Economic Watch: Year Ending With Positive Economic News
December 31, 2013
The final week of 2013 provided some encouraging economic numbers including about holiday sales.
Consumer spending in November increased the most in five months, jumping 0.5% from October, according to the U.S. Commerce Department. It was the seventh straight monthly hike.
The October figure was also upwardly revised to a 0.4% increase.
While eagerly anticipated sales numbers for December won’t be released for about another three weeks, early indications are overall holiday spending saw a healthy increase from a year ago.
Photo: Evan Lockridge
Retail sales in holiday related categories between Nov. 1 and Dec 24. rose 2.3%, compared with 0.7% a year earlier, according to MasterCard Advisors' SpendingPulse report, while overall sales during the period increased 3.5%.
The increases are even more impressive when you take into consideration the 2013 holiday season had six fewer shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas, as well as bad weather that affected sales in some parts of the country.
Online sales during the holiday season increased 40% overall this year by some estimates, but it also led to problems for shipping giants UPS and FedEx, causing some consumers to miss out on receiving purchases they ordered for delivery by Christmas.
Meantime, shipments and new orders for durable goods both increased again in November, according to the U.S. Commerce Department in a separate report.
Shipments increased 1.8% from the previous month to the highest level on record going back to 1992.
New orders for manufactured durable goods jumped 3.5% during the same time, the largest hike in nearly a year, following an October decline.
Some analysts believe the November performance by both durable goods new orders and shipments is further evidence of a firming economic growth outlook, according to CNBC.
Also, pending home sales stabilized in November with a slight gain, according to the National Association of Realtors.
The Pending Home Sales Index, a forward-looking indicator based on contract signings, inched up 0.2% to 101.7 in November from a downwardly revised 101.5 in October, but is 1.6% below November 2012 when it was 103.3.
“We may have reached a cyclical low because the positive fundamentals of job creation and household formation are likely to foster a fairly stable level of contract activity in 2014,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, “Although the final months of 2013 are finishing on a soft note, the year as a whole will end with the best sales total in seven years.”
In contrast, a report from the U.S. Commerce Department shows new home sales in November slipped 2.1% from the month before, while totals for recent previous months were revised sharply upward.
New home sales in October hit a five-year high.