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May 1, 2012 at 2:10 PM
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U.S. manufacturing data boosts stocks

NEW YORK, May 1 (UPI) -- U.S. stocks regained some lost ground Tuesday after a closely watched manufacturing index showed business growth faster than expected.

The Institute of Supply Management said the Purchasing Management Index for April came to 54.8 percent. Economists had expected a more subdued 53 percent -- figures above 50 indicating growth.

In early afternoon trading on Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average was added 106.52 points, 0.81 percent, to 13,320.15. The Nasdaq composite index gained 22.93 points, or 0.75 percent, to 3,069.29.

The Standard and Poor's 500 index tacked on 14.04 points, or 1 percent, to 1,411.95.

The 10-year treasury note lost 10/32 to yield 1.954 percent.

The euro fell to $1.3219 from Monday's $1.3239 while the dollar rose to 80.26 yen from Monday's 79.82 yen.

In Tokyo, the Nikkei 224 index shed 1.78 percent, 169.94, to 9,350.95 after a one-day holiday.

In London, the FTSE 100 index added 1.3 percent, 74.45, to 5,812.23.

Homeownership rates down all over

WASHINGTON, May 1 (UPI) -- The U.S. Census Bureau said homeownership has fallen to 65.4 percent, the lowest rate since 1997.

The percentage of homeowners in the first quarter fell 1 percentage point from the same period of 2011.

Concurrently, vacancy rates for rental properties fell from 9.7 percent in the first quarter of 2011 to 8.8 percent January through March this year.

Vacancy rates dropped despite a recent trend of investors buying distressed properties and renting them out.

With the increased demand for rental units, given the high number of people losing their homes to foreclosure, the median price for rent has jumped 5.6 percent over the past year to $721 per month.

The median price of a home has gone the other direction, falling from $143,700 in the first quarter of 2011 to $133,700 in the first quarter of 2011.

CNNMoney reported Tuesday homeownership has dropped across the board for all age groups, all races and in every U.S. geographic region.

In the West, homeownership is down to 59.9 percent. In the Midwest, it has dropped to 69.5 percent. The homeownership rate in the South is 67.5 percent, and in the Northeast it is 62.5 percent.

Manufacturing growth eases back in Britain

LONDON, May 1 (UPI) -- Weaker foreign demand slowed manufacturing growth in Britain in April, research group Markit said Tuesday.

Markit said Britain's Purchasing Managers Index slid after hitting a 10-month high in March.

The index remained positive, as numbers above 50 indicate growth, but the pace of growth slowed as the PMI dropped from March's revised reading of 51.9 percent to 50.5 percent.

While that puts business in Britain on a continued growth trend for five consecutive months, "the rate of increase eased to its weakest in the year-to-date, partly due to a sharp reduction in new export orders," Markit said.

"Where an increase in output was reported, this partly reflected work on existing contracts," the report said.

The index measuring the backlog of orders fell for the fifteenth consecutive month, which shows manufacturers are running lean on new orders.

The report backs that up, as "total new order books fell slightly for the first time in five months in April," Markit said.

In addition, profits are being squeezed by higher costs for "chemicals, eggs, feedstock, fuel, metals, oil and polymers."

On top of that, "a number of companies" said shipping costs were rising.

"Although the expansion in output is a positive in itself, as is a modest increase in employment, manufacturers are still sustaining growth through past demand, a circumstance that cannot continue indefinitely," Markit senior economist Rob Dobson said in a statement.

Construction up marginally in March

WASHINGTON, May 1 (UPI) -- Construction spending rose slightly month-to-month in March, the U.S. Census Bureau reported Tuesday.

Total construction spending reached $808.1 billion, down from the downwardly revised estimate of $807.3 billion in February, the bureau said.

Spending for March was 6 percent above March 2011, when $762.6 billion was spent on construction projects.

Spending on private construction was at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $531.9 billion, 0.7 percent above February's $528.1 billion, the Census Bureau said.

The report said residential construction was at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $244.1 billion in March. Non-residential construction was at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $287.8 billion in February, 0.7 percent above the previous month.

The estimated seasonally adjusted annual rate of public construction spending in February was $276.2 billion, 1.1 percent below the revised February estimate of $279.1 billion, the Census Bureau said.

Educational construction was at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $69.1 billion, 1.2 percent below the revised February estimate of $70 billion, the bureau said. Highway construction was at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $77 billion, 0.8 percent below the revised February estimate of $77.6 billion.

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