Economy Watch: Home Prices, Job Openings Up; Fed Chief Address Omits QE3

Home prices nationwide increased slightly on a year-over-year basis, as did job openings. Fed chair Ben Bernanke was mum on the issue of QE3 during an address to teachers.

Home prices nationwide increased on a year-over-year basis by 2.5 percent in June 2012 compared with the same month last year, including distressed sales, according to CoreLogic on Tuesday. (The assessmemt generally agrees with Case-Shiller, except that Case-Shiller is a month behind CoreLogic.) On a month-over-month basis, prices were up by 1.3 percent in June 2012, and that also includes distressed sales. The June 2012 figures mark the fourth consecutive increase in home prices nationally on both a year-over-year and month-over-month basis.

Take distressed sales out of the equation — both short sales and REOs — and prices were up even more, CoreLogic added. Excluding distressed sales, home prices nationwide gained 3.2 percent year-over-year in June 2012. On a month-over-month basis excluding distressed sales, the June increase was 2 percent, the fifth consecutive month-over-month increase.

“Home prices are responding positively to reductions in both visible and shadow inventory over the past year,” Mark Fleming, chief economist for CoreLogic, noted in a statement. “This trend is a bright spot because the decline in shadow inventory translates to fewer distressed sales, which helps sustain price appreciation.”

Jobs Openings, Quits Rate Roughly the Same

Time again for JOLTS: that is, the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Job Openings and Labor Turnover Summary, which is always released on the Tuesday after the monthly employment numbers. According to the latest JOLTS, there were 3.8 million U.S. job openings on the last business day of June, only a slight increase from 3.7 million in May.

The number of job openings in June increased over the year for total nonfarm jobs as well as total private jobs, the BLS said. The number of government  job openings at all levels changed slightly. Compared with this time last year, the number of job openings gained in several industries, including professional and business services, manufacturing, leisure and hospitality and even (slightly) in construction.

JOLTS’ quits rate — the rate at which employees leave their situations voluntarily — can serve as a measure of workers’ willingness or ability to leave jobs, as well as the health of the labor market. In June, the quits rate was essentially stagnant for total nonfarm, total private, and government employment, though it was up year-over-year in all those categories. The number of quits was 2.1 million in June, up from 1.8 million at the end of the recession in June 2009.

The Chairman Talks About Financial Education, but Not QE3

On Tuesday Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke was speaking again to another group — teachers at the Fed in Washington and other teachers by video link at branches of the central bank around the country. Fed watchers wanted to know if any hints of QE3 were going to be dropped; apparently none were.

The chairman did say that financial education is a good thing, and that too much student debt is a bad thing. He also waxed bullish on the long-term future of the American economy, because productivity is high and rising, the U.S. still leads in tech innovation, and the country has a “very healthy immigration rate” plus a “health fertility rate,” meaning better demographics over the long term than for most of the industrialized world, which enjoys neither.

Wall Street is still in a good mood on Tuesday, and the indices were up again as a result. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 51.09 points, or 0.39 percent, while the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq were up 0.51 percent and 0.87 percent, respectively.