Economy Watch: Home Price Trends; Reports from the Road

Home prices were up 0.1 percent in July compared with June, the Federal Housing Finance Agency reported on Tuesday; travel on U.S. roads and streets increased 1.5 percent year over year in July, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

More evidence that the residential expansion this time isn’t a bubble: U.S. home prices were up 0.1 percent in July compared with June, the Federal Housing Finance Agency reported on Tuesday. Prices were up 0.4 percent in June compared to May, but more to the point, prices increased only 4.4 percent year over year in July. In June, the increase was 5.2 percent, reflecting a drop that’s been going on much of this year.

The FHFA index is calculated using home sales price information from mortgages either sold to or guaranteed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The index is 6.4 percent below its April 2007 peak and is roughly the same as it was in July 2005.

Among the nine U.S. Census regions, the FHFA reported that price changes in July ranged from a drop of 0.5 percent in the Middle Atlantic (New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania) to a gain of 0.4 percent in the East North Central (Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio). The 12-month changes were all positive, ranging from a gain of 1.6 percent in the Middle Atlantic to an increase of 7.2 percent in the Pacific region (California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Hawaii).

Trucking, Driving on US Roads Edge Upward

The American Trucking Associations’ For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index, which is regarded as an indirect measure of U.S. economic activity, increased 1.6 percent in August, following a gain of 1.5 percent the previous month, the organization said on Tuesday. Compared with August 2013, the index was up 4.5 percent. In August, the index stood at 132.6 (2000 = 100) versus 130.5 in July. August’s index is the highest on record, surpassing November 2013 (131).

In another recently released indirect economic indicator, the U.S. Department of Transportation reported that travel on all roads and streets nationwide increased by 1.5 percent (4 billion vehicle miles) in July 2014 compared with July 2013. Travel for the month is estimated to be 266.8 billion vehicle miles, about where it was before the recession, but no higher. That goes against the historic norm of steady increases since World War II, despite recession-induced dips from time to time.

Separately, the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond reported on Tuesday that manufacturing conditions in its district strengthened in September. Its composite index for manufacturing moved to a reading of 14 following last month’s 12. The index for shipments edged up one point, ending at 11, while the index for new orders also gained one point, finishing at 14. Overall, it was another solid manufacturing report for the region, which consists of Washington, D.C., Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, and most of West Virginia.

Wall Street was down in the dumps again on Tuesday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average losing 116.81 points, or 0.68 percent. The S&P 500 fell 0.58 percent and the Nasdaq was off 0.42 percent.