Here’s what’s shaking:
U.S. sales of previously occupied homes jumped to their highest level in three years last month, bolstered by record-low mortgage rates.
The National Association of Realtors said Thursday that sales rose 5.9 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.04 million in November. That’s up from 4.76 million in October.
Previously occupied home sales are on track for their best year in five years. November’s sales were the highest since November 2009, when a federal tax credit that was soon to expire spurred sales. Excluding that month, last month’s sales were the highest since July 2007.
Sales are up 14.5 percent from a year ago, though they remain below the roughly 5.5 million that are consistent with a healthy market.
Applications for jobless benefits increased by 17,000 for the week ending December 15, bringing the total to 361,000, up from last week’s revised figure of 344,000, the Labor Department announced on Thursday.
It’s the first time this measure has risen in five weeks.
The four-week moving average, a “less volatile” figure, decreased by 13,750, bringing the total to 367,750, down from last week’s revised average of 381,500.
The U.S. economy grew at an annual rate of 3.1 percent over the summer, but the economy is likely slowing in the current quarter.
The Commerce Department’s third and final estimate Thursday of growth for the July-September quarter was revised up from its previous estimate of a 2.7 percent annual growth rate.
Growth in the third quarter was more than twice the 1.3 percent growth rate in the April-June quarter. But disruptions from Superstorm Sandy and uncertainty weighing on consumers and businesses from the “fiscal cliff” are likely holding back growth in the October-December quarter. Many analysts predict an annual growth rate of just 1.5 percent for this quarter.
The government’s final estimate of a 3.1 percent growth rate for gross domestic product last quarter is a sharp improvement over its initial estimate of a 2 percent rate – a figure that it later revised up to 2.7 percent based on a buildup in business stockpiles.
As of this writing, oil and U.S. stocks are falling:
The stock market moved between small gains and losses in early trading Thursday. Uncertainty about the approaching “fiscal cliff,” just days away, was top of mind for many traders.
Shortly after 10 a.m. EST, the Dow Jones industrial average was up seven points at 13,259. The Standard & Poor’s 500 was up two at 1,438. The Nasdaq composite index rose a fraction to 3,045.
Also at the forefront for many traders was the news that NYSE Euronext, the parent of the New York Stock Exchange, planned to sell itself to IntercontinentalExchange, an upstart and lesser-known exchange operator based in Atlanta.
NYSE Euronext’s stock surged 31 percent, rising $7.40 to $31.45. IntercontinentalExchange fell $2.89 to $125.42. That signals traders think the proposed deal could be more beneficial to NYSE Euronext than to its potential buyer. The marriage still needs the approval of regulators, and it isn’t clear if they’ll offer it.
The price of oil fell Thursday as talks between U.S. political leaders on a crucial budget deal hit a new snag.
Benchmark crude for February delivery was down 16 cents to $89.82 down in morning trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract jumped $1.58 on Wednesday, the biggest one-day price rise in a month.
In other trading, Brent crude, used to price international varieties of oil, fell 16 cents to $110.20 per barrel in London.
The U.S. national average for gasoline reached its lowest point of the year, falling almost a penny overnight to just under $3.22 a gallon. The average was $3.28 on Jan. 1.
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The Associated Press contributed to this report.