Economy Watch: Pending Home Sales Dip; E-Commerce Continues Steady Rise

The Pending Home Sales Index dipped. But e-commerce sales for the third quarter of 2013 increased by 3.6 percent compared with the second quarter.

Ahead of housing permit numbers on Tuesday from the government, which is a forward-looking indicator for the housing market, the National Association of Realtors reported on Monday that its forward-looking Pending Home Sales Index, which is based on contracts signed by not closed, dropped.

The index slipped from an upwardly revised 102.7 in September to 102.1 in October. In October 2012, the index was 103.8, and in fact the most recent reading is the lowest level since Dec. 2012, when the index came in at 101.3.

NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun posited in a statement that “the government shutdown in the first half of last month sidelined some potential buyers. In a survey, 17 percent of Realtors reported delays in October, mostly from waiting for IRS income verification for mortgage approval.”

E-Commerce Continues Its Steady Rise 

Late last week the Census Bureau said that e-commerce sales for the third quarter of 2013 totaled $67 billion, an increase of 3.6 percent compared with the second quarter of this year. Total retail sales for the quarter were about $1.14 trillion, which was also a quarter-over-quarter increase, but not as much: 1.3 percent.

Compared with the third quarter of 2012, e-commerce sales were up a sizable 17.5 percent. Total retail sales increase year over year by 4.7 percent. E-commerce sales, according to the Census Bureau, now accounted for 5.9 percent of total U.S. retail sales.

The most recent tabulations of e-commerce sales are consistent with the steady rise in Internet commerce over the last decade. Back in early 2004, online sales accounted for 2 percent of all retail sales nationwide. The recession didn’t stop the climb: at the end of 2007, online sales were 3.6 percent of the total; at the end of 2010, the figure was 4.4 percent.

Wall Street didn’t move much on Monday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average up 7.77 points, or 0.05 percent, and the Nasdaq gaining 0.07 percent. The S&P 500 lost 0.13 percent.