The Tell-Tale Stat: In Housing Market, Inventory Is Key

If you're trying to decide whether it's time to consider buying a house, the best clues can be found in the new and existing home inventory numbers. And despite all the other positive indicators, those figures are still much too high for comfort.

Oil Prices Are Likely to Drop Before They Rally Again

With an oversupply of oil on the market and OPEC afraid that higher prices will impair the U.S. recovery and sap demand, the fundamentals point to an oil price drop in the near term. Yes, markets move on emotion, and fears about unrest in Egypt have reversed that downward price trend, but the drop is probably coming.

New-Home Sales Rise but Remain at Low Levels

Although new home sales rose 5.5% in November to a 290,000-unit annual rate, it%u2019s important for investors to maintain a sense of perspective about the rise. The gain was less than expected, and home sales are still well below the sales level typically seen in a healthy housing market.

November Home Sales Take Small Step Forward

The U.S. housing sector remained in a slow, but uncertain recovery in November, as existing-home sales increased a less-than-expected 5.6% last month, to a 4.68-million-unit annual rate. Although home sales rose in every U.S. region, and inventories fell, strong job growth will be needed to increase the sales pace in 2011 and prevent tepid home prices from re-trenching in the quarters ahead.

Rising Wholesale Inventories Reflect Rising Confidence

U.S. wholesale inventories rose a much-better-than-expected 1.9% in October, the U.S. Commerce Department said, and September%u2019s inventory tally was bumped up to a 2.1% increase, better than the initially-estimated 1.5% rise. Together, the data provide more evidence that suppliers and businesses expect a decent 2010 holiday sales season.

Existing-Home Sales Slid 2.2% in October

Sales of existing homes were hit with their first monthly decline since July as October sales fell 2.2% to a seasonally adjusted 4.43 million-unit annual rate. However, the drop isn't too surprising, given the usual seasonal cooling of home sales in the fall.

Retailers Prepare for an Uninspiring 2011

As retailers wrapped up their third-quarter earnings reports this week, most merchants said they're back in cost-control mode and will tighten inventories after the holidays. With shoppers still spending cautiously and costs on the rise, profit growth will have to come from squeezing more juice out of slowly rising sales.

Wholesale Inventories Climb Twice as Much as Expected

U.S. wholesale inventories rose 1.5% in September, and when combined with a more-optimistic outlook by U.S. CEOs, the data suggest suppliers and businesses expect slightly better holiday sales this year than in 2009.

Pending Home Sales Drop Points to Uneven Recovery

Pending home sales in the U.S. unexpectedly fell 1.8% in September, the National Association of Realtors reported Friday. It was the statistic's first decline in three months, and one that suggests that the housing sector's recovery is likely to remain uneven through at least early 2011.

New Home Sales Edge Higher but Remain at Low Levels

U.S. new home sales rose a better-than-expected 6.6% in September, but the rise is hardly cause for celebration. Sales remain near a 47-year low, with the sector showing few signs of generating enough demand to vault sales back to normal levels.

Rising Home Sales Point to a Housing Recovery

Existing home sales unexpectedly surged 10% in September -- the third consecutive monthly rise. Although a retrenchment is always possible, if existing sales continue to rise in the quarters ahead, that improvement would support U.S. GDP growth -- a welcome sight.

Housing Starts Show Unexpected Signs of Life

Housing starts unexpectedly surged 10.5% in August to a 598,000 seasonally-adjusted, annual rate, providing hope that the U.S. home building sector is stabilizing. However, economists caution that monthly housing starts data contain a margin of error and revisions can be large.

Homebuilder Confidence Remains Low

Inadequate job growth and a rising supply of unsold homes continue to weigh on the housing market. The homebuilder confidence index remained unchanged at 13 in September -- its lowest level since March 2009, the National Association of Home Builders announced Monday.

Inventories See Biggest Gain in Two Years

Stronger retail sales prompted businesses to restock shelves and warehouses, as business inventories rose 1% in July -- the largest gain in two years. The gain will help lessen concern that inadequate sales and inventory restocking would slow the U.S. economic recovery to a crawl.

Getting Smarter, Retailers Beat Expectations

Despite heat waves, penny-pinching parents and a weak job market, stores posted generally solid sales in August. They benefited from a sharper focus on inventory control, giving locals stores more say in merchandising and by using well-timed promotions.

Home Sales Plunge to Lowest Level Since 1999

The U.S. housing market is re-trenching, as existing home sales unexpectedly plunged 27.2% in July to a 3.83-million unit annual rate, as prospective home buyers shunned the market due to inadequate job growth and as purchase incentives declined following the end of the home buyer credit program. What%u2019s more, it%u2019s the lowest existing home sales level since 1999.

June's Home Sales Jump: Welcome -- but Not Robust

New-home sales leaped in June by 23.6% from May, to a 330,000 annual rate, but that was aided by a downward revision to May's 47-year-low, to a 267,000 annual rate from the previous 300,000. Inventories fell, but there, too, the news is mixed.

Home Buyer Credit Needed? Sales Fall Less Than Feared

Existing-home sales fell a less-than-predicted 5.1% in June to a 5.37-million-unit annual rate, as the number of people looking for houses declined after the federal home buyers tax credit ended this spring. Though the tax credit boosted sales, Congress appears unlikely to renew it.

When Will Real Estate Market Get Back to Normal?

Now that the home buyer tax credit program has expired, job growth and mortgage availability will likely be the key factors determining the rate of existing home sales, which unexpectedly dipped 2.2% in May to a 5.66 million unit pace.

U.S. Factory Orders Stay on the Uptrend in January

More evidence that the U.S. manufacturing sector continues to mend, as factory orders rose 1.7% in January, aided by a large increase in aircraft orders. Further, orders for durable goods increased 2.6%, and inventories rose again.

Is housing hitting bottom?

Tepid conditions persist in the new home sector, but lukewarm activity was still enough to ignite hope for a possible housing bottom later this...

Are houses cheap now? Chief Economist Irwin Kellner sometimes boldly goes where no man has gone before, to cite an old Star Trek phrase, and a current...

Businesses keep reducing inventories

One popular characterization of the current economy is a commercial climate with "green shoots" -- small, initial signs of a recovery. Business...