Home prices accelerate by most in seven years

A single family home is shown for sale in Encinitas, California May 22, 2013. REUTERS/Mike Blake
A single family home is shown for sale in Encinitas, California May 22, 2013. REUTERS/Mike Blake

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Home prices accelerated by the most in nearly seven years in March while consumer confidence surged in May, suggesting there were areas of resilience for an economy that is facing the pinch of belt-tightening in Washington.

The S&P/Case Shiller composite index of 20 metropolitan areas climbed 10.9 percent year over year, beating expectations for 10.2 percent, the survey released on Tuesday showed. This was the biggest increase since April 2006, just before prices peaked in the summer of that year.

Prices in the 20 cities gained 1.1 percent in March compared to the month before on a seasonally adjusted basis, topping economists’ forecasts for a 1 percent rise.

All 20 cities covered by the index saw yearly gains for the third month in a row.

The housing market turned a corner in 2012, several years after its far-reaching collapse. The recovery has picked up since as inventory tightened, foreclosures eased and historically low mortgage rates have attracted buyers.

“Low inventories and gradually improving housing demand have combined to push housing starts higher and support home price appreciation,” said Michael Gapen, an economist at Barclays in New York.

“We see these factors as remaining in place and expect residential investment to add to GDP growth in the coming quarters. We also expect rising real estate wealth to support household balance sheets and underpin consumption, helping the broader economy to offset a substantial fiscal drag in 2013.”

Prices in Phoenix continued their sharp ascent, rising 22.5 percent from a year earlier. Other standouts included San Francisco, up 22.2 percent, and hard-hit Las Vegas, up 20.6 percent.

For the first quarter of this year, the seasonally adjusted national index rose 3.9 percent, stronger than the 2.4 percent gain of the final quarter of last year.

Housing and the consumer have shown strength even as there have been hints tighter fiscal policy is starting to bite in the broader economy. Across-the-board government spending cuts of $85 billion went into effect in March, while the payroll tax holiday expired at the beginning of the year, raising taxes for many Americans.

Economists expect the pace of growth likely cooled in the second quarter, partly due to tighter fiscal policy, but the second half of the year is seen regaining momentum.

Separate data on Tuesday showed consumer confidence strengthened in May to the highest level in more than five years.

The Conference Board, an industry group, said its index of consumer attitudes jumped to 76.2 from an upwardly revised 69 in April, topping economists’ expectations for 71. It was the best level since February 2008.

April was originally reported as 68.1. After dropping in March, it was the second month in a row confidence has improved.

The expectations index rose to 82.4 from 74.3, while the present situation index climbed to 66.7 from 61.

Consumers’ assessment of the labor market improved. The “jobs hard to get” index slipped to 36.1 percent from 36.9 percent the month before, while the “jobs plentiful” index gained to 10.8 percent from 9.7 percent.

In a sign of confidence among high-end consumers, jeweler Tiffany & Co reported better-than-expected sales for the first quarter.

(Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Mutant worms stay sober, even on alcohol

U.S. researchers have developed "mutant worms" that do not get drunk by alcohol, a breakthrough that could lead to new treatment for people trying to quit drinking

Local

K-9 nose helps capture $150K in cocaine at…

A furry, four-legged security agent helped authorities stop an illegal cocaine shipment from sneaking past JFK customs.

National

Minnesota man asked to leave Southwest flight after…

A man and his two sons were asked to leave a Southwest Airlines flight after the man sent a tweet complaining about being treated rudely by a gate agent.

National

Man sues hospital after surprise penis amputation

An Alabama man who went in to a hospital last month for a circumcision awoke after surgery to find his penis had been amputated, his lawyer said on Thursday.

Movies

Review: Brett Ratner's big 'Hercules' movie is small…

The latest "Hercules," starring Dwayne Johnson as the half-god beefcake of Greek myth, strips its hero and tale of most of its fantastical elements.

Arts

Scientists recreate world's smallest Monet copy

Scientists have reproduced a famous Impressionist painting using nano-printing, to create what has been described as the world's smallest work of art. Reworked at the…

Television

Jerry Seinfeld is ambidextrous, and other Reddit AMA…

See some of the weirder highlights of Jerry Seinfeld's recent Reddit AMA.

Going Out

Grab a pedestrian and start dancing at What…

As a New Yorker, I’ve mastered the art of focusing my gaze straight ahead. Though it occasionally piques my interest, the absurdities that play out…

NFL

2014 NFL Fantasy Football Top 100 overall player…

2014 NFL Fantasy Football Top 100 overall player rankings

U.S. Soccer

NYCFC announce signing of Frank Lampard

The tease of a big signing Thursday by new MLS side NYCFC ended up being one rumored for weeks. England midfielder Frank Lampard agreed to…

NBA

NBA great LeBron James sends 800 cupcake apologies…

By Kim PalmerCLEVELAND (Reuters) - NBA star LeBron James, whose recent return to the Cleveland Cavaliers in his home state of Ohio sparked a frenzy…

NFL

Jerry Reese confident with Giants, skipping countdown clocks…

Last year, Giants GM Jerry Reese installed a countdown clock in the locker room to inspire Big Blue to play in their own stadium for Super Bowl XLVIII.

Tech

Forget Wi-Fi: Li-Fi could be the future

Li-Fi technology – developed by Mexican company Sisoft – is wireless internet connectivity using specialized LED light.

Tech

Weather app Climendo might be the most accurate…

The wait for a truly accurate weather forecast could finally be over thanks to a nifty new app called Climendo.

Tech

Napkin Table puts focus off the phone and…

Michael Jan, a design student at Tunghai University in Taiwan, has invented a serviette-picnic blanket hybrid called the Napkin Table.

Style

Essie's new Color Boutique

Essie launches high-tech kiosks at major airports and malls across the country.