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New home sales rose +3.7% in December after a downwardly revised +6.6% gain in November, but were still down -2.4% compared to December 2017. Sales were highest in the South at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 375,000 (+5.0%), followed by the West (143,000, +5%), with significantly smaller markets in the Midwest (61,000, -15.3%) and the Northeast (42,000, +44.8%). Homes priced from $200,000 to $400,000 made up 51% of sales, compared to 59% in November, and homes priced over $400,000 rose to 33% of sales compared to 28% in November, helping to raise the median sales price by +5.4% to $318,600, and the average sales price by +4.0% to $377,000.
In December exports dropped -$3.9 billion (-1.9%) and imports rose +$5.5 billion (+2.1%) to widen the trade deficit by +18.8% to $59.8 billion. Goods exports dropped notably for petroleum products (-$1.8 billion), and civilian aircraft (-$1 billion), while imports increased for computers and computer accessories (+$1.4 billion), household and kitchen appliances (+$0.7 billion), and cell phones (+$0.6 billion). By country, the largest trade deficits were with China (+3.2 billion to $38.7 billion), the European Union (-$0.6 billion to $15.8 billion), and Mexico (+$2.1 billion to $8.8 billion). December’s deficit increase contributed to raising the annual deficit to a record $621 billion, with a +$270.2 billion yearly services surplus ameliorating a -$891.3 billion yearly goods deficit.
Federal workers returning to the job helped lower the number of unemployed in February, dropping the unemployment rate to 3.8% (-0.2%) despite a well below average 20,000 jobs created during the month. Employment increased for professional services (+42,000), health care (+21,000), and wholesale trade (+11,000), but remained relatively unchanged for manufacturing (+4,000), and dropped for construction (-31,000) and retail (-6,000). Average hourly pay rose $0.11 to $27.66/hr (+0.4%, +3.4% Y/Y), with production and nonsupervisory employees gaining $0.08 to $23.18 (+0.3%, +3.5% Y/Y). The more comprehensive U-6 unemployment rate dropped from 8.1% in January to 7.3%, down from 8.2% in February 2018.
Monday March 11 – Retail Sales
Friday March 15 – Industrial Production
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