Money Daily Brief: US home prices rise for third straight month

American home prices rise for the third straight month and consumer prices fall in Japan.

Mark Ralston/AFP
A builder works on a new multi-storey housing complex in Los Angeles in May. The Case-Shiller index has risen for 3 consecutive months

US home prices rise: The S&P Case-Shiller home price index rose 1.6 percent in July, climbing for the third consecutive month. Home prices rose in 18 of the 20 metropolitan regions on which the index depends, with Minneapolis (which in May posted the largest month-to-month drop in the index's history) and San Francisco posting the strongest gains. Seattle and Los Vegas both posted small losses in home values. Overall, prices were down 13.3 percent from July 2008.

American poverty up: The rate of Americans under the poverty line rose in 31 states and the District of Columbia last year, included two of the nation's four largest states, California and Florida, the Census Bureau reported.

Price check: Japan logged the sharpest consumer price fall since recordkeeping began in 1971, a bad sign for growth as its new government tries to steer the economy upwards. A Bloomberg survey also predicted unemployment reached a record 5.8 percent in August. But stocks were up in Tokyo as the dollar strengthened against the yen, and Japanese Finance Minister Hirohisa Fujii denied claims that he favors a strong local currency.

Hungry dragon: China National Offshore Oil Co. could grab 6 billion barrels of crude in Nigeria, equivalent to about one-sixth of the latter's proven reserves, the Financial Times reported. Separately, a group of Nigerian oil rebels named a mediator for talks with the government ahead of this weekend's disarmament deadline. Oil prices hovered around $67 a barrel.

Bad atmosphere: France Telecom was hit by the 24th employee suicide in a little more than a year and a half. The worker, who had been reassigned, left a note blaming the "atmosphere at work." Unions say the formerly state-run phone operator's restructuring efforts could be partially to blame for the deaths.

In my backyard: South Korean and Chinese support for shipyards could create a supply glut and ultimately slow a recovery in freight and vessel prices. China is aiming to overtake Korea as the largest shipbuilding nation, an effort that could worsen the situation. Separately, creditors of troubled trading firm Hyundai Corp. picked global shipbuilder Hyundai Heavy to negotiate a controlling interest in the company. Both were formerly subsidiaries of Hyundai Group, one of South Korea's mammoth conglomerates.

-- Ben Hancock is a Monitor contributor based in Seoul. For a look at American prospects for deflation, click on US can avoid Japan's 'lost decade' of deflation.

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