Last Week in the News

The Commerce Department announced that gross domestic product — the total output of goods and services produced in the U.S. — increased at an annual rate of 5.7% in the fourth quarter of 2009. It was the second consecutive quarter of growth and the fastest pace since the third quarter of 2003.

The Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller 20-city housing price index rose a seasonally adjusted 0.2% in November. It was the sixth consecutive monthly gain and follows a 0.4% increase in October. On a year-over-year basis, the gauge was down 5.3% from November 2008.

The consumer confidence index rose to 55.9 in January from an upwardly revised 53.6 in December. The index was benchmarked at 100 in 1985, a year chosen because it was neither a peak nor a trough in consumer confidence.

Existing home sales fell 16.7% in December to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.45 million units from 6.54 million units in November. The drop was largely due to the anticipated expiration of a tax incentive for first-time homebuyers, which has since been extended and expanded. The inventory of unsold homes on the market fell 7% to 3.3 million, a 7.2-month supply at the current sales pace.

Orders for durable goods — items expected to last three or more years — rose 0.3% in December after a 0.2% increase in November. Excluding volatile transportation-related goods, orders posted a monthly gain of 0.9%.

New home sales fell 7.6% in December to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 342,000 units from an upwardly revised rate of 370,000 units in November.

Initial claims for unemployment benefits fell by 8,000 to 470,000 in the week ending January 23. Continuing claims for the week ending January 16 fell by 57,000 to 4.6 million.

Upcoming on the economic calendar are reports on construction spending on February 1, pending home sales on February 2 and factory orders on February 4.

 

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