Hello, I'm Mark Pearson. Government reports this week renewed investor optimism, and suggested the economy was on stable footing before the credit crunch took a turn for the worse.
According to the Commerce Department, sales of new homes rose 2.8% last month to an annual rate of 870,000 units. The increase was posted in the aftermath of a 4% decline in June.
The government also reports July orders for durable goods, those big-ticket items with an intended lifespan of at least three years, jumped 5.9% in July... their largest gain in 10 months.
On Wall Street, where the markets have been volatile lately due to concerns over the mortgage market meltdown, the Dow Jones industrials gained 143 points on Friday.
Positive news serves as a ray of sunshine for an economic outlook that, like the weather, seems like it's been gloomy for weeks. And while forecasters say the gray skies are going to clear up, many Midwestern farmers aren't likely to put on a happy face in the wake of torrential rains and flooding.
At the beginning of the week, USDA estimated 54 percent of the soybean crop was in good-to-excellent condition and nearly 60 percent of the corn crop garnered similar ratings. But now, those ratings are in jeopardy after a series of thunder storm systems rolled through the upper Midwest this week. With storm cells constantly reforming over parts of Ohio, Minnesota, and Iowa, at least one analyst says 20 percent of the U.S. soybean crop is vulnerable to flooding.
The storms have continually pounded the plains and saturated the ground. The water, with no where to go, has pushed rivers out of their banks and devastated homes and farm fields alike. According to the American Red Cross, more than two dozen people have lost their lives and thousands of homes have been severely damaged or destroyed. Several hundred remain without a place to live while those who still have homes lack power and drinking water. Early damage assessments for Wisconsin alone exceed $35 million.
Governors throughout the region have called out the National Guard for assistance and begun the grim task of declaring affected counties disaster areas.
In Indiana, the inclement weather is prompting some farmers to consider bringing the corn crop in early. The Hoosier state is in the middle of a moderate to severe drought and USDA has rated only 38 percent of the states corn crop is in good-to-excellent condition. With storms on the horizon, a few growers already have decided to cut their losses and begin harvesting the storm ravaged crop.
And as the week ended, Midwesterners braced for yet another round of severe storms as the National Weather Service predicted more rain for the already water logged region.