So far this week, we've continued a string of good news following last week's focus on banking reform. More specifically reports on consumer confidence and the housing market confirm the worst of the recession's detriments are now behind us.
First in December, existing home prices firmed significantly -- up a sizable 4.9% on the median to $178,300 and up 6.4% on the average to $225,400. The National Association of Realtors attributed the gains to a higher proportion of repeat buyers during the month.
The report on new home sales also confirmed the December trend indicating a firming in those prices as well. Their median month on month price rose 5.2% to $231,000 while the average rose 7.6% to $290,600. The year-on-year rate for the average price is now actually up 10.5%.
The conference board's consumer confidence index edged forward in January to 55.9 vs. December's 53.6 in continued welcome news. The assessment of the present situation improved noticeably, up nearly 5 points to 25.0. The present situation added another 7 tenths to 76.5 and is inching closer to the important 80 milestone. A reading of 80 or better for the expectations index is widely considered to be a signal of economic health.
The assessment of the present jobs market has now improved for three straight months. Those saying jobs are hard to get fell again to 47.4% vs. 48.1% in December and 49.2% in November.
And on Wednesday, markets cheered as Fed policy makers kept the funds and discount rates unchanged at very low levels. Their summary assessment is that the economy is strengthening, labor market declines are abating, and household spending is expanding at a moderate rate.