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.
Sales of previously owned homes dropped in August by 4.80 percent on an annual basis for the first time in four months; the dip was likely caused by rising home prices. August sales were reported at a rate of 5.31 million; July’s rate was 5.58 million sales of previously owned homes.
Sales of existing homes have risen 6.20 percent year-over-year; stronger labor markets and low mortgage rates were seen as contributing factors. Although economists expect the Federal Reserve to raise its target federal funds rate before year end, home sales are expected to stay strong through 2016. A Fed rate hike would mean that lending rates for consumer credit and mortgage loans would increase.
Analysts noted that July sales of pre-owned homes hit a post-recession high and characterized August’s lower reading as a “hiccup.” Month-to-month readings often reflect volatility caused by transitory influences; analysts typically rely on month-to-month rolling averages to track trends in housing markets.
Home Sales Thwarted by Slim Supply of Available Homes
Low inventories of homes for sale are likely keeping sales of previously owned homes from achieving their potential. In August, there were 2.29 million homes on the market, which represents a 5.20 month supply under current market conditions. August’s volume of available homes was 1.70 percent lower than for August 2014.
The national median sale price for a home was $228,700 in August; this represents a year-over-year increase of 4.70 percent.
First-time Buyers Getting Back in the Game
First-time home buyers accounted for 32 percent of existing home sales in August as compared to a normal reading of 40 percent of existing home sales. Investors purchased 12 percent of pre-owned homes sold in August as compared to a post-recession high of 25 percent. Less competition from investors should allow more owner-occupant buyers to purchase homes without being priced out of bidding wars.
On another positive note, distressed sales of pre-owned homes comprised only 7 percent of sales, this is a strong indication that the tide of post-recession foreclosures is ending.
FHFA House Price Index Also Shows Higher Home Prices
FHFA, the agency that oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, reported that home prices of homes associated with mortgages owned or backed by the two government-sponsored entities rose by 0.60 percent in July as compared to June’s reading of 0.20 percent. Home prices were up 5.80 percent year-over-year in July, which is 1.10 percent below the peak index reading of 2007 and was near the November 2006 index reading.
Year-over-year home price readings for the nine census divisions were all positive and ranged from + 2.20 percent in the New England division to +9.40 percent in the Mountain division. Month-to month house prices ranged from -1.20 percent in the New England division to +1.60 percent in the Mountain division.
Last week’s economic news included several reports related to housing. The Case-Shiller 20-City Home Price Index for June rose to 4.50 percent as compared to May’s reading of 4.40 percent. Denver, Colorado was the only city to post double-digit year-over-year growth. FHFA also released its House Price Index for June. Home prices for properties associated with mortgages owned or backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac rose at a year-over-year rate of 5.60 percent in June as compared to May’s reading of 5.70 percent.
New Home Sales, Pending Home Sales Rise in July
Commerce Department data revealed that new home sales increased in July to a year-over-year reading of 507,000 against expectations of 510,000 new home sales and June’s revised reading of 481,000 new homes sold. The original reading for June was 482,000 new homes sold. New home sales provided a strong indicator of recovering housing markets as July’s reading was 25 percent higher than it was one year ago.
Pending home sales moved into positive territory in July after June’s reading of -1.80 percent. Pending home sales for July grew by 0.50 percent. Pending home sales are an indicator of future closings, so this is good news as the peak buying and selling season wanes.
The national median home price rose to $285,900 in July, which was two percent higher year-over-year.
Mortgage Rates, New Unemployment Claims Fall
Mortgage rates fell across the board last week. Freddie Mac reported that the average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage fell by none basis points to 3.8r percent; the rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage also fell by nine basis points to 3.06 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was four basis points lower at 2.90 percent. Discount points for fixed rate mortgages were unchanged at an average of 0.60 percent and fell from an average of 0.50 percent to 0.40 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.
Weekly jobless claims were also lower last week with 271,000 new claims filed as compared to expectations of 271,000 new claims filed and the previous week’s reading of 277,000 new claims filed. Last week’s reading was the 25th consecutive week of new jobless claims readings under the benchmark of 300,000 new claims filed; this is the longest stretch for new jobless claims under the 300,000 new claims benchmark in more than fifteen years.
New jobless claims rose by 1000 new claims to a seasonally adjusted average of 272,500 according to the four-week average. Analysts note that the four week average smooths out volatility that can occur with week-to-week readings.
This week’s scheduled economic reports include the Federal Reserve’s Beige Book report, ADP and the federal Non-farm Payrolls reports. The national unemployment rate will be released along with regularly scheduled reports on mortgage rates and new jobless claims.
Denver, Colorado continues to woo homebuyers as home prices rose by 10.20 percent as of June according to the Case-Shiller 20-City Home Price Index. The Mile-High City was the only city included in the index that posted double-digit year-over-year growth in June. San Francisco, California posted a 9.50 percent year-over-year gain in home prices and Dallas, Texas rounds out the top three cities posting highest year-over-year home price growth with a reading of 8.20 percent.
Denver’s home prices were impacted by the city’s rapidly expanding economy and demand for homes coupled with a slim supply of homes for sale. According to the National Association of Realtors®, there is approximately one month’s inventory of homes available in Denver as compared to the national average of five months.
Cities experiencing the least year-over-year growth in home prices according to the 20-City Home Price Index were Chicago, Illinois with a year-over-year growth rate of 1.40 percent, Washington D.C. with a year-over-year reading of 1.60 percent in home price growth and New York, New York with a reading of 2.80 percent growth in home prices year-over-year.
The 20-City Index indicated national home prices grew by five percent year-over-year in June, with a month-to-month increase of one percent from May to June.
Detroit Leads Gains in Month-to-Month Home Prices
Detroit, Michigan led month-over-month home price growth with a May to June reading of 1.80 percent. Cleveland, Ohio and Portland Oregon posted month-to-month gains of 1.50 percent followed by Atlanta, Georgia and Denver Colorado; each city posted month-to-month home price gains of 1.30 percent.
As economic conditions continue to improve, prospective homebuyers face obstacles including tight mortgage approval standards and home prices growing at approximately twice the rate of inflation.
FHFA: Home Prices Dip in June
The Federal Housing Finance Agency reported that home prices associated with mortgages owned or backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac slipped to a year-over year growth rate of 5.60 percent in June as compared to May’s reading of 5.70 percent. The agency also reported that home prices rose by 1.20 percent during the second quarter of 2015; this was the sixteenth consecutive quarterly increase in home prices.
FHFA Principal Economist Andrew Leventis noted that home prices continued to exceed inflation and were rising in spite of higher mortgage rates.
In general, analysts regard longer term readings as more reliable than month-to-month readings that reflect more volatility based on day-to-day influences.
Last week’s economic events included a number of readings on housing related topics. The National Association of Home Builders released its report on builder confidence in housing markets, Housing starts reached their highest level since the great recession, and existing home sales exceeded expectations and the prior month’s reading. The Federal Reserve released minutes for its most recent FOMC meeting, which indicated that while a majority of FOMC members are leaning toward raising the Fed’s target federal funds rate, concerns over certain aspects of the economy continue to keep the Fed from citing a date for raising its target interest rate.
Home Builder Confidence Nears Highest Reading in 10 Years
The National Association of Home Builders reported its highest level of builder confidence in housing market conditions since November of 2005. August’s reading was 61 as compared to an expected reading of 59 and July’s reading of 60. Any reading over 50 indicates that housing market conditions are good. NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe said that August’s readings were consistent with builder expectations of gradual improvement in overall housing market conditions. Builder confidence in current market conditions rose by one point to a reading of 61; confidence in buyer foot traffic in new housing developments rose 2 points to 45 and the reading for expected home sales conditions over the next six months was unchanged at a reading of 70.
Builder confidence as shown by the three-month rolling average indicated that builder confidence increased by three points for a reading of 63 for the West; the Midwest also posted a gain of three points for a reading of 58. The South posted a two point gain in builder confidence for a reading of 63. In the Northeast, builder confidence held steady at 46.
Existing Home Sales Hit New Post-Recession High in July
According to the National Association of Realtors®, sales of pre-owned homes reached a new post-recession record in July. Sales of previously owned homes rose to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.59 million sales as compared to expectations of 5.48 million sales and June’s reading of 5.48 million sales. Sales of existing homes have risen for three consecutive months and are 10.30 percent higher year-over-year. Higher home prices are helping homeowners move up to larger homes, but analysts said that first-time buyers are still struggling to buy due to strict mortgage requirements and high demand for homes.
Commerce Department: Housing Starts Higher, Building Permits Lower
The Commerce Department reported that June housing starts increased from 1.20 million in May to 1.21 million in June; this is a month-to-month increase of 0.20 percent. Economists had expected a dip in housing starts to a rate of 1.185 million on an annual basis. Single family housing starts rose by 12.90 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 782,000 starts.
Building permits slipped in July by 16.30 percent to an annual rate of 1.29 million permits issued. Permits for single family homes, which account for nearly 75 percent of permits issued, fell by 1.90 percent to an annual rate of 679,000 permits issued. Demand for multi-family homes such as condos and apartments is rising as would-be home buyers sit on the sidelines and many millennials prefer to rent. In spite of these factors the rate of building permits issued rose by 7.50 percent year-over-year.
Building permits issued rose by 7.70 percent in the South, and rose by 20 percent in the Midwest. In the West, permits issued declined by 3.10 percent in July, while the Northeast posted a decline of 27.50 percent in building permits issued. This was not a surprise as builders rushed to take out permits before a tax credit expired in June.
Mortgage Rates Mixed
Freddie Mac reported that average mortgage rates fell for fixed rate mortgages and ticked upward for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage fell by one basis point to 3.93 percent. 15-year fixed mortgage rates fell by two basis points to 3.15 percent and the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage rose by one basis point to 2.94 percent. Discount points were unchanged across the board at 0.60 percent for 30 and 15-year fixed rates and 0.50 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.
This week’s economic news includes the Case-Shiller 10 and 20 city home price index reports, FHFA’s house price report for home sales connected with mortgages owned by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and pending home sales. Core inflation numbers will also be released; this is significant as the Fed has set 2.0 percent annual inflation as one of its indicators for raising the Federal funds rate. Freddie Mac’s survey of average mortgage rates and weekly jobless claims will be released on Thursday, and this week wraps up with the consumer sentiment report on Friday.