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U.S. Housing Starts Tumble in August

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Housing Starts

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)

CEO/Founder Investors King Ltd, a foreign exchange research analyst, contributing author on New York-based Talk Markets and Investing.com, with over a decade long experience in the global financial market.

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Investment

Barclays Tell High Net Worth Investors to Shun Africa and Other Emerging Economies

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Barclays Bank

Barclays to High Net Worth Clients, Stay Off Africa and Other Emerging Economies

Barclays, one of the world’s largest investment banks, has started advising high net worth clients to stay off Africa and other emerging economies.

According to Barclays, despite the recent recovery noticed in emerging-market stocks, investors are better off avoiding the risks that still abound in emerging nations. Barclays Plc, however, advised high net worth clients to focus on U.S equities despite the S&P’s breakneck rally.

The investment bank said emerging economies do not have enough fiscal buffers to spend their way out of the COVID-19 pandemic and will likely continue to struggle in the near-time compared to the US with 12 percent of gross domestic product fiscal-support.

It said the huge US stimulus may halt rebound in emerging-markets stocks as more money is expected to flow into the world’s largest economy and its European counterparts.

“Compared to the U.S., emerging-market economies appear more vulnerable,” said Haider, the London-based managing director and head of global growth markets. “Their central banks have less room to maneuver, their governments may not be able to provide unlimited support and equity markets, given their sector mix, can be more challenged by an economic slowdown.”

Barclays added that even after 33 percent rebound in stocks of emerging markets since the panic selloff subsided in March, stocks are still down by 9 percent from year-to-date while the US S&P 500 stocks are up by 45 percent. Presently, their stocks trading at a 36 percent discount to US stocks, up from 25 percent three months ago.

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Economy

Crude Oil Rises to $43.1 Per Barrel on Production Cuts Extension

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opec 2
  • Crude Oil Hits $43.1 Per Barrel Following OPEC’s Production Cuts Extension

Brent crude oil, against which Nigerian oil price is measured, rose by 1.25 percent on Monday during the Asian trading session following OPEC and allies’ agreement to extend crude oil cuts to the end of July.

OPEC and allies, known as OPEC plus, agreed to extend production cuts of 9.7 million barrels per day reached in April to July on Saturday.

In the virtual conference, delegates agreed that members, including Nigeria and Iraq presently struggling to attain a 100 percent compliance level must keep to the agreement or be forced to do so in subsequent months.

Nigeria, Iraq and others failed to keep to the cartel’s agreement in May after reports show that Nigeria only managed to attain a 19 percent compliance level during the month while Iraq struggled to attain just 38 percent in the same month.

Russia and Saudi Arabia, the two largest producers of the group, warned members to stick to the agreed quota if they want to rebalance the global oil market.

While the errant producers such as Iraq and Nigeria have vowed to reach 100% conformity and compensate for prior underperformance, we still think they will likely continue to have some commitment issues over the course of the summer,” said Helima Croft, head of global commodity strategy at RBC Capital Markets.

The potential return of Libyan output could also cause considerable challenges for the OPEC leadership.

Earlier on Monday, Brent crude oil hits $43.1 per barrel, more than a month record-high, before pulling back slightly to $42.83 per barrel.

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Gold Dips by 2 Percent on Better Than Expected Job Report

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  • Gold Dips by 2 Percent on Better Than Expected Job Report

Gold prices declined by 2 percent on Friday following a better than expected US non-farm payroll report.

The report showed an increase of 2.5 million payroll numbers against a decline of 7.5 million predicted by many experts.

The surprise number boosted investors’ confidence in US recovery as many dumped their haven investment (gold) for the stock market.

“We had significantly stronger-than-expected U.S. payroll numbers – an increase of 2.5 million versus an expectation of a decline of 7.5 million – that 10-million swing has brought forward expectations of the economic recovery in the United States,” said Bart Melek, head of commodity strategies at TD Securities.

Spot gold immediately declined by 1.9 percent per ounce to $1,678.81 while the U.S. gold futures slid 2.6 percent to settle at $1,683.

Gold was also being pressured by stronger yields and a slightly firmer dollar, “meaning the opportunity cost to hold gold in the portfolio has gone up,” Melek added.

The surprise didn’t stop there, US Dow Jones was up 614 points despite the protest going on the US and US-China tension.

Also, NASDAQ rose by 29 points while the S&P index added 50 points increase.

Note: Investors generally increase their investments in gold and other haven assets during a crisis to avert risk exposure and do the opposite once they sense a better economy.

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