WASHINGTON -- Sales of new U.S. single-family homes fell for a second straight month in July, but a surge in the stock of properties on the market and a moderation in price increases should help to stimulate demand in the months ahead.
Other data Monday showed activity in the vast services sectors slowed again in August. The reports, however, did little to change views the economy is on a strong growth path, against the backdrop of relatively strong job growth and manufacturing activity.
New home sales slipped 2.4 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 412,000 units, the lowest level since March, the Commerce Department said. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast new home sales at a 430,000-unit pace last month.
The weak new home sales pace is at odds with other data that have suggested the housing market recovery is back on track. New house sales data, however, is volatile month-to-month because of a small sample.
Compared to July last year, new home sales increased 12.3 percent.
In a separate report, financial data firm Markit said its preliminary services Purchasing Managers Index slipped to 58.5 this month from 60.8 in July.
A reading above 50 signals expansion in the services sector. Despite the slight cooling in activity, businesses were upbeat about prospects in the year ahead.
That fits in with expectations of sturdy economic growth in the second half of 2014 and through early next year.
U.S. financial markets shrugged off the weak data. The S&P 500 (^GPSC) vaulted to a record high, crossing the 2,000 threshold for the first time. The dollar was up against the euro.
The housing index rose marginally. Homebuilder D.R. Horton (DHI) fell, while PulteGroup (PHM) rose modestly.
A run-up in mortgage rates, as well as a shortage of homes on the market, weighed on housing in the second half of 2013. But housing inventory is picking up and home price appreciation is slowing.
The inventory of new houses on the market increased 4.1 percent to 205,000 units, the highest since August 2010. With supply increasing, the median home price increased only 2.9 percent from a year ago.
At July's sales pace it would take 6 months to clear the supply of houses on the market. That was the highest since October 2011 and compared to 5.6 months in June.
Six months' supply is normally considered a healthy balance between supply and demand.
Last month, new home sales jumped 8.1 percent in the South, but fell in the Northeast, West and Midwest.
-With additional reporting by Ryan Vlastelica in New York.
Top 10 Financial Rules You Should Break
New Home Sales Fall Again in July as Supply Builds
This is the granddaddy of them all. Start to type "emergency" into Google (GOOG), and the first suggestion is "emergency fund." The rule is to make sure you have six month's of living expenses tucked away in cash in case you lose your job or suffer a financial setback. Of course it's important to have a financial safety net, but when you earn virtually nothing on your cash, this rule can cost you. For example, if six months of living expenses for you is $25,000, you'd be sacrificing close to $1,000 of income a year by keeping this money in a checking or money market account.
For years, I've broken the mold on this financial rule by telling clients they shouldn't have their emergency fund in cash. Instead, choose a shorta-term bond fund that pays 3 percent or higher for your safety net. If you need the money quickly, you can easily sell the fund and get access to the cash. If you don't need the cash -- and these emergency fund accounts are rarely used –- you can still make money on the assets.
Not so fast. There are many good reasons to contribute to a 401(k), such as tax savings, tax-deferred growth and a possible employer match, but there are also good reasons not to contribute as well. Don't blindly dump money into your 401(k) if you don't have an emergency reserve of some sort and there is a chance you will be laid off. It is taking longer for most to find a job, so if you think you may be out of work, make sure you have the resources to pay rent and buy food until you land a new job.
Also, if your employer doesn't provide a match and you are in a low-income tax bracket, it may make more sense to pay the tax now (since you are in a low tax bracket) and invest in a Roth individual retirement account instead. Use this 401(k) vs. Roth IRA calculator to crunch the numbers.
The average age of cars on U.S. roads is 11.4 years. So if you're average, then it may make sense for you to buy a car -– especially a car a year or two old –- instead of leasing. However, if you do not intend on driving the same car for over a decade, a lease may be a much better option. A new study by swapalease.com found it was better to lease than buy based on its criteria. And under certain circumstances, you may be afforded a larger business deduction with a lease compared to a purchase.
Follow this rule, and I'll send you straight to detention. We know college costs are soaring, and we don't want to bury our kids in college debt, so most parents prioritize college saving over retirement saving. Big mistake. If worse comes to worst, Junior can get a loan, work while in school or go to a less expensive school. Basically, Junior has decent options, and you have tough choices.
If you haven't saved enough for retirement, you are stuck. There's very little you can do other than slash your expenses, work longer or both. Save for your own retirement first. That's the financial rule you should follow. If you have amassed so much wealth when your children head off to college that you can afford to help them, go for it. If you haven't, you'd be doing your kids a disservice by jeopardizing your own retirement by paying for their tuition.