Information provided by Marie Richarz, Prospect Mortgage
The index of leading economic indicators — designed to forecast economic activity in the next three to six months — rose a solid 0.4% in January, following an upwardly revised 0.5% increase in December.
Retail sales rose 0.4% to $401.4 billion in January. On a year-over-year basis, retail sales increased 5.8%.
Total business inventories rose 0.4% in December to $1.55 trillion, up 7.7% from a year ago. Total business sales increased 0.7% to $1.23 trillion in December, up 8.9% from a year ago. The total business inventories/sales ratio in December was 1.26.
The Mortgage Bankers Association said its seasonally adjusted composite index of mortgage applications for the week ending February 15 fell 1%. Refinancing applications increased 0.8%. Purchase volume fell 8.4%.
The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo monthly housing market index rose four points in February to 29 from a reading of 25 in January. It was the fifth consecutive monthly gain and the highest level since May 2007. An index reading below 50 indicates negative sentiment about the housing market.
The combined construction of new single-family homes and apartments in January rose 1.5% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 699,000 units. Single-family starts decreased 1%. Multifamily starts rose 14.4%. Applications for new building permits, seen as an indicator of future activity, rose 0.7% to an annual rate of 676,000 units. Housing starts for the year are up 9.9%.
Initial claims for unemployment benefits fell by 13,000 to 348,000 for the week ending February 11. Continuing claims for the week ending February 4 fell by 100,000 to 3.426 million, the lowest level since August 2008.
Upcoming on the economic calendar are reports on existing home sales on February 22 and new home sales on February 24.