New US house and jobs data points to recovery

City A.M. Reporter
New US data has offered renewed hope for the economy's two stubborn trouble spots - employment, and the housing market.

US home resales jumped more than expected in December despite bad weather as sellers cut prices while jobless claims fell sharply last week, official figures showed.

Existing home sales soared 12.3 per cent to an annual rate of 5.28 million units, the National Association of Realtors said, far surpassing forecasts for a rise to 4.85 million.

However, sales were down 2.9 per cent from a year earlier.

In another report, applications for new jobless benefits posted their biggest decline in nearly a year, erasing a holiday-related spike to show a steady if slow improvement in the labour market.

Claims retreated to 404,000 from 441,000 in the prior week, the Labour Department said.

"Most of the reports today were fairly good. For anyone skeptical about the US recovery, these should ease concern," said Kathy Lien, director of research at GTF Forex in New York.

A report on Mid-Atlantic manufacturing showed a modest pullback, but its details showed some underlying strength. The Philadelphia Fed's index of regional factory activity dipped to 19.3 in January from 20.8 in December.

Prices paid jumped sharply as global commodity prices remained high.

The new orders index more than doubled to 23.6, while the survey's employment index, though still soft, reached its highest level since April 2006.

Yet another report showed an index of leading economic indicators spiking up one per cent, above forecasts for a 0.6 per cent gain.

US stocks pared losses while bond prices extended their losses after the surprisingly upbeat housing data.