Last week’s economic news included National Association of Home Builders / Wells Fargo (NAHB) Housing Market Index and Commerce Department reports on Housing Starts and Building Permits, the post-meeting statement of the Fed’s Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC), and Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s scheduled press conference.
NAHB: Home Builder Confidence Hits 9 Month High
Home builder confidence in housing market conditions is growing in spite of a planned merger between two builders and related cost-cutting efforts. According to the NAHB’s the home builder index posted a reading of 59 in June as compared to an expected reading of 55 and May’s reading of 54. Any reading over 50 indicates that more builders are confident about housing markets than those who are not. June’s reading was the 12th consecutive month for readings above 50.
The NAHB index is composed of three assessments of market conditions. The reading for current market conditions was seven points higher at 65; builder confidence in current market conditions rose by 6 points for a reading of 69 and the reading for buyer traffic in new single-family housing developments rose five points to a reading of 44.
Regional results for builder confidence were also positive, with three of four regions posting gains in the three-month rolling average of builder confidence. The South posted a gain of three points to a reading of 60; the Northeast region also gained three points for a reading of 44. The West gained two points for a reading of 57 and the Midwest’s reading dropped by one point to 54.
Housing Starts Drop, Building Permits Increase
According to the Commerce Department, Housing starts fell in May while building permits rose. The reading of 1.04 million housing starts was lower than the expected number of 1.08 million starts and April’s reading of 1.17 million housing starts. Analysts note that apartment construction is heating up as fewer families are buying homes. Tight lending standards and concerns about stable job markets continue to keep would-be home buyers from buying homes.
Building permits in May rose from April’s reading of 1.14 million to 1.28 million permits issued. This report includes all types of building permits. David Crowe, chief economist for the National Association of Home Builders noted that the demand for rental units in large metro areas was fueling the pace of permits for multi-family housing.
Fed: No Date Set for Rate Hike; Analysts Predict Rate to Rise in Fall
The Federal Reserve’s FOMC statement and Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s press conference did not provide a date for raising the target federal funds rate, but suggested that most members approved of a rate hike before year-end. While Chair Yellen characterized a rate hike as positive in terms of providing better yields on savings accounts, a rate hike would also lead to higher rates for consumer loans and mortgages.
Mortgage Rates, Jobless Claims Lower
Weekly jobless claims fell to 267,000 new claims filed, a reading much lower than expectations of 275,000 new claims filed and the prior week’s reading of 279,000 new jobless claims filed. Analysts said that the lower reading indicates a healthier labor market.
Mortgage rates fell across the board last week. Freddie Mac reported that the average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage fell by four basis points to 4.00 percent; the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage fell by two basis points to 3.23 percent and the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage dropped one basis point to an average rate of 3.01 percent. Average discount points were 0.70 percent for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage, 0.50 percent for a 15 year mortgage and 0.04 percent for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage.
This week’s scheduled economic news includes reports on new and existing home sales and FHFA’s monthly home price report. Reports on consumer spending and consumer sentiment will also be released along with Freddie Mac’s mortgage rates survey and weekly jobless claims.