Home price gains slowing but remain strong for year

U.S. home prices rose in October from the previous year at the fastest pace in almost eight years. But price gains slowed in most U.S. cities from September to October, suggesting the increases are leveling off.

The Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller 20-city home price index rose 0.2 percent from September to October, down from a 0.7 percent increase from August to September.

Monthly price gains slowed in 18 of the 20 cities tracked by the index. And prices declined in nine cities, including Chicago, Denver, and Washington.

For the year, prices are still strong, reflecting big gains in earlier months. They have risen 13.6 percent over the past 12 months, the fastest since February 2006.

“Annual returns have been in double-digit territory since March 2013 and increasing,” said David Blitzer, chairman of the S&P Dow Jones index committee. “However, monthly numbers show we are living on borrowed time and the boom is fading.”

The Case-Shiller index covers roughly half of U.S. homes. It isn’t adjusted for seasonal variations, so the change partly reflects slower buying in the fall. The index measures prices compared with those in January 2000 and creates a three-month moving average. The October figures are the latest available.

Growth in jobs, stock market raises consumer confidence

U.S. consumer confidence jumped this month on a better outlook for hiring and overall growth, supporting other signs that show the economy could accelerate in 2014.

The Conference Board said Tuesday that its index of consumer confidence rose to 78.1 in December, up from 72 in the previous month. November’s figure was revised up from 70.4.

Consumer confidence is nearly back to where it was before the partial government shutdown in October. Steady job gains and a surging stock market have made Americans more optimistic about the economy and hiring both now and in the next six months.

“The upbeat consumer mood bodes well for spending in 2014,” said Michael Dolega, senior economist at TD Economics.

Optimism about the job market is at a five-year high. That is a positive sign for a strong December jobs report, which will be released next week.

 

Apple denies role in efforts by NSA to hack its iPhone

Apple Inc. says it played no role in the National Security Agency’s alleged efforts to hack the iPhone, explaining that it was unaware of a recently revealed program apparently aimed at turning the best-selling smartphone into an improvised listening device.

The Cupertino, California-based company said it has never worked with the NSA to deliberately weaken its products, promising that it would “defend our customers from security attacks, regardless of who’s behind them.”

– From news service reports