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Briefs

Consumer confidence rebounds

U.S. consumer confidence has rebounded to the highest reading in six years, providing a further sign that the economy’s prospects should brighten with warmer weather.

The Conference Board said Tuesday that its confidence index rose to 82.3 this month from a February reading of 78.3. It was the strongest reading since the index stood at 87.3 in January 2008, just as the Great Recession was beginning.

Conference Board economist Lynn Franco said consumers are moderately more upbeat about future job prospects and the overall economy, though less optimistic about income growth.

“Overall, consumers expect the economy to continue improving and believe it may even pick up a little steam in the months ahead,” Franco said.

Consumer confidence is closely watched because consumer spending accounts for about 70 percent of economic activity.

The strength in the index this month came from an increase in consumers’ expectations.

New home sales fall 3.3 percent

Fewer people bought new U.S. homes in February. Sales fell to their slowest pace in five months, a sign that the housing market has yet to recover fully from brutal winter weather.

Sales of new homes declined 3.3 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 440,000, the Commerce Department said Tuesday. That was down from a revised rate of 455,000 in January.

Buying dropped off during February in the Northeast, which was battered by snowstorms. It also fell in Western states, where last year’s price increases have made homes less affordable.

New home sales have declined 1.1 percent over the past 12 months. Despite the seasonal hit by a cold winter, sales are still on track to exceed the 428,000 total from 2013, when they rose 16.3 percent to their highest level in five years.

Most economists expect sales to rebound as the weather improves and the spring buying season begins. Not only does warmer weather bring more traffic to open houses, but families are usually reluctant to move in the middle of the school year.

Ohio counties see jobless rates drop

State officials in Ohio released information Tuesday that showed Defiance, Paulding, Van Wert and Williams counties with lower unemployment last month compared with January.

Van Wert County had the lowest jobless rate at 6 percent, compared with January’s 6.5 percent. Defiance and Williams counties had 6.2 percent, compared with 6.8 percent, respectively, a month earlier. Paulding decreased to 6.4 percent in February from 6.8 percent in January.

US home prices dip for 3rd straight month

U.S. home prices dipped in January for a third straight month, likely because of slower sales in recent months caused by cold weather, a limited supply of homes and higher mortgage rates.

The Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller 20-city home price index, released Tuesday, declined 0.1 percent from December to January, the same drop as the previous two months. That figure is not adjusted for seasonal variations, so the dip partly reflects weaker winter sales.

The index rose a healthy 13.2 percent in January, compared with 12 months earlier. But that is down from a 13.4 percent increase in 2013 and is the second straight decrease.

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