New home sales up 6.8 percent last month
More Americans bought new homes in April — evidence that the stronger job market is powering the housing sector. The Commerce Department said that new-home sales climbed 6.8 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 517,000. Sales recovered from a 10 percent dip in March to an annual pace of 484,000. The gains point to the positive momentum created by robust hiring over the past year. Employers have added more than 3 million jobs as the unemployment rate has steadily dropped to 5.4 percent. Those new paychecks are now starting to trickle into the real estate sector, as more people are shopping for homes. Sales during the first four months of the year are 23.7 percent higher than the same period in 2014, although the monthly figures tend to be volatile.
Criminals breach IRS transcript system
Sophisticated criminals used an online service run by the IRS to access personal tax information from more than 100,000 taxpayers, part an elaborate scheme to steal identities and claim fraudulent tax refunds, the IRS said. The thieves accessed a system called “Get Transcript,” where taxpayers can get tax returns and other filings from previous years. In order to access the information, the thieves cleared a security screen that required knowledge about the taxpayer, including Social Security number, date of birth, tax filing status and street address, the IRS said. The IRS said they targeted the system from February to mid-May. The service has been temporarily shut down. The IRS said its main computer system, which handles tax filing submissions, remains secure.
Consumer confidence rises slightly
Consumer confidence rebounded slightly this month as the job market showed signs of improvement. The Conference Board’s consumer confidence index rose to 95.4 in May from 94.3 in April. Last month’s reading had been sharp drop from March’s 101.4. A year ago, the index stood at 82.2. Consumers’ assessment of current economic conditions improved, but their outlook for the next six months slipped. Their expectations for the job market improved, however. Consumers were more likely this month to say they planned to buy a car, home or major appliance within the next six months.
Durable-goods orders declined last month
Orders to U.S. factories for long-lasting manufactured goods fell slightly in April. But a category that reflects business investment climbed for a second month, a hopeful sign that this key sector is starting to revive. Total orders for durable goods slipped 0.5 percent from March, when orders had surged 5.1 percent, the Commerce Department reported. The big swing was driven by changes in commercial aircraft, an extremely volatile category that had jumped in March but fell in April. Orders in the business investment category rose 1 percent in April after a 1.5 percent increase in March.
Nordstrom credit receivables sold to TD Bank
Nordstrom sold its credit card operation to Toronto-based TD Bank Group, handing off to the Canadian bank some $2.2 billion in receivables while inking a deal that will allow the Seattle retailer to manage customer service for the cards and get a cut of future revenue. The move, which involves both Nordstrom’s U.S. visa and private label cards, is not a surprise. Executives have been talking about selling the operation for months, and in an earnings call earlier this month hinted that news was coming.