In the week ended the 23rd of July, US initial jobless claims fell by 24 000, from an upwardly revised 422 000 to 398 000, while only a marginal drop was expected. For the first time since early April, the claims are back below the important psychological level of 400 000, which might be due though to the usual volatility in July related to shutdowns in the auto sector. The less-volatile 4-week moving average fell from 422 250 to 413 750. Continuing claims, which are reported with an extra week lag, came out close to expectations. In the week ended the 16th of July, continuing claims dropped by 17 000, from an upwardly revised 3 720 000 to 3 703 000. While this week’s claims data are encouraging, they should be interpreted with caution, as July data are always volatile due to the car plant shutdowns and this year additionally by supply disruptions due to the earthquake in Japan.
US pending home sales rose for a second consecutive month in June, while the consensus was looking for a slight drop. On a monthly basis, pending home sales rose by 2.4% M/M, while the consensus was looking for a decline by 2.0% M/M. National data show a mixed picture as pending home sales fell in the Northeast (-0.4% M/M) and Midwest (-3.7% M/M), while they rose in the South (4.4% M/M) and West (6.4% M/M). While the US housing market is still at depressed levels and the outlook remains bleak, the most recent US housing data are somewhat more encouraging as buyers are trying to take advantage of lower prices.