In an economy looking for a touch of good news these days, the Conference Board just provided it, as that research organization reported that its monthly survey on consumer confidence
had come in well ahead of expectations and also reversed the prior month's somewhat disappointing performance in this area.
New home sales
, which had been expected to decline notably in February, instead rose solidly last month to their best level in seven years, or well before the housing market's slump
had bottomed out. Furthermore, January's sales were revised higher, making it back-to-back wins for this critical economic sector.
Sales of previously owned homes nudged a bit higher in February, notwithstanding heavy snows in portions of the country, and in some cases, record low or near-record low temperatures. That was a reassuring performance by the recently slumping industry. This latest uptick, comes amid flagging data on housing starts, and was a sign that perhaps this key industry is on the mend, in spite of some disappointing economic data issuances in recent weeks.
The Federal Reserve
brought its latest two-day FOMC meeting
to a close earlier this afternoon and, as expected, dropped the word “patient”
in assessing just when it would begin increasing short-term interest rates
, namely the federal funds rate.
The housing market
really took it on the chin last month, as homebuilding tumbled 17%
to an annualized rate of 897,000 units. That was down from an upwardly revised 1.08 million building rate in January. (Originally, the January total had been estimated at 1.07 million homes started.) Expectations for February had been for building on 1.04 million homes to commence. This was the lowest building rate in a year.
The nation's economy
, which has been evidencing a mixed pattern
, overall, recently, has continued in that vein on the industrial front. On point, the industrial production ticked nominally higher last month
, gaining a token 0.1%, following back-to-back declines of 0.2% and 0.3%, respectively, in December and January.
At 8:30 A.M. (EDT) this morning, the investment community
received a key report on the U.S. economy
, and it made for a mostly disappointing reading. Specifically, the Department of Commerce reported that retail sales
for the month of February fell 0.6%
sequentially, declining for the third consecutive period.
This morning, the investment community received positive news on the U.S. economy
when the Department of Labor
released its report on employment and unemployment for the month of February at 8:30 A.M. (EST). Specifically, the report showed that the nation’s nonfarm payrolls increased by 295,000 last month. This comes on the heels of Wednesday’s report from payroll processing giant Automatic Data Processing (ADP)
that the private sector had added a seasonally adjusted 212,000 jobs last month.
This afternoon, reports from the 12 Federal Reserve Districts
were released in the form of the so-called Beige Book
, in which it was noted that economic activity
continued to expand
across most regions of the country from early January to mid-February.
The critical services sector continues to acquit itself well. On point, two days after the rate of expansion in manufacturing activity eased a bit, according to data furnished by the Institute for Supply Management
, that same trade group noted that the companion survey on non-manufacturing, which covers the services sector, edged upward.