South Orange County Blog from Bob Phillips

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – January 18, 2016

Posted in Market Outlook by southorangecounty on January 19, 2016

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week January 18 2016In addition to weekly reports on mortgage rates and new unemployment claims, last week’s economic news included the Fed’s Beige Book report, retail sales and consumer sentiment. January’s Empire State Index showed an unexpected dip and Consumer Sentiment increased for January.

Fed’s Beige Book Shows Diverse Economic Trends

According to the Federal Reserve’s Beige Book report for January, the central bank’s business contacts reported strength in housing, while agriculture, energy and manufacturing sectors were struggling. New York’s Empire State Manufacturing Index for January supported this trend with a sharp drop. New York manufacturing has hit its lowest level since the recession and has stayed in negative territory since March 2009. Two analysts said that the Fed’s recent rate hike and subsequent hikes could slow housing markets. Consumer lending rates, including mortgage rates, typically follow suit when the Fed increases its target federal funds rate.

In other news, retail sales posted negative growth of -0.10 percent in December against an expected reading of -0.20 percent and November’s reading of +0.40 percent. December retail sales not including auto motive also posted a reading of -0.10 percent as compared to expectations of +0.20 percent and November’s reading of 0.30 percent.

Mortgage Rates Fall, New Unemployment Claims Rise

Last week’s average mortgage rates fell across the board according to Freddie Mac. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage dropped by five basis points to 3.92 percent; the average rate for a 15-year mortgage rate also fell by five basis points to 3.19 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was eight basis points lower at 3.01 percent. Average discount points were 0.60, 0.50 and 0.40 percent respectively.

New unemployment claims rose to 284,000 against expectations of 275,000 new claims and the prior week’s reading of 277,000 new claims. Analysts said that the jump in claims resulted from job losses related to temporary holiday positions, but noted that last year’s momentum of falling jobless claims has slowed.

Last week’s economic news ended on a positive note; consumer sentiment rose according to the University of Michigan. Lower prices were credited for the boost in consumer confidence in current economic conditions.

What’s Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic events include the National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index, Housing Starts, Consumer Price Index and Core Consumer Price Index. No news will be released on Monday due to the Martin Luther King holiday.

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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – 12-21-2015

Posted in Market Outlook by southorangecounty on December 21, 2015

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week December 21 2015Last 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.

What’s Ahead

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.

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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – November 16, 2015

Posted in Market Outlook by southorangecounty on November 16, 2015

The Fibromyalgia Diet: Healthy Eating Ideas That Could Help You Feel BetterLast week’s scheduled economic news was sparse due to no scheduled releases on Monday and the Veterans Day Holiday on Wednesday. A report on job openings was released on Thursday along with regularly scheduled weekly reports on jobless claims and Freddie Mac’s report on mortgage rates.

Mortgage Rates, Weekly Jobless Claims Rise

Mortgage rates rose last week according to Freddie Mac. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage rose to 3.98 percent from last week’s reading of 3.87 percent. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage rose to 3.20 percent from the prior week’s reading of 3.09 percent; the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was also higher at an average of 3.03 percent as compared to the prior week’s average rate of 2.96 percent. Discount points were unchanged for all three types of mortgages at 0.60 percent for fixed rate mortgages and 0.40 for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

New jobless claims rose last week to 276,000 claims filed against the expected reading of 268,000 new claims and the prior week’s reading of 276,000 new jobless claims filed. The Labor department reported 5.53 million job openings on September, which was the second highest reading since the inception of the job openings report in 2000.

The Labor Department also reported that the quits rate held steady at 1.90 percent for the sixth consecutive month. Fed Chair Janet Yellen has said that the Fed considers the quits rate an indicator of economic strength; if workers have enough confidence to quit their jobs for new jobs, this a strong economy. The quits rate has held steady for six months, which could signal to the Fed that the economy is not yet ready for a rise in interest rates that analysts expect to occur in December.

U.S. News recently cautioned that a combination of rising home prices and interest rates could quickly cool housing markets as first-time and moderate income buyers are priced out of the market and other would-be buyers find it difficult to qualify for the mortgages they need to finance home purchases. Recent hikes in mortgage rates are a likely response to the anticipated Fed rate hike in December.

What’s Ahead

Next week’s scheduled economic reports include the National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index, Housing Starts and minutes from the most recent meeting of the Fed’s Federal Open Market Committee. The minutes may provide additional insight into how Fed policymakers are approaching the decision about raising the target federal funds rate.

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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – October 26, 2015

Posted in Market Outlook by southorangecounty on October 26, 2015

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week October 26 2015Last week’s economic news included the National Association of Home Builders Index, Housing Starts and FHFA’s report on August home sales. The National Association of Realtors® released its monthly report on sales of previously owned homes.

Builder Confidence and Housing Starts Post Gains

The Wells Fargo National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index for September posted its highest level of builder confidence in 10 years a higher than expected results with a reading of 64 for October. Analysts expected a reading of 62 based on September’s reading of 61.

The NAHB Wells Fargo Housing Market Index reading is based on three builder confidence readings. Builder confidence in current market conditions rose three points to a reading of 70; builder confidence in housing market conditions over the next six months rose seven points to 75 and buyer traffic in new housing developments held steady with a reading of 47. Any reading over 50 indicates that more builders are confident about market conditions than those who are not.

This news was consistent with September housing starts, which were also higher. The U.S. Commerce Department reported September’s housing starts at an annual level of 1.206 million starts against expectations of 1.139 million starts and August’s reading of 1.132 million housing starts.

Sales of Previously Owned Homes Surpass Expectations

September sales of pre-owned homes surpassed expectations according to a report released by the National Association of Realtors®. Sales of previously owned homes reached 5.55 million sales on a seasonally-adjusted annual basis against an expected reading of 5.34 million sales. August’s reading was adjusted downward from 5.31 million sales to 5.30 million sales of previously owned homes.

Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist for the National Association of Realtors®, cited lower mortgage rates, higher demand for homes and low inventories of available homes as driving higher sales. Slight easing of mortgage credit standards was also said to be driving home sales.

FHFA’s Home Price Index for August showed that home prices for properties associated with mortgages owned by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac increased at a rate of 5.05 percent in August as compared to a growth rate of 5.80 percent year-over-year in August 2014.

Mortgage Rates Mixed, Weekly Jobless Claims Lower

Weekly reports on mortgage rates and jobless claims yielded mixed results. Freddie Mac reported that average rates for fixed rate mortgages dipped with the average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage three basis points lower at 3.79 percent; the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage fell by five basis points to 2.98 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage ticked upward by one basis point to 2.89 percent. Average discount points were 0.60 percent for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage, 0.50 percent for a a5-year fixed rate mortgage and were unchanged at 0.40 percent for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage.

Weekly jobless claims were lower than expectations with a reading of 259,000 new claims filed against expectations of 265,000 new jobless claims. New claims were higher than the previous week’s reading of 256,000 new claims. Analysts are keeping an eye on jobs reports as stronger job markets are essential to expanding home sales.

What’s Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic news includes Case-Shiller reports on home prices along with reports on new home sales, consumer confidence and consumer sentiment. Core inflation readings will be released Friday after Thursday’s releases of Freddie Mac mortgage rates and weekly jobless claims.

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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 – April 13, 2015

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week April 13 2015Last week’s economic news included the minutes from the most recent FOMC meeting, which indicated that the Fed’s monetary policymakers are eyeing a potential increase in the target federal funds rate, but don’t expect to do so immediately.

Members of the Federal Open Market Committee expressed concerns about lagging housing markets and noted that inflation has not yet achieved the Fed’s two percent goal. When the Fed decides to raise its target federal funds rate, which now stands at 0.00 to 0.25 percent, Interest rates and mortgage rates can be expected to rise as well.

Mortgage Rates Lower, Jobless Claims Rise

Freddie Mac reported that mortgage fell last week. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage fell by four basis points to 3.66 percent; the average rate for a 15-year mortgage dropped by six basis points to 2.93 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was nine basis points lower at 2.83 percent. Discount points were unchanged across the board at 0.60 percent for fixed rate mortgages and 0.50 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

New jobless claims rose to 281,000 against projections of 285,000 new claims and the prior week’s reading of 267,000 new claims. Analysts said that the Easter holiday week affected weekly jobless claims, and that the varied dates of the Easter holiday and spring break weeks for schools can impact weekly readings for new unemployment claims.

The four-week rolling average of jobless claims fell to its lowest reading since June 2000. The four-week rolling average is considered a more dependable source for identifying labor force trends, as it lacks the volatility associated with holidays and one-time events that can cause great variation in weekly readings for new jobless claims.

What’s Ahead

Next week’s scheduled economic reports include retail sales, retail sales not including the automotive sector, the Federal Reserve’s Beige Book report, which includes anecdotal reports of economic conditions reported to the Fed, and Housing Starts. The usual reports for weekly jobless claims and Freddie Mac’s mortgage rates survey will be released Thursday.

On Friday, the University of Michigan will release its Consumer Sentiment report, which provides indications of how American consumers view current economic conditions. While general in scope, consumer sentiment can suggest how consumers view buying homes.

A lack of positive sentiment about the economy in general and jobs in particular suggests that fewer Americans may be ready to buy homes. Increasing positive sentiment indicates less concern about economic conditions and could point to more Americans entering the housing market as the peak home- buying season gets underway.

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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – March 23, 2015

Whats-Ahead-Mortgage-RatestLast week’s events included the National Association of Home Builder’s Housing Market Index, which fell to its lowest  reading since last summer. Other news included reports on housing starts and building permits, the FOMC meeting statement and Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s press conference.

Home Builder Confidence Falls, Building Permits Rise

The NAHB Wells Fargo Housing Market Index fell by two points for a reading of 53 in March. The expected reading was 57. Analysts said that this proves that lower mortgage rates and steady job growth aren’t fueling housing markets as expected. NAHB chief economist David Crowe also cited supply chain issues such as a shortage of available lots, labor shortages and tight mortgage underwriting standards. Home builders remain optimistic that as labor markets continue to improve and  more home buyers enter the market during the traditional spring and summer buying season, that builder confidence will also grow.

The Department of Commerce reported that building permits for February rose from January’s reading of 1.06 million to 1.09 million. This represents a 3.00 percent increase and was the highest reading since October. Permits fell for single family homes fell by 6.20 percent in February, but were 2.80 percent higher year-over-year. Single family permits account for 75 percent of building permits issued.

Housing starts fell dramatically due to bad weather. The Northeast saw housing starts fall by 56 percent due to extreme snowfall; Housing starts in the Midwest fell by 37 percent and the West saw housing starts decline by 18.20 percent in February. The South reported a 2.50 percent decrease in housing starts, but since nearly 50 percent of housing starts are in the South, this decline is more significant than it appears.

Fed Rates Hold Steady, Mortgage Rates Fall

The Federal Reserve noted in its post FOMC meeting statement that the Fed is in no hurry to raise rates. Citing ongoing concerns about low inflation and a sluggish housing market recovery, the Fed’s policymakers indicated that they don’t plan to rush on raising the target federal funds rate. In her press conference held after the FOMC statement, Fed Chair Janet Yellen reiterated the Fed’s intention to raise rates only when domestic and global economic developments warrant.

Mortgage rates fell according to Freddie Mac with the average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage eight basis points lower at 3.78 percent. The average rate for a 15-year mortgage was four basis points lower at 3.06 percent; the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was also four basis points lower at an average rate of 2.97 percent. Discount points were unchanged at an average of 0.60 percent for fixed rate mortgages and 0.50 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

What’s Ahead

This week’s housing-related news includes new and existing home sales, the FHFA home price index and FHFA’s home price index. Freddie Mac mortgage rates and weekly jobless claims will also be released as usual on Thursday.

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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – March 2, 2015

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week March 2 2015Last week provided several housing-related reports including New Home Sales, Pending Home Sales and Existing Home Sales reports. Case-Shiller and FHFA also released data on home prices. The details:

Sales of Pre-Owned Homes Hit Nine-Month Low

According to the National Association of Realtors® (NAR), Sales of pre-owned homes dropped to a seasonally-adjusted annual reading 4.82 million sales in January as compared to an estimated reading of 4.95 million sales and December’s reading of 5.07 million existing homes sold. This was a month-to-month decline of 4.90 percent, and represented the lowest reading for existing home sales in nine months.

Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the NAR, said that a short supply of available homes coupled with rising prices contributed to the drop in sales. While mortgage rates remain near historical lows, higher home prices and short supply are negatively impacting affordability; this puts home buyers who rely on mortgages in competition with cash buyers.

More encouraging news arrived with the Commerce Department’s new home sales report; new home sales reached 481,000 sales on a seasonally-adjusted annual basis in January. Analysts had expected new home sales of 467,000 new homes based on December’s reading of 482,000 new homes sold in December.

Pending Home Sales Highest Since August 2013

The National Association of Realtors® reported that pending home sales rose by 1.70 percent in January as compared to December’s reading of -3.70 percent. Pending sales were up 8.40 percent year-over-year. Job growth, a little more leniency in mortgage credit standards and slower inflation were seen as factors that contributed to higher pending sales. Pending sales represent under sales contracts that have not closed.

Case-Shiller, FHFA Post Home Price Data

The Case Shiller 20-City Composite reported that home prices rose by 0.10 percent month-to-month and 4.50 percent year-over-year according to its index report for December. San Francisco, California had the highest year-over-year price gain at 9.30 percent, while Chicago, Illinois had the lowest year-over-year home price appreciation rate at 1.30 percent as of December.

FHFA reported that home prices for properties connected with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac loans rose by 5.40 percent on a year-over-year basis as compared to November’ year-over-year reading of a 5.20 percent increase in home prices.

Mortgage Rates Rise

Freddie Mac reported that average mortgage rates rose across the board last week. The rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage rose by four basis points to 3.80 percent; the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage increased by two basis points to 3.07 percent and the rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was also two basis points higher at 2.99 percent. Discount points for all loan types were unchanged at 0.60 percent for fixed rate mortgages and 0.50 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

What’s Ahead?

This week’s scheduled economic news includes consumer spending, construction spending and the Labor Department’s non-farm payroll and national unemployment reports. Weekly jobless claims and Freddie Mac’s PMMS report on mortgage rates will be released as usual on Thursday.

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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – February 2, 2015

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week Feburary 2 2015Last week’s economic reports included Case-Shiller 10 and 20-City Home Price Index reports for November along with new and pending home sales for December. Freddie Mac reported on average mortgage rates and new jobless claims dipped unexpectedly. The details:

Case-Shiller: Home Price Growth Slower in November

Case-Shiller’s 20-City Home Price Index for November indicated that home prices continue to slow across the nation. Seasonally-adjusted annual home price growth slowed to 4.30 percent from October’s reading of 4.50 percent. Slowing momentum in year-over-year home price growth placed downward pressure on month-to-month readings. Several cities, including Atlanta, Georgia, Boston Massachusetts and Cleveland Ohio reported lower home prices in November as compared to October. Chicago, Illinois surprised analysts with a -1.10 percent drop in home price growth for November. Although mortgage rates have fallen in recent weeks, analysts cited tough mortgage approval standards, lower demand for homes and growing inventories of available homes as factors contributing to sluggish housing markets.

New and Pending Home Sales: Mixed Readings

New home sales jumped to a seasonally-adjusted annual reading of 481,000 sales in December against expectations of 455,000 sales and November’s revised reading of 431,000 new homes sold. The original reading for November was 438,000 new homes sold. New home sales were 8.80 percent higher in December year-over-year. The median price of new homes was $298,100 in December, which was an increase of 8.20 percent year-over-year.

Pending home sales reflected sluggish market conditions in December with pending sales lower by -3.70 percent as compared to November’s reading of +0.60 percent. This lull will likely impact completed sales as pending sales generally forecast completed sales within the next 60 days. The National Association of Realtors® said that home prices rose in some areas as supplies dwindled. Fewer homeowners list homes for sale during the fall and winter months than during spring and summer. Analysts also said that home sales trends rely on the willingness of homeowners to list their homes and move up. Although the economy continues to grow, homeowners can impact supplies of available homes if they wait to move up to larger homes.

Mortgage Rates Rise, New Jobless Claims Fall

Freddie Mac reported that average mortgage rates rose last week. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was three basis points higher at 3.66 percent; the average rate for 15-year mortgages rose by five basis points to 2.98 percent, and the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was 2.86 percent. Discount points fell to 0.60 percent for 30-year mortgages and 0.50 percent for 15-year mortgages. Discount points were unchanged at0.40 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

New jobless claims fell to 265,000; this was lower than the expected reading of 296,000 new jobless claims and the prior week’s reading of 308,000 new jobless claims. Analysts said that the short work week likely contributed to the drop in weekly jobless claims, which was the largest drop in new jobless claims since November 2012. As labor markets improve, more consumers can afford to buy homes. January’s Consumer Confidence Index rose more than expected in January with a reading of 102.9 against expectations of 96.90 and December’s reading of 93.10.

What’s Ahead

This week’s scheduled reports include Construction Spending, Personal Income, Core Inflation, and several employment reports including ADP Payrolls, Non-Farm Payrolls and the national unemployment rate. Freddie Mac’s mortgage rates report and new unemployment claims will be released on Thursday as usual.

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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – January 5, 2015

Whats-Ahead-Template-252Case-Shiller reported that home prices hit their lowest pace in two years. According to the Case-Shiller 20-City Home Price Index for October, home prices fell in 10 cities, rose in eight cities and were unchanged in two cities.

In other news, pending home sales increased and weekly jobless claims rose. The details:

Case-Shiller: Home Price Growth Lowest in Two Years

According to its 20-City Home Price Index, Case-Shiller said that home prices dropped by 0.10 percent to a reading of 4.50 percent year-over-year as compared to September’s reading of 4.80 percent year-over-year. Analysts expected home price growth to drop to 4.70 percent in October.

David Blitzer, chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices, said that 2014 could finish on a strong note with price growth accelerating in 2015. Home price growth hasn’t hit double digits since April, but there is encouraging news on the horizon.

More than half of states’ average home prices are set to surpass housing bubble peaks in 2015. Through October, home prices were approximately 15 percent below a 2006 peak. Higher inventories of available homes and lower mortgage rates are seen as stabilizing influences on housing markets, and could also encourage more buyers into the market.

Pending Home Sales Up, Mortgage Rates Mixed

The National Association of Realtors® reported that November pending home sales rose to a reading of 0.80 percent from October’s reading of -1.10 percent. The seasonally-adjusted index reading for November was 104.8.

Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist noted that steady economic growth and hiring contributed to home buyer confidence. Regional readings for pending home sales were +1.40 percent in the Northeast, +1.30 percent in the South and +0.40 percent in the South. Pending home sales declined by -0.40 percent in the Midwest.

Fixed mortgage rates rose last week. Freddie Mac reported that average rates for 30-year and 15-year mortgages rose to 3.87 percent and 3.15 percent respectively; the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was unchanged at 3.01 percent.

Discount points for all types of mortgages were unchanged at 0.60 percent for fixed rate mortgages and 0.50 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

Jobless Claims Up

Weekly jobless claims rose to 298,000 new claims against expectations of 290,000 new claims and 281,000 new claims filed the previous week. This was the highest reading since Thanksgiving.

Analysts said that seasonal hiring fluctuations and the volatility of week-to-week claims cause weekly reports to be less reliable than the four-week rolling average of jobless claims, which fell by 250 claims to a reading of 290,750.

Continuing claims fell by 53,000 to a reading of 2.35 million in the week ending December 20. This reading was close to a 14 year low.

Overall, analysts viewed stronger labor markets and economic growth as positive signs for 2015.

What’s Ahead

Next week will resume a full schedule of economic events including construction spending, ADP employment, Non-Farm Payrolls and the national unemployment rate. The Federal Reserve will release the minutes from the most recent meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC).

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