Category Archives: Market Outlook

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – November 3, 2014

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - November 3, 2014Last week’s economic news brought mixed developments as pending home sales moved to their second highest level of 2014.

The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) announced the expected end of asset purchases under its quantitative easing program. In its post-meeting statement, the committee noted improvements in overall economic conditions labor markets as indications of better than expected economic trends.

The Case-Shiller Home Price Index reports for August showed continued slowing in housing price gains. Mortgage rates were higher, but consumer confidence exceeded expectations.

Pending Home Sales Rise, Case-Shiller Reports Slower Price Gains

The National Association of REALTORS® reported that pending home sales gained 0.30 percent in September for an index reading of 105 as compared to August’s reading of 104.7. Analysts said that lower home prices and more homes available likely brought more buyers into the market.

The S&P Case Shiller 10 and 20-city home price index reports for August showed further slowing in home price growth with a year-over-year reading of 5.60 percent as compared to July’s year-over-year reading of 6.70 percent.

This was the slowest price increase since November 2012. Home price growth is slowing as demand decreases. Tight mortgage qualification requirements are likely contributing to lower demand for homes.

FOMC ends QE, Mortgage Rates Rise

The Fed ended its asset purchases under its QE program according to a statement after the FOMC meeting on Wednesday. This move was expected, and the statement repeated its plan to leave the target federal funds rate unchanged for a considerable period after the QE program’s conclusion. Analysts interpreted that to mean that no rate change would likely occur until approximately June 2015.

Mortgage rates responded to the demise of QE with an across the board increase. Average rates reported by Freddie Mac on Thursday were 3.98 percent for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage, 3.13 percent for a 15-year mortgage and 2.94 percent for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage. Discount points were unchanged at 0.50 percent for all three loan types.

New Jobless Claims Up, But No Big Deal

Housing market trends are connected with what’s happening in labor markets. Last week’s report for new jobless claims took an unexpected jump with 287,000 new jobless claims filed against predictions of 281,000 new claims and 284,000 new jobless claims filed the prior week. The four-week average for new jobless claims dropped to 281,000 and new claims remained below the 300,000 benchmark for the seventh consecutive week.

October’s Consumer Confidence Index rose to a reading of 94.50 as compared to the expected reading of 87.3 and September’s reading of 89.0. The Consumer Sentiment Index for October was also showed an increase of 0.50 percent with a reading of 86.9 against a predicted reading of 86.4 and September’s reading of 86.4.

What’s Ahead

Next week’s scheduled economic news includes construction spending for September, Non-farm payrolls, national unemployment, and the ADP employment report. Regularly scheduled reports on mortgage rates and new jobless claims will be released on Thursday.

Case-Shiller 20 City Home Price Index And FOMC QE Update

Case Shiller 20 City Home Price Index And FOMC QE UpdateAccording to the S&P Case-Shiller 20 City Home Price Index, Home prices rose by 0.20 percent in August. Three of the 20 cities tracked saw home prices drop, while Detroit, Michigan posted the highest price growth. The seasonally adjusted growth rate for cities tracked declined by 0.10 percent as compared to a decline of 0.10 percent in July.

Detroit led monthly home price growth with a gain of 0.80 percent. Dallas, Denver, Colorado and Las Vegas, Nevada posted gains of 9.50 percent as compared to July. Cities posting declines in home price growth included San Francisco at -0.40 percent, Charlotte, North Carolina and San Diego, California at -0.10 percent.

Home prices increased by a seasonally-adjusted year-over-year rate of 5.60 percent in August, which was the lowest reading since November 2012. Year-over-year home prices grew by 6.70 percent in July. August home prices were 16 percent lower than their 2006 peak.

The Case-Shiller National Home Price Index posted a year-over-growth rate of 5.10 percent. This index covers all nine U.S. census regions.

Analysts note that slower growth in home prices will likely attract more buyers, but is a sign of overall decline in demand for homes. August home prices were 16 percent lower than their 2006 peak. As the jobs market continues to improve and if mortgage rates remain low, more buyers are expected to enter the housing market.

FOMC Statement: QE Ends, Labor Market Forecast Brighter

In its customary post-meeting statement, The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) of the Federal Reserve announced that it voted to reduce asset purchases under its current quantitative easing (QE) program to zero. The committee’s decision concluded 37 consecutive monthly purchases of Treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities.

FOMC cited “substantial improvement” in the outlook for the labor market since the inception of QE purchases, and also noted “sufficient underlying strength in the broader economy” as the basis for the committee’s decision. The demise of QE was no surprise as FOMC has consistently tapered asset purchases each month along with its advisory that it planned to end asset purchases under the current QE program this year.

The FOMC characterized the pace of economic improvement as “moderate,” but also said that “labor market conditions improved somewhat further with solid job gains and a lower unemployment rate.” Along with the stronger outlook for jobs, the Fed noted that “underutilization of labor resources is gradually diminishing.”

The committee held to its position that it would not increase the target federal funds rate for a “considerable time” after the quantitative easing program ended. Analysts following the Fed estimate that no changes to the federal funds rate will be made until June 2015 or later.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – October 27, 2014

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week March 31,2014Last week’s economic news included a few developments connected with housing and mortgage industries. While no economic reports were released on Monday, the rest of the week provided good news for existing home sales, home prices and mortgage rates.

The National Association of REALTORS® reported that existing home sales in September exceeded expectations and the prior month’s reading with a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.17 million sales.

Three of four U.S. regions posted higher sales of previously owned homes with only the Midwest region reporting a decline in existing home sales. Analysts said that consistent job growth and improved access to mortgage loans are two keys to improving U.S. housing markets.

FHFA, the agency that oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac reported that home prices for properties associated with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgages rose by 0.50 percent in August.

In a separate development, FHFA Director Mel Watt said that the agency is reviewing policies that could lessen lender concerns over requests to repurchase Fannie and Freddie loans due to early defaults or other deficiencies. This was seen as a possible solution to current strict mortgage approval requirements that are limiting access to home loans by first-time and moderate income buyers.

Mortgage Rates Fall, Weekly Jobless Claims Rise

After falling below four percent the prior week, last week’s mortgage rates continued to decrease. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage fell by five basis points to 3.92 percent; 15-year fixed rate mortgages had an average rate of 3.08 percent, a decrease of 10 basis points. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was one basis point below the prior week’s reading at 2.91 percent.

Average discount points were unchanged at 0.50 percent. Lower mortgage rates help with making home loans more affordable, but analysts again noted the importance of improved access to mortgage loans for would-be home buyers.

Weekly jobless claims were higher at 283,000 new claims filed as compared to projections of 285,000 and the prior week’s reading of 266,000 new claims filed. While higher than in recent weeks, new jobless claims have remained below 300,000 for six weeks. The Labor department reported that new claims over the past month fell by 3000 to 281,000 new claims. This reading was the lowest since May 2000. Due to week-to-week volatility, financial analysts and economists view the month-to-month readings as a more consistent data source.

New Home Sales Hit Six-Year High in September

Sales of new homes in September ended the week on an upbeat note and exceeded expectations; they reached a six-year high in spite of downward adjustments to sales figures reported earlier. September’s reading was 467,000 new homes sold on an annual basis as compared to expectations of 455,000 new homes sold and August’s reading of 466,000 new homes sold.

What’s Ahead

Next week’s scheduled economic news includes pending home sales, the Case-Schiller home price index reports, the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) post-meeting statement and reports on consumer sentiment and consumer confidence. The Freddie Mac PMMS and Weekly Jobless Claims reports will be released as usual on Thursday.

Good News! Existing Home Sales Up And FHFA Home Prices Rise

Good News! Existing Home Sales FHFA Home Prices RiseAfter months of reports of slowing home price momentum and forecasts of a lagging housing market, we are pleased to report an increased volume of existing home sales as reported by the National Association of REALTORS®.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), which oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, reported rising prices for homes connected with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgages. Here are the details.

Pedal to the Metal: Existing Home Sales Achieve Fastest Rate in a Year

September sales of previously owned homes reached a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.17 million sales against expectations of 5.10 million sales and August’s reading of 5.05 million sales.

The National Association of REALTORS® reported that the national reading for sales of previously owned homes rose by 2.40 percent to a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 5.17 million sales.

Analysts had expected September’s reading for existing home sales to reach 5.10 million based on August’s reading of 5.05 million existing homes sold.

Three of four regions posted month-to-month gains in existing home sales for September; only the Midwest showed a decline. Overall, September’s sales pace for existing homes was 1.70 percent lower year-over-year.

Steady home prices and lower mortgage rates contributed to a higher pace of existing home sales, but obstacles remain. Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of REALTORS® said that September’s reading for existing home sales reflected ongoing economic uncertainty; he said that labor markets will need to strengthen in order to maintain the pace of existing home sales.

Mr. Yun also said that restoration of more “normal” lending standards would allow more first-time and moderate income buyers to qualify for mortgage loans and could potentially increase home sales by 10 percent.

FHFA: Home Prices Rise, Mortgage Credit Standards May Ease

FHFA reported that home prices of properties connected with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgages rose by 0.5 percent in August as compared to a month-to-month revised increase of 0.20 percent in July. August’s reading represents a year-over-year increase of 4.80 percent as compared to July’s year-over-year increase of 4.60 percent.

In related news, FHFA Director Mel Watt hinted at some welcome news during a meeting on October 21 in Las Vegas.

Strict mortgage requirements are frequently cited as a cause of lukewarm home sales, but there is some hope that mortgage credit requirements may return to pre-housing bubble standards. Mr. Watt said that the agency is working on relaxing certain rules affecting how and when mortgage lenders are required to repurchase loans that they’ve sold to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

These changes are designed to clarify FHFA regulations and to narrow the criteria for when repurchasing loans is required. Lenders have been using strict mortgage approval standards as a protection against Fannie and Freddie requests to repurchase loans categorized as “early defaults.”

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – October 20, 2014

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week October 20 2014Last week’s economic highlights included the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Housing Market Index for October. The Commerce Department also released Housing Starts for September. Freddie Mac reported that the average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage dropped below four percent. The Fed released its Beige Book report, and Weekly jobless claims came in lower than expected. Here are the details:

Homebuilder Confidence Slips in Spite of Lower Mortgage Rates

U.S. Homebuilder confidence in housing market conditions slipped by 5 points to October’s reading of 54 as compared to September’s reading; this was also lower than the expected reading of 59. Builders are concerned over strict mortgage credit rules, but the NAHB’s chief economist noted that pent-up demand, lower mortgage rates and improved labor markets are expected to drive builder confidence in the near term. Readings of 50 and above indicate that more builders are confident about market conditions than not.

Freddie Mac reported lower average mortgage rates across the board with the rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage at 3.97 percent, a drop of 15 basis points from the prior reading. 15-year fixed rate mortgages had an average rate of 3.18 percent from the prior week’s reading of 3.30 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage fell by 13 basis points to 2.92 percent. Average discount points remained at 0.50 for all mortgage types.

If 30-year fixed rate mortgages can stay below the four percent mark, this could mean additional incentive for fence-sitters to become active home buyers.

Surprise: New Jobless Claims Hit 14-Year Low

Concerns over job markets and employment stability have consistently been of concern to home buyers in the aftermath of the recession. Last week’s jobless claims report brought encouraging news as it came in at 264,000 new jobless claims filed against predictions of 289,000 new claims and the prior week’s reading of 287,000 new jobless claims filed. This was the lowest number of new jobless claims filed in more than 14 years. Analysts said that lower numbers of weekly jobless claims indicate fewer layoffs, which should help boost prospective home buyers’ confidence in job stability.

Fed: Economy Growing at “Modest to Moderate Pace”

The Federal Reserve released its Beige Book report on Wednesday. This report contains anecdotes from business sources within the 12 Federal Reserve districts. The report said that the economy continues to grow at a modest to moderate pace and noted that potential concerns over the stronger U.S. dollar causing increases in export costs did not concern the Fed’s business sources.

Housing Starts, Consumer Confidence Up

September’s housing starts were above both expectations and August’s reading. 1.02 million starts were reported with the majority being multi-family homes. The expected reading was 1.015 million housing starts; this was based on August’s reading of 956,000 starts. This news is consistent with the drop in builder confidence for sales of new single-family homes.

The University of Michigan/Thompson-Reuters Consumer Sentiment Index for October rose to 86.4 against an expected reading of 83.5 and September’s reading of 84.6. This was the highest consumer sentiment reading in seven years. Analysts rained on the consumer sentiment parade by noting that recent jitters over Wall Street and concerns about Ebola outbreaks could cause the Consumer Sentiment Index to lose ground.

What’s Ahead:

Next week’s scheduled economic reports include the National Association of REALTORS® Existing Home Sales report, FHFA’s Home Price Index and New Home Sales. Leading Economic Indicators will also be released.

NAHB Reports: Home Builder Confidence Drops in October

NAHB Reports Home Builder Confidence Drops in October The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) reported that home builder sentiment lost its momentum in October and posted a seasonally adjusted reading of 54 in its Home Builder Market Index.

This reading was five points lower than expected and also five points lower than September’s reading. October’s reading was the first time in five months that builder confidence has fallen.

To put October’s reading in perspective, things aren’t all that bad. A reading over 50 indicates more builders are confident about housing market conditions than not. Also, October’s lower reading of 54 after the HMI reading reached a nine-year high in September.

Low Mortgage Rates, Pent-up Demand Expected to Drive Housing Markets

David Crowe, Chief Economist for NAHB said that low mortgage rates, improved labor markets and “significant” pent-up demand for homes all point to continued growth for housing markets.

NAHB reported that builders’ views on current market conditions dropped from September’s reading of 63 to 57 in October. The confidence rating for upcoming sales fell from 67 to 64. The gauge of home buyer traffic for new homes fell by six points to a reading of 41.

Analysts said that although stronger jobs markets can help would-be buyers get into the market, concerns over ultra-strict mortgage standards are dampening potential home sales.

Multi-family Housing Starts Outstrips Single Family Home Construction

Starts for all types of housing gained 8.60 percent in the first eight months of 2014, but single family housing construction accounted for only 3.10 percent of housing starts between January and August. September’s housing starts are set for release today (Friday).

New Jobless Claims Fall to Lowest Since 2005

In related news, the Labor Department reported that weekly jobless claims were lower than expected and also lower than for the prior week. The reading for new jobless claims was 264,000 new claims; this was 23,000 fewer new claims than the prior week’s reading of 287,000 new jobless claims filed. A reading of 289,000 new jobless claims had been expected. This was the lowest reading for new jobless claims since April 2005.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – October 14, 2014

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week October 14 2014Economic news was lean last week as the first week of the month tends to be calm in the aftermath of the rush of end-of-month reporting.

Of note was CoreLogic’s report on housing markets, the release of the minutes from the most recent FOMC meeting and lower mortgage rates reported by Freddie Mac.

CoreLogic Reports Lowest Home Price Gains in Almost Two Years

August home prices hit their slowest growth rate in nearly two years according to CoreLogic data released last Tuesday. Annual home prices grew by 6.40 percent in August as compared to July’s reading of 6.80 percent. Year-over-year home price growth reached a rate of 11.40 percent in August.

Analysts have recently said that a slow-down in home price growth may increase slowing demand for homes as inventories of available homes have increased in recent months. Low inventories of available homes and high demand contributed to rapid growth of home prices in 2013.

The slower pace of home price gains is expected to continue next year; analysts predicted an annual growth rate of 5.20 percent in August 2015. Home prices remain about 12 percent below peak levels reached in 2006.

Federal Reserve Policy Makers Watch U.S. Dollar, European Markets

Minutes of the Federal Open Market Committee meeting held in September were released Wednesday. Of note were member concerns that changing the committee’s language for its oft-repeated assertion that target rates for federal funds would remain between 0.00 percent and 0.250 percent for a considerable time” after asset purchases under the QE program ended could be viewed as a fundamental policy change.

The FOMC also registered concerns over the impact of a stronger U.S. dollar on the economy and said that persistent weakening of the European economy could cause the dollar to strengthen too much. This would cause exports to decrease and could also slow inflation.

The Fed decided not change language in its forward guidance in order to avoid unintended reactions in the financial markets.

Mortgage Rates and Jobless Claims Fall

Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey reported that average mortgage rates fell last week. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage dropped by seven basis points to 4.12 percent with discount points higher at 0.50 percent.

The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage fell by six basis points to 3.30 percent with discount points unchanged at 0.50 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable-rate mortgage was lower by one basis point to 3.05 percent with discount points unchanged at 0.50 percent.

Weekly jobless claims were lower at 287,000 new claims filed against predictions of 294,000 new claims filed and the prior week’s reading of 288,000 new claims filed. This supports recent indications of stronger job markets; coupled with lower home prices, this could prompt more would-be homebuyers to buy homes.

What’s Ahead

Markets are closed for Monday’s Columbus Day holiday and no economic reports are scheduled for Tuesday. The Fed releases its Beige Book report Wednesday and the NAHB Home Builder’s Market index for October is due Thursday along with Freddie Mac’s PMMS report and weekly jobless claims.

Housing Starts and the Consumer Sentiment Index are scheduled for next Friday.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – October 6, 2014

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week October 6 2014Last week’s economic news included multiple reports on housing and the labor sector. The good news is that job markets appear to be stronger, with new jobless claims and the national unemployment rate lower. Unfortunately, housing continues to struggle in its recovery.

Pending home sales slumped in August and the S&P Case-Shiller Housing Market Index reports for July showed slower growth in home prices with 19 of 20 cities posting lower gains than for June.

Mortgage rates were mixed, but remained relatively steady.

Housing Reports Show Slower Price Gains, Suggest Falling Demand

The National Association of REALTORS® released data for August that showed that pending home sales dropped by 1.10 percent to a reading of 104.7 as compared to July’s reading of 105.8. Pending home sales indicate upcoming closings and mortgage loan volume.

Pending home sales fell by 2.20 percent year-over-year. Analysts attributed the drop in pending sales to lower investor participation.

Analysts said that as distressed home sales diminish, mortgage rates and home prices rise, investors are not buying as many homes Regional results showed fewer pending sales in all regions except the West, where pending sales rose by 2.60 percent in August. A reading of 100 in the pending home sales index is consistent with 2001′s average contract level.

S&P Case-Shiller Housing Market Index reports indicated that July home prices gained 6.70 percent year-over-year as compared to June’s year-over-year reading of 8.10 percent. Prices even dropped in San Francisco to its lowest reading since 2012. On a seasonally adjusted basis, July home sales fell by 0.50 percent in July as compared to June’s decrease of 0.30 percent. 19 of 20 cities showed lower rates of price growth in July.

Slower growth of home prices was viewed by analysts as potentially increasing demand for homes provided that mortgage rates stay low.

Construction spending for August fell by 0.8 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis. The good news here is that spending on residential construction dropped only 0.10 percent.

Freddie Mac Mortgage Rates: No Major Changes

According to Freddie Mac’s PMMS report, average mortgage rates were a mixed bag. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage dropped by one basis point to 4.19 percent with discount points lower at 0.40 percent. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage held steady at 3.36 percent with discount points unchanged at 0.50 percent. The rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage fell by two basis points to 3.06 percent; discount points rose from 0.40 percent to 0.40 percent.

Lower mortgage rates are seen as a potential stimulus for housing markets as more buyers may be encouraged to enter the market.

Jobs Reports Readings Improve, Unemployment Rate Drops

Job markets are showing signs of improvement according to data on weekly jobless claims and reports released by the Department of Commerce. Weekly jobless claims grew by 287,000 as compared to expectations of 298,000 new claims filed. The prior week’s reading was also higher at 295,000 new claims filed.

The Department of Commerce released its Non-farm Payrolls report for August with more good news. 248,000 jobs were added against expectations of 220,000 new jobs and 180,000 new jobs reported in the prior week. The national unemployment fell below the six percent benchmark in August with a reading of 5.90 percent, which indicates proof that the jobs market is improving.

September’s Consumer Confidence Index suggests that economic conditions continue to concern consumers. The reading for September was 86.0 against an expected reading of 92.3 and Augusts reading of 93.4.

What’s Ahead

There is no scheduled housing news for next week other than Freddie Mac’s weekly report on mortgage rates. Other economic news includes Labor Market Conditions Index, Job Openings, and the release of minutes from the last FOMC meeting, which is expected to reaffirm the Fed’s position that it doesn’t expect to increase the target federal funds rate for a “considerable time” after the Fed concludes its asset purchases this year.

Case-Shiller: July Home Prices Cool Across U.S.

Case-Shiller: July Home Prices Cool Across U.S.The stifling heat of July did not penetrate U.S. housing markets according to the S&P Case-Shiller 10-and 20 City Home Price Index reports.

San Francisco’s sizzling home prices dropped in July and posted its lowest price gains since 2012. According to the Case-Shiller 10 and 20-City Home Price Index reports, month-to-month home price appreciation fell to identical readings of an 0.60 percent increase as compared to a 1.00 percent increase reported in June.

Case-Shiller also reported that home prices grew by 0.50 percent throughout the nation. This was the seventh consecutive monthly increase for national home prices.

Year-over-year, seasonally adjusted home price growth was lower in July. Both the 10 and 20 city index reports showed a gain of 6.70 percent over July 2013 as compared to June’s year-over-year reading of an 8.10 percent gain in June. 19 of 10 cities tracked in the Case-Shiller 20 City Home Price Index reports posted lower average home prices in July.

New York posted a 1.10 percent gain in July, while home prices dropped by 0.40 percent in San Francisco. San Francisco showed a marked loss of momentum with July’s year-over-year reading of home price growth decreasing to 10.30 percent from June’s reading of 12.20 percent

On average, July’s home prices were approximately 16 percent below a 2006 peak.

Slowing Demand Puts Brakes on Home Prices

Analysts report that reduced demand for homes is contributing to lower price growth. Rising home prices have put homes out of reach of first-time and moderate income buyers and stringent mortgage credit standards that became effective in January have taken the edge off of high demand and low inventories of homes seen earlier in 2014.

Home prices continue to grow at two to three times the inflation rate according to David M. Blitzer, chair of the S&P Dow Jones Indices Committee. Stagnant wage growth has also quieted housing markets.

New Home Sales Buck Slowing Home Price Trends

The Department of Commerce reported that August sales of new homes grew by 18 percent in August to the highest reading since 2008. August sales of new homes topped out at 504,000 new homes sold on a seasonally adjusted annual basis. Analysts predicted new 426,000 new home sales and July’s reading was 427,000 new home sales.

Demand for new homes grew in direct opposition to Case-Shiller’s July data for existing home sales in 20 major metropolitan areas. While good news for home builders and those employed by them, new home sales account for only about a tenth of the housing market.

Analysts also note that new home sales readings are somewhat volatile and often subject to revision. Increases in new home sales are seen as a positive sign for the general economy as builders are expected to increase hiring and will buy more materials as home construction increases.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – Sept 29, 2014

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week Sept 29 2014Last week’s economic news included several housing-related reports that provided mixed results with lower than expected sales of previously owned homes and higher than expected sales of new homes. The FHFA also released its House Price report for July, which noted that year-over-year home prices were lower than year-over-year prices reported in June. Here’s a look at the details:

Existing Home Sales Lower, New Home Sales Higher

The National Association of REALTORS® reported August sales of existing home sales fell to 5.05 million previously owned homes sold. This was lower than the expected reading of 5.20 million existing homes sold and July’s revised reading of 5.14 million previously owned homes sold on a seasonally adjusted annual basis. The consensus figure was based on the original reading of 5.15 million homes sold in July. While the sales pace of existing homes has slowed in recent months, August’s reading marked the first time in five months that sales fell below the previous month’s reading.

Analysts cited consumer concerns over sluggish labor markets as a deterrent to home sales, and also said that tighter mortgage credit standards are making it tough for first-time home buyers to purchase homes. 

New home sales were higher in August according to the Department of Commerce. 504,000 new homes were sold and surpassed expected sales of 426,000 new homes and July’s reading of 427,000 new homes sold. This surge propelled new home sales to their highest level since May 2008, and surpassed expectations of 426,000 new homes sold. The original reading for July was 412,000 new homes sold on a seasonally adjusted annual basis, but the Department of Commerce later adjusted July’s reading to 427,000 new homes sold during July. Month-to-month readings for new home sales are notoriously volatile, and many analysts prefer to consider a rolling average of several months’ new home sales data.

FHFA: Home Prices Rise in August, Regional Home Prices Higher Year-Over-Year

FHFA (Federal Housing Finance Agency), which oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, reported that prices of homes connected with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgages grew by 0.10 percent in July; this was lower than the 0.30 percent growth in home prices reported in June. FHFA also said that prices of homes were up by 4.04 percent year over year; this again represented a slower pace in home price growth. This was the eighth consecutive monthly gain for FHFA home prices, but U.S. home prices remain approximately 6.40 percent below their peak in 2007.

Year-over-year home prices rose in all nine census divisions according to FHFA. While regional home prices ranged from -0.50 to +0.40 percent from June to July, FHFA reported that year-over-year home prices grew in all nine regions and varied between +1.60 percent in the Mid-Atlantic region to 7.20 percent in the Pacific region.

Mortgage Rates Mixed

Freddie Mac reported mixed readings for average mortgage rates last week. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage dropped three basis points to 4.20 percent. 15 year mortgage rates averaged 3.36 percent, one basis point lower than the prior week’s reading. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was two basis points higher at 3.08. Discount points remained steady at 0.50 percent for fixed rate mortgages, but dropped to 0.40 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

Jobless Claims Rise, Consumer Sentiment Holds Steady

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that new jobless claims rose to 293,000 from the prior week’s reading of 281,000 new jobless claims filed. The latest jobless claims reading was lower than expectations of 300,000 new jobless claims filed. Last week’s economic reports were rounded out by the Consumer Sentiment Index, which held steady in September with a reading of 84.6. This reading was identical to July’s reading and higher than the expected reading of 84.3.

What’s Ahead

Next week’s economic news wil include the Case-Shiller Home Price Indices for July and Construction Spending for August.