US home prices rise at steady pace in July lifted by higher

FILE – In this Aug. 15, 2015 file photo, a for sale sign is posted in front of a home in Miami. Standard & Poor’s releases its 20-city home price index for July on Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2015. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File) by Christopher S. Rugaber, The Associated Press Posted Sep 29, 2015 7:13 am MDT Last Updated Sep 29, 2015 at 11:00 am MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email WASHINGTON – U.S. home prices rose at a solid pace in July, as would-be buyers competed for a diminished supply of available housing.The Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller 20-city home price index climbed 5 per cent in July from a year earlier. That’s up from a 4.9 per cent annual pace in June.Home prices rose in all 20 cities over the past 12 months. San Francisco posted the biggest gain of 10.4 per cent, followed by Denver with 10.3 per cent.Steady job growth and an economic recovery in its seventh year have encouraged more Americans to buy homes. That lifted sales to an eight-year high in July. Yet those buyers have bid up prices in many areas because the number of homes for sale remains limited.The current housing inventory is equal to 5.2 months of sales, below the six months that is typical in a balanced housing market.Price gains were much smaller in many Eastern and Midwestern cities. Home prices were just 1.7 per cent higher in Washington, D.C. compared with 12 months earlier, only 1.8 per cent higher in Chicago, and up just 1.9 per cent in New York.Svenja Gudell, chief economist at real estate data firm Zillow, said the housing market is continuing to improve despite some conflicting trends. New home sales jumped to a seven-year high in August even as existing home sales slipped. Mortgage rates remain low, though it can be difficult for first-time buyers to qualify for a loan.“The market is continuing to heal and find its footing in a new environment, one where highly local factors … matter more than national trends,” she said.The Case-Shiller index covers roughly half of U.S. homes. The index measures prices compared with those in January 2000 and creates a three-month moving average. The July figures are the latest available.Consistent price gains can make homeowners feel wealthier and more likely to spend, providing a boost to the economy. Higher home values also reduce the number of Americans who owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth, a condition known as being “under water.”Still, housing faces several challenges in the coming months. Prices are rising at more than double the rate of wages, which have increased just 2.2 per cent in the past 12 months. That is likely pricing many would-be buyers out of the market.And while mortgage rates are still low, they could be headed up soon. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen has indicated that the Fed may raise short-term rates for the first time in nine years before the end of the year. That would eventually push up mortgage rates.Those trends may already be weighing on sales of existing homes. They slid nearly 5 per cent in August from July’s eight-year high to the lowest level since April, the National Association of Realtors said last week.And fewer Americans signed contracts to buy homes in August. That suggests sales may slip further in the coming months. A signed contract typically precedes a completed sale by one or two months. Still, existing home sales are 6.2 per cent higher than a year ago. US home prices rise at steady pace in July, lifted by higher sales and limited supply read more

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As Syria conflict enters ninth year humanitarian crisis far from over Security

Although fighting in the country has diminished, a growing number of civilians have been killed or injured in recent weeks.Rosemary DiCarlo, head of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, and Ramesh Rajasingham, a senior director at the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), briefed Council members, highlighting the escalating violence in the last rebel-held enclave of Idlib, and the surrounding areas of north-west Syria.Ms. DiCarlo described reports of artillery, mortar exchanges and airstrikes; as well as rocket attacks and raids which are putting a strain, she said, on a 2018 agreement between Russia and Turkey to limit military operations in the area, which created a buffer zone between opposition fighters and Syrian Government forces and their allies.‘Alarming spike in civilian casualties’, displacementMr Rajasingham told the council that the region has seen an “alarming spike in civilian casualties: “last month alone, 90 people were killed, of whom nearly half were children. At least 86,000 people have also reportedly been displaced by this latest upsurge of violence. Health facilities, including a hospital in Saraqeb city, which had been deconflicted with the parties through established procedures, and schools, are reported to have been hit.” Last month alone, 90 people were killed, of whom nearly half were children. At least 86,000 people have also reportedly been displaced by this latest upsurge of violence. Ramesh Rajasingham, director of the Coordination Division, OCHARegarding last week’s capture – by Syrian Democratic Forces backed by a US-led coalition – of the last remaining territory held by the terror group ISIL, Ms. DiCarlo warned that ISIL still poses a threat, and that thousands of civilians fleeing military operations against the group have found their way to al Hol, a refugee camp in Hasakah province: more than 140 of them died on the way to the camp, or once they arrived there.There are now 72,000 people living in al Hol, with thousands more on the way, and there is, said the Peacebuilding chief, a desperate need to maintain and ramp up the humanitarian response. However, she noted that the UN is still awaiting approval from the Syrian Government for humanitarian access for a third convoy of life-saving assistance.Expanding on conditions in al Hol, Mr. Rajasingham said that many newcomers have arrived following gruelling journeys of hundreds of kilometres in open trucks, after prolonged exposure to intense hostilities, extreme deprivation and human rights abuses under ISIL rule. Many show signs of distress, and are suffering from trauma injuries, malnutrition and fatigue.Mr. Rajasingham concluded with a call for continued international engagement to allow the UN to continue running “one of the largest and most complex aid operations ever implemented,” whilst Ms. DiCarlo reminded Council members, “on this grim anniversary,” that the UN Secretary-General has said that it is a “moral obligation and a political imperative for the international community to support Syrians to unite around a vision that addresses the root causes of the conflict and forges a negotiated political solution.” UN Photo/Eskinder DebebeRamesh Rajasingham, Director of the Coordination Division of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), briefs the Security Council on the situation in the Middle East (Syria). read more

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