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Economy in Brief

Existing Home Sales Jumped to Second Highest on Record
by Tom Moeller April 27, 2004

Sales of existing single family homes reported by the National Association of Realtors jumped 5.7% last month to a 6.48M annual rate. The previously reported decline in February sales was revised to show a 2.2% increase. Consensus expectations had been for March sales 6.20M.

The figures reflect closings of home sales in earlier months.

Sales rose in most regions of the nation. In the West sales surged 10.2% (18.1% y/y) and sales in the Midwest rose 6.3% (+7.1% y/y). In the South sales rose 3.6% (+12.2% y/y) but in the Northeast sales were flat (10.8% y/y).

The median price of an existing home rose 3.6% m/m to $174,100 (+7.4% y/y) but the prior month's figure was revised down.

The latest release from the National Association of Realtors is available here.

Existing Home Sales (000, AR) Mar Feb Y/Y 2003 2002 2001
Existing Single-Family  6,480  6,130 12.7% 6,098 5,593 5,290
Consumer Confidence Jumped On Improved Assessment of Job Market
by Tom Moeller April 27, 2004

The Conference Board’s Index of Consumer Confidence for April jumped 5.0% from March to 92.9. The latest is the highest Confidence reading since January and the jump passed Consensus expectations for a rise to 88.5.

Jobs were viewed as hard to get by 27.6% of respondents, the lowest level since November 2002.

Expectations for business conditions in six months improved moderately in April and 18.2% of respondents expected there to be more jobs in six months, the highest percentage since January.

The improvement in April Confidence contrasted with the deterioration in Consumer Sentiment reported earlier by the University of Michigan.

During the last ten years there has been a 67% correlation between the level of consumer confidence and the y/y % change in real PCE.

The present situation reading surged 7.3% to 90.6 (+20.5% y/y), the highest level since August of 2002. The index of consumer expectations also advanced 3.5% (+11.4% y/y), the first m/m increase since December.

The Conference Board’s survey isconducted by a mailed questionnaire to 5,000 households and about 3,500 typically respond.

Conference Board April Mar Y/Y 2003 2002 2001
Consumer Confidence 92.9 88.5 14.7% 79.8 96.6 106.6
Chain Store Sales Slip
by Tom Moeller April 27, 2004

Chain store sales slipped 0.5% last week following a 1.0% jump the prior week, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC)-UBS survey.

With one week left to tally the level of sales in April is up 0.1% from March.

The ICSC-UBS retail chain-store sales index is constructed using the same-store sales reported by 78 stores of seven retailers: Dayton Hudson, Federated, Kmart, May, J.C. Penney, Sears and Wal-Mart.

During the last ten years there has been a 51% correlation between the year-to-year percent change in the ICSC-UBS measure of chain store sales and consumer sentiment.

ICSC-UBS (SA, 1977=100) 04/24/04 04/17/04 Y/Y 2003 2002 2001
Total Weekly Retail Chain Store Sales 438.2 440.3 7.1% 2.9% 3.6% 2.1%
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