By Mark Lieberman

Managing Director and Senior Economist

Highlights

  • 1st time claims for unemployment insurance for the week ended February 11 INCREASED 5,000 or 2.1 percent to 239,000;
  • Four week moving average of first time claims ROSE 500 to 244,750, 0.161 percent of total employment, UNCHANGED from a week earlier;
  • Continuing claims – reported on a one-week lag – for the week ended February 4 DECREASED 3,000 to 2,079,000;
  • The number of continuing claims for the week ended January 28 was REVISED DOWN 2,000 to 2,076,000;
  • Four-week moving average of continuing claims INCREASED 5,000 to 2,080,250.

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After falling to a 44-year low a week ago, the number first time claims for unemployment insurance rose last week, continuing the up-and-down pattern for this indicator. The only significant change was that initial claims rose by “only” 5,000 – just the third time in the last 15 weeks the number of initial claims has moved by less than 10,000.

The Labor Department report Thursday was markedly less volatile than it had been. The 2.1 percent week-week change was the smallest since December when initial claims dropped by 1.6 percent.

That said, the direction of the change in total first time claims has reinforced the positive changes in the economy. First time claims, during the period, have declined 16,000, from 255,000 to 239,000.

Longer term claims – described as “continuing claims” – meanwhile increased 96,000 or 4.8 percent over the same stretch. Continuing claims are generally and indicator of jobs (while initial claims track employment). Clearly its good news in both trend downward. An increase in continuing claims reflects a difficulty of those who are laid off of obtaining jobs.

Without seasonable adjustments – which attempt to smooth these data series by accounting for recurring, predictable events which affect these two data series – the number of first time claims fell 13,637 and the number of continuing claims dropped 19,110.

You can hear Mark Lieberman every Friday at 6:20 am on the Morning Briefing on P.O.T.U.S. radio @sxmpotus, Sirius-XM 124. You can follow him on Twitter at @foxeconomics.

Builder Confidence Slips Again in February: A Correction or Trend?

By Mark Lieberman

Managing Director and Senior Economist

Highlights:

  • Housing Market Index FELL two points in February to 65 – the second straight monthly two-point decline;
  • All three components of the Index fell in February led by a five-point drop in the measure of buyer traffic;
  • By region, builder confidence FELL in February in three of the four census regions, led by a drop of 10 points in the Northeast. Builder confidence was unchanged in the West from January to February.

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After soaring to lofty heights with a six-point jump in December, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Housing Market Index (HMI), a measure of builder confidence fell for the second straight time in February, the NAHB reported Wednesday. Now it remains to be seen if the December reading – a six-point month-month gain — was an aberration or if home buying – and thus building – has lost its mystique.

The index shot up six points in September but then gave back two points in October and was unchanged in November, so there isn’t much history of maintaining a surge. If anything, simple supply and demand may be the culprit. The inventory of unsold new homes shot up in December according to the most recent Census report on the topic, increasing 10 million to 259 million. The month-month increase was the largest since the middle of 2013. Indeed, the ratio of sales to inventory dropped in December to its lowest level in over a year, suggesting builders might not be aggressively building into a market with weak sales.

The slowing builder confidence fits perfectly in a narrative of a continuing weak housing market. The nation’s homeownership rate, according to the Census Bureau, edged up in the fourth quarter to 63.7 percent, but remained below the level of one year earlier, the 45th straight quarter of year-year declines.

It may be that new homes have become too expensive.

The median price of a new home, the Census Bureau reported was $322,500 in December, up $13,300 from November and up $23,500 from the previous December. The median price of an existing single family home was $232,200 in December, down $2,200 from November and up $9,000 from December 2015.

Would-be homebuyers continue to face challenges from slow earnings growth, increasing interest rates and heavy student loan burdens – all of which influence a builder’s decision of whether the break ground on a new project.

Hear Mark Lieberman every Friday on P.O.T.U.S. radio, Sirius-XM 124, at 6:20 am Eastern Time. Follow Mark Lieberman on Twitter at @ foxeconomics.

Gasoline Price Pull Retail Activity Up

By Mark Lieberman

Managing Director and Senior Economist

Highlights:

  • January retail sales – measured by prices – INCREASED $1.7 billion or 0.4 percent from December, despite a $1.4 billion drop in auto sales;
  • Without autos, retail sales GREW $3.1 billion, or 0.8 percent;
  • Sales at furniture stores SLIPPED but every other store category showed sales increases;
  • The initial report that December sales had increased $2.9 billion was revised up to show a $4.4 billion or 1.0 percent gain;
  • Year-year total sales ROSE 5.6 percent (5.3 percent excluding autos) in January.

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Despite sagging auto sales retail activity (based on prices, jumped 0.6 percent in January, according to the Census Bureau.

Gasoline sales rose $849 million or 2.3 percent, driven by a 10¢ per gallon price increase. The per gallon price of gasoline was $2.349 in January, up from $2.254 in December. The increase in the per gallon price was the largest since last May when the price of a gallon of gasoline rose 16¢.

While labeled as a report on retail sales, the Census report is perhaps more accurately an indicator of prices. Sales data collected by Census are not adjusted for price changes, so an increase in “sales” which might be less than any price change actually reflects a decline in sales.

The Census report suggested retailers boosted prices in January (and December). The Census data came as the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a 0.6 percent increase in the Consumer Price Index is January computing to an inflation rate of 2.5 percent.

The January (all items) increase, the BLS said, was the largest since February 2013. Nearly half the increase according to the BLS, was due to a sharp boost in gasoline prices. The indexes for shelter, apparel, and new vehicles also increased.

The 2.5 percent year-year increase in the price index, the inflation rate, was the largest since March 2012.

Beyond the price-driven increase in gasoline station sales, according to the Census Bureau, ‘sales” increased in virtually every store category led by a 1.8 percent increase at sporting goods stores, a 1.6 percent increase at electronics stores and a 1.4 percent increase at restaurants. According to the BLS, the cost of food at home in January was flat to December while the price of food away from home increased 0.4 percent in the month.

Hear Mark Lieberman on the Morning Briefing on P.O.T.U.S. radio @sxmpotus, Sirius-XM 124, every Friday at 6:20 am Eastern Time. You can follow him on Twitter at @foxeconomics.

Initial Claims Filings Drop to 44 Year Low

By Mark Lieberman

Managing Director and Senior Economist

Highlights

  • 1st time claims for unemployment insurance for the week ended February 4 FELL 12,000 or 4.9 percent to 234,000 – the lowest level since November 1973
  • Four week moving average of first time claims FELL3,750 to 244,250 also the lowest since November;
  • The four week moving average represented 0.161 percent of total employment, DOWN .002 percentage points from a week earlier;
  • Total first-time-filings remained under 300,000 for the 101st straight week, the longest streak since 1970;
  • Continuing claims – reported on a one-week lag – for the week ended January 28 INCREASED 15,000 to 2,078,000;
  • The number of continuing claims for the week ended January 21 was REVISED DOWN 1,000 to 2,063,000;
  • Four-week moving average of continuing claims DECREASED 3,750 to 2,075,750.

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Initial claims for unemployment insurance fell to a 44-year low for the week ended February 4 the Labor Department  reported Thursday. While the four week moving average of first time claims fell to 0.161 percent of total employment, the 44-year comparison was even more favorable since employment – the base from which layoffs and thus unemployment insurance claims derive – was so much lower in 1973. Initial claims represented 0.294 percent of employment in 1973.

Even without seasonable adjustments, the data continue to suggest an extremely tight labor market. The raw data show initial claims dropping 19,099 to 259,099 for the week ended February 4.

Though holidays typically affect this report, there were no holidays to interfere. The report confirms and continues the trend of falling claims and thus a tighter labor market. The tighter market will inevitably lead to higher wages as employers have to pay up for staff. One anomaly though is the average workweek has not been rising – and indeed has been falling –suggesting an improvement in worker productivity.

It may be time to focus on hours worked rather than the number of people working to get a better read on the labor market and employment picture.

Continuing claims for unemployment insurance – a surrogate for hiring (while initial claims is a surrogate for layoffs) – increased for the second time in the last three weeks suggesting a slight difficulty in getting off unemployment insurance. There are basically three ways for continuing claims to decline: the expiration of benefits, getting a job or no longer qualifying for unemployment insurance.

You can hear Mark Lieberman every Friday at 6:20 am on the Morning Briefing on P.O.T.U.S. radio @sxmpotus, Sirius-XM 124. You can follow him on Twitter at @foxeconomics.

Hiring Increased un December but Still Points to Labor Churning

 By Mark Lieberman

Managing Director and Senior Economist

Highlights:

  • Hiring ROSE in December for the third straight month, improving to 5.25 million from 5.21 million in November;
  • Job openings at the end of December WERE ESSENTIALLY FLAT to November, falling 4,000 to 5,501,000;
  • The ratio of unemployed to job opening in December ROSE to 1.37 from 1.35 in November;
  • The number of job openings FELL in December in six industry sectors, consistent with weak growth of 157,000 new payroll jobs that month.

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Even as hiring rose for the third straight month in December, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics JOLTS report – the BLS data painted a picture of churning in the labor market, supporting the idea that employment is essentially treading water.

Job Opening and Labor Turnover Survey data for the last quarter of 2016 – released Tuesday by BLS – for example reported 131,000 hires, 32,000 separations and 122,000 layoffs and separations offset in part by a decline of 73,000 “quits.” Rolled together, the last quarter of the year resulted in a net gain of 50,000, hardly enough to qualify as a robust labor picture.

The survey tracks the ins and outs of the labor market as contrasted with the BLS Employment Situation report which reports net changes. Differences can result the same individual is counted in more than one category.

That the number of job openings was essentially flat from November to December suggests a labor market slowdown.

According to the preliminary December data though, 2016 was a better year than 2015. The 62.5 million hires in 2016 were 1.3 percent more than the 61.7 million in 2015. At the same time though, total separations in 2016 were 1.9 percent more than 2015 but layoffs and discharges were down 4.6 percent from 2015.

The number of “quits” in 2016 was, according to the report, 6.7 percent more than in 2015 – the seventh straight year-year improvement. The number of quits is itself a positive labor market indicator suggesting workers felt confident in the ability to obtain a new job.

You can hear Mark Lieberman on P.O.T.U.S Morning Briefing (Sirius 124) every Friday at 6:20 am Eastern Time. Follow him on Twitter at @foxeconomics.

Unemployment Rate Ticks Up to 4.8%; Payrolls Grow 227K; Earnings Stall

By Mark Lieberman

Managing Director and Senior Economist

Highlights

  • Unemployment rate ROSE in January to 4.8 percent, second straight monthly increase
  • Payroll jobs INCREASED 227,000 in January but revisions SUBTRACTED 40,000 jobs from November while adding 1,000 jobs in December; annual revisions reduced payroll jobs by 101,000;
  • Average weekly hours in January REMAINED at 34.4;
  • Average weekly earnings INCREASED in January to $894.40 — up $1.04 from December, a gain of 0.1 percent after December’s 0.5 percent increase; Year-year increase SLIPPED to 1.9 percent from 2.5 percent in December;
  • Average hourly earnings ROSE 3¢ in January to $26.00; December’s 10¢ an hour gain was scaled back to 6¢;
  • The number of full-time workers INCREASED 457,000 in January; the number of part-time workers FELL 490,000;
  • Labor force participation rate INCREASED to 62.9 percent – strongest since September –from 62.7 percent in December;
  • Employment-Population ratio ROSE at 59.9 percent from December’s 59.7 percent
  • The number of retail jobs INCREASED 45,900; Leisure and hospitality sector added 34,000 jobs, 29,900 at restaurants;
  • Combined, retail and leisure and hospitality accounted for 79,900 or 35.2 percent of January’s new payroll jobs;
  • Government payrolls DECLINED by 10,000; state and local payrolls fell 14,000 while the federal payroll grew 4,000.

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The books closed on the Obama Administration with Friday’s Employment Situation and showed – pending revision –payrolls expanded a net 12.2 million from inauguration day 2009. During the same span, the nation’s unemployment rate went from 8.3 percent to 4.8 percent – with an intervening increase to 10 percent.

But the monthly Employment Situation report for January — based on surveys conducted just before President Trump was sworn in – showed lingering concerns about earnings.

Earnings took a hit as the two lowest paying job sectors – retail and leisure and hospitality – accounted for 35 percent of the new payroll jobs in January.

The report also indicated average weekly hours remained stalled at 34.4 reflecting recent declines which could mean job growth could slow. The continued decline in the average workweek could be a troublesome sign if it means employers need fewer hours worked. When the economy was in the throes of Recession economists were looking for an increase in the number of hours as a sign employers would have to increase staff and payrolls.

Despite an overall weakness in job creation, virtually every major industry sector added jobs in January, led by retail trade. The construction sector, added 36,000 jobs – the strongest gain since last March. The financial sector added 32,000 jobs, the strongest month-month increase ever.

The health care sector – despite threats to the future of the Affordable Care Act – also added 32,000 jobs, about the same as its three-month average gain.

The report showed ongoing challenges for the new Administration which could be in conflict with some of the stated attitudes either of the President or his cabinet. The weakness in earnings, for example, could be addressed by an increase in the minimum wage, but such an action has been opposed by Labor Secretary designate Andrew Puzder.

There were also troubling signs in the report in the month-month increase in unemployment which rose 106,000 to 7.6 million. That increase though followed annual population adjustments made each January by the BLS. The Census Bureau, which conducts the monthly household survey for the BLS which, among other things, produces the unemployment count and unemployment rate, is responsible for population estimates each January which affect all of the data coming from the household survey.

Based on the Census Bureau estimates, the working age civilian noninstitutional population declined an estimated 660.000 from December to January.

Hear Mark Lieberman every Friday morning at 6:20 am on The Morning Briefing on POTUS on Sirius-XM 124.

You can follow Mark Lieberman on Twitter at @foxeconomics.

 

Initial Unemployment Insurance Claims Fall Back but Remain Volatile

By Mark Lieberman

Managing Director and Senior Economist

Highlights

  • 1st time claims for unemployment insurance for the week ended January 28 FELL 14,000 or 5.4 percent to 246,000;
  • Four week moving average of first time claims ROSE for the first time in six weeks, up 2,250 to 248,000, lowest since November 3, 1973.
  • Initial unemployment claims for the week ended January 21 were REVISED UP 3,000 to 260,000
  • The four week moving average represented 0.163 percent of total employment, UP .002 percentage points from a week earlier;
  • Total first-time-filings remained under 300,000 for the 100th straight week, the longest streak since 1970;
  • Continuing claims – reported on a one-week lag – for the week ended January 21 FELL 39,000 to 2,064,000;
  • The number of continuing claims for the week ended January 14 was REVISED UP 3,000 to 2,103,000;
  • Four-week moving average of continuing claims DECREASED 13,000 to 2,079,7500.

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Initial claims for unemployment insurance remained highly volatile last week, cropping 14,000 to 246,000 according to the Labor Department. It was the 12th time in the last 14 weeks the number of claims has increased or decreased by 10,000 or more from the previous week.

It was also the first government economic report to cover a period wholly within the fledgling Trump Administration.

To be sure, the changeover in the White House had little to do with the layoffs and the increase in first time claims for unemployment insurance. At the same time, the report will have little if any impact on the Employment Situation release from the Bureau of Labor Statistics tomorrow. That report is expected to show a gain of 175,000 payroll jobs, up slightly from the monthly gain of 165,000 in the final quarter of last year but down from the monthly average of 212,000 new payroll jobs in the third quarter,

The unemployment rate is expected to remain at 4.7 percent.

The most watched point to Friday’s report will be earnings which have been inconsistent in recent months: Average weekly earnings, for example, rose 0.4 percent in December after falling by the same percentage in November. Another important indicator will be the average workweek which was 34.5 hours in January but slipped to 34.3 hours in November and December. A rising workweek hints at a need for employers to increase staff.

You can hear Mark Lieberman Friday at 8:45 am on the Morning Briefing and 12:05 pm on the Midday Briefing on P.O.T.U.S. radio @sxmpotus, Sirius-XM 124. You can follow him on Twitter at @foxeconomics.

National Case Shiller Home Price Index At New Record in November

 By Mark Lieberman

Managing Director and Senior Economist

Highlights:

  • National Case Shiller CoreLogic Home Price Index IMPROVED in November, reaching a new all-time high and companion indices strengthened;
  • 10- and 20-city indices each rose 0.19 percent after the 10-city index dipped in October and the 20-city index had its weakest gain in 11 months;
  • The price index ROSE in November in 18 of the 20 cities surveyed, compared with October when it increased in 15 cities;
  • Prices fell in the Midwest while rising in the Northeast, South and West;
  • Year-year prices were UP in all 20 cities but the November-November increase was slower in ten cities than the increase from October 2015 to October 2016.

Image result for home pricesAfter a slight pause in October, home prices resumed their upward climb in November sending the national price index to yet another record high, according to the monthly Case Shiller CoreLogic Home Price Index released Tuesday. It was the second straight month the national index hit an historic high, surpassing the previous peak in July 2006.

The 20-city index at 192.14 is 7.0 percent below its July 2006 peak of 206.52. The 10-city index, at 205.94 is 9.0 percent below its record 226.29 reached in June 2006.

While the national index has been improving steadily, 10- and 20-city indices have been slowing with the month-month increases narrowing until October when the 10-city measure fell for the first time in nine months. The 20-city index has improved for the last 10 months in a row.

In November, the median price of an existing single-family home rose $800 or 0.3 percent to $234,900, the first increase in five months. The weak prices though have not propelled sales as inventories of existing single-family homes remain low.

The November index reports had a decidedly regional tinge. Four of the 20 cities are in the Midwest where prices in November fell 0.2 percent. Prices rose 0.4 percent in the Northeast, 0.3 percent in the South and 0.2 percent in the West.

The index is heavily weighted toward the West which contains eight of the 20 cities surveyed.

Two of the three cities where prices fell in November are in the Midwest – Chicago and Detroit – while the third, San Francisco, is in the West. Tampa led all cities with a 0.8 percent price increase in November followed by Denver, 0.6 percent, and Miami, 0.5 percent.

Year over year, prices were up 10.4 percent in Seattle, 10.1 percent in Portland, 8.7 percent in Denver and 8.1 percent in Dallas.

Hear Mark Lieberman this Friday on P.O.T.U.S. radio’s Morning Briefing, Sirius-XM 124, at 6:20 am Eastern Time. You can follow Mark Lieberman on Twitter at @foxeconomics.