Morning Business Memo
Could housing finally become a bright spot for the U.S. economy? For the first time in five years, says the real estate information firm Zillow, home prices have posted an annual increase. The rise is small - just 0.2 percent - but after a long deep slump things are looking up.
"After four months with rising home values, and increasingly positive forecast data, it seems clear that the country has hit a bottom in home values," says Zillow's Chief Economist Stan Humphries. "The housing recovery is holding together despite lower than expected job growth."
The largest price rise over the past 12 months - 12.3 percent - came in Phoenix, one of the hardest-hit markets during the housing bust. The Zillow Home Value Forecast shows in most markets prices will rise modestly over the next year.
Another bright spot - sales of mobile devices. Despite deep caution by consumers and flat retail sales, consumer electronics sales are on the rise, fueled by our love of tablets and smartphones. USA Today reports consumer electronics sales this year are projected to hit $206.5 billion, a rise of 5.9 percent, according to the Consumer Electronics Association. That's up from the group's estimate earlier this year of 3.7 percent growth from 2011.
The world's most valuable company reports second-quarter earnings today. Apple is expected to announce profits of around $10 billion... Cisco Systems says it will be laying off about 1,300 workers, 2 percent of its payroll. Cisco has been working on a turnaround after a difficult few years
Spain managed to find buyers in today's debt auction but the rates rose again. Spain's 10-year debt is now at 7.5 percent - a rate some market watchers call unsustainable. The ratings firm Moody's has lowered its outlook for Germany, Europe's strongest economy.
The Obama administration is becoming increasingly anxious about Europe's debt crisis. In an interview with Charlie Rose on PBS, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner urged Germany not to press too hard for austerity in negotiations with the eurozone's weakest members.
"If you leave Europe on the edge of the abyss as your source of leverage, your strategy's unlikely to work," said Geithner, who added this will "do a lot of damage to the politics of those countries because the human costs of what's happening, not just in Greece but across Europe, now are enormously high and you're seeing that reflected in much more political extremism."