Economy Watch: Home Prices Continue Upward Trajectory

More evidence that the housing market is in recovery mode.

More evidence that the housing market is in recovery mode: CoreLogic reported on Tuesday that home prices nationwide, including distressed sales, were up 10.5 percent in March 2013 compared to March 2012. According to the company, that’s the largest year-over-year increase since March 2006. The month-over-month increase in March was 1.9 percent.

Take distressed sales out of the equation, and the result is almost the same, with U.S. home prices increasing year-over-year by 10.7 percent in March 2013. On a month-over-month basis, excluding distressed sales, prices were up 2.4 percent in March. Per CoreLogic definition, distressed sales include both short sales and REOs.

“For the first time since March 2006, both the overall index and the index that excludes distressed sales are above 10 percent year-over-year,” Mark Fleming, chief economist for CoreLogic, noted in a press statement. “The pace of appreciation has been accelerating throughout 2012 and so far in 2013, leading into the home buying season.”

Job openings edge down

The Bureau of Labor Statistics released its latest JOLTS on Tuesday—Job Openings and Labor Turnover Summary—as it does every month following the report on the employment situations. According to JOLTS, there were 3.8 million job openings on the last business day of March, down a bit from 3.9 million in February. The hires rate (3.2 percent) and separations rate (3.1 percent) were little changed in March.

The number of job openings, which is one measure of the health of the employment market, has essentially moved sideways in recent years. As more job openings appear in some industries, others disappear in other industries. For example, according to the BLS, openings decreased over that last 12 months for nondurable goods manufacturing and federal government, while openings increased over the year for accommodation and food services.

The quits rate is another indicator published by the BLS every month in JOLTS. Quits are generally voluntary separations initiated by the employee, and so the quits rate can serve as a measure of workers’ willingness or ability to leave jobs. In March, the rate didn’t budge, coming in at 1.6 percent. Lately the quits rate has been stagnant; the number of quits was little changed over the 12 months ending in March for both private employers and government.

Consumer credit increases

The Federal Reserve said on Tuesday that U.S. consumer credit increased at an annualized rate of 5.75 percent during the first quarter of 2013. Revolving credit was little changed, but nonrevolving credit—mainly student loans—increased at an annualized rate of 8 percent. In March, consumer credit increased at an annualized rate of 3.4 percent.

Wall Street didn’t spike too much on Tuesday, but there was enough upward movement to set a record for the Dow Jones Industrial Average. The index was up 87.31 points, or 0.58 percent, to close above 15,000 for the first time ever. The S&P 500 gained 0.52 percent and the Nasdaq advanced 0.11 percent.