U.S. Housing Starts Tumble in August
U.S. housing starts fell more than expected in August likely as bad weather disrupted building activity in the South, but a solid increase in permits for single-family dwellings suggested demand for housing remained intact.
Tuesday’s weak housing report came as officials from the Federal Reserve were due to gather for a two-day meeting to assess the economy and deliberate on monetary policy.
It joined a stream of recent soft economic data such as retail sales, nonfarm payrolls and industrial production, which, together with low inflation are expected to encourage the U.S. central bank to leave interest rates unchanged on Wednesday.
Groundbreaking decreased 5.8 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual pace of 1.14 million units after two straight months of strong gains, the Commerce Department said.
Single-family housing starts in the South, which accounts for the bulk of home building, tumbled 13.1 percent to their lowest level since May 2015. Economists said flooding in Texas and Louisiana was probably behind the drop in starts last month.
“We believe that the slowdown in August starts likely owes to a temporary weather effect rather than a substantive shift in the underlying trend,” said Rob Martin, an economist at Barclays in New York. “Excluding the South, housing starts increased a robust 4.2 percent.”
Permits for future construction slipped 0.4 percent to a 1.14 million-unit rate last month as approvals for the volatile multi-family homes segment tumbled 7.2 percent to a 402,000 unit-rate. Permits for single-family homes, the largest segment of the market, surged 3.7 percent to a 737,000-unit pace.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast housing starts falling to a 1.19 million-unit pace last month and building permits rising to a 1.17 million-unit rate.
U.S. financial markets were little moved by the data as investors awaited Wednesday’s outcome of the Fed’s meeting. The broader PHLX housing index .HGX, which includes builders, building products and mortgage companies, fell 0.76 percent.
STRONG HOUSING FUNDAMENTALS
Last month’s decline in starts was largely anticipated as groundbreaking activity has been running well ahead of permits approvals over the past several months, especially in the single-family housing segment.
The drop left starts just below their second-quarter average, suggesting little or no contribution from residential construction to economic growth in the third quarter.
Spending on home building was a small drag on output in the April-June period. Following the report, the Atlanta Fed trimmed its third-quarter gross domestic product estimate by one-tenth of a percentage point to a 2.9 percent annual rate. The economy grew at a 1.1 percent rate in the second quarter.
Demand for housing is being driven by a tightening labor market, which is lifting wages. A survey of homebuilders published on Monday showed confidence hitting an 11-month high in September, with builders bullish about current sales now and over the next six months, as well as prospective buyer traffic.
Housing market strength boosted Lennar Corp’s (LEN.N) profits in the third quarter. Lennar, the second-largest U.S. homebuilder, said it sold 6,779 homes in the three months ended Aug. 31, up 7.3 percent from a year earlier, while its average sales price rose more than 3 percent.
“Conditions seem well aligned for strong new home building. Borrowing costs remain low, the inventory of homes for sale, both new and existing, are relatively low and failing to make meaningful progress,” said Kristin Reynolds, a U.S. economist at IHS Global Insight in Lexington, Massachusetts.
Groundbreaking on single-family homes dropped 6.0 percent to a 722,000-unit pace in August, the lowest level since last October. But with permits for the construction of single-family homes rising last month, single-family home building could rebound in the months ahead.
The single-family housing market is being supported by a dearth of previously owned homes available for sale.
Housing starts for the volatile multi-family segment fell 5.4 percent to a 420,000-unit pace. The multi-family segment of the market has been buoyed by strong demand for rental accommodation as some Americans shun homeownership in the aftermath of the housing market collapse.
(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Andrea Ricci)
Gold Gained Ahead of Joe Biden Inauguration 2021
Gold price rose from one and a half month low on Tuesday ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday.
The precious metal, largely regarded as a haven asset by investors, edged up by 0.2 percent to $1,844.52 per ounce on Tuesday, up from $1,802.61 on Monday.
He said, “The key factor appears to be the (U.S.) currency.”
As expected, a change in administration comes with the change in economic policies, especially taking into consideration the peculiarities of the present situation. In fact, even though Biden, Janet Yellen and the rest of the new cabinet are expected to go all out on additional stimulus with the support of Democrats controlled Houses, economic uncertainties with rising COVID-19 cases and slow vaccine distribution remained a huge concern.
Also, the effectiveness of the vaccines can not be ascertained until wider rollout.
Still, which policy would be halted or sustained by the incoming administration remained a concern that has forced many investors to once again flee other assets for Gold ahead of tomorrow’s inauguration.
Crude Oil Holds Steady Above $55 Per Barrel on Tuesday
Brent Crude oil, against which Nigerian crude oil is priced, rose from $54.46 per barrel on Monday to $55.27 per barrel as of 9:03 am Nigerian time on Tuesday.
Last week, Brent crude oil rose to 11 months high of $57.38 per barrel before pulling back on rising COVID-19 cases and lockdowns in key global economies like the United Kingdom, Euro-Area, China, etc.
While OPEC has left 2021 oil demand unchanged and President-elect Joe Biden has announced a $1.9 trillion stimulus package, experts are saying the rising number of new cases of COVID-19 amid poor vaccine distribution could drag on growth and demand for oil in 2021.
On Friday, Dan Yergin, vice-chairman at IHS Markit, said in addition to the stimulus package “There are two other things that are going with it … one is of course, vaccinations — in the sense that eventually this crisis is going to end, and maybe by the spring, lockdowns will be over.”
“The other thing is what Saudi Arabia did. This is the third time Saudi Arabia has made a sudden change in policy in less than a year, and this one was to announce (the) 1 million barrel a day cut — partly because they are worried about the impact of the surge in virus that’s occurring,” he said.
Also, the stimulus being injected into the United States economy could spur huge Shale production and disrupt OPEC and allies’ efforts at balancing the global oil market in 2021.
Crude Oil Pulled Back Despite Joe Biden Stimulus
Crude oil pulled back on Friday despite the $1.9 trillion stimulus package announced by U.S President-elect, Joe Biden.
Brent crude oil, against which Nigeria’s oil is priced, pulled back from $57.38 per barrel on Wednesday to $55.52 per barrel on Friday in spite of the huge stimulus package announced on Thursday.
On Thursday, OPEC, in its latest outlook for the year, said uncertainties remain high in 2021 with the number of COVID-19 new cases on the rise.
OPEC said, “Uncertainties remain high going forward with the main downside risks being issues related to COVID-19 containment measures and the impact of the pandemic on consumer behavior.”
“These will also include how many countries are adapting lockdown measures, and for how long. At the same time, quicker vaccination plans and a recovery in consumer confidence provide some upside optimism.”
Governments across Europe have announced tighter and longer coronavirus lockdowns, with vaccinations not expected to have a significant impact for the next few months.
“The complex remains in pause mode, a development that should not be surprising given the magnitude of the oil price gains that have been developing for some 2-1/2 months,” Jim Ritterbusch, president of Ritterbusch and Associates, said.
Still, OPEC left its crude oil projections unchanged for the year. The oil cartel expected global oil demand to increase by 5.9 million barrels per day year on year to an average of 95.9 million per day in 2020.
But also OPEC expects a recent rally and stimulus to boost U.S. Shale crude oil production in the year, a projection Investors King experts expect to hurt OPEC strategy in 2021.
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