Economy Watch: SoCal Home Sales, Small Businesses

Southern California home sales hit a five-year high for September. But small businesses are a little less optimistic in October than they were in September.

Southern California home sales hit a five-year high for September, rising above a year earlier for the first time in 12 months amid gains for mid- to high-end deals, CoreLogic DataQuick reported on Tuesday. SoCal, a bellwether market, experienced a total of 19,348 new and resale houses and condos sold in L.A., Riverside, San Diego, Ventura, San Bernardino and Orange counties last month. That was up 2.9 percent from August, and up 1.2 percent from September 2013.

On average, sales have fallen 9.4 percent between August and September since 1988, when the company started compiling statistics on the SoCal market. Last month marked the first time sales have risen on a year-over-year basis since September last year, when sales rose 7 percent from September 2012.

Foreclosure resales – homes foreclosed on in the prior 12 months – represented 4.7 percent of the SoCal resale market last month. That was down 5 percent the prior month and 6.4 percent a year earlier. In recent months the foreclosure resale rate has been the lowest since early 2007. In the current cycle, foreclosure resales hit a high of 56.7 percent in February 2009.

Small Businesses Feeling a Mite Grumpier

Small businesses are a little less optimistic in October than they were in September, according to the National Federation of Independent Businesses on Tuesday, with its optimism index dropping 0.8 points for the month to 95.3. The index is now five points below the pre-recession average (from 1973 to 2007). Four index components improved, while six declined. Unfortunately, the two that fell the most were job openings and planned capital outlays.

Even so, NFIB owners increased employment by an average of 0.24 workers per firm in September, the 12th positive month in a row and the largest gain this year. Offsetting that, 10 percent reduced employment an average of 2.4 workers. Fifty percent of the surveyed owners hired or tried to hire in the last three months and 42 percent reported few or no qualified applicants for open positions. Twenty-one percent reported job openings they could not fill in the current period, down five points, and the net percent of owners planning to increase employment fell one point to a seasonally adjusted net 9 percent, after a three-point decline in August.

“Small businesses just can’t seem to get out of second gear,” NFIB chief economist Bill Dunkelberg said in a statement. “A decline in job openings and capital spending plans were primarily responsible for September’s index decline. Overall, small business owners are still stuck in a rut that has been difficult to escape.”

Wall Street didn’t fall (much) on Tuesday, but the markets didn’t gain back much either, ending mixed. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 5.88 points, or 0.04 percent. But the S&P 500 was up 0.16 percent and the Nasdaq advanced 0.32 percent.