While Rome burns.

WEST TISBURY, Mass. (AP) — President Barack Obama is taking advantage of idyllic summer weather at Martha’s Vineyard to go bike-riding with his family.

Under clear, sunny skies, Obama and his wife, Michelle, and daughters Malia and Sasha were driven a short distance from their rented home to nearby Manuel F. Correllus State Forest for the bike outing. The 5,100-acre preserve boasts 15 miles of biking trails. The Obamas have gone biking at the forest during all three of their getaways on the posh island off the Massachusetts coast.

Obama arrived last Thursday for a 10-day break from Washington that was interrupted somewhat by developments in Libya.

Factory output is grinding to a halt.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) — Factory output in the U.S. central Atlantic region contracted again this month and new home sales fell to a five-month low in July, adding to signs of a weak second-half economic expansion at best.

The Richmond Federal Reserve Bank said on Tuesday its composite index of factory activity in its district fell to minus 10 as new orders and shipments weakened sharply after a minus 1 in reading in July.

Separately, the Commerce Department said new single-family home sales slipped 0.7 percent to a seasonally adjusted 298,000-unit annual rate, the lowest since February. June’s sales pace was revised down to 300,000 units from the previously reported 312,000 units.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast sales at a 310,000-unit rate. In the 12 months through July, new home sales rose 6.8 percent.

The weak factory output and new home sales may add to worries the economy is on the brink of a second recession.

New home sales are on pace for the worst year in history.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of people who bought new homes fell for the third straight month in July, putting sales on track to finish this year as the worst on records dating back half a century.

Sales of new homes fell nearly 1 percent in July to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 298,000, the Commerce Department said Tuesday. That’s less than half the 700,000 that economists say represent a healthy market.

Housing remains the weakest part of the economy. Last year was the worst for new-home sales on records that go back nearly 50 years.

While new homes represent less than one-fifth of the housing market, they have an outsize impact on the economy. Each home built creates an average of three jobs and $90,000 in taxes, according to the National Association of Home Builders.

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