U.S. Economy

     (CN) – Pending home sales and durable goods orders are up, and jobless benefit claims are down, according to reports released Thursday.
     The National Association of Realtors said Thursday pending home sales rose for the third consecutive month in April and reached their highest level in over a decade.
     NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun said vast gains in the South and West propelled pending sales in April to their highest level since February 2006 (117.4).
     “The ability to sign a contract on a home is slightly exceeding expectations this spring even with the affordability stresses and inventory squeezes affecting buyers in a number of markets,” he said. “The building momentum from the over 14 million jobs created since 2010 and the prospect of facing higher rents and mortgage rates down the road appear to be bringing more interested buyers into the market.”
     The Realtors’ report comes two days after the U.S. Commerce Department reported that new home sales jumped 16.6 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted rate of 619,000, the most since January 2008.
     Sales of existing homes, which make up 90 percent of the housing market, rose in April for a second straight month to an annual pace of 5.45 million.
     In other economic news, the Commerce Department said Thursday that orders for long-lasting manufactured goods rose in April by the highest percentage since January.
     Demand for durable goods jumped 3.4 percent after a 1.9 percent gain in March, the government said.
     The Labor Department reported the applications for unemployment benefits fell last week for the second week in a row, suggesting the economic activity is picking up.
     Weekly applications for unemployment aid dropped 10,000 to a seasonally adjusted 268,000, the department said. Thursday. The four-week average increased to 278,500.
     Applications have been below 300,000, a historically low level, for 64 weeks, the longest such streak since 1973.
     About 2.16 million people are receiving benefits, 3.1 percent lower than a year ago.

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