Economy Watch: Positive News in Case/Shiller, Consumer Confidence, Restaurant Indices

Tuesday proved to be an upbeat day, and not just because the markets rose. The S&P-Case/Shiller Home Price Indices, the Consumer Confidence Index and the Restaurant Performance Index all turned in results – and they were all very positive.

The data on the U.S. housing market continues to be good. The S&P-Case/Shiller Home Price Indices for February, which were released on Tuesday, showed that average home prices increased 8.6 percent and 9.3 percent, respectively, for the 10- and 20-city composites in the 12 months ending in February 2013. The 10- and 20-city composites rose 0.4 percent and 0.3 percent, respectively, from January to February.

Phoenix, San Francisco, Las Vegas and Atlanta were the four cities with the highest year-over-year price increases. Atlanta recovered from a wave of foreclosures in 2012, while the other three were among the hardest hit in the housing collapse. At the other end of things, three cities – New York, Boston and Chicago – saw the smallest year-over-year price improvements.

Still, all of the 20 major metros improved year-over-year. “Home prices continue to show solid increases across all 20 cities,” David Blitzer, chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices, explained in a statement. “The 10- and 20-city composites recorded their highest annual growth rates since May 2006. Seasonally adjusted monthly data show all 20 cities saw higher prices for two months in a row – the last time that happened was in early 2005.”

Consumer Confidence Up in April

The Conference Board said on Tuesday that its Consumer Confidence Index, which had declined in March, bounced back in April. The index now stands at 68.1 (the chipper year 1985 = 100), up from 61.9 in March. The Present Situation Index and the Expectations Index both improved for the month, driving the overall uptick.

Those consumers saying business conditions are “good” increased to 17.2 percent from 16.4 percent, while those asserting that business conditions are “bad” decreased to 28.1 percent from 29.1 percent. Consumer assessment of the labor market was mixed. Those claiming jobs are “plentiful” edged up to 9.8 percent from 9.5 percent, but those who believe jobs are “hard to get” increased to 37.1 percent from 35.4 percent.

“Consumer Confidence improved in April, as consumers’ expectations about the short-term economic outlook and their income prospects improved,” Lynn Franco, director of economic indicators at The Conference Board, said in a statement. “However, consumers’ confidence has been challenged several times over the past few months by such events as the fiscal cliff, the payroll tax hike and the sequester. While expectations appear to have bounced back, it’s too soon to tell if confidence is actually on the mend.”

Restaurants Operators a Little More Optimistic

Buoyed by positive sales results and a more optimistic outlook among restaurant operators, the National Restaurant Association’s Restaurant Performance Index rose above 100 in March, according to the organization on Tuesday. The index stood at 100.6 in March, up 0.7 percent from February. March was the second time in the last three months that the index stood above 100, which signifies expansion in key industry indicators.

Wall Street had another up day on Tuesday, perhaps influenced by the good housing numbers, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average gaining 21.05 points, or 0.14 percent. The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq were up 0.25 percent and 0.66 percent, respectively.