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Last updated: August 15. 2013 11:12PM - 705 Views

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Optimistic outlook boosts


builder confidence


Confidence among U.S. homebuilders is at its highest level in nearly eight years, fueled by optimism that demand for new homes will drive sales growth into next year.


The brighter sales outlook is the latest sign pointing to a sustained pickup in construction in coming months and comes as applications for permits to build single-family houses are at a five-year high.


The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index released Thursday jumped to 59 this month from 56 in July. It was the fourth consecutive monthly gain.


A reading above 50 indicates more builders view sales conditions as good, rather than poor.


The last time the reading was above 59 was in November 2005, when it was 61. U.S. sales of new homes peaked in July that year.


Fewer autos leads


to factory output dip


Output at U.S. factories declined slightly in July, reflecting a drop in auto production. The decline was expected to be temporary given the banner sales year automakers are having.


Manufacturing output edged down 0.1 percent in July compared with June, the Federal Reserve reported Thursday. It was the first drop since declines in March and April.


July’s weakness reflected a 1.7 percent fall in the output of motor vehicles and parts. That decline should be reversed in coming months as automakers ramp up production for the new model year.


Overall industrial production, which includes factories, mines and utilities, was flat in July after a 0.2 percent rise in June. A sharp 2.1 percent surge in mining was offset by a 2.1 percent drop in utility output.


Inflation remains


mild in United States


U.S. consumer prices rose only slightly last month as gas costs increased more slowly. Overall, the figures showed that inflation remains mild.


The Labor Department said Thursday that the consumer price index rose 0.2 percent in July after a 0.5 percent increase in June. Gas prices rose just 1 percent after jumping 6.3 percent in June. Excluding food and gas costs, which are volatile, “core” prices also rose 0.2 percent in July.


Over the past 12 months, consumer prices have risen 2 percent. Core prices have increased 1.7 percent in the past 12 months, still below the Federal Reserve’s 2 percent inflation target.


Slightly higher inflation could make it easier for the Fed to start pulling back on its low-interest-rate policies. Falling inflation would pressure the Fed to continue stimulating growth.


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