Sales of existing homes bounced back in December from a very weak November but not by much, at plus 1.0 percent for a slightly lower-than-expected annual rate of 4.87 million units.

The outlook for future sales is not good, at least based on available supply of homes on the market which fell sharply to 4.6 months from 5.1 months in November. Rising prices are another negative for the sales outlook, up 1.3 percent for the median to $198,000. At plus 9.9 percent, the year-on-year rate for the median price contrasts sharply with the year-on-year sales rate of minus 0.6 percent.

I’m not yet saying claims have bottomed, but can’t say they haven’t either

At a lower-than-expected 326,000 in the January 18 week, initial jobless claims, which at year-end were not signaling improvement in the labor market, are now signaling at least some improvement. The Econoday consensus had been looking for 330,000. The 4-week average is down 3,750 to 331,500 which is more than 10,000 lower than the month-ago comparison to offer an indication of strength for the January employment report.

But in a partial offset, continuing claims are not coming down. Continuing claims, which are reported with a 1-week lag, rose 34,000 in the January 11 week to 3.056 million for a second straight reading over 3.0 million. Continuing claims had held below 3.0 million through the second half of last year. The 4-week average is up 31,000 in the week to 2.939 million which is the highest reading since August. The unemployment rate for insured workers, which had been as low as 2.1 percent in November, is steady for a second straight week at 2.3 percent.