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Author Archives: Mark Lieberman

Mark Lieberman is the former Senior Economist at Fox Business Network. He is now Managing Director and Senior Economist at Economics Analytics Research. He can be heard each Friday on The Morning Briefing on POTUS on Sirius-XM Radio 124.

Case-Shiller Indices Post Record Monthly Gains

Home prices posted their strongest monthly gain on record in April, increasing more than 2.5 percent, according to the Case-Shiller Home Price Indices released Tuesday. The monthly 20-city index rose 2.5 percent in April, while the companion 10-city index increased 2.6 percent. Year-over-year, the 20-city index was up 12.1 percent, and the 10-city index was up 11.6 percent, each being the strongest yearly gain since March 2006.

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Commentary: We’re Forever Seeing Bubbles

The recent jump in home prices has led to speculation that the rapid surge in home prices could be the sign of a new housing bubble similar to the one that led to the Great Recession. Is it? The not-so-short answer is, not yet. An increase in prices itself does not signal a bubble. An unsustainable increase, not supported by other data, however, would. In the run-up to the 2006 collapse, the higher prices--which had been trending up for four years--led to a sharp uptick in construction wholly unsupported by demographics.

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Existing-Home Sales, Prices Jump in May

Existing-home sales rose a solid 4.2 percent in May to an annual sales rate of 5.18 million, the highest level since November 2009, the National Association of Realtors reported Thursday. Economists had expected existing-home sales to hit 5.0 million. The median price of an existing home jumped $16,200 (8.4 percent) for the month and was up $27,700 (15.4 percent) from May 2012. The inventory of homes for sale rose to 2.22 million from 2.15 million in April.

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First-Time Jobless Claims in Surprise Jump

First-time claims for unemployment insurance jumped a surprising 18,000 to 354,000, for the week ending June 15, the Labor Department reported Thursday. Economists expected a more modest increase to 340,000 from the prior week. Claims filings for the week ending June 8 were revised up to 336,000 from the originally reported 334,000.

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Upbeat FOMC Votes No Change in Stimulus

With a somewhat upbeat assessment of the economy, the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) said Wednesday it would continue its policy of near-zero interest rates and its $85-billion-per-month bond-buying program. In the statement issued at the conclusion of its two-day meeting, the committee said it ""sees the downside risks to the outlook for the economy and the labor market as having diminished since the fall,"" a more optimistic assessment than May 1 when the Committee said it ""continues to see downside risks to the economic outlook.""

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Single-Family Starts Flat Despite Confidence Surge

One day after the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) reported the sharpest boost in builder confidence in seven years, the Census Bureau and HUD reported single-family starts were essentially flat in May, increasing just 0.3 percent. The Census/HUD report Tuesday showed total starts improved 6.8 percent in May, while total permits fell 3.1 percent.

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Builder Confidence Surges to 7-Year High in June

Builder confidence surged eight points in June to 52, its highest reading since March 2006, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) reported Monday. It was the first positive (above 50) reading for the association’s Housing Market Index (HMI) since April 2006. Two of the three components of the index--builder assessment of current sales and of sales six months in the future--were also positive. The current sales index rose eight points to 56, and the future sales index jumped nine points to 61.

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Commentary: Eminent Digression

In a newly published paper posted on the New York Federal Reserve website, Robert Hockett, a Cornell University professor of financial and monetary law, proposes using government's eminent domain authority as a solution to underwater mortgage debt. In reviewing Hockett's suggestion, the Wall Street Journal concentrated not on the idea itself, but on the fact that Hockett ""turns out to have been on the payroll of none other than Mortgage Resolution Partners."" There may be a lot of good reasons to discard Hockett's suggestion, but his past relationships are not among them. His idea deserves a fair hearing, not a digression.

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Autos Boost May Retail Sales

Driven by stronger auto sales but held back by falling gasoline sales, total retail sales increased 0.6 percent in May, the Census Bureau reported Thursday. Economists had expected sales to increase 0.5 percent. In April, retail sales rose 0.1 percent.

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First-Time Jobless Filings Continue Down

First time claims for unemployment insurance fell to 334,000, for week ended June 8, the lowest level in a month dropping 12,000 after increasing 13,000 one week earlier the Labor Department reported Thursday. Economists expected initial claims to increase to 350,000 from the prior week.

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