Economy Watch: Foreclosures Down in November

RealtyTrac reported on Thursday that U.S. foreclosure filings--meaning all default notices, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions, according to the company--were down 3 percent in November from the previous month, to a total of 224,394.

By Dees Stribling, Contributing Editor

RealtyTrac reported on Thursday that U.S. foreclosure filings—meaning all default notices, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions, according to the company—were down 3 percent in November from the previous month, to a total of 224,394. The November 2011 total also represents a 14 percent drop when compared with the same month 2010.

As for actual repossessions, lenders took a total of 56,124 U.S. residential properties in November, according to RealtyTrac, a 17 percent decrease from October and also a 17 percent decrease from November 2011. REO activity in November was at its lowest level since March 2008, a 44-month low. But that might only represent a temporary drop. “Despite a seasonal slowdown similar to what we’ve seen in each of the past four years, November’s numbers suggest a new set of incoming foreclosure waves, many of which may roll into the market as REOs or short sales sometime early next year,” said James Saccacio, co-founder of RealtyTrac, in a statement.

Though down nationwide, foreclosure activity is still largely concentrated in the same hard-luck states. Nevada still had the dubious distinction of the nation’s top foreclosure rate, despite artificially low foreclosure activity caused by a new state law that took effect in October that alters the foreclosure process in the state. In one more month, Nevada will be champion foreclosure state five years running. Many of the foreclosure-intense states in November were the usual suspects: California, Arizona, Florida and Michigan, for example.

PPI edges up

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on Thursday that the Producer Price Index for finished goods advanced 0.3 percent in November, a rebound from the 0.3 percent drop in October, but not as much as the month-over-month increase of 0.8 percent in September. Take away food and energy from the index and the November increase was small indeed, only 0.1 percent, but a little larger than in October, when the “core index” didn’t budge one way or the other.

Some things moved upward more than others. Finished foods were up 1 percent in November, for instance. Energy prices, on the other hand, weren’t so energetic in terms of upward motion, edging upward only 0.1 percent during the month. Gasoline dropped, but there was a major spike of 9.4 percent in home heating oil to even things out.

There still might be some inflation in the pipeline, however, depending on how much producers can or will absorb of the crude materials PPI, which was up 3.8 percent month-over-month in November, considerably more than the finished goods PPI. The monthly increase in the crude goods index can mostly be chalked up to prices for crude energy materials, which jumped 10.5 percent. The increase in November was
led by a 22.7-percent jump in the crude petroleum index, and higher prices for coal were as well.

Initial unemployment claims dip again

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Thursday, there was good news in employment. During the week ending Dec. 10, initial unemployment claims were 366,000, a decrease of 19,000 from the previous week’s revised figure of 385,000. The four-week moving average, which is less volatile, was 387,750, a decrease of 6,500 from the previous week’s revised average of 394,250.

Investors seem heartened by that report, as well as by separate positive reports about manufacturing, and the equities markets ended up on Thursday after a number of down days. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 45.33 points, or 0.38 percent. The S&P 500 gained 0.32 percent and the Nasdaq advanced a modest 0.07 percent.

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