New home sales rose 1.5% in March to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 417,000 units from a rate of 411,000 units in February. On a year-over-year basis, new home sales were 18.5% higher than March 2012. At the current sales pace, there is a 4.4-month supply of new homes on the market.
The Mortgage Bankers Association said its seasonally adjusted composite index of mortgage applications for the week ending April 19 rose 0.2%. Purchase volume rose 0.3%. Refinancing applications increased 0.3%.
Existing home sales fell 0.6% in March to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.92 million units from 4.95 million units in February. Compared to a year ago, existing home sales were up 10.3% in March. The inventory of unsold homes on the market rose 1.6% to 1.93 million in March, a 4.7-month supply at the current sales pace, up from a 4.6-month supply in February.
Orders for durable goods — items expected to last three or more years — decreased $13.1 billion, or 5.7%, to $216.3 billion in March. This follows a 4.3% increase in February. Excluding volatile transportation-related goods, March orders posted a monthly decrease of 1.4%.
The Commerce Department announced that gross domestic product — the total output of goods and services produced in the U.S. — increased at an annual rate of 2.5% in the first quarter of 2013. This follows a 0.4% pace of growth in the fourth quarter of 2012.
Initial claims for unemployment benefits for the week ending April 20 fell by 16,000 to 339,000. Continuing claims for the week ending April 13 fell by 93,000 to 3 million, a recovery low. The less volatile four-week average of claims for unemployment benefits was 357,500.
Upcoming on the economic calendar are reports on pending home sales on April 29, the housing price index on April 30 and construction spending on May 1.