Today in the News 3

Pending home sales, a forward-looking indicator based on signed contracts, rose 2% in January after a revised 1.9% decrease in December. It was the highest reading since April 2010. On a year-over-year basis, pending home sales are up 8%.

Orders for durable goods — items expected to last three or more years — fell $8.6 billion or 4% to $206.1 billion in January. Economists had anticipated a 0.7% decrease. This follows a 3.2% increase in December. Excluding volatile transportation-related goods, orders posted a monthly decrease of 3.2%.

The Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller 20-city housing price index — on a non-seasonally adjusted basis — fell 1.1% in December after a 1.3% decrease in November. On a year-over-year basis, prices fell 4% compared with December 2010.

The Mortgage Bankers Association said its seasonally adjusted composite index of mortgage applications for the week ending February 24 fell 0.3%. Refinancing applications decreased 2.2%. Purchase volume rose 8.2%.

The Commerce Department announced that gross domestic product — the total output of goods and services produced in the U.S. — increased at a revised annual rate of 3% in the fourth quarter of 2011, compared to the initial estimate of 2.8%. This follows a 1.8% pace of growth in the third quarter of 2011.

Total construction spending fell 0.1% to $827 billion in January from a revised $827.6 billion in December. Economists had anticipated an increase of 1% in January. Compared to a year ago, construction spending rose 7.1%.

Initial claims for unemployment benefits for the week ending February 25 fell by 2,000 to 351,000, the lowest level since March 2008. Continuing claims for the week ending February 18 fell by 2,000 to 3.402 million.

Upcoming on the economic calendar are reports on factory orders on March 5 and international trade on March 9.

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Kathleen Goldstein • Phone: (818)500-8010