Last week’s economic news included minutes from the most recent meeting of the Fed’s Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) along with several reports on private and public sector employment and the national unemployment rate. Weekly reports on mortgage rates and new jobless claims were also released.
FOMC Minutes: Committee Closely Monitoring Economic Developments
The minutes of June’s FOMC meeting indicate that Fed policymakers continue to be cautious based on low inflation and close review of domestic and global economic developments. Committee members acknowledged improvements in the housing market, but also noted that annual inflation remains below the Fed’s two percent goal. Low inflation and wage growth presented obstacles to would-be home buyers who continued to face rapidly rising home prices and low inventories of available homes. FOMC members voted not to increase the current target federal funds rate of 0.25 to 0.50 percent.
FOMC’s June meeting occurred before Great Britain’s decision to leave the EU, which created volatility in financial markets and caused mortgage rates to drop.
Mortgage Rates, New Jobless Claims Fall
Freddie Mac reported an across-the-board drop in average mortgage rates last week. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage fell by seven basis points to 3.41 percent and the rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage averaged 2.74 percent. Rates for a 5/1 adjustable rate averaged 2.68 percent. Discount points were unchanged at 0.50, 0.40 and 0.50 percent respectively.
New jobless claims were decreased to a three-month low of 254,000 as compared to expectations of 265,000 new claims and the prior week’s reading of 270,000 new claims. New jobless claims were higher after the end of the school year, when some school workers became eligible for benefits when schools closed for summer break.
Job Creation Jumps After May Lull
Non-farm payrolls expanded significantly in June after May’s sharp drop. 287,000 jobs were created in June as compared to expectations of 173,000 new jobs and May’s dismal reading of 11,000 new jobs. The non-farm payrolls report includes readings for public and private sector jobs. June’s ADP payrolls report measures private-sector jobs; June’s reading surpassed May’s reading of 168,000 jobs with 172,000 new jobs.
In related news, the Commerce Department reported that national unemployment increased from May’s reading of 4.80 to 4.90 percent. Analysts said that this uptick may not be bad news, but instead indicated an expanding workforce. Unemployment readings are based on the number of workers seeking work and don’t include workers who have left the workforce.
This week’s scheduled economic releases include the Consumer Price Index, Core CPI, retail sales and consumer sentiment. Weekly reports on mortgage rates and new jobless claims will also be released.
Last week’s scheduled economic reports included the NAHB Housing Market Index, Housing Starts, FOMC statement and Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s press conference. In addition to weekly reports on jobless claims and mortgage rates, inflation reports were also released.
Builder Confidence Slips, Housing Starts Increase
According to the NAHB / Wells Fargo Housing Market Index for December, home builder confidence slipped by one point to a reading of 61 as compared to an expected reading of 63 and November’s reading of 62. December’s reading was three points higher year-over-year. Readings over 50 indicate that more builders than fewer are confident about housing market conditions. December’s confidence reading remained higher than 2015’s average reading of 59.
Components used in comprising the NAHB HMI also slipped in December. Builder confidence in current market conditions fell one point to a reading of 66; the six months sales outlook fell two points to 67 and the reading for buyer foot traffic in new developments also decreased by two points to a reading of 46. The reading for buyer foot traffic has consistently remained below the neutral benchmark of 50 since the housing bubble ended.
While builder confidence eased, housing starts rose in November with 1.17 million starts reported. Analysts expected a reading of 1.14 million starts based on October’s reading of 1.06 million housing starts. During much of 2015, demand for homes accelerated due to slim inventories of available homes; new construction is seen as essential to easing demand.
Fed Raises Interest Rates, Mortgage Rates Higher
The Federal Open Market Committee of the Federal Reserve raised its target federal funds rate from a range of 0.00 to 0.25 percent to a range of 0.25 percent to 0.50 percent. While the Fed’s increase is expected to affect consumer lending rates for auto loans and credit cards more than mortgages, Freddie Mac reported that rates for fixed rate home loans rose last week. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage rose by two basis points to 3.95 percent and the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage increased by three basis points to 3.22 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was unchanged at 3.03 percent. Discount points were unchanged for fixed rate mortgages at 0.60 percent and 0.50 percent respectively while average points for a 5//1 adjustable rate mortgage dropped to an average of 0.40 percent.
Weekly jobless claims fell to 271,000 new claims against expectations of 275,000 new claims and the prior week’s reading of 282,000 new claims.
Next week’s economic reports include reports on new and existing home sales, consumer spending and consumer sentiment. Weekly jobless claims and Freddie Mac’s mortgage rates report will also be released as scheduled. No reports will be released on Friday due to the Christmas holiday.
Last week’s scheduled economic news included reports on new and existing home sales, the FHFA House Price Index, weekly reports on mortgage rates, and new jobless claims. The week finished with a report on consumer sentiment.
Existing Home Sales Fall as New Homes Sales and Home Prices Rise
The National Association of Realtors reported that home sales for pre-owned homes fell in August. Analysts expected sales of existing homes to reach a reading of 5.52 million sales on an annual basis, but the actual reading was 5.31 million existing homes sold as compared to July’s reading of 5.58 million pre-owned homes sold. Rising home prices were cited as a primary reason for the drop in sales.
FHFA’s House Price Index for July reflected the trend of rising home prices; July’s reading was 0.60 percent as compared to June’s reading of a 0.20 percent increase in home prices associated with homes with mortgages owned by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.
Sales of newly built homes reached the highest level since early 2008 in August, evidence that demand for housing is strengthening heading into the fall. Home builder sentiment is at its highest level in nearly a decade according to a survey earlier this month from the National Association of Home Builders
Mortgage Rates Fall
Freddie Mac reported that average mortgage rates fell on Thursday; the rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was 3.86 percent; the average rate for a 15-year mortgage was 3.08 percent and the rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage dropped by one basis point to 2.91 percent. Discount points were 0.70, 0.60 and 0.50 percent respectively.
Jobless Claims Also Rise As Consumer Sentiment Fell.
The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits rose slightly last week yet remained at a low level consistent with solid job growth. The Labor Department says weekly applications for jobless aid rose 3,000 to a seasonally adjusted 267,000. The four-week average fell to a 15-year low last month.
The University of Michigan says consumers lost confidence for the third straight month in September, worried about bad news about the global economy. Consumer sentiment index fell to 87.2 this month, lowest since October 2014 and down from 91.9 in August. Richard Curtin, Chief Economist for the survey, said consumers are worried about signs of weakness in the Chinese economy and continued stresses on Europe’s economies.
This week’s economic reports include Pending Home Sales, the Case-Shiller Home Price Index, Core Inflation, ADP Employment and the government’s Non- farm Payrolls report. The national unemployment rate and Consumer Confidence Index for September are also slated for release this week.
A short week after the Labor Day Holiday provided a slack schedule for economic news. Bloomberg reported that residential investment for the second quarter of 2015 represented 3.34 percent of the Gross Domestic Product. Compared to the long-term average reading of 4.56 percent, analysts said that the Q2 15 reading suggested pent-up demand in the housing market that could help propel the economy through any setbacks that could occur when the Fed raises rates.
Pent-Up Housing Demand a Plus when Fed Raises Rates
Job openings rose in July to 5.75 million as compared to June’s reading of 5.32 million. This is a positive indicator for the economy and for the housing sector, as consumer confidence in terms of buying a home typically relies on stable employment and a strong labor sector.
While economic indicators are looking good for housing construction, analysts note that a shortage of construction workers could affect construction of new residential units. Analysts said that children born during the 1980’s will lead the next wave of first-time home buyers, with millennials following. This trend could last for the next 10 to 15 years and is expected to bolster housing markets.
More lenient mortgage lending requirements and rising confidence among home builders were also cited as positive indicators for housing.
Mortgage Rates Mixed
Freddie Mac reported that average fixed mortgage rates rose by one basis point to 3.90 percent for 30-year fixed rate mortgages and 3.10 percent for 15-year mortgages. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage fell by two basis points to 2.91 percent. Average discount points for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage were unchanged at 0.60 percent and rose to 0.70 percent for 15-year fixed rate mortgages and to 0.50 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.
Job Openings Rise as Weekly Jobless Claims Fall
July job openings rose to 5.75 million from June’s reading of 5.32 million; this was the highest number of available jobs since records have been kept. Analysts said that the high number of job openings clearly indicate that the labor force is not able to supply the workers needed by employers. Jobs available range from professional to service related work; this suggests a universal trend rather than hiring challenges within specific job areas.
Hiring activity fell in July to 4.98 million from June’s reading of 5.18 million. July separations also fell, which suggests that employers are having problems finding skilled workers and are holding on to experienced workers.
Weekly jobless claims fell to 275,000 from the prior week’s reading of 281,000 new jobless claims.
Next week’s scheduled economic reports include Retail Sales, Consumer Price Index and Core CSI along with the NAHB Wells Fargo Housing Market Index, Commerce Department reports on housing starts and building permits. The Fed’s Federal Open Market Committee will issue its customary statement on Wednesday, followed by highly-anticipated press conference by Fed Chair Janet Yellen.
Last week’s economic reports related to housing were few and far between other than weekly reports on new jobless claims and Freddie Mac’s mortgage rates survey.
Mortgage Rates Mixed, Jobless Claims Up
Freddie Mac reported that average mortgage rates rose for fixed rate mortgages and dropped for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage rose by three basis points to 3.94 percent. The rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage rose by four basis points to 3.17 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage fell by two basis points to 2.93 percent. Discount points were unchanged at 0.60 percent for fixed rate mortgages and rose from 0.40 percent to 0.50 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.
Jobless claims rose to 274,000 last week from the prior week’s reading of 269,000 new jobless claims filed. Analysts expected a reading of 270,000 new jobless claims. New claims were lower by 1750 claims for the past month at a seasonally adjusted rate of 266,250 new jobless claims. This was the lowest level since April of 2000. Analysts consider the four week average a less volatile reading for new jobless claims than weekly readings, which fluctuate more due to transitory influences.
Next week’s scheduled reports include several releases related to housing. Expected releases include: the National Association of Homebuilders Housing Market Index, Commerce Department reports on Housing Starts and Building Permits and the National Association of Realtors® report on sales of previously owned homes.
Retail Sales, Consumer Confidence Up
Retail sales rose for the third consecutive month. May sales increased at a seasonally adjusted rate of 1.20 percent according to Commerce Department data. Auto and gasoline sales led the charge to higher retail sales, but analysts said that most retail sectors posted gains. Upward revisions of March and April’s retail sales provided evidence of stronger economic conditions.
Consumer sentiment jumped nearly four points from May’s reading of 90.7 to 94.6 in June. This appears to be great news compared to the year before the recession, when consumer sentiment averaged a reading of 86.9.
Weekly Jobless Claims, Mortgage Rates
Weekly jobless claims rose last week and were also higher than expected. 279,000 new jobless claims were filed against an expected reading of 275,000 new claims and the prior week’s reading of 277,000 new jobless claims. This was the fourteenth consecutive week that new jobless claims remained below 300,000, an accomplishment that hasn’t occurred in 15 years.
Mortgage rates rose sharply last week according to Freddie Mac. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage jumped from 3.87 percent to 4.04 percent; the average rate for a 15-year fixed-rate mortgage rose from 2.08 percent to 3.25 percent and the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage increased by five basis points from 2.96 percent 3.01 percent. Average readings for discount points were 0.60 percent for 30 and 15 year mortgages and 0.40 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages. Higher mortgage rates may sideline some home buyers as they wait to see if rates will drop or are priced out of the market. Expectations that the Fed will raise its target federal funds rate this fall may be fueling higher rates.
Next week’s economic news schedule includes more housing-related readings. The National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index, the Commerce Department’s reports on Housing Starts and Building Permits along with the weekly reports on new Jobless Claims and Freddie Mac’s mortgage reports are set for release. On Wednesday, the Federal Open Market Committee of the Federal Reserve will release its post-meeting statement and Fed Chair Janet Yellen will also give a press conference. These events are important as they may shed light on the Fed’s intentions for raising rates. When the Fed raises the target federal funds rate, mortgage rates and interest rates for consumer credit are expected to rise as well.
FHFA Home Prices Up in February, Existing Home Sales Highest in 18 Months
The Federal Housing Finance Agency reported that home prices associated with mortgages owned or backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac rose from a 5.10 percent increase in January to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.40 percent in February.
The National Association of Realtors® reported that sales of previously owned homes rose to 5.19 million in March as compared to expectations of 5.08 million sales and February’s reading of 4.89 million sales of pre-owned homes.
March sales represented a 6.10 percent gain over February sales; this was the highest volume of existing home sales in 18 months. Lawrence Yun, chief economist for NAR, said that if strong sales of pre-owned homes continue, 2015 could be the best year for existing home sales in nearly a decade.
New Home Sales Lag in March
The Department of Commerce reported that new home sales fell from February’s reading of 543,000 new homes sold to 481,000 new homes sold in March. Analysts expected a March reading of 503,000 new homes sold. This was the slowest pace for new home sales since November, but year-over-year, sales of new homes were 19.40 percent higher year-over-year. The national median home price fell by 1.70 percent to $277,400 year-over-year.
Sales of new homes decreased by 33 percent in the Northeast and fell by 16 percent in the South. New home sales fell by three percent in the West and rose by six percent in the Midwest. At the current sales pace, there is a 5.3 month supply of new homes for sale as compared to a 4.6 month supply in February. Analysts said that stagnant wage growth contributed to fewer home sales.
Mortgage Rates Lower, Weekly Jobless Claims
According to Freddie Mac’s weekly survey of mortgage lenders, average mortgage rates fell across the board last week. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage fell by two basis points to 3.67 percent. The rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage also dropped two basis points to an average of 2.92 percent; the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was four basis points lower at 2.84 percent. Discount points for a 30 year mortgage fell to 0.60 percent; points for a 15-year mortgage were higher at 0.60 percent and average discount points for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage fell from 0.50 to 0.40 percent.
Weekly jobless claims came in at 295,000 new claims filed; analysts expected a reading of 288,000 new claims and the prior week’s reading was 294,000 new claims filed. Spring break holidays were blamed for higher jobless claims and March job growth hit its lowest in more than a year. Analysts caution against reading too much into weekly fluctuations and prefer to use the four-week rolling average to identify trends in unemployment claims.
This week’s housing related economic reports include Case-Shiller 10 and 20 City Housing Market Index reports, the customary post-meeting statement from the Fed’s Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) and pending home sales data.
Last 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.
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.
Last week’s housing related news was lean, with no scheduled reports released other than Freddie Mac’s primary mortgage market survey.
We’ll start with some good news. The University of Michigan / Thompson-Reuters Consumer Sentiment Index reported its highest reading in more than seven years. November’s reading of 89.4 surpassed the expected reading of 88.0 and was higher than October’s reading of 86.9
Mortgage Rates Near 4.00 Percent, Weekly Jobless Claims Up
Freddie Mac reported a one-basis point drop in the average rate for 30-year fixed rate mortgage from 4.02 percent to 4.01 percent; the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage also fell by one basis point to 3.20 percent.
The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage rose by 5 basis points to 3.02 percent. Discount points for all three loan types held steady at an average of 0.50 percent.
Weekly jobless claims rose by 12,000 to 290,000 against expectations of 280,000 new jobless claims filed and the prior week’s reading of 278,000.
Last week’s report was the ninth straight week that new jobless claims came in under 300,000. The reading for the four-week rolling average was 285,000 new jobless claims, which represented an increase of 6,000 new claims.
This week’s number of scheduled economic reports will be more robust. The NAHB Housing Market Index, Housing Starts and the National Association of REALTORS® Existing Home Sales reports will be released.
The minutes of the most recent Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting of the Federal Reserve will also be released along with weekly mortgage rates and jobless claims data.
Last 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.
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.