Economy Watch: Greece, Sandy to Cost Many Billions; Home Prices Increase; Chicago Fed: Economic Activity Down in October

3 min read

Greece and Hurricane Sandy, while both different dilemmas, will cost billions to their respective countries. U.S. home prices have increased month over month. And the Chicago Fed reported that economic activity slowed in the month of October.

By Dees Stribling, Contributing Editor 

At the conclusion of the latest round of marathon meetings in Brussels, eurozone finance ministers optimistically asserted that they’ve hit on a formula for putting the Greek economy on a more sound footing. It remains to be seen whether that assertion holds water, but in any case the ministers were willing to offer Greece quite a bit not to default: “Greek debt buybacks, return of Securities Market Programme (SMP) profits to Greece, reduction of Greek Loan Facility (GLF) interest rates, significant extension of GLF and European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) maturities, and the deferral of EFSF interest rate payments,” to cite the statement on the matter by the International Monetary Fund.

Closer to home, but also in the realm of multibillion-dollar problems, a new estimate of the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy was released by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday. According to the governor, the state will need $41.9 billion. Some $32.8 billion of that total would go for repairs to housing, parks, and infrastructure, and other expenses. The other $9.1 billion would be to mitigate potential damage from future disasters. NJ Gov. Chris Christie released his own damage estimate for New Jersey on Friday, which his office put at $29.4 billion.

LPS: Home Prices Increase in Many Markets

Ahead of Case-Shiller, which will report a three-month average for U.S. home prices on Tuesday, LPS–Lender Processing Services–reported on Monday that its Home Price Index (HPI) for September was up 0.1 percent month-over-month. The index’s annual increase was 3.6 percent.

Some of the hardest-hit metro areas saw healthy monthly increases in September, according to LPS. Phoenix, for instance, experienced the largest increase of any MSA, 1.3 percent. Other major metro area home-price winners included Atlanta and Baltimore, both of which enjoyed 0.8 percent increases. Bridgeport, Conn., saw the largest price drop among U.S. MSAs, down 0.9 percent for the month.

Each month, the LPS HPI reports five price levels (quintiles) and corresponding discounts from these normal market prices for foreclosure and short sales for each of more than 15,500 U.S. ZIP codes. According to the company, combining property and loan data in its repeat sales analysis, the LPS HPI covers about 83 percent of single-family residential properties in the country.

Chicago Fed Says Economic Activity Slowed in October 

Led by declines in production-related indicators, the Chicago Fed reported on Monday that its National Activity Index (CFNAI) decreased to –0.56 in October from 0.00 in September. All four broad categories of indicators that make up the index decreased month-over-month, and only two made positive contributions to the index in October.

The index’s three-month moving average, the ponderously named CFNAI-MA3, decreased from –0.36 in September to –0.56 in October, which represented its eighth consecutive reading below zero. October’s CFNAI-MA3 means that growth continued to be below its historical trend. More positively, the CFNAI-MA3 at this level suggests subdued inflationary pressure over the coming year.

Wall Street ended Monday mixed (but Asian stocks were up Monday night on news of the Greek deal). The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 42.31 points, or 0.33 percent, and the S&P 500 was down 0.2 percent. The Nasdaq, by contrast, gained 0.33 percent.

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