Financial Reports Category
Last week’s economic news was highlighted by Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s speech in Philadelphia. Although Chair Yellen alluded to future Fed rate hikes, she did not specify when Fed policymakers would next raise the target federal funds rate.
Increases in the fed funds rate typically signal increases in consumer credit and home mortgage rates. Last week’s speech was seen as a precursor to the Federal Open Market Committee statement that will occur at the conclusion of next week’s FOMC meeting.
Chair Yellen is also scheduled to give a press conference after the FOMC statement next Wednesday.
Mortgage rates and new jobless claims also fell last week.
Fed Chair Speech: Fed Rate Increases Likely, but Subject to Economic Developments
Fed Chair Janet Yellen said that remarks would be “largely favorable” although economic developments were “mixed.” Chair Yellen cited economic progress toward the Fed’s dual goal of achieving maximum employment and price stability. Labor benchmarks included national unemployment below five percent, rising household income and indications of rising wages were cited as positive signs for economic expansion.
Slowing job growth and inflation staying below the Fed’s goal of 2.00 percent were cited as signs that the U.S. economic recovery is underway, but Chair Yellen also said signs of slower job creation along with uncertainties in global economic conditions and oil prices prevented short-term predictions about how the economy would perform.
Fed Chair Yellen also repeated her usual caution that Fed policy is not set in stone, but instead is subject to FOMC members’ ongoing review of economic developments and related readings.
Mortgage Rates, New Jobless Claims Lower
Freddie Mac reported lower mortgage rates last week. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was six basis points lower at 3.60 percent; the rate for a 15-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 2.87 percent, which was five basis points lower than the previous week. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was six points lower at 2.82 percent. Discount points averaged 0.50 percent for all three loan types tracked by Freddie Mac.
New jobless claims were also lower at 264,000 new claims filed against expectations of 270,000 new claims and 268,000 new claims filed in the prior week.
What’s Ahead This Week
This week’s scheduled economic news includes the Fed’s post-meeting FOMC statement and press conference, reports on the consumer price index and core CPI, housing starts and the NAHB Housing Market Index. Reports on mortgage rates and new jobless claims will be released according to their weekly schedule.
Economic indicators such as price inflation, rising mortgage rates and housing data impact housing markets and consumers’ ability or willingness to buy homes.
Last week’s housing related news was limited to Construction Spending and Freddie Mac’s mortgage rates survey, but labor reports suggested an economic slowdown may be in the works.
Construction Spending Slips in April, Mortgage Rates Mixed
According to the Commerce Department, overall construction spending slipped in April to -1.80 percent as compared to March’s reading of +1.50 percent and May’s expected reading of +0.70 percent. Residential construction spending was 1.50 percent lower, which doesn’t help ongoing shortages of available single-family homes. Builders have repeatedly cited labor shortages and lack of developed lots as obstacles to building more homes. Year-over-year construction spending was 4.50 percent higher.
Freddie Mac reported higher rates for fixed-rate mortgages while the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was one basis point lower at 1.87 percent. Rates for a 30 year fixed rate mortgage averaged two basis points higher at 3.66 percent; rates for a 15-year fixed rate mortgages were three basis points higher at 2.92 percent. Average discount points were unchanged for all loan types at 0.50 percent.
Labor Reports Indicate Slowing Jobs Market And Economy
According to the Non-farm Payrolls report for May, U.S. jobs increased at their lowest rate in five years with 38,000 new private and public sector jobs added. Temporary hiring also hit its lowest reading in seven years, which was seen as a negative as temporary jobs often transition to permanent positions.
Analysts said that May’s extremely low reading for jobs created indicates that a revision is likely. This inconsistency was supported by the national unemployment rate of 4.70 percent, but the lower jobless rate was attributed to workers leaving the labor force.
ADP’s May reading for private sector jobs rose to 173,000 jobs against expectations of 165,000 jobs and April’s reading of 268,000. This reading was further evidence that the Non-farm Payrolls report was likely inaccurate.
Last week’s new jobless claims fell to a five-week low of 267,000 as compared to expectations of 279,000 new claims and the prior week’s reading of 268,000 new claims.
What’s Ahead This Week
Economic news scheduled for this week include a speech by Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen on Monday; this speech could foreshadow the Fed’s decision to raise or not raise the Fed’s target federal funds rate during its FOMC meeting later this month.
Readings on job openings and consumer sentiment will be released along with weekly reports on mortgage rates and new jobless claims.
March home prices were again dominated by the Northwest with Portland, Oregon posting a year-over-year gain of 12.30 percent followed by Seattle, Washington’s year-over-year gain of 10.80 percent.
Denver, Colorado rounded out the top three cities with a year-over-year gain of 10.00 percent. San Francisco, California, which consistently posted double-digit gains in recent months slipped to a year-over-year gain of 8.50 percent. This may indicate that prices in high cost metro areas are nearing their peak.
S&P Dow Jones Chair David M Blitzer attributed outsized price gains to the shortest supply of available homes since the mid-1980s. Homes for sale account for only two percent of U.S. households. To put rapidly increasing home prices in context, the S&P Case-Shiller 20-City Home Price Index was 11.50 percent below its peak in March, 2006.
Case-Shiller’s 20-City Home Price Index posted a 5.40 percent gain year over year, which was equal to its year-over-year price gain in March 2015. Month-to month home prices gained 0.90 percent; analysts had estimated year-year growth of 5.10 percent and a month-to-month gain of 0.70 percent. All cities in the 20-City Housing Market Index posted gains in month-to-month and year-over-year readings.
Pending Home Sales Exceed Expectations
Pending home sales in April supported trends noted in Case-Shiller’s 20-City Home Price Index. Regional results for pending home sales in April rose by 1.20 percent in the Northeast while pending sales were unchanged in the Midwest. The South posted pending sales gain of 6.80 percent and the West recovered with an 11.40 percent rise in pending sales for April.
Based on April’s pending home sales readings, real estate pros expect a jump in closed sales in May. Home buyer demand remains resilient according to Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors. Mr. Yun also said that the key to continued expansion of home sales is providing buyers sufficient supplies of affordable homes. Builders may provide relief by increasing construction, but have cited shortages of labor and developed land as constraints on new construction. Active demand for high-end homes has also focused construction on higher priced homes.
Mortgage applications are also increasing, which indicates that more homes are being purchased by owner-occupant buyers than investors. Relatively low mortgage rates and waning investor interest could provide buyers relying on financing a leg-up in competing for available homes.
In its post-meeting statement, the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) of the Federal Reserve announced its decision not to raise the current federal funds rate of 0.25 to 0.50 percent. Although FOMC members acknowledged further improvement in the U.S. economy and jobs markets, the committee cited the following as influencing its decision not to raise the current federal funds rate:
- Household income continued to rise, but consumers have “moderated” their spending.
- Inflation is expected to remain below the Fed’s goal of two percent in the near term.
- Temporary influences including low energy and import prices are expected to ease.
FOMC monetary policy decisions made in April’s meeting were guided by the Fed’s dual mandate of achieving maximum employment and its inflation goal of two percent. Labor markets improved since the Committee’s March meeting, but inflation is not expected to reach the Fed’s goal in the near term.
No Fed Rate Increase in April; Moderate Increases Expected
While the FOMC did not raise the federal funds rate, its statement suggested that future rate increases are likely. Potential increases in the federal funds rate would be gradual into the medium term. FOMC’s April statement hinted that incremental rate increases over time would be expected to facilitate further economic growth and help achieve the two percent inflation goal. According to the statement, any potential increases in the federal funds rate would be “accommodative.” This indicates that FOMC members do not want to raise rates too quickly, which could interfere with current economic growth.
Fed Concerns over Global Economy Ease
Notably absent from April’s FOMC statement were concerns over global economic conditions and developments. In March, the Fed characterized global economic and financial conditions as a risk to U.S. economic growth, but April’s statement said that FOMC members would continue monitoring global news and developments with no mention of potential risks.
Analysts said that the Fed could have been “more hawkish” in its position, but also said that a rate increase could occur in June if FOMC members conclude that economic conditions are favorable. FOMC statements typically indicate that monetary policy decisions are pre-determined way, but rely on the committee’s ongoing review of global and domestic financial and economic developments.
Unless economic developments intervene, Fed policy makers opened the door to a rate increase in June. Past FOMC statements indicated plans to raise the federal funds rate up to four times in 2016, but these plans were revised to two potential rate increases for 2016.
Home buyers kicked the spring home shopping season into gear and boosted sales of pre-owned homes in March. Existing home sales rose 5.10 percent in March according to the National Association of Realtors®. 5.33 million pre-owned homes were sold in March against expectations of 5.30 million sales and February’s reading of 5.07 million sales on a seasonally adjusted annual basis.
Demand for homes remains strong in spite of rapidly escalating prices in many areas. Short supplies of available homes continue to drive demand and home prices. Sales rose only 1.50 percent year-over-year, but during the first quarter of 2016, existing home sales rose by 4.80 percent as compared to the first quarter of 2015. Sales were 11.11 percent higher in the Northeast, which was a notable improvement over lagging sales in recent months.
There was a 4.50 month supply of available homes in March and the median price of an existing home rose 5.70 percent to $222,700. NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun noted that the annual increase in home prices was more than twice the rate of average wage increases. First-time home buyers represented 30 percent of buyers in March; this was the same percentage as February. First-time and moderate income buyers continue to face challenges due to rapidly rising home prices competition for available homes.
NAHB: Home Builder Confidence Unchanged in March
According to the National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index for March, home builder confidence remained at 58 for the third consecutive months. Any reading over 50 indicates that more builders are confident about current market conditions than not.
Builder confidence in current market conditions fell two points to 63 while builder confidence rose 1 point to 62 for market conditions in the next six months. Builder confidence in buyer traffic for new home developments also rose one point to 44. Readings for buyer traffic have not exceeded 50 for approximately 10 years. NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz characterized home builder sentiment as “cautiously optimistic.”
Challenges facing home builders include a short supply of labor; the number of job vacancies reached a post-recession high in February. All four regional builder confidence readings declined in April; the Northeast lost two points for a reading of 44. The Midwest and South each lost one point for readings of 57 and 58 respectively. The Western region posted a loss of two points for a reading of 67.
Last week’s scheduled economic releases included reports on retail sales, inflation and the Federal Reserve’s Beige Book report. Weekly reports on mortgage rates and new jobless claims were also released. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau announced a limited program for reducing principal on eligible mortgages held by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. This program is intended to resolve remaining “underwater” mortgages on homes worth less than their current mortgage amounts.
Retail Sales Fall, Inflation Rises
Retail sales fell in March to close out a weaker than expected first quarter 2016. Retail sales fell 0.30 percent in March as compared to expectations of a 0.10 percent increase and February’s flat reading. Analysts said consumers were reluctant to spend in spite of improving job markets and household finances. Retail sales rose by 1.70 percent year-over-year, a reading categorized as “weak” by analysts.
Hiring for lower wages and fewer hours worked was seen as contributing to consumers’ reluctance to spend, especially on big-ticket items including vehicles. Retail sales excluding auto sales were 0.20 percent higher than in February, but did not meet the expected reading of 0.50 percent and incrementally exceeded February’s reading, which was unchanged from January.
Inflation rose by 0.10 percent in March against expectations of 0.20 percent and February’s negative reading of -0.70 percent. Core inflation readings that exclude volatile food and energy sectors mirrored the Consumer Price Index with 0.10 percent growth against an expected reading of 0.20 percent and February’s Core Consumer Price Index reading of 0.30 percent. Lagging inflation is largely attributed to lower fuel prices, but this doesn’t impact the Core CPI reading.
Fed Beige Book: Economy Recovering at Modest to Moderate Rate
According to the Federal Beige Book report for March, business contacts surveyed by the Federal Reserve suggested that increases in wages and oil prices should bump up the economy, but the Fed expects economic expansion to increase at a “modest to moderate” rate for the long term. Employers noted difficulties in hiring for low and high skilled jobs in some areas, and retailers were optimistic about sales for the rest of 2016.
In general, the Fed has adopted a cautious approach to raising its target federal funds rate. Fed Chair Janet Yellen repeatedly cited concerns over global risks for scaling back Fed rate increases from four to two in 2016.
Mortgage Rates, Jobless Claims Fall
Freddie Mac reported the lowest mortgage rates for 2016; rates were also their lowest since May 2013. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage fell one basis point to 3.58 percent; the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage fell two basis points to 2.86 percent. The average rates for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage also slipped two basis points to 2.84 percent. Discount points were 0.50, 0.40 and 0.50 percent respectively.
In unrelated mortgage news, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau announced a limited program for reducing mortgage balances for eligible mortgages owned by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that exceed home values. Mortgage lenders will notify eligible homeowners by December 31.While limited in scope, this program is expected to prevent foreclosure of eligible properties that cannot be sold or refinanced.
Jobless claims fell to 253,000 new claims last week, which was lower than the expected reading of 270,000 new jobless claims and the prior week’s reading of 266,000 new claims. Coupled with the Beige Book findings that employers are facing shortages of qualified workers, this low reading appears to further support improving economic conditions.
Next week’s scheduled economic releases include the National Association’s Home Builders Housing Market Index along with Commerce Department reports on housing starts and building permits. The National Association of Realtors® will also release its Existing Home Sales Report.
Last week’s economic news included minutes of the most recent Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting. Weekly reports on mortgage rates and new jobless claims were also released.
FOMC Minutes Indicate Fed Not Pressing Rate Increases
Minutes of the FOMC meeting held March 15 and 16 suggest that FOMC members are easing their enthusiasm for raising the target federal funds rate. In recent months, the committee has indicated that it was leaning toward raising rates on a slow but steady pace. Ongoing concerns over changing global economic and financial conditions contributed to FOMC’s decision not to raise the key federal funds rate. Low energy prices continue to cause U.S. inflation to stay below the Fed’s goal of two percent, which suggests that the economy is not recovering as fast as originally expected.
Labor markets continued to improve as the national unemployment rate held steady at 4.90 percent in February. FOMC noted that the labor force participation rate and employment to population ratio increased. The four-week moving average of new jobless claims fell in March after increasing in February. These readings support continued expansion of labor markets.
Housing markets and household spending improved. Committee members characterized developments in labor and housing markets as “broadly consistent” with earlier expectations. Some housing markets connected with energy production weakened. FOMC members elected to maintain the target federal funds rate at a range of 0.25 to 0.50 percent. Global financial and economic developments were cited as contributing to the Committee’s decision not to raise its target rate.
Mortgage Rates, Weekly Jobless Claims Lower
Mortgage rates fell across the board last week. According to Freddie Mac’s weekly survey of mortgage rates, the average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage dropped to 3.59 percent from the previous week’s reading of 3.71 percent. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage dropped 10 basis points to 2.88 percent; the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage dropped to 2.82 percent from 2.90 percent. Average discount points held steady at 0.50, 0.40 and 0.50 percent respectively. Last week’s mortgage rates were the lowest in 14 months.
Analysts said this news was positive in the sense that lower rates make mortgages more affordable, but more home buyers entering the market would further increase demand for homes. Low inventories of homes and high demand have fueled higher home prices in many areas.
Weekly jobless claims fell to 267,000 new claims against expectations of 268,000 new claims and the prior week’s reading of 276,000 new jobless claims. New jobless claims remained below the benchmark of 300,000 new claims for the 57th consecutive week.
What’s Ahead This Week
This week’s scheduled economic news releases include retail sales, the Fed’s Beige Book report, the consumer price index and core consumer price index. Weekly jobless claims and Freddie Mac’s mortgage rates report will be released as usual on Thursday.
Last week’s economic calendar was full of new releases including pending home sales, Case-Shiller Home Price Indices and construction spending. Labor related reports including ADP payrolls, federal Non-farm payrolls, and the national unemployment rate were also released along with reports on consumer confidence and weekly reports on mortgage rates and new unemployment claims.
Case-Shiller: January Home Prices Up 5.7% Year-Over-Year
According to the S&P Case-Shiller 20-City Home Price Index for January, home prices increased by 5.70 percent year-over-year. The West led price increases with double-digit price gains posted for San Francisco, California, Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington. Denver, Colorado also posted a double-digit gain, but dropped its recent lead for metro areas tracked by the 20-City Index.
The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reported better than expected growth in February pending home sales. Low mortgage rates pushed pending home sales to their highest rate in seven months. Pending home sales rose 3.50 percent in February, which exceeded the expected reading of 1.80 percent and January’s reading of 03.00 percent. NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun said that February’s reading indicated that housing markets may be recovering after choppy winter sales. Mr. Yun also noted a “slight uptick in inventory,” which is good news for housing markets currently experiencing low inventories of homes for several months or more.
S&P Index Committee Chair David M Blitzer echoed Mr. Yun’s remarks about the impact of low inventories of homes for sale. While higher home prices driven by low inventories benefit home sellers, there comes a point where potential buyers cannot find and / or afford available homes. Constructing new homes is the only immediate solution to increasingly limited supplies of homes for sale.
Construction spending slipped in February from January’s upwardly revised $1.150 trillion on a seasonally-adjusted annual basis. February’s reading was $1.144 trillion. Construction spending fell 0.50 percent as compared to analysts’ expectations of 0.20 percent. Year-over-year, construction spending was 10.30 percent higher in February.
Mortgage Rates Mixed, New Jobless Claims Rise
Freddie Mac’s weekly mortgage rates survey reported mixed results last week. The average rate for a 30-yar fixed rate mortgage held steady at 3.71 percent; the average rate for 15-year fixed rate mortgages rose by two basis points to 2.98 percent and the rate for 5/1 adjustable rate rose by one basis point to 2.90 percent. Average discount points were unchanged across the board at 0.50, 0.40 percent and 0.50 percent respectively.
New unemployment claims rose to 276,000 against an expected reading of 270,000 new claims and 265,000 new claims the prior week.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported fewer jobs created in March than for February. 215,000 jobs were added in March as compared to the expected reading of 203,000 new jobs and February’s reading 245,000 new jobs. ADP reported a lower reading of 200,000 private sector jobs added as compared to expectations of 205,000 jobs added and February’s reading of 205,000 private sector jobs added. The national unemployment rate ticked up to 5.0 percent over February’s reading of 4.90 percent.
Consumer confidence rose over two percent in March with a reading of 96.20 percent. Analysts expected a reading of 94.20 based on February’s reading of 94.00.
What’s Ahead This Week
Economic reports scheduled this week include job openings and weekly reports on mortgage rates and new jobless claims.
Home prices were 5.70 percent higher year-over-year in January according to S&P Case-Shiller’s 20-City Home Price Index. Top year-over-year gains were posted by Portland, Oregon at 11.80 percent, San Francisco, California at 10.80 percent and Seattle Washington posted a year-over-year gain of 10.70 percent. Denver, Colorado, which had top gains in recent months, posted year-over-year home price growth of 10.20 percent.
Lowest year over-year gains for January were posted by Chicago, Illinois at 2.10 percent, Washington, D.C at 2.20 percent and New York, New York at 2.80 percent.
Average home prices remained about 12 percent below their summer 2006 peak, but have recovered to 2007 levels.
Rising Home Prices and Short Inventory of Homes Impacts Buyers and Sellers
David M Blitzer, Managing Director and Chair of the S&P Indices Committee expressed concerns over rapidly rising home prices and the shortage of available homes. Mr. Blitzer said “would-be sellers seeking to trade up are having a hard time finding a new larger home.” Analysts also noted that home prices are escalating faster than wages, which were growing at a rate of 2.20 percent annually as of February.
New construction is not keeping up with demand; the current supply of available homes is below the normal six month inventory. Mr. Blitzer said that home building is the segment of the housing sector that creates economic growth.
Rapidly rising home prices and low inventories of available homes are potentially sidelining first-time and moderate income buyers. This trend also sandwiches homeowners who want to buy larger homes between a short supply of available homes and finding qualified buyers for their current homes. Mr. Blitzer said that high amounts of education debt and consumer debt are contributing to younger buyers’ inability to qualify for mortgages. Mortgage lenders have loosened mortgage qualification requirements somewhat, but Mr. Blitzer said that lenders haven’t forgotten what happened 10 years ago; they remain reluctant to further ease lending requirements.
Pending Home Sales Rise in February
In related news, the National Association of Realtors reported that pending home sales rose 3.50 percent in February as compared to an expected reading of 1.80 percent and January’s negative reading of -3.0 percent February’s reading for pending home sales was the highest in seven months.
Analysts and real estate pros use pending home sales readings s as indications of future closings and mortgage loan activity.
NAR Chairman Lawrence Yun cited lower mortgage rates as the driving force behind February’s jump in pending home sales. Mr. Yun said that building more homes is essential for boosting home sales; he cautioned that failure to increase the current supply of available homes could cause home sales to “plateau.”
Increasing Home Prices Good For Sellers
The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reported lower sales of pre-owned homes in February. Would-be buyers were discouraged by rapidly rising home prices. Short supplies of available homes sidelined potential buyers as higher home prices and cash buyers squeeze out buyers who need mortgages to buy homes. Multiple offers resulting in bidding wars have also deterred buyers in high demand markets. According to NAR’s February report, sales of existing homes fell 7.10 percent to their lowest level since November.
NAR has predicted that rapidly rising home prices would eventually damage housing markets. While analysts weren’t certain whether February’s report indicated a temporary lull due to weather and anomalies related to new closing regulations and seasonal influences, NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun said, “The main issue continues to be a supply and affordability problem. Finding the right property at an affordable price is burdening many potential buyers.”
During the housing bubble, buyers jumped into the market as speculators or to buy before home prices increased beyond their reach. NAR surveyed renters last week and found that the percentage of renters who believed that it’s currently a good time to buy a home decreased.
Respondents to Fannie Mae’s February Home Purchase Sentiment Index forecasted a 1.70 percent increase in home prices year-over-year. One year ago, respondents expected home prices to increase by 2.50 percent year-over-year. This may suggest that home prices are cooling. This can be expected as the number of buyers declines as home prices become increasingly unaffordable.
New Home Sales Up in February
New home rose in February according to the Commerce Department. Based on a revised reading of 502,000 new home sales in January, February’s reading was 2.00 percent higher than January’s reading, but was 6.10 percent lower than for February 2015.
Builders have held back on increasing construction due to concerns about ups and downs in the economic recovery. Short supplies of labor and available land have also kept home builders from meeting current demand.
Mortgage Rates Trend Lower
According to Freddie Mac, average mortgage rates fell across the board last week. The rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage fell by two basis points to 3.71 percent; the rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage fell three basis points to 2.96 percent and the rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage fell four basis points to 2.89 percent.
New jobless claims rose to 265,000 from the prior week’s reading of 259,000 new claims. Last week’s reading matched analyst expectations.
What‘s Ahead This Week
This week’s scheduled economic news includes reports on inflation, pending home sales, Case-Shiller’s Home Price Index reports and government and private sector employment data. Weekly reports on mortgage rates and new jobless claims are also scheduled.