Economy Watch: NAR’s Pending Home Sales Index; Trucking Volume Trends

The National Association of Realtors’ Pending Home Sales Index reached its second-highest level since September 2013; the American Trucking Associations' volume index remained unchanged last month.


The National Association of Realtors’ Pending Home Sales Index, a forward-looking economic indicator based on contract signings, inched upward to 105.0 in September from 104.7 in August, and is now 1 point higher than September 2013, when it was 104.0. The index is above 100 for the fifth consecutive month and is at its second-highest level since September 2013.

Despite improved housing conditions and low interest rates, tight credit continues to be a barrier for some buyers, according to NAR. About 15 percent of Realtors in September reported clients’ inability to obtain financing as the reason for not closing a sale.

Still, NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun noted in a statement that moderating price growth and sustained inventory levels are keeping conditions favorable for buyers. “Housing supply for existing homes was up in September 6 percent from a year ago, which is preventing prices from rising at the accelerated clip seen earlier this year,” he said. “Additionally, the current spectacularly low mortgage rates should help more buyers reach the market.”

Trucking Growth Flat

In another indirect indicator of U.S. economic health, the American Trucking Associations’ For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index was unchanged in September, following a gain of 1.6 percent the previous month. In September the index came in at 132.6 (2000 = 100), the same as in August and a record high.

Compared with September 2013, the index was up 3.7 percent, down from August’s 4.5 percent year-over-year gain. Compared with the same period of 2013, tonnage is up 3.2 percent this year, ATA noted.

“September data was a mixed bag, with retail sales falling while factory output increased nicely,” ATA chief economist Bob Costello said in a statement. “As a result, I’m not too surprised that truck tonnage… remained unchanged.” He also noted that the third-quarter average was the highest on record. Trucking serves as a barometer of the U.S. economy, representing 69.1 percent of tonnage carried by all modes of domestic freight transportation, including manufactured and retail goods. Trucks hauled 9.7 billion tons of freight in 2013.

Wall Street paused in its yo-yoing on Tuesday, ending the trading day barely mixed. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 12.53 points, or 0.07 percent, while the Nasdaq gained 0.05 percent. The Nasdaq lost 0.15 percent.