Further declines in the housing market continued to fuel uncertainty among the nation's small-business owners. Here's a look at this week's economic developments and how they may affect your business.
Home Sales Down
Existing-home sales continued to decline in December, dropping by 2.2 percent to an annual rate of 4.89 million units, the National Association of Realtors reported on Thursday.
For the year, existing-home sales were down 12.8 percent from 2006, the trade group said. Median sales prices fell by 6 percent between January and December to $208,400.
Despite the declines, housing inventories were down by 7.4 percent, leaving 3.91 million homes on the market at the end of December and reflecting a 9.6-month supply at the current sales pace.
"Home prices are lower, mortgage interest rates continue to decline and incomes are higher, but many buyers are delaying a purchase," Lawrence Yun, the group's chief economist, said in a statement.
Gas Prices Drop
Average gas prices nationwide fell by 5.1 cents last week to $3.017 per gallon, the second straight week of declines, the Energy Information Administration reported Thursday.
Despite the reductions, which were spread across all regions, gas prices remained 85.2 cents higher than the same time last year. The largest declines last week were in the West Coast, where prices fell by 5.9 cents to $3.155 per gallon.
Jobless Claims Fall
The number of new claims for unemployment benefits fell by 1,000 last week to 301,000, the Labor Department reported Thursday.
The seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate declined by 0.1 percentage points to 2 percent, reflecting about 2.672 million people filing for jobless claims.
The biggest declines in new claims last week were in New York, North Carolina, and Georgia, while increases were reported in Florida, Tennessee, and Puerto Rico.