Home prices are rising, experts say, but not as much as some reports may suggest. And to maintain a realistic view of any real-estate recovery, it may be wise to err on the conservative side.
Prices rose by 1.2% in July over the year-earlier period, and 1.6% over the previous month, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index released Tuesday. Housing analysts are generally greeting this as good news, but it looks pallid compared to the most recent National Association of Realtors survey, which came out last week. That report estimated that the median sales price of existing homes rose 9.5% in the 12 months to August 2012, strongest increase since January 2006. July’s NAR report showed a similarly large gain.
A housing recovery may be underway, but there’s an obstacle that appears to be slowing down the rebound: the unusually high number of buyers who walk away from their contracts.
An average of nearly 18% of signed contracts on existing home sales were canceled during the three months ending July, according to data released this month by Capital Economics, an independent research firm. That’s the highest all year and the most since May 2010, when that figure reached 23%; in the five years before the housing slump started, the average never went higher than 10%. Separately, 36% of realtors are reporting some kind of problem with a contract, including cancelations, delays and renegotiations of the sales terms, according to August data by the National Association of Realtors. That’s up from 30% earlier this year.
Since the recession, companies avoided hiring new employees by pushing existing staff to work longer and harder. But experts say employers may have squeezed everything they can out of their workforce — and now have no choice but to start hiring.
Early Thursday, the markets were already anticipating good news on the hiring front: The Dow rose more than 200 points Thursday morning after Automatic Data Processing reported that private businesses added 201,000 jobs in August.
After four years of college, many graduates are ending up in jobs that only require the ability to operate a cash register with a smile.
After commencement, a growing number young people say they have no choice but to take low-skilled jobs, according to a survey released this week. And while 63% of “Generation Y” workers — those age 18 to 29 — have a bachelor’s degree, the majority of the jobs taken by graduates don’t require one, according to an online survey of 500,000 young workers carried out between July 2011 and July 2012 by PayScale.com, a company that collects data on salaries, and Millennial Branding, a research and management consulting firm.
Could a new government program to help distressed homeowners wipe out recent gains in home prices?
On Tuesday, the Federal Housing Finance Agency announced new guidelines that are supposed to make it easier for homeowners to sell their home in a short sale. In a short sale, a home sells for less than the borrower owes on the mortgage. In addition, the new guidelines, which kick in on Nov. 1, allow homeowners with a Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac mortgage to pursue a short sale even if they haven’t fallen behind on their mortgage payments but have a hardship, such as a job loss or divorce.
By snapping up competitor Coventry Health Care, Aetna became the latest insurer to consolidate costs — and coverage — in response to the nation’s health care reform. It’s a trend experts say will likely accelerate in coming months, and one that could have far-reaching impact on consumers and investors.
Announced Monday, the Aetna deal is the third acquisition by a large insurer over the past year: WellPoint said in July that it would buy Amerigroup, and last October, Cigna agreed to buy HealthSpring. But analysts and investors say this is only the first wave. “I think it will be more of a trend going forward,” Lou Stanasolovich, president of Legend Financial Advisors in Pittsburgh, says of the acquisitions. “It changes the playing ground a little bit.”
For large insurers, the mergers are a way to grow membership and lower costs — which could be a boon for investors. For consumers, there will likely be fewer health care providers to choose from, but experts say that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Here is a look at how consolidation of the health insurance industry could impact you.
Didn’t get a raise this year? Blame inflation.
American wages didn’t budge last month, according to Labor Department data released Wednesday. And with inflation remaining at near zero, experts say it could be quite a while before many workers see their next raise.
A Federal Reserve report released Tuesday shows Americans are on the hook for $471 billion in student loans. If only the true number were that small.
As college tuition continues to rise, students and their parents have been signing up for federal student loans at a rapid pace. By the end of September, borrowers are expected to owe a whopping $840.5 billion in federal student loans, according to an analysis of federal budget data by FinAid.org. That’s up 10% from a year prior. Tack on capitalizing interest—most borrowers don’t start paying back these loans right away and in most cases interest continues to accrue—and the figure balloons even higher.
The Rust Belt. The Bible Belt. Now, the “Construction Belt?”
With the U.S. housing market still limping along, new data reveals a building boom of sorts stretching from the Carolinas and Tennessee to Texas and Colorado – and leaving large swaths of the Midwest, Florida and Northeast in the dust. Among the country’s top metro areas for new residential building permits for the first half of 2012, many are in the South, according to analysis of U.S. Census data by online real estate marketplace Trulia. Those include Austin, which tops the list with 13.5 permits per 1,000 existing housing units, followed by Raleigh (11.5) and Charleston (9.8). The new construction, of course, bodes well for these cities and their states, since “markets with construction are those that have long-term growth potential, room to build, and lower vacancy rates,” says Jed Kolko, chief economist at Trulia, which is based in San Francisco.
A federal agency is asking Congress to consider letting people wipe out some of their student debt by filing for bankruptcy protection. Consumer advocates, however, say the move will do little to help the vast majority of families struggling with college loans.
Richard Cordray, director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, suggested the change to the bankruptcy rules Thursday in conjunction with a report criticizing private lenders. A 2005 law preventing borrowers for wriggling free of private student loan debt in bankruptcy failed to prompt lenders to lower rates as promised, he said during a press call.
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