QUOTE OF THE WEEK… “Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain — and most fools do.” –Benjamin Franklin, American statesman and Founding Father
INFO THAT HITS US WHERE WE LIVE… There were things to complain about in last week’s housing reports, but grousing about the monthly numbers could look foolish in the long run. New Home Sales were down 7.0% for December, to a 414,000 annual rate. But dips sometimes occur in winter and December was snowier and colder than usual. Many observers expect a rebound in new home sales when the weather gets back to normal. Looking longer term, sales are up 4.5% over a year ago, with builders selling 430,000 new homes in 2013, the most since 2008. The 12-month moving average for new homes sales is at its highest level since February 2009.
Harsh weather in much of the country was also blamed for December’s Pending Home Sales drop of 8.8%. This measure of contracts signed on existing homes foretells a dip in those sales when December’s deals close a few months out. But some observers discovered in the numbers signs of a healthier housing market. There were fewer distressed sales, fewer pending short sales, and fewer investor purchases, all indicators of a return to normalcy for real estate. The National Association of Realtors is still forecasting 5.1 million existing home sales for 2014. Finally, the Mortgage Bankers Association purchase loan index was up 2% over the week before.zz
BUSINESS TIP OF THE WEEK… Keep it fresh. Regularly look for a new way to express your key message, then put it out there in emails, blogs, and social media to re-energize relationships with prospects and customers.
>> Review of Last Week
SLOW START… After last year’s record-breaking stock market performances, no one expected the Wall Street party to roar into the New Year. But few analysts anticipated this slow a start to the proceedings, as stocks fell again last week, capping off the worst down month on a percentage basis since May 2012. What put the damper on traders’ enthusiasm? In our interconnected world economy, investor concerns centered on the pace of global economic growth. The Chinese economy appears to be slowing, and a growing number of emerging markets have seen their stocks and currencies take serious hits.
U.S. economic data continued to deliver mixed messages. Durable Goods Orders, New Home Sales, and Pending Home Sales all dropped, solidly missing expectations. But the Chicago PMI showed Midwest manufacturing grew better than predicted, while Consumer Confidence and Michigan Consumer Sentiment both bested forecasts. Lastly, in Chairman Ben Bernanke’s final FOMC Meeting, the Fed voted to taper their bond buying program by another $10 billion. This was seen as more evidence the U.S. economy is improving. And although our economy isn’t terrific, it is doing better than its global counterparts.
The week ended with the Dow down 1.1%, to 15699; the S&P 500 down 0.4%, to 1783; and the Nasdaq down 0.6%, to 4104.
The Fed may be buying fewer bonds, but demand stayed strong thanks to sinking stocks and global economic worries. The safety bid bolstered prices, as the FNMA 3.5% bond we watch ended the week up .12,