Market Outlook Category
Last week’s economic events included weekly releases on new jobless claims, mortgage rates and testimony by Fed Chair Janet Yellen concerning the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy. Here are the details:
Mortgage Rates, New Jobless Claims Drop
Freddie Mac reported that average mortgage rates fell across the board last Thursday, with the rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage seven basis points lower at 3.65 percent. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage was six basis points lower at 2.95 percent, and the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was two basis points lower at 2.83 percent. Discount points averaged 0.50 percent for 30 and 15 year fixed rate mortgages and 0.40 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.
Lower mortgage rates may encourage first-time and moderate income home buyers to enter the market, although slim supplies of available homes and rising home prices have caused ongoing concerns about affordability in many markets.
Weekly jobless claims were also lower. 269,000 new claims were filed as compared to estimated claims of 280,000 new claims and the prior week’s reading of 285,000 new jobless claims. This was the lowest reading in two months and suggests healthy labor markets as more workers find jobs. Readings lower than 300,000 new jobless claims indicate healthy jobs markets. The four-week rolling average of new jobless claims was lower by 3500 claims at 281,250 new claims filed. Analysts consider the four-week reading as a more accurate indicator of labor markets as it smooths out anomalies in weekly claims.
Yellen Testimony: Fed Won’t Change Course on Rates
Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said that she doesn’t expect interest rate cuts in view of slowing economic indicators. In testimony before the House Financial Services panel, Chair Yellen indicated that although there are signs of slower economic conditions, there was still room for economic growth. She cited a strong labor market and strong consumer and business spending as indicators of economic expansion. Analysts interpreted Chair Yellen’s testimony to indicate that the Fed would not likely raise its target federal funds rate in March.
Chair Yellen said that monetary policy is not on a “preset course”. Federal Reserve press releases consistently state that policy makers review current and developing domestic and global economic trends as part of any decision to raise rates. In view of this, Chair Yellen’s testimony did not cover what could happen if future economic developments influence Fed policy. Recent concerns over volatile financial markets caused by the weakening in China’s economy were cited as examples of “downside risks” that could impact the Fed’s monetary policy.
Readings for Consumer Sentiment suggest that consumers are also watching economic developments. February’s reading decreased to 90.7 as compared to January’s reading of 92.0.
This week’s scheduled economic events include the National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index, federal reports on housing starts and building permits. FOMC minutes and weekly reports on mortgage rates and new jobless claims will also be released.
Last week’s scheduled economic news included reports on construction spending and several labor-related reports along with weekly reports on mortgage rates and new jobless claims. The details:
Construction Spending Higher in December
U.S. construction spending rose by 0.10 percent in December for a seasonally adjusted annual total of $1.12 trillion. The Commerce Department reported that construction firms spent 10.5 percent more than in 2014.Residential construction spending totaled $416.8 billion for 2015, which was 12.60 percent higher than in 2015.
Higher construction spending can be a double-edged sword, as it can indicate that builders are stepping up construction or that they are paying higher prices for labor and supplies. Builders have consistently cited labor shortages and slim supplies of buildable land as concerns. Short supplies of available homes impacted housing markets in 2015. Low inventories of homes drive up home prices and impact affordability for first-time buyers; these conditions eventually slow housing markets with fewer qualified buyers and home sales.
Fed Benchmarks Show Mixed Readings
The Federal Reserve consistently cites its goals of achieving maximum employment and an inflation rate of 2.00 percent as benchmarks for its decision to raise or not raise the target federal funds rate. National unemployment reached a new low of 4.90 percent in January against expectations of 5.00 percent and December’s reading of 5.00 percent. Inflation held steady with no increase in January; this offsets the good news concerning unemployment. Lower oil prices are holding inflation well below the Fed’s desired rate of 2.00 percent.
Mortgage Rates Fall, Jobless Claims Rise
Freddie Mac reported lower average rates across the board. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage fell by seven basis points to 3.72 percent; the corresponding rate for 15 year mortgages fell six basis points to 3.01 percent and the average rate for a5/1 adjustable rate mortgage dropped five basis points to2.85 percent. Average discount points were 0.60, 0.50 and 0.40 percent respectively.
Weekly jobless claims rose to 285,000 new claims against expectations of 280,000 new claims and the prior week’s reading of 277,000 new jobless claims. While rising jobless claims could suggest a slowing jobs market, the low unemployment rate suggests otherwise.
Non-Farm Payrolls, ADP Payrolls Fall
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, non-farm payrolls added 151,000 jobs in January as compared to expectations of 180,000 jobs added and December’s reading of 262,000 jobs added in December. Analysts said that January’s reading is further evidence that a long-running decline in new jobless claims has ended.
ADP payrolls were also lower in January with 205,000 new jobs posted as compared to December’s reading of 267,000 private sector jobs added. Holiday hiring likely impacted higher readings in December, but time will tell if declining job growth is trending.
Next week’s economic reports include data on job openings, consumer sentiment and Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s Congressional testimony.
Last week’s economic events included S&P Case-Shiller’s home price indexes, reports on new and pending home sales and the Fed’s FOMC statement. The details:
Case-Shiller Reports Fast Paced Home Price Growth
According to S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Indexes, U.S. home prices grew at their fastest pace in 16 months in November. Portland, Oregon led the charge with home prices increasing 11.10 percent year-over-year followed by San Francisco, California at 11.0 percent; Denver, Colorado posted a year-over-year gain of 10.90 percent. 14 cities posted home price gains while four cities posted declines in home prices and two cities posted no change on a month-to-month basis.
David M. Blitzer, chairman of the S&P Index Committee, noted that slumping oil prices and a strong dollar were posing challenges to domestic and international homebuyers. In spite of high demand, the supply of available homes continued to drive home prices up in most cities in the S&P Case-Shiller 20-City Home Price Index.
In related news, the Commerce Department reported that sales of new homes jumped to a year-over-year reading of 544,000 new home sales as compared to November’s upwardly revised reading of 491,000 new homes sold and expectations of a year-over-year reading of 506,000 new homes sold as of December. The December 2015 reading was 9.90 percent higher than for December 2014.
Analysts cited a shortage of new homes for driving sales; builders are facing obstacles in hiring and finding suitable land for development. Some builders were said to be targeting high-end buyers which leaves a shortage of homes available for first-time and mid-range home buyers.
The National Association of Realtors® reported a minor gain in pending home sales in December. Pending home sales gauge future closings and mortgage activity. December’s pending sales reading was higher by 0.10 percent month-to-month and posted a year-over-year gain of 4.50 percent. December’s gain represented the 16th consecutive monthly gain for pending home sales. Analysts had expected a month-to-month gain of 1 percent, but high demand and a slim supply of affordable homes are leaving would-be buyers on the sidelines.
Fed Holds Off on Raising Rate; Mortgage Rates Lower
The Federal Reserve announced its decision not to raise its target federal funds rate on Wednesday; Freddie Mac reported lower average mortgage rates on Thursday. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage dropped by two basis points to 3.79 percent; the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage fell 3 basis points to 3.07 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage were lower by one basis point at 2.90 percent. Discount points were unchanged at 0.6, 0.5 and 0.5 percent respectively.
This week’s scheduled economic news includes reports on construction spending, ADP payrolls, Non-Farm payrolls and the national unemployment rate.
According to statement issued at the conclusion of today’s Federal Open Market Committee meeting, committee members decided against raising the target federal funds rate. Mixed economic conditions, slower economic growth in the 4th quarter and low inflation contributed to the decision against raising rates. The target federal funds rate was raised in December to a range of 0.25 to 1.59 percent after remaining at 0.00 to 0.25 percent for several years. While rising fed rates were expected to cause a hike in mortgage rates, mortgage rates fell after December’s rate hike.
Committee Cites Mixed Data in Decision
While labor conditions and housing markets continue to improve, FOMC members said that further improvement in labor markets and achieving the medium term goal of inflation influenced the committee’s decision not to raise rates. The Federal Reserve has a dual goal of achieving maximum employment and 2 percent inflation. While labor conditions continue to improve, the Committee wants to see further improvement. The inflation rate has stubbornly stayed below 2 percent and lower energy and non-energy import prices caused the inflation rate to fall further in recent weeks. The Fed also downgraded its reading of household spending and business investment growth from “strong” to “moderate.”
FOMC members consider global economic and financial conditions as well as trends and developing news affecting domestic economic and financial developments. Wednesday’s statement emphasized that constant monitoring and analysis of financial and economic readings are significant in monetary policy decisions. Analysts noted that recent economic developments including slowing economic growth in the US and China, along with resulting turbulence in financial markets likely contributed to the Fed’s decision not to raise the federal funds rate.
FOMC Says Policy Decisions to Remain “Accommodative”
Members of the FOMC do not expect marked economic improvement in the short term and said that they expect Fed monetary policy to remain accommodative “for some time.” This suggests that rapid rate hikes are not likely to occur in the near future; the Fed’s commitment to gradual rate increases is expected promote further improvements in labor markets and hold down borrowing rates for consumer credit and mortgages.
The Committee’s vote not to increase rates was unanimous. The next FOMC meeting is set for March 15 and 16. In the meantime, Fed Chair and FOMC Chair Janet Yellen is slated to testify before Congress about the economic outlook on February 10 and 11.
Last week’s scheduled economic news included releases from the National Association of Home Builders, Housing Starts, and Existing Home Sales. Weekly reports on new jobless claims and mortgage rates were also released.
The National Association of Realtors® reported that sales of previously owned homes rose to 5.46 million sales on an annual seasonally adjusted basis in December. This reading surpassed expectations of 5.21 million sales and November’s reading of 4.76 million sales. November’s low reading was in part affected by new mortgage rules, which delayed some closings into December. Economic factors pushing housing markets include low driven by falling fuel costs easing consumers’ budgets could provide confidence to move up to a larger home and for first time buyers to enter the market.
Existing Home Sales Up 7.6 Percent in December
There was a 3.9 month supply of pre-owned homes on the market in December; this was the lowest inventory since January 2005. High demand for homes and a slim supply of available homes continued to tighten housing markets. Growing demand for homes coupled with a shortage of homes for sale are driving up prices; the national average price of a pre-owned home rose 7.60 percent in December to $224,100. Rapidly rising home prices present an obstacle to first time buyers and as home prices rise, more buyers will face affordability concerns.
Housing Starts dipped in December to 1.15 million as compared to expectations of 1.23 million and November’s reading of 1.18 million housing starts annually. Builders constructed homes in 2015 at the highest rate since the recession. While December’s reading fell short of expectations, housing starts increased nearly 11 percent year-over-year. While builders cite obstacles such as shortages of land and labor, a growing pace of housing starts is seen as a partial solution to the shortage of available homes.
Building permits issued increased 12 percent in 2015; permits issued gauge future building activity and supply of available homes.
Mortgage Rates Fall for Third Consecutive Week
Average mortgage rates fell last week according to Freddie Mac. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage dropped 11 basis points to 3.81 percent; the rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage fell by nine basis points to an average of 3.10 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage dropped 10 basis points to 2.91 percent. Discount points averaged 0.60, 0.50 and 0.40 percent respectively. Sean Becketti, chief economist for Freddie Mac, cited turbulence in the financial markets as a factor contributing to lower mortgage rates.
New jobless claims rose to a seven week high of 293,000 new claims as compared to expectations of 279,000 new claims and the prior week’s reading of 283,000 new claims. The four-week rolling average of new claims jumped by 6.500 new claims to an average of 285,000 claims. Lingering layoffs of temporary holiday workers were cited as contributing to higher first-time claims.
Next week’s scheduled events include data on new and pending home sales, the Case-Shiller home price indexes. The Fed will release its latest FOMC statement. Weekly reports on mortgage rates and new jobless claims will be released as usual. Reports on consumer confidence and sentiment will also be released.
Home builders maintained December’s confidence level according to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Housing Market Index for January. The latest reading of 60 mirrored December’s reading, but was two points lower than expected. Readings of more than 50 indicate that more builders were confident about housing conditions than those who were not.
Although January’s reading fell shy of October’s reading of 65, which was a ten-year high for the home builder index. Any reading in the low 60’s suggests gradual improvement in housing market conditions according to NAHB. While December’s year-over-year reading for new home sales was 14 percent higher than in December 2014, home builders cited industry challenges including cost of new lots and a scarce labor force. The Fed’s recent rate hike may have influenced builder confidence as higher mortgage rates would sideline some buyers.
National unemployment reached a seven-year low, which is pushing wages upward. Labor market readings are important to would-be home buyers, who typically need to be confident about jobs before investing in a home. Demand for homes continues to drive new home prices up and contributes to home builder confidence levels. The flip side of high demand is that rising home prices can price some would-be home buyers out of the market.
Components of Housing Market Index Mixed
The NAHB Housing Market Index readings are based on three components. January’s readings were mixed. Builder confidence in current market conditions rose two points to 67, but builder confidence in market conditions over the next six months slipped three points to 63. Builder confidence in buyer traffic in new home developments slipped two points to 44; this was likely due in part to winter weather.
In related news, the University of Michigan released January’s Consumer Sentiment Index last week. Consumer sentiment rose from December’s reading of 92.60 to 03.30 and surpassed the expected reading of 93.0. Low inflation drove consumer confidence according to analysts. Low wage gains were offset by falling inflation rates. Strong consumer confidence readings suggest that more home buyers could enter the market as worries about economic conditions ease.
In 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.
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.
The first week of 2016 was quiet concerning housing and mortgage related news, but reports on construction spending and several labor-related reports were released. Construction spending is connected to housing markets as it provides evidence of builder confidence and also future housing supply. Labor market trends provide a sense of economic performance in general and can influence potential buyers on decisions about buying or not buying homes.
Construction Spending Dips in November
According to the Commerce Department, construction spending dropped by 0.40 percent in November to a seasonally adjusted annual reading of $1.12 trillion. November’s reading was short of the expected reading of 0.90 percent, which was based on October’s original reading of a 1.00 percent increase in construction spending. October’s reading was later revised downward to 0.30 percent. November’s construction spending was 10.50 percent higher year-over-year.
While private construction spending decreased by 0.20 percent in November, it was up 12.10 percent year-over-year due to housing construction. Housing markets have been squeezed due to consistently short supplies of available homes. New construction is seen as an important way to ease the bottleneck as buyers sit on the sidelines waiting for homes to come on the market.
Residential construction was up 0.30 percent in November and increased 10.80 percent year-over-year.
Mortgage Rates Mixed, Weekly Jobless Claims Lower
Freddie Mac reported mixed results for mortgage rates. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage dropped four basis points to 3.97 percent; the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage rose two basis points to 3.26 percent and the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage rose by one basis point to 3.09 percent. Last week’s discount points averaged 0.60 percent for 30-year fixed rate mortgages, 0.50 percent for 15 year fixed rate mortgages and 0.40 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.
New weekly jobless claims fell to 277,000 as compared to expectations of 275.000 and the prior week’s reading of 287,000 first-time claims. Fewer first-time claims for jobless benefits point to stronger economic conditions in general as evidenced by expanding job markets. National unemployment held steady 5.00 percent, which mirrored expectations and the same as November’s reading.
Labor Department: 292,000 New Jobs Added in December
According to the Labor Department, 292,000 new jobs were added in December, which resulted in the fifth consecutive year where jobs grew by 2 million or more year-over-year. Upward revisions to jobs reports for October and November supported stronger economic conditions. October’s reading was adjusted from 298,000 new jobs to 307,000 new jobs; November’s original reading for new jobs was raised from 211,000 jobs added to 252.000 jobs added.
Last week’s positive jobs reports were released against a backdrop of market volatility due to fears that the Chinese economy is slowing. As the second largest global economy, China’s economy could influence global financial markets and economic conditions if it experiences serious difficulties.
This week’s scheduled economic releases include reports on job openings, retail sales and the Federal Reserve’s Beige Book. In addition to reports on mortgage rates and new jobless claims, a reading on consumer sentiment will round out this week’s news.
2015 said farewell with reports on Case Shiller home prices, pending home sales, and consumer confidence. The details:
Case-Shiller Home Prices Post Double Digit Gains in October
According to Case-Shiller’s 20 City Home Price Index, Denver, Colorado, Portland, Oregon and San Francisco, California tied for the highest home price gains in October with year-over-year home price gains of 10.90 percent. Lowest annual price gains were posted by Chicago, Illinois at 1.30 percent followed by Washington, D.C with a year-over-year –reading of 1.70 percent. Home prices rose at their fastest rate since August 2014 according to Case-Shiller.
Month-to-month home prices showed mixed results in October. Miami, Florida posted the highest month-to-month gain of 0.70 percent. San Francisco, California posted a gain of 0.60 percent; Phoenix, Arizona and Portland, Oregon posted month-to-month home price gains of 0.60 percent.
Cities posting month-to-month declines in home prices included Chicago, Illinois where home prices declined 0.70 percent, Cleveland Ohio and San Diego, California posted month-to-month declines of 0.40 percent, Washington, DC home prices dropped 0.30 percent month-to-month. Home prices in Boston, Massachusetts and Las Vegas, Nevada were unchanged in October from September readings.
While Case-Shiller’s 20-City Index remains 11 to 13 percent below 2006 peak home prices, the index is approximately 36 percent higher than lowest home prices posted in 2012.
Pending Home Sales Dip in November
According to the National Association of Realtors®, pending home sales dipped 0.90 percent in November after posting a gain of 0.20 percent in October. Analysts expected a 1.0 percent gain in pending sales for November. Pending home sales peaked in May 2015, but short supplies of available homes and rising prices have caused home sales to slow. Pending home sales are defined as homes for which a sales contract is signed, but aren’t yet closed. November’s pending sales were 2.70 percent higher than for October and represented the 15th consecutive month of annual gains in pending home sales.
Regional results for November’s pending sales were mixed. The Northeast reported a reading of 91.8, which was nearly three points lower than October’s reading. The Western region posted a reading of 100.4, a decline of nearly 6 points. The Midwestern region posted a gain of one point to a reading of 104.9. The South had the strongest reading for pending home sales in November with a reading of 119.9, which represented an increase of 1.50 percent.
The National Association of Realtors® expects sales of pre-owned homes to top out at 5.25 million for 2015, which would be the highest reading since 2006. The national median home price for pre-owned homes is $220,700, which is six percent higher than in November 2014.
Mortgage Rates, Consumer Confidence Rise
Freddie Mac reported that the average mortgage rates rose across the board last week. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was three basis points higher at 4.01 percent; the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage was two basis points higher at 3.24 percent and the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage also rose two basis points to 3.08 percent. Average discount points were unchanged at 0.6, 0.6 and 0.4 percent respectively.
On a positive note for year-end, consumer confidence increased to a reading of 96.5 in December as compared to November’s upwardly revised reading of 92.6 and an expected index reading of 93.50. Analysts were relieved to see increasing consumer confidence after an unexpected decline in November.
This week’s scheduled economic news includes reports on construction spending, the government’s Non-farm Payrolls report and ADP’s payroll reports. Labor reports act as potential indicators of future housing markets as steady employment is typically a major factor in home-buying decisions.
This week’s report of economic events is shortened due to the Christmas holiday. Economic news through Wednesday included Existing Home Sales, New Home Sales and Consumer Spending. The details:
Existing Home Sales Dip, New Home Sales Rise
According to the National Association of Realtors®, sales of previously owned homes dipped from October’s seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.32 million sales to 4.76 million sales of pre-owned homes. This was considerably lower than analysts’ expectations of 5.30 million sales. Factors seen as contributing to November’s reading included pent-up demand caused by low inventories of available homes and affordability issues emerging as demand pushes home prices up. New regulations that extended the closing period for home sales were cited as causing some closings to be pushed into December.
In contrast to lower sales for pre-owned homes, November sales of new homes rose by 4.30 percent from October to November based on a revised October reading of 470,000 sales. The original October reading was 495,000 sales of new homes, which provided the basis for analyst projections of 505,000 new homes sold on a seasonally-adjusted annual basis.
New home sales were up by 9.10 percent year-over-year in November. New home sales account for approximately 9.30 percent of home sales. Regional reports for new home sales were mixed. The Northeast region reported a drop of 28.60 percent, while the Midwest reported a gain of 20.50 percent. New home sales rose 4.50 percent in the South and fell 8.60 percent in the West. The good news about new home sales softened concerns about cooling housing markets caused by the abrupt drop in home resales.
Last week’s financial news ended on a positive note with December’s reading of 92.60 for consumer sentiment rose from November’s reading of 91.30 and also surpassed analysts’ expected reading of 92.
This week’s roster of economic reports includes Case-Shiller Home Price Indexes, Pending Home Sales and Consumer Sentiment for December. No reports will be issued Friday in observance of the New Year’s Day holiday.