Five Vital Economic Signs That Have Turned Positive

by: The Good News Economist

Let's start the week with a recap of last week's good news...

1. New Home Sales

Although there are still foreclosures flooding many markets, sales of new homes were up 4.7 percent in February from January. (And January's figures were revised higher.) The sales represent the first monthly gain since July.

2. Durable Goods

Also for the first time since July, orders for manufactured goods expected to last at least three years, spiked up in Feb. You may remember that most experts were expecting them to fall instead. And orders for non- defense capital goods, a key indicator of business investment plans, surged 6.6 percent.

3. Home Resales

Sales of previously occupied homes went up 5.1 percent in February from Jan. Buyers took advantage of a market that pushed the median price down 16 percent from a year earlier. Mortgage rates are historically low, and a new $8,000 tax credit for first-time homebuyers also could further lift sales.

4. Retail Sales

Shoppers bought a few more necessities in February, offering some hope for stores. Retail sales dipped only 0.1 percent, and they actually rose in January. J.C. Penney (NYSE:JCP) and Target (NYSE:TGT) said their same-store sales were down but not as sharply as expected. Consumer confidence is also up significantly.

5. Wall Street

The stock market has finally caught a break. Major banks such as Citigroup and Bank of America have said they were profitable in January and February, and many on Wall Street have embraced the details of the Obama administration's plan to relieve banks of toxic assets.

Five more vital signs to look for this week:

Monday we get a look at Farm prices. Farm prices are monitored by analysts to give early warnings of inflation or deflationary pressures in the economy.

Tuesday we'll see the S&P/Case-Shiller® home price index which tracks monthly changes in the value of residential real estate.

Wednesday the pending home sales index is a leading indicator of housing activity.

Thursday we get a factory orders report. It represent the dollar level of new orders for both durable and nondurable goods. This report gives more complete information than the durable goods report release earlier.

And Friday we get the ISM non-manufacturing survey. In recent years it has gained more attention and is almost as widely followed as the manufacturing index which will follow a week after. This report also carriers a correlation with GDP growth rate giving us another data point into what that calculation may be this quarter.