WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Pending sales of existing U.S. homes fell in July from June in the latest sign of weakness in the housing industry, data from a real estate trade group showed on Monday.
The National Association of Realtors Pending Home Sales Index, based on contracts signed in July, was down 1.3 percent to 89.7 from 90.9 in June.
Economists polled by Reuters ahead of the report were expecting pending home sales to fall 1.3 percent.
In a sign of how much the sector has recovered from a year ago, the index was up 14.4 percent from July of 2010.
The association's senior economist Lawrence Yun said the latest monthly reading shows sales activity is underperforming but that underlying factors for sales were improving.
He cited rising rents and "record" affordability conditions as factors that could point to future growth.
"It is now a question of lending standards and consumers having the necessary confidence to enter the market," he said.
(Reporting by Jason Lange; Editing by Andrea Ricci)
FRANKFURT, Germany – The European Central Bank says it spent euro6.65 billion ($9.64 billion) last week purchasing government bonds in an attempt to keep the continent's debt crisis from pushing Italy and Spain into financial collapse.
The purchases announced on the bank's Twitter feed compare to euro14.3 billion last week and euro22 billion the week before.
The purchases raise bond prices and drive down the interest yields on those bonds. Rising interest rates pushed Greece, Ireland and Portugal into needing bailout loans.
Eurozone officials are trying to keep such troubles from spreading to Italy and Spain, which are considered too large to bail out.
The central bank says it expects the eurozone bailout fund to take over the purchases as soon as national parliaments agree on that in coming weeks.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Consumer spending rose at its fastest pace in five months in July, supporting views the economy was not falling back into recession.
The Commerce Department said on Monday consumer spending increased 0.8 percent on strong demand for motor vehicles, after slipping 0.1 percent in June.
Economists had expected spending, which accounts for about 70 percent of U.S. economic activity, to rise 0.5 percent.
When adjusted for inflation, spending rose 0.5 percent last month, the largest gain since a matching increase in December 2009, after being flat in June.
The data was the latest to suggest the economy started the third quarter with some strength after growth almost stalled in the first half of the year.
It also offered hope that output would continue to expand, though at a moderate pace. However, the risks of a new recession have risen following a sharp drop in stock prices and the erosion of consumer sentiment.
"If anybody was concerned about this recession risk people were taking about, this personal spending number seems to be another point against that recession argument," said Jeffrey Greenberg, an economist at Nomura Securities in New York. "It seems at least through July, the economy was not too poor."
U.S. stock index futures held onto earlier gains after the data, while U.S. Treasuries prices added to losses. The dollar held steady versus the euro and maintained slight gains versus the yen.
Industrial production, retail sales and employment data have so far been consistent with a slow economic growth scenario rather than an outright contraction in output.
Consumer spending braked sharply to a 0.4 percent annual pace in the second quarter after advancing 2.1 percent in the first three months of the year.
The overall economy grew at a 1 percent pace in the second quarter after expanding only 0.4 percent in the prior quarter.
Real spending on durable goods increased 2 percent last month, likely reflecting a pick-up in motor vehicle sales as the shortage of autos caused by the supply disruptions from Japan eased.
Overall spending in July was lifted by a 0.3 percent rise in income as employers stepped-up hiring. Income rose 0.2 percent in June and economists had expected a 0.3 percent increase last month.
Disposable income increased 0.3 percent, but when adjusted for inflation fell 0.1 percent -- the first decline since September.
With spending outstripping real disposable income, savings fell to an annual rate of $582.8 billion from $638.6 billion in June.
The report also showed inflation pressures remain elevated. The personal consumption expenditures price index, or PCE, rose 0.4 percent after slipping 0.1 percent in June.
Compared to July last year, the index was up 2.8 percent, the largest increase since October 2008, after advancing 2.6 percent in June.
The core PCE index -- excluding food and energy - rose 0.2 percent for the second straight month.
The core index, which is closely watched by Federal Reserve officials, increased 1.6 percent in the 12 months through July, the largest increase since May 2010, after rising 1.4 percent in June. The Fed would like to see it close to 2 percent.
(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Neil Stempleman)