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Economy

U.S. existing home sales drop to two-year low in May

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A “For Sale” sign is posted outside a residential home in the Queen Anne neighborhood near the Space Needle in Seattle, Washington, U.S. May 14, 2021. REUTERS/Karen Ducey/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. existing home sales tumbled to a two-year low in May as prices jumped to a record high – topping the $400,000 mark for the first time – and as mortgage interest rates increased further, sidelining first-time buyers from the market.

Existing home sales fell 3.4% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.41 million units last month, the lowest level since June 2020 when sales were rebounding from the COVID-19 lockdown slump, the National Association of Realtors said on Tuesday. It was the fourth straight monthly sales decline.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast sales decreasing to a rate of 5.40 million units. Sales rose in the Northeast, but fell in the Midwest, the West and densely populated South.

Home resales, which account for the bulk of U.S. home sales, tumbled dropped 8.6% on a year-on-year basis.

May’s sales were mostly closings on contracts signed one to two months ago before mortgage rates started accelerating amid a surge in inflation expectations and aggressive interest rate hikes from the Federal Reserve.

The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage jumped 55 basis points last week to a 13-1/2-year high average of 5.78%, according to data from mortgage finance agency Freddie Mac (OTC:FMCC). That was the largest one-week increase since 1987. The rate has surged more than 250 basis points since January.

The housing market, the sector most sensitive to interest rates, is losing speed. But this could help to bring housing supply and demand back into alignment and lower prices.

The median existing house price accelerated 14.8% from a year earlier to an all-time high of $407,600 in May. Sales remained concentrated in the upper-price end of the market amid a paucity of entry-level houses.

The NAR revised house prices going to 2021 after data for the West was incorrectly captured.

There were 1.16 million previously owned homes on the market, up 12.6% from April and down 4.1% from a year ago. With demand cooling, monthly supply is likely to continue steadily improving. The government reported last week that housing completions in May increased to the highest level since 2007, while the backlog of homes yet to be built hovered near record highs.

At May’s sales pace, it would take 2.6 months to exhaust the current inventory of existing homes, up from 2.5 months a year ago. A six-to-seven-month supply is viewed as a healthy balance between supply and demand.

Properties typically remained on the market for 16 days First-time buyers accounted for 27% of sales. All-cash sales made up 25% of transactions.

Economy

Euro gains traction ahead of inflation data, dollar steadies

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© Reuters. A shopper pays with a ten Euro bank note at a local market in Nice, France, June 7, 2022. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard

By Tom Westbrook

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – The euro won support on Tuesday as traders braced for European inflation figures to run hot this week and awaited a speech from central bank chief Christine Lagarde, while worries about a recession kept the U.S. dollar firm.

The euro rose 0.3% overnight and at one point poked above its 50-day moving average. It last sat at $1.0578.

The dollar held modest overnight gains on other currencies and traded at 135.37 yen and $0.6936 per Australian dollar early in the Asia session.

German inflation figures are due on Wednesday, French data on Thursday and euro zone numbers on Friday. European Central Bank President Lagarde is also due to speak at the ECB forum in Sintra, Portugal, at 0800 GMT on Tuesday.

“This set of inflation data will have a significant influence on the ECB’s monetary policy forward guidance, especially on the trajectory … of its interest rate hike cycle that is expected to kick start in July,” said CMC analyst Kelvin Wong.

Hike expectations have the euro trading firmly against the yen and it last bought 143.28 yen, close to last week’s seven-year high of 144.24. It also has momentum on sterling and has gained 1.2% this month to 86.15 pence.

The weak spot is against the Swiss franc which has rocketed to test parity on the common currency following a surprise rate hike by the Swiss National Bank earlier in June.

Moves elsewhere were modest as traders try and navigate between relief that signs of weakness in recent global economic data can moderate rate hikes, and worry that it could be a harbinger of the onset of a difficult period of stagflation.

Some of the heat has come out of bets on U.S. interest rate rises, with the peak in the Federal Reserve’s benchmark funds rate now seen hovering around 3.5% next year rather than 4% or above, but the dollar has not yet fallen far from lofty peaks.

The U.S. dollar index struck a two-decade high of 105.79 this month and was last steady at 103.93.

The risk-sensitive Australian and New Zealand dollars have been left behind in last week’s stock market bounce. The kiwi was steady at $0.6306 on Tuesday.

Sterling was similarly becalmed at $1.2274.

“Stay long the dollar until some of the uncertainty has reduced,” said Societe Generale (OTC:SCGLY) strategist Kit Juckes.

“The dollar will fall likely only when the global economy is on a more sustainable growth path … markets are forward-looking, but all we can see ahead today is danger.”

========================================================

Currency bid prices at 0130 GMT

Description RIC Last U.S. Close Pct Change YTD Pct High Bid Low Bid

Previous Change

Session

Euro/Dollar

$1.0579 $1.0583 +0.00% -6.91% +1.0586 +1.0571

Dollar/Yen

135.3050 135.4600 -0.12% +17.63% +135.5850 +135.3000

Euro/Yen

143.15 143.35 -0.14% +9.84% +143.4500 +143.1300

Dollar/Swiss

0.9558 0.9562 -0.07% +4.75% +0.9567 +0.9555

Sterling/Dollar

1.2274 1.2265 +0.07% -9.24% +1.2283 +1.2263

Dollar/Canadian

1.2866 1.2872 -0.05% +1.76% +1.2878 +1.2858

Aussie/Dollar

0.6929 0.6925 +0.09% -4.65% +0.6938 +0.6918

NZ

Dollar/Dollar 0.6300 0.6302 -0.02% -7.96% +0.6307 +0.6293

All spots

Tokyo spots

Europe spots

Volatilities

Tokyo Forex market info from BOJ

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Economy

UK’s Northern Ireland trade law clears first parliamentary hurdle

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A truck drives past a ‘money changed’ sign for euro, sterling and dollar currencies on the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, in Jonesborough, Northern Ireland, May 19, 2022. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

LONDON/DUBLIN (Reuters) -Legislation allowing Britain to scrap some of the rules on post-Brexit trade with Northern Ireland on Monday passed the first of many parliamentary tests, as Prime Minister Boris Johnson pressed on with plans that have angered the European Union.

Despite some fierce criticism, lawmakers voted 295 to 221 in favour of the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill, which would unilaterally overturn part of Britain’s divorce deal from the EU agreed in 2020. The bill now proceeds to line-by-line scrutiny.

Tensions with the EU have simmered for months after Britain accused Brussels of insisting on a heavy-handed approach to the movement of goods between Britain and Northern Ireland – checks needed to keep an open border with EU member Ireland.

Johnson has described the changes he is seeking as “relatively trivial” and ministers insist the move does not break international law, but the EU has started legal proceedings against Britain over its plans.

“While a negotiated outcome remains our preference – the EU must accept changes to the Protocol itself,” Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said on Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) after the vote.

Asked if the changes set out in the new bill could be implemented this year, Johnson told broadcasters: “Yes, I think we could do it very fast, parliament willing”.

Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May, was one of several from his Conservative Party to criticise their leader.

“This bill is not, in my view, legal in international law, it will not achieve its aims and it will diminish the standing of the United Kingdom in the eyes of the world, and I cannot support it,” she said.

Ahead of the vote, Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said the bill would not lead to a sustainable solution and would only add to uncertainty in Northern Ireland.

“I am hugely disappointed that the British government is continuing to pursue its unlawful unilateral approach on the Protocol on Northern Ireland,” he said in a statement.

Johnson has a majority to push the law through the House of Commons, though the vocal group of rebels will add to concerns about his authority following his survival in a confidence vote on June 6 and the embarrassing loss of two parliamentary seats on Friday.

The bill will face a bigger challenge when it eventually moves to the upper house, the unelected House of Lords, where the government doesn’t have a majority and many peers have expressed concern about it.

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Economy

U.S. stocks fall after recent big gains; oil, yields rise

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2/2

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Pedestrians wearing protective masks are reflected on an electronic board displaying various company’s stock prices outside a brokerage in Tokyo, Japan, February 25, 2022. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

2/2

By Caroline Valetkevitch

NEW YORK (Reuters) – U.S. stocks ended a volatile trading session slightly lower on Monday after posting sharp gains the week before, while oil prices and Treasury yields rose.

Oil climbed following last week’s rout, as the Group of Seven nations promised to tighten the squeeze on Russia’s finances with new sanctions that include a plan to cap the price of Russian oil.

Investors have been hoping oil’s slide from three-month peaks hit earlier in June could ease overall inflation concerns and allow the U.S. Federal Reserve to tighten policy less aggressively than initially feared.

Still, data on Monday showed new orders for U.S.-made capital goods and shipments increased solidly in May, pointing to sustained strength in business spending on equipment in the second quarter.

Stocks moved between gains and losses during the session on Wall Street, with big growth shares leading the way down.

“It’s not shocking given we’re in a bear market that last week was a good week and this week is turning out to be a bad week,” said Jake Dollarhide, chief executive officer of Longbow Asset Management in Tulsa, Oklahoma, which has about $50 million in assets under management.

But given recent strong selloffs, “flat to down a little is progress,” he said.

The S&P 500 earlier this month confirmed it is in a bear market.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 62.42 points, or 0.2%, to 31,438.26, the S&P 500 lost 11.63 points, or 0.30%, to 3,900.11 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 83.07 points, or 0.72%, to 11,524.55.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index rose 0.52% and MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe gained 0.31%.

A further easing of COVID-19 restrictions in China helped to support global indexes.

Treasury yields climbed after the capital and durable goods orders surprised to the upside, but the sale of two- and five-year notes was weak.

The 10-year note rose 7 basis points to 3.194% and the two-year’s yield, which can herald rate expectations, gained 6.9 basis points to 3.126%.

Brent crude futures settled up $1.97, or 1.7%, at $115.09 a barrel, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude closed up $1.95, or 1.8%, at $109.57.

In foreign exchange, Russia’s rouble was volatile as Russia defaulted on its international bonds for the first time in more than a century, the White House and Moody’s (NYSE:MCO) credit agency said.

Also, the U.S. dollar edged lower versus its major rivals as investors weighed expectations on inflation and rate hikes. The euro was helped by expectations that the European Central Bank will soon raise interest rates for the first time in more than a decade.

The dollar index fell 0.058%, with the euro up 0.23% to $1.0578.

Cryptocurrencies stumbled. Bitcoin last fell 0.59% to $20,905.04.

Spot gold dropped 0.2% to $1,822.89 an ounce.

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