Economy Watch: Foreclosures Up Slightly

CoreLogic reported that the number of residential foreclosures nationwide edged up in March to 69,000, from the February total of 66,000.

By Dees Stribling, Contributing Editor

CoreLogic reported on Tuesday that the number of residential foreclosures nationwide edged up in March to 69,000, from the February total of 66,000. The March 2012 total was less than the March 2011 number of foreclosures, which was 85,000. During the first quarter of this year, there were a total of 198,000 completed foreclosures, compared with 232,000 during 1Q11.

As of March, about 1.4 million homes, or 3.4 percent of all homes with a mortgage, were in the national foreclosure inventory—that is, at some point in the foreclosure process, CoreLogic noted. That was exactly the same as in February, but a bit less than the March 2011 total of 1.5 million (3.5 percent). The number of loans in the foreclosure inventory decreased by nearly 100,000, or 6 percent, in March 2012 compared with a year earlier.

“Compared to a year ago, the number of completed foreclosures has slowed,” CoreLogic CEO Anand Nallathambi said in a press statement. “Since the foreclosure inventory is also coming down, this suggests that loan modifications, short sales, deeds-in-lieu are increasingly being used as an alternative to foreclosures to clear distressed assets.”

Construction spending edges up

The U.S. Census Bureau reported on Tuesday that construction spending during March totaled $808.1 billion, or only a hair (0.1 percent) above the February total of $807.3 billion. The March figure is 6 percent above the March 2011 total of $762.6 billion, however.

Private construction led the way, up 0.7 percent month-over-month in March. In fact, both private residential construction (a lot of apartment buildings) and private nonresidential construction were up by the same amount, 0.7 percent, for the month. Public construction, which has been trending down since the onset of hard times for public coffers, dropped 1.1 percent in March.

Year-over-year, the pattern is the same: private construction up, public construction down. Compared with this time last year, there’s 6.5 percent more residential construction and 5.7 percent more nonresidential construction. There’s now more office, industrial, lodging and other commercial construction than this time last year, but fewer religious buildings and not as much entertainment and recreation construction.

ISM Manufacturing Index surprises on the positive

The Institute for Supply Management said on Tuesday that its various manufacturing indexes were all up in April, which flies in the face of reports that the manufacturing sector is cooling off. The organization’s PMI was at 54.8 percent in April, up from 53.4 percent in March, while its employment index and new orders index were similarly up.

Sixteen of the 18 industries reflected overall growth in April, indicating growth at faster rates than in March. The prices index for raw materials was steady, indicating a lull in commodity inflation for now. “Comments from the panel generally indicate stable to strong demand, with some concerns cited over increasing oil prices and European stability,” the report noted.

Wall Street had an upward day on Tuesday, hitting a milestone of sorts when the Dow Jones Industrial Average, up 65.69 points for the day, or 0.5 percent, ended at its highest point since before the recent economic unpleasantness—since 2007, that is. The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq gained as well, up 0.57 percent and 0.13 percent, respectively.

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