South Orange County Blog from Bob Phillips

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – September 21, 2015

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week September 21 2015Last week’s economic releases included several reports related to housing. The Wells Fargo/ NAHB Housing Market Index achieved its highest reading in nearly 10 years. Housing Starts dipped in August and Building Permits issued in August exceeded July expectations. The week’s big news was actually no news. The Fed’s Federal Open Market Committee decided not to raise interest rates. Fed Chair Janet Yellen followed up on the FOMC statement with a press conference and said that the Fed is not yet ready to raise rates, but that a majority of FOMC members are prepared to raise rates before year-end.

Inflation Rate Remains Well Below Fed Benchmark

The Federal Reserve has set a goal of reaching an inflation rate of 2.00 percent as one of several considerations for raising the target federal funds rate that currently stands at 0.00 percent to 0.250 percent. The Consumer Price Index for August fell from July’s reading of 0.10 percent to -0.10 percent in August. Lower prices were driven by lower fuel costs. The dip in consumer costs was the first since January.

The Core Consumer Price Index, which excludes volatile food and energy sectors, was unchanged at 0.10 percent in August, which matches analyst expectations and July’s reading.

NAHB: Home Builder Confidence Hits Highest Level in Nearly 10 Years

The Wells Fargo/NAHB Housing Market Index reached its highest reading since November 2005 with a one-point increase to a reading of 62 in September. Readings over 50 indicate that a majority of builders are confident about housing market conditions. September’s reading was the highest since November 2005, when the NAHB Housing Market Index achieved a reading of 68.

Housing Starts Lower, But Building Permits Rise

The Commerce Department reported that August housing starts fell to a seasonally-adjusted annual reading of 1.13 million starts against projections of 1.16 million starts and 1.16 million housing starts in July. Residential building permits were higher in August with a reading of 1.17 permits issued for residential construction and 1/13 million permits issued in July.

Mortgage Rates Rise

Freddie Mac reported that mortgage rates rose across the board last week. The rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage rose by one basis point to 3.91 percent. The average rate for a 15-year mortgage also rose by one basis point to 3.11 percent and the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage also rose by one basis point to 2.92 percent. Discount points averaged 0.60 got 30-year fixed rate mortgages, 0.70 percent for 15-year mortgages and 0.50 percent for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage.

What’s Ahead

Next week’s scheduled economic news includes reports on new and existing home sales, FHFA’s House Price Index, along with regularly scheduled weekly reports on new jobless claims and mortgage rates.

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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – August 10, 2015

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week August 10 2015This week’s scheduled economic news includes reports on construction spending, a survey of senior loan officers, and reports on labor markets including ADP private sector jobs, the federal government’s reports on non-farm payrolls, core inflation and the national unemployment rate.

Construction Spending Slows, Loan Officers Survey Suggests Growing Confidence

Construction spending fell in June after the May reading was revised upward to 1.89 percent from the original reading of 0.90 percent. Spending for residential construction rose by 0.40 percent, while non-residential construction spending remained flat. The seasonally-adjusted annual outlay for construction was $1.06 billion in June.

Analysts continue to note a trend toward construction of smaller residential units including condominiums and apartments, with an emphasis on rental properties. This supports reports that would-be homebuyers are taking a wait-and-see stance to see how factors including rising home prices, fluctuating mortgage rates and labor market conditions perform.

According to a survey of senior loan officers conducted by the Federal Reserve, mortgage lenders reported that mortgage applications increased during the second quarter and indicating that financial constraints on consumers may be easing. According to the survey of 71 domestic banks and 23 foreign-owned banks, 44 percent of respondents reported moderate increases in loan applications, while only 5 percent of survey participants reported fewer loan applications.

Some banks surveyed reported easing mortgage approval standards, but fewer lenders eased standards than in the first quarter. Further supporting growing confidence among lenders, the Fed survey also reported that large banks were easing consumer credit standards for auto loans and credit cards.

Mortgage Rates Fall, Jobless Claims Rise

Freddie Mac reported that average mortgage rates fell across the board last week with the average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage lower by seven basis points to 3.91 percent; the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage fell by four basis points to 3.13 percent, and the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was unchanged at 2.95 percent. Discount points for all loan types were unchanged at 0.60 percent for 30 and 15-year fixed rate mortgages and 0.40 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

Weekly jobless claims rose from the prior week’s reading of 268,000 new claims to 270,000 new claims, which matched analysts’ expectations. In other labor-related news, the government reported a national unemployment rate of 5.30 percent in July; this was unchanged from June’s reading.

The ADP employment report for July showed fewer jobs were available in the private sector. June’s reading showed that private sector jobs grew by 229,000 jobs; July’s reading fell to 185,000 private sector jobs. According to July’s Non-farm Payrolls report, 215,000 new jobs were added in July as compared to expectations of 220,000 jobs added and June’s reading of 231,000 new jobs added.

The Federal Reserve’s Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) is closely monitoring job growth and inflation rates as it contemplates raising the target federal funds rate. Core inflation grew by 0.10 percent in June; which was consistent with May’s reading and expectations. The FOMC recently cited the committee’s concerns about labor markets and lagging inflation. The Fed has set an annual growth rate of 1.65 percent for inflation for the medium term; this benchmark is part of what the Fed will consider in any decision to raise rates.

What’s Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic reports include reports on retail sales and consumer sentiment in addition to usual weekly reports on mortgage rates and new jobless claims.

 

 

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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – July 20, 2015

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week July 13 2015Last week’s economic news included an encouraging report from the National Association of Home Builders, whose housing market index held steady with a reading of 60 in July. This was the 13th consecutive month for readings over 50, which indicate that more builders are confident about housing markets than those who are not. July’s reading was noteworthy as it was the highest since November 2005 prior to the recession.

Housing Starts, Building Permits Increase

The Commerce Department provided further evidence of stronger housing markets with reports on housing starts and building permits issued in June. Housing starts rose from May’s reading of 1.07 million to 1.17 million, which surpassed the expected reading of 1.11 million housing starts.

May’s reading for housing starts was revised from 1.04 million to 1.07 million an annual basis.

Construction of apartments and other multifamily housing complexes attained their highest level since 1987, which supports reported trends that millennials who prefer to live in larger cities are renting rather than buying homes. Housing starts gained nearly 10 percent between May and June. Would-be home buyers are also renting due to tighter mortgage approval standards; others may be “sitting on the fence” as they wait for further indications of stronger labor markets and improvements in overall economic conditions.

Building permits issued in June supported trends in housing starts, with permits for multi-family housing units higher by 16. 10 percent and was the highest reading for multi-family building permits since 1990. Analysts said that the increase in multifamily building permits was in caused by the pending expiration of a tax credit for builders in New York State that was set to expire June 30.

Permits for single family homes rose only 0.90 percent in June, to an annual pace of 689,000 but this was still the highest reading for single family housing permits since 2008.

Mortgage Rates Rise, Jobless Claims Fall

Freddie Mac reported that average mortgage rates rose last week. The rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage averaged 4.09 percent and was higher by five basis points. The average rate for a 15-year mortgage was also five basis points higher at 3.25 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was up by three basis points to 2.96 percent. Discount points were 0.60 percent for 15 and 30 year mortgages and 0.50 percent for 6/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

New jobless claims fell to 281,000 last week against the prior week’s reading of 296,000 new claims and an expected reading of 285,000 new jobless claims. Analysts said that the current reading indicates that last week’s spike in new unemployment claims was a false alarm. Seasonal anomalies and re-tooling at some auto plants were cited as causes for the prior week’s high reading. New jobless claims have remained under the benchmark reading of 300,000 since February for the longest consecutive period in 15 years.

Last week’s reports ended with the University of Michigan’s Consumer Sentiment Index, which fell from June’s reading of 96.1 to 93.3; analysts expected a reading of 95.0.

What’s Ahead

Scheduled economic reports for next week include new and existing home sales, and FHFA home prices along with weekly reports on mortgage rates and new jobless claims.

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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – December 29, 2014

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week December 29 2014Last week’s economic news included several housing related reports. Housing markets continue to cool as November reports on existing and new home sales fell below expectations. New Jobless claims were lower than expected by 10,000 claims. The details:

Existing and New Home Sales Down, FHFA House Price Index Up

The National Association of Realtors® reported that November sales of existing homes fell to 4.93 million sales against expectations of 5.18 million sales. October’s reading was revised from 5.25 million sales to 5.26 million. This was seen as an anomaly that may have occurred during uncertainty caused by volatile stock markets. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen slow housing markets to tight lending standards in a recent statement.

FHFA reported that October home prices connected with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgages increased incrementally year-over-year. October house prices increased to 4.50 percent year-over-year as compared to September’s year-over-year house price increase of 4.40 percent.

November sales of new homes fell short of expectations according to the Commerce Department. 438,000 new homes were sold as compared to expectations of 450 new home sales and September’s reading of 445,000 new homes sold. This was the slowest rate of growth in four months.

New home sales declined in three of four regions. Readings for November were -12.00 percent in the Northeast, -6.40 percent in the Southeast, -6.30 percent in the Midwest. Sales of new homes rose by 14.80 percent in the West. Analysts typically caution against reading too much into volatile month-to-month figures, but they are concerned about longer-term sales trends too. Sales of new homes were 1.60 percent lower year-over-year.

The median sale price of new homes was $280,900 in November, which was 1.40 percent higher year-over-year.

Mortgage Rates Up, New Jobless Claims Down

Mortgage rates rose across the board according to Freddie Mac’s weekly survey of average mortgage rates. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage increased three basis points to 3.83 percent. The average rate for a 15-year mortgage rose one basis point to 3.10 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was six basis points higher at 3.01 percent. Discount points were 0.60 for 30 and 15-year fixed rate mortgages and 0.50 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

280,000 new jobless claims were filed last week, a seven-week low. Analysts expected 290,000 new claims based on the prior week’s reading of 289,000 new claims. The four-week rolling average of new jobless claims also showed improvement with 8500 fewer claims at 290,250 new jobless claims filed. Stronger labor markets are considered good news for housing markets as more consumers can afford to buy homes.

No economic reports were scheduled Thursday or Friday due to the Christmas holiday.

What’s Ahead

This week brings Case-Shiller Home Price reports, Pending Home Sales and Construction Spending. Freddie Mac mortgage rates and Weekly Jobless Claims will be released on Wednesday due to the New Year’s Day holiday on Thursday.

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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – November 24, 2014

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week November 24 2014Last week’s scheduled economic news included the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index, Housing Starts and Existing Home Sales. FOMC meeting minutes were released along with weekly Freddie Mac mortgage rates and weekly jobless claims.

In addition, the National Association of Realtors® suggested that FHA should lower its mutual mortgage insurance premiums (MMI) as its fund for paying claims has normalized since recession.

Homebuilder Confidence Nears Nine-Year High

The National Association of Home Builders/ Wells Fargo Housing Market Index achieved a reading of 58 for November. This was two points higher than the expected reading of 56 and four points above September’s reading. This was the fifth consecutive month of readings above 50.

Readings above 50 indicate that more builders are confident about housing market conditions than not. Components of the index improved with builder confidence in present sales of new homes up 5 points to a reading of 62, confidence in sales over the next six months rose by two points to 66, and the reading for prospective buyer traffic rose four points to 45.

Housing Starts Slow, Existing Home Sales Suggest Stronger Housing Market

Housing starts were lower by 2.80 percent in October at a seasonally-adjusted rate of 1.01 million against an expected reading of 1.03 million and September’s reading of 1.04 million homes started. October’s reading was affected by a 15.50 percent drop in multi-family construction, but single-family home construction increased by 4.20 percent. Analysts noted that the multi-family sector is notoriously volatile.

The National Association of Realtors® reported that the seasonally-adjusted annual rate of existing home sales for October exceeded the expected reading of 5.15 million with 5.26 million existing homes sold. October’s reading also surpassed September’s reading of 5.17 million previously-owned homes sold. October’s reading represented a 1.50 percent increase over September sales of existing homes, and was the highest reading since September 2013.

The median price of previously-owned homes rose to $208,500 in October, which represented a 5.50 percent increase year-over-year. The inventory of homes for sale is higher with a 5.1 month supply of homes available, which was a year-over-year increase of 5.20 percent. Higher inventories of homes available and low mortgage rates were seen as factors contributing to more home sales.

Builders, Realtors® Call for Lower FHA Premiums

Kevin Kelly, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders and the National Association of Realtors® called for the FHA to lower its mortgage insurance premiums. The cost of FHA loans, which require borrowers to pay an upfront mortgage insurance premium and annual premiums that are pro-rated and added to monthly mortgage payments, were seen as an obstacle to first-time and moderate income homebuyers. This request was based on a report that indicated the FHA fund for paying mortgage insurance claims is in the black for the first time since 2011.

Mortgage Rates, Jobless Claims Fall

Freddie Mac reported that average mortgage rates fell across the board on Thursday with the average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage lower by two basis points at 3.99 percent, and the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage lower by three basis points at 3.17 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage dropped by one basis point to 3.01 percent. Average discount points remained the same for all loan types at 0.50 percent.

The Commerce Department reported that new jobless claims fell to 291,000 from the prior week’s reading of 293,000. Analysts expected a reading of 280.000 new jobless claims, but this was the tenth consecutive week of readings for fewer than 300,000 new jobless claims. The four-week rolling average of new claims rose by 1750 to a reading of 287,500. The four week average reduces the volatility of weekly jobless claims and provides a more accurate reading of unemployment trends.

What’s Ahead

Next week’s scheduled events include the Case-Shiller 10 and 20-City Home Price Indices, FHFA’s House Price Index and New and Pending Home Sales reports. There are no reports set for Thursday or Friday due to the Thanksgiving Holiday.

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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – October 20, 2014

WhatsAheadThisWeekLast week’s economic highlights included the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Housing Market Index for October. The Commerce Department also released Housing Starts for September. Freddie Mac reported that the average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage dropped below four percent. The Fed released its Beige Book report, and Weekly jobless claims came in lower than expected. Here are the details:

Homebuilder Confidence Slips in Spite of Lower Mortgage Rates

U.S. Homebuilder confidence in housing market conditions slipped by 5 points to October’s reading of 54 as compared to September’s reading; this was   also lower than the expected reading of 59. Builders are concerned over strict mortgage credit rules, but the NAHB’s chief economist noted that pent-up demand, lower mortgage rates and improved labor markets are expected to drive builder confidence in the near term. Readings of 50 and above indicate   that more builders are confident about market conditions than not.

Freddie Mac reported lower average mortgage rates across the board with the rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage at 3.97 percent, a drop of 15 basis points from the prior reading. 15-year fixed rate mortgages had an average rate of 3.18 percent from the prior week’s reading of 3.30 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage fell by 13 basis points to 2.92 percent. Average discount points remained at 0.50 for all mortgage types.

If 30-year fixed rate mortgages can stay below the four percent mark, this could mean additional incentive for fence-sitters to become active home buyers.

Surprise: New Jobless Claims Hit 14-Year Low

Concerns over job markets and employment stability have consistently been of concern to home buyers in the aftermath of the recession. Last week’s jobless claims report brought encouraging news as it came in at 264,000 new jobless claims filed against predictions of 289,000 new claims and the prior week’s reading of 287,000 new jobless claims filed. This was the lowest number of new jobless claims filed in more than 14 years. Analysts said that lower numbers of weekly jobless claims indicate fewer layoffs, which should help boost prospective home buyers’ confidence in job stability.

Fed: Economy Growing at “Modest to Moderate Pace”

The Federal Reserve released its Beige Book report on Wednesday. This report contains anecdotes from business sources within the 12 Federal Reserve districts. The report said that the economy continues to grow at a modest to moderate pace and noted that potential concerns over the stronger U.S. dollar causing increases in export costs did not concern the Fed’s business sources.

Housing Starts, Consumer Confidence Up

September’s housing starts were above both expectations and August’s reading. 1.02 million starts were reported with the majority being multi-family homes. The expected reading was 1.015 million housing starts; this was based on August’s reading of 956,000 starts. This news is consistent with the drop in builder confidence for sales of new single-family homes.

The University of Michigan/Thompson-Reuters Consumer Sentiment Index for October rose to 86.4 against an expected reading of 83.5 and September’s reading of 84.6. This was the highest consumer sentiment reading in seven years. Analysts rained on the consumer sentiment parade by noting that recent jitters over Wall Street and concerns about Ebola outbreaks could cause the Consumer Sentiment Index to lose ground.

What’s Ahead:

Next week’s scheduled economic reports include the National Association of REALTORS® Existing Home Sales report, FHFA’s Home Price Index and New Home Sales. Leading Economic Indicators will also be released.

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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – October 6, 2014

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week October 6 2014Last week’s economic news included multiple reports on housing and the labor sector. The good news is that job markets appear to be stronger, with new jobless claims and the national unemployment rate lower. Unfortunately, housing continues to struggle in its recovery.

Pending home sales slumped in August and the S&P Case-Shiller Housing Market Index reports for July showed slower growth in home prices with 19 of 20 cities posting lower gains than for June.

Mortgage rates were mixed, but remained relatively steady.

Housing Reports Show Slower Price Gains, Suggest Falling Demand

The National Association of REALTORS® released data for August that showed that pending home sales dropped by 1.10 percent to a reading of 104.7 as compared to July’s reading of 105.8. Pending home sales indicate upcoming closings and mortgage loan volume.

Pending home sales fell by 2.20 percent year-over-year. Analysts attributed the drop in pending sales to lower investor participation.

Analysts said that as distressed home sales diminish, mortgage rates and home prices rise, investors are not buying as many homes Regional results showed fewer pending sales in all regions except the West, where pending sales rose by 2.60 percent in August. A reading of 100 in the pending home sales index is consistent with 2001’s average contract level.

S&P Case-Shiller Housing Market Index reports indicated that July home prices gained 6.70 percent year-over-year as compared to June’s year-over-year reading of 8.10 percent. Prices even dropped in San Francisco to its lowest reading since 2012. On a seasonally adjusted basis, July home sales fell by 0.50 percent in July as compared to June’s decrease of 0.30 percent. 19 of 20 cities showed lower rates of price growth in July.

Slower growth of home prices was viewed by analysts as potentially increasing demand for homes provided that mortgage rates stay low.

Construction spending for August fell by 0.8 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis. The good news here is that spending on residential construction dropped only 0.10 percent.

Freddie Mac Mortgage Rates: No Major Changes

According to Freddie Mac’s PMMS report, average mortgage rates were a mixed bag. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage dropped by one basis point to 4.19 percent with discount points lower at 0.40 percent. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage held steady at 3.36 percent with discount points unchanged at 0.50 percent. The rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage fell by two basis points to 3.06 percent; discount points rose from 0.40 percent to 0.40 percent.

Lower mortgage rates are seen as a potential stimulus for housing markets as more buyers may be encouraged to enter the market.

Jobs Reports Readings Improve, Unemployment Rate Drops

Job markets are showing signs of improvement according to data on weekly jobless claims and reports released by the Department of Commerce. Weekly jobless claims grew by 287,000 as compared to expectations of 298,000 new claims filed. The prior week’s reading was also higher at 295,000 new claims filed.

The Department of Commerce released its Non-farm Payrolls report for August with more good news. 248,000 jobs were added against expectations of 220,000 new jobs and 180,000 new jobs reported in the prior week. The national unemployment fell below the six percent benchmark in August with a reading of 5.90 percent, which indicates proof that the jobs market is improving.

September’s Consumer Confidence Index suggests that economic conditions continue to concern consumers. The reading for September was 86.0 against an expected reading of 92.3 and Augusts reading of 93.4.

What’s Ahead

There is no scheduled housing news for next week other than Freddie Mac’s weekly report on mortgage rates. Other economic news includes Labor Market Conditions Index, Job Openings, and the release of minutes from the last FOMC meeting, which is expected to reaffirm the Fed’s position that it doesn’t expect to increase the target federal funds rate for a “considerable time” after the Fed concludes its asset purchases this year.

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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – Sept 22, 2014

Whats-Ahead-Mortgage-RatestLast week’s economic news largely concerned the Federal Reserve’s FOMC meeting statement and a post-meeting conference given by Fed Chair Janet Yellen. The FOMC statement indicated that the Fed continued its wind-down of Treasury and mortgage-backed securities and that its purchases are expected to cease after the next FOMC meeting.

The FOMC statement said that committee members find the economy to be improving at a moderate pace and currently strong enough to further reduce the QE3 monthly asset purchases. The Fed seeks to achieve and sustain its dual mandate of maximum employment and an inflation rate of 2.00 percent. While the unemployment rate is lower than the Fed’s benchmark of 6.50 percent, FOMC members cited concerns that the labor force is underutilized and that labor markets, while recovering, could use further improvement. The Fed repeated its customary statement that the Fed’s monetary policies are not on a pre-determined course, and that FOMC members continually review and interpret developing financial and economic news as part of their decision-making process.

Chair Yellen explained during her press conference that it is not possible to provide a specific date when the Fed will change its target federal funds rate. Economists and media analysts expressed concerns that raising the target federal funds rate, which is currently at 0.00 to 0.250 percent, could cause overall interest rates to rise. Chair Yellen said that she expects the current target federal funds rate to remain for a “considerable time” after the QE asset purchases cease. She also said that it is impossible to provide a specific date when the Fed will change its target federal funds rate and cited multiple influences considered by FOMC when changing monetary policy.

Home Builder Confidence Grows, Housing Starts Fall

The National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index rose by three points in September for a reading of 59. Analysts had predicted an index reading of 56 against August’s reading of 55. September’s reading was the third consecutive reading above 50. Stronger labor markets were cited as supporting the higher reading, but builders were also concerned by tight mortgage credit standards. Any reading above 50 indicates that more builders perceive market conditions for new homes as positive as those that do not.

August’s housing starts were inconsistent with the Home Builders Index; according to the Department of Commerce, construction of new homes fell by 14.4 percent from July’s reading to 956,000. Analysts expected 1.03 million starts against July’s reading of 1.12 million homes started.

Mortgage Rates Rise, Weekly Jobless Claims Fall

Freddie Mac reported higher mortgage rates last week. Average mortgage rates rose across the board with the rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage 11 basis points higher at 4.23 percent. The rate for a 15-year mortgage also rose by 11 basis points to 3.37 percent and the rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage rose from 2.99 to 3.06 percent. Average discount points were unchanged for all mortgage types at 0.50 percent.

New weekly jobless claims dropped to 280,000 against an expected reading of 305,000 and the prior week’s adjusted reading of 316,000 new jobless claims. The original reading for the prior week was 315,000 new jobless claims. The less volatile four-week average of new jobless claim fell by 4,750 new claims to a reading of 299,500 new claims.

What’s Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic news brings multiple housing-related reports. The National Association of REALTORS® will release its Existing Home Sales report for August. Case-Shiller’s monthly Housing Market Index report and the FHFA’s Home Value report will bring new light to national market trends. The Department of Commerce will release its New Home Sales report, and as usual, Freddie Mac’s weekly report on mortgage rates will come out on Thursday.

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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – Aug 25, 2014

Whats-Ahead-Mortgage-Rates-5Last week’s economic news brought several reports related to housing. The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Wells Fargo Housing Market Index for August rose by two points to 55, which was its highest reading in seven months.

Components of the NAHB HMI include builder surveys on conditions related to upcoming sales of new homes, which rose by two points for a reading of 65. Builder sentiment concerning present sales conditions also rose by two points to 58.

Builder views on prospective buyer traffic rose from 39 to 42. Readings above 50 indicate that more builders viewed housing market conditions as positive as negative.

NAHB cited job growth and low mortgage rates as conditions driving higher builder confidence in market conditions.

Housing Starts, Building Permits Up in July

According to the Commerce Department, housing starts and building permits rose in July. Housing starts increased to 1.09 million from June’s reading of 945,000 and exceeded expectations of 975,000. This reading reflects higher builder confidence and could contribute to easing demand for housing as new homes expand the inventory of available homes.

Construction of single family homes accounts for about 75 percent of new home construction. July’s reading was 656,000 single family housing starts on an annual basis. Regionally, housing starts declined by 25 percent in the Midwest, but rose by 44 percent in the Northeast, 29 percent in the South and 18.60 percent in the West.

Building permits issued in July rose to an annual rate of 1.05 million, which was an increase of 8.10 percent over June’s reading of 973,000 permits issued. Permits for single family homes increased by 0.90 percent to a reading of 640,000 permits annually.

July’s readings for housing starts and building permits are in line with overall economic growth and suggest that housing markets may improve in coming months as the supply of new homes increases.

Let’s add more icing to the cake. The National Association of REALTORS® reported that existing home sales rose to 5.15 million on a seasonally adjusted annual basis against predictions of 5.00 million existing homes sold and June’s reading of 5.05 million sales of previously owned homes.

Mortgage Rates Fall, FOMC Minutes Indicate Economic Improvement

Freddie Mac’s weekly survey of mortgage rates reported that average rates fell across the board: The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage dropped by two basis points to 4.10 percent with discount point lower at 0.50 percent.

The rate for a 15-year mortgage dropped by one basis point to 3.24 percent with discount points unchanged at 0.60 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage dropped by two basis points to 2.95 percent with discount points unchanged at 0.50 percent.

The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) of the Federal Reserve released minutes from its July meeting. Highlights included the committee’s 9-1 vote in favor of continuing the slow pace of reducing economic stimulus.

The minutes indicated that the committee intends to keep the federal funds rate below normal levels for “some time.” Previous FOMC statements have consistently indicated the Fed’s intention to maintain very low short-term interest rates after asset purchases under QE3 end in October, but FOMC has not released a specific time frame or details of its intentions concerning the federal funds rate.

The Fed acknowledged economic improvements, but cited lingering concerns over unemployment, which remains higher than average.

More Good News: Jobless Claims Lower, Economic Indicators Up

Weekly jobless claims fell to 298,000, lower than expectations of 300,000 new jobless claims and the prior week’s reading of 312,000 new claims. Leading economic indicators (LEI) rose by 0.89 percent in July after increases in May and June. Analysts interpreted this reading as a further indication of stronger economic conditions.

What’s Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic reports include New Home Sales, the Case-Shiller Home Price Index and FHFA House Price Index. General economic reports include the Consumer Confidence Index and the University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index. It will be interesting to see whether consumer views of the economy are consistent with recent economic improvements.

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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – July 21, 2014

Mythbusters: 5 Reasons Why Diet Sodas Might Not Be as Healthy as You ThinkLast week’s economic news offered a variety of indications that the economic recovery continues, but some readings missed their expected levels. The Philadelphia and New York branches of the Federal Reserve Bank reported higher than anticipated manufacturing for their respective regions and new jobless claims were lower than expected.

Fed Chair’s Senate Testimony Hints at Coming Interest Rate Hike

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen testified that the Fed might have to raise interest rates sooner than expected if the economy continues to outperform the Fed’s projections. Ms. Yellen said that the central bank presently estimates that the first rate increases will take place approximately one year from now.

The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) of the Fed has repeatedly stated that members will continue to review data and economic conditions changing monetary policy. Ms. Yellen said in last week’s remarks that this holds true whether economic conditions improve or decline.

In other Fed-related news, the Philadelphia Fed released its manufacturing index for July with higher than expected results. The Philly Fed’s reading for July was 23.90 as compared to expectations of 16.50 and June’s reading of 17.80.

The New York Fed reported a similar trend for July with a reading of 25.60 as compared to an estimated reading of 17.50 and June’s reading of 19.30. This is good news after the Northeast’s economy was slammed by severe weather last winter. Weather conditions stalled area housing and labor markets.

Weekly jobless claims were lower at 303,000 than expectations of 310,000 new jobless claims and the prior week’s reading of 305,000 new jobless claims.

Home Builders Post Positive Confidence Reading for July

The National Association of Home Builders posted its highest builder confidence reading in six months for July with a reading of 53 against the expected reading of 50 and June’s reading of 49. Numbers above 50 indicate that more builders surveyed have a positive outlook than not.

Housing Starts for June were reported lower than expected at an annual level of 893,000 against an expected reading of 1.02 million and May’s reading of 985,000 housing starts.

Mortgage Rates Lower

According to Freddie Mac’s weekly survey, average mortgage rates were slightly lower last week. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage fell by two basis points to 4.13 percent. Discount points were 0.60 as compared to the prior week’s reading of 0.70 percent. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage was 3.23 percent as compared to the previous reading of 3.24 percent.

Discount points for a 15-year mortgage averaged 0.50 percent against the prior week’s reading of 0.50 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage dropped by two basis points to 2.87 percent with discount points unchanged at 0.40 percent.

The University of Michigan’s Consumer Sentiment Index for July fell just short of expectations at 81.3. Analysts expected a reading of 83.0, based on June’s reading of 82.50. Analysts said that although labor markets are improving, consumers continue to face rising costs for gasoline and food, which likely explained the dip in confidence for July.

What’s Ahead

This week’s economic news releases include Existing Home sales from the National Association of REALTORS®, New Home Sales from the Department of Commerce and the FHFA House Price Index. The Chicago Fed is set to release its National Activity Index. Freddie Mac mortgage rates and New Jobless Claims will be released Thursday as usual.

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