Home Price Increases Continue to Slow

More evidence that the residential expansion this time isn’t a bubble: According to the Federal Housing Finance Agency, U.S. home prices were up 0.1 percent in July compared with June.

More evidence that the residential expansion this time isn’t a bubble: According to the Federal Housing Finance Agency on Tuesday, U.S. home prices were up 0.1 percent in July compared with June. Prices were up 0.4 percent in June compared to May, but more to the point, prices year-over-year have increased only 4.4 percent in July; in June, the increase was 5.2 percent, reflecting a drop that’s been going on much of this year.

The FHFA index is calculated using home sales price information from mortgages either sold to or guaranteed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The index is 6.4 percent below its April 2007 peak and is roughly the same as it was in July 2005.

For the nine census divisions, the FHFA says that monthly price changes in July 2014 ranged from a drop of 0.5 percent in the Middle Atlantic division (New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania) to a gain of 0.4 percent in the East North Central division (Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio). The 12-month changes were all positive, ranging from a gain of 1.6 percent in the Middle Atlantic division to an increase of 7.2 percent in the Pacific division (California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Hawaii).

Trucking, driving on US roads edge upward

The American Trucking Associations’ For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index, which is an indirect measure of U.S. economic activity, increased 1.6 percent in August, following a gain of 1.5 percent the previous month, according to the organization on Tuesday. Compared with August 2013, the index was up 4.5 percent. In August, the index stood at 132.6 (2000 = 100) versus 130.5 in July. August’s index is the highest on record, surpassing November 2013 (131.0).

In another recently released indirect economic indicator, the U.S. Department of Transportation reported that travel on all roads and streets nationwide increased by 1.5 percent (4 billion vehicle miles) in July 2014 compared with July 2013. Travel for the month is estimated to be 266.8 billion vehicle miles, which is about where it was before the recession, but no higher. That goes against the historic norm (post- WWII) of steady increases in total U.S. driving, despite recession-induced dips from time to time.

Separately, the Richmond Fed reported on Tuesday that manufacturing conditions in its district strengthened in September. Its composite index for manufacturing moved to a reading of 14 following last month’s 12. The index for shipments edged up one point, ending at 11, while the index for new orders also gained one point, finishing at 14. Overall, it was another good regional report for manufacturing (the Richmond district consists of D.C., Virginia, Maryland, the Carolinas and most of West Virginia).

Wall Street was down in the dumps again on Tuesday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average losing 116.81 points, or 0.68 percent. The S&P 500 fell 0.58 percent and the Nasdaq was off 0.42 percent.