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.
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.