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Friday Economic Snapshot: Exceptional year for housing

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Photo Credit: Wonderlane, Flickr.

By Tom Kaiser
February 14, 2014
Filed under Features, Top Stories

At this point in 2013, the world worried about the bombing of the U.S. embassy in Turkey, Pope Benedict XVI announcing his retirement, North Korea’s nuclear threats and war in Syria. This year we’ve got @SochiProblems, California’s awful drought, a cooling of the political climate with the painlessly raised debt ceiling and news that the federal deficit has plunged to a manageable $514 billion. Syria remains the most pressing foreign policy crisis.

So is the world a better place than it was 12 months ago? Probably not, but the worst is allegedly over in Europe, U.S. monetary policy is expecting growth and reducing stimulus, America’s relative strength has improved in the global hierarchy. Even in the face of our grindingly slow recovery, 2014 is looking good.

Home Prices

The FNC Residential Price Index (RPI) tracks monthly price indices for the country’s largest metropolitan areas. Overall, U.S. residential property values grew 0.3 percent from November to December 2013. Year-over-year, the increase for December is 8.7 percent, an exceptionally strong year for growth in home prices.

Zooming out to the beginning of the 2000s, we’ve seen the massive recession decline, incredibly rapid growth throughout 2012 and a slight slowing of the growth rate throughout ’13 — but make no mistake, real estate is still red hot and marching back toward its pre-recession highs.

Treasury Budget Statement

Nothing moves the markets these days more than a statement from the Federal Reserve, especially as the new Chair Janet Yellen begins to make her mark on U.S. fiscal policy.

In her first public comments since becoming chair, Yellen testified to the House Financial Services Committee. She suggested that her policy will be consistent with previous chair Bernanke’s plans to slowly taper its stimulating efforts on the expectation of GDP growth.

Her statements lifted the markets, and the DJIA looks poised to finish the week approximately 200 points higher than it started without any surprises by the time the closing bell rings Friday afternoon.

Unemployment

Without revising the previous week’s data, the Department of Labor announced that, for the week ending February 8, seasonally adjusted initial unemployment claims rose 8,000 to 339,000. This puts the 4-week moving average at 336,750, an increase of 3,500 from the previous week’s revised average.

Job gains and unemployment claims have both completely stalled out, not getting visibly worse, but also not improving. If 2014 is to play out as positively as many predict, we will need to see a marked improvement in the labor market. So far, that’s not happening.

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