Economy Watch: CPI Doesn’t Move in November

The Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers didn’t budge in November, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Inflation is pretty much a nonstarter these days. The Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers didn’t budge in November, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Tuesday. Over the last 12 months, the all-items index has increased 1.2 percent.

A drop in energy prices kept the all-items index from moving, but the index for all items, less food and energy, rose 0.2 percent in November. The 12-month increase in the index for all items, less food and energy, remained at 1.7 percent for the third month in a row.

The price of gasoline, which fell 2.9 percent in October, declined 1.6 percent in November. Natural gas also declined, falling 1.8 percent in November for its fifth decline in the last six months. Other kinds of energy became more expensive, however. Electricity rose 0.3 percent in November, its third consecutive increase, and fuel oil rose 0.4 percent in November after declining in October.

Builder confidence remains high

Builder confidence in the market for newly built, single-family homes improved four points in December to a reading of 58, according to the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index, which was released on Tuesday. This gain reflects improvement in all three index components: current sales conditions, sales expectations and traffic of prospective buyers.

The index gauging current sales conditions jumped six points to 64, while the index tracking expectations for future sales rose two points to 62. The index gauging traffic of prospective buyers gained three points to 44, and was the only component below the optimism-pessimism threshold of 50.

“This is definitely an encouraging sign as we move into 2014,” NAHB chairman Rick Judson noted. “The [index] is up 11 points since December 2012 and has been above 50 for the past seven months. This indicates that an increasing number of builders have a positive view on where the industry is going.”

Residential property equity rises in 3Q

CoreLogic reported on Tuesday that about 791,000 more U.S. residential properties returned to a state of positive equity during the third quarter of 2013, and that the total number of mortgaged residential properties with equity currently stands at 42.6 million. The company’s analysis indicates that nearly 6.4 million homes, or 13 percent of all residential properties with a mortgage, were still mired in negative equity at the end of the third quarter of 2013.

Wall Street swung downward again on Tuesday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average losing 9.31 points, or 0.06 percent. The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq were off 0.31 percent and 0.14 percent, respectively.