FOMC Minutes: Rate Hike May be Near

FOMC Minutes Rate Hike May be NearThe minutes for the most recent meeting of the Federal Reserve’s Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) suggest that while committee members won’t specify a date, a rate hike could come sooner than later. Committee members continue to cite concerns over labor markets and other economic factors, but the minutes of the FOMC meeting held July 28 and 29 indicate that a majority of members see a rate change as likely in the near term.

Economic Conditions “Approaching” Readiness for Rate Hike

According to the minutes released Wednesday, the time for raising rates is not hear yet, but a majority of FOMC members feel that the time is approaching when economic conditions will warrant an increase of the target federal funds rate which is currently set at 0.00 to 0.25 percent. When the Fed increases this rate, consumer loan rates including mortgage rates are expected to increase as well.

Achieving maximum employment is one of the Fed’s mandates; labor markets continue to improve as the national unemployment achieved its lowest reading for 2015 as of June, but labor force participation and the unemployment to population ratio have also declined. On a positive note, the number of part-time workers was lower and under-utilization of workers was lower than since the beginning of the year.

Committee members continued to have varied opinions about whether employment rates are low enough to indicate that the Fed’s mandate of “maximum” employment had been achieved.

Inflation remains below the 2.00 percent medium-term goal set by the Fed. FOMC members have consistently indicated that they don’t expect to see inflation achieve the target rate in the near term.

Housing Markets Show Improvement

The minutes noted that while construction of new homes declined in June, new starts increased over the second quarter. Sales of new homes were lower in June, but sales of existing homes increased. Building permits issued suggest the rate of construction is stable but little changed. Pending home sales were stable and suggest little change in completed home sales in the near term.

A jump in multifamily building permits were attributed to an expiring tax credit date, but housing analysts have repeatedly cited the millennial generation as preferring to live and work in large metro areas where housing can be out of reach for all but the top tier of earners. In other economic sectors, the minutes said that auto loans and student loans continued to grow.

The FOMC minutes indicate the same position of FOMC members in recent months; while the national unemployment rate is low, the Fed does not expect to see inflation at the agency’s target rate of 2.00 percent immediately. Committee members note that they will continue to monitor domestic and global financial conditions as part of the fact-finding process necessary for deciding when to the federal target funds rate,

Speculation over when the Fed will move to raise rates has persisted for several months and will no doubt continue until the Fed does decide to raise rates.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – August 10, 2015

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week August 10 2015This week’s scheduled economic news includes reports on construction spending, a survey of senior loan officers, and reports on labor markets including ADP private sector jobs, the federal government’s reports on non-farm payrolls, core inflation and the national unemployment rate.

Construction Spending Slows, Loan Officers Survey Suggests Growing Confidence

Construction spending fell in June after the May reading was revised upward to 1.89 percent from the original reading of 0.90 percent. Spending for residential construction rose by 0.40 percent, while non-residential construction spending remained flat. The seasonally-adjusted annual outlay for construction was $1.06 billion in June.

Analysts continue to note a trend toward construction of smaller residential units including condominiums and apartments, with an emphasis on rental properties. This supports reports that would-be homebuyers are taking a wait-and-see stance to see how factors including rising home prices, fluctuating mortgage rates and labor market conditions perform.

According to a survey of senior loan officers conducted by the Federal Reserve, mortgage lenders reported that mortgage applications increased during the second quarter and indicating that financial constraints on consumers may be easing. According to the survey of 71 domestic banks and 23 foreign-owned banks, 44 percent of respondents reported moderate increases in loan applications, while only 5 percent of survey participants reported fewer loan applications.

Some banks surveyed reported easing mortgage approval standards, but fewer lenders eased standards than in the first quarter. Further supporting growing confidence among lenders, the Fed survey also reported that large banks were easing consumer credit standards for auto loans and credit cards.

Mortgage Rates Fall, Jobless Claims Rise

Freddie Mac reported that average mortgage rates fell across the board last week with the average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage lower by seven basis points to 3.91 percent; the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage fell by four basis points to 3.13 percent, and the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was unchanged at 2.95 percent. Discount points for all loan types were unchanged at 0.60 percent for 30 and 15-year fixed rate mortgages and 0.40 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

Weekly jobless claims rose from the prior week’s reading of 268,000 new claims to 270,000 new claims, which matched analysts’ expectations. In other labor-related news, the government reported a national unemployment rate of 5.30 percent in July; this was unchanged from June’s reading.

The ADP employment report for July showed fewer jobs were available in the private sector. June’s reading showed that private sector jobs grew by 229,000 jobs; July’s reading fell to 185,000 private sector jobs. According to July’s Non-farm Payrolls report, 215,000 new jobs were added in July as compared to expectations of 220,000 jobs added and June’s reading of 231,000 new jobs added.

The Federal Reserve’s Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) is closely monitoring job growth and inflation rates as it contemplates raising the target federal funds rate. Core inflation grew by 0.10 percent in June; which was consistent with May’s reading and expectations. The FOMC recently cited the committee’s concerns about labor markets and lagging inflation. The Fed has set an annual growth rate of 1.65 percent for inflation for the medium term; this benchmark is part of what the Fed will consider in any decision to raise rates.

What’s Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic reports include reports on retail sales and consumer sentiment in addition to usual weekly reports on mortgage rates and new jobless claims.

 

 

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – August 3, 2015

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week August 3 2015Last week’s scheduled economic reports included the Case-Shiller 20 and 20-City Index reports, pending home sales data released by the National Association of Realtors® and the scheduled post-meeting statement of the Federal Reserve’s Federal Open Market Committee.

Case-Shiller: Home Prices Growing at Normal Pace

The Case-Shiller 20-City Home Price index for May reported that year-over-year home prices grew by 4.40 percent year-over-year. S & P Index Committee Chair David M Blitzer said that home prices are increasing gradually by four to five percent a year as compared to double-digit percentages seen in 2013. Mr. Blitzer said that home price growth is expected to slow in the next couple of years as home prices have been growing at approximately twice the rate of wage growth and inflation, a situation that is not seen as sustainable.

Denver, Colorado led the cities included in the 20-City Index with a 10 percent year-over-year growth rate for home prices. San Francisco, California followed closely with a year-over-year gain of 9.70 percent and Dallas Texas posted a year-over-year gain of 8.40 percent.

Fastest month-to-month home price growth in May was tied by Boston, Massachusetts, Cleveland, Ohio and Las Vegas, Nevada with each posting a monthly gain of 1.50 percent. May home prices remain about 13 percent below a 2006 housing bubble peak.

Pending Home Sales Down From Nine-Year Peak

According to the National Association of Realtors®, pending home sales dropped by 1.80 percent in June as compared to May’s reading. The index reading for June home sales was 110.3 as compared to May’s index reading of 112.3. This indicates that upcoming closings could slow; June’s reading represented the first decrease in pending home sales in six months. Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors®, cited would-be buyers’ decisions about whether to hold out for more homes available or to buy sooner than later will affect future readings for pending home sales.

Fed Not Ready to Raise Rates, Mortgage Rates Fall

The Fed’s FOMC statement at the conclusion of its meeting on Wednesday clearly indicated that Fed policymakers remain concerned about economic conditions and are not prepared to raise the federal funds rate yet. The FOMC statement did not provide any prospective dates for raising the target federal funds rate, which is currently at 0.00 to 0.25 percent, but the Fed continues to watch employment figures and the inflation rate.

Freddie Mac reported that mortgage rates fell last week, likely on news of the Fed’s decision not to raise rates. Average mortgage rates fell across the board with the rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage dropping by six basis points to 3.98 percent; the rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage dropped by four basis points to 3.17 percent and the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage fell by two basis points to 2.95 percent. Average discount points remained the same for fixed rate mortgages at 0.60 percent and fell from 0.50 percent to 0.40 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

What’s Ahead

This week’s economic calendar includes reports on consumer spending, core inflation and consumer spending. July readings on Non-Farm Payrolls and the national unemployment rate will also be released along with regularly scheduled weekly reports on new jobless claims and mortgage rates.

 

Federal Reserve FOMC Announcement

Federal Reserve FOMC AnnouncementThe stage was set in high suspense for FOMC’s post-meeting announcement on Wednesday. As fall approaches, analysts and the media are looking for any sign of when and how much the Fed will raise its target federal funds rate. According to CNBC, some analysts were projecting two interest rate hikes before year end, but the truth of the matter remains unknown until the Federal Open Market Committee announces its intentions.

Meanwhile, reports of what Fed rate hikes will mean for consumers were released prior to the FOMC statement. Real estate analyst Mark Hanson said that a rate hike would “crush” housing markets, which continue to improve slowly in spite of the current 0.00 to 0.25 percent federal funds rate.

Last Friday’s report on June sales of new homes shows unpredictable progress in housing. Analysts estimated that new home sales would reach 550,000 units based on May’s reading of 517,000 new homes sold. June’s reading came in at 482,000 units sold.

FOMC Statement: Current Federal Funds Rate “Remains Appropriate”

The Federal Open Market Committee of the Federal Reserved announced as part of its post-meeting statement that it would not immediately increase the federal funds rate. The FOMC statement cited concerns over the inflation rate, which remains below the Fed’s goal of 2.00 percent. According to the statement, the FOMC will not move to raise the federal funds rate until the committee is “reasonably confident” that inflation will achieve the committee’s goal of 2.00 percent over the medium term.

No prospective dates for raising the target federal funds rate were given. The FOMC statement repeated language included in previous statements indicating that committee members anticipate that economic events could further postpone increases in the federal funds rate. The FOMC statement asserted that committee members continue to monitor domestic and global financial and economic developments as part of the decision-making process for raising the target federal funds rate.

FOMC members agreed that policy accommodation may be required “for some time” after the committee’s dual mandate of maximum employment and 2.00 percent inflation have been achieved. This suggests that FOMC members are not in a hurry to boost rates when economic uncertainty remains.

In terms of housing markets, the Fed’s decision not to raise rates likely caused a sigh of relief as rate increase would have caused consumer interest rates including mortgage rates to rise.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – July 13, 2015

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week July 13 2015Last week’s scheduled economic events were few due to the Independence Day holiday. Freddie Mac’s weekly survey of mortgage rates brought good news as mortgage rates fell across the board. The Federal Reserve released the minutes of its most recent Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting and weekly jobless claims rose.

Job Openings Rise to Highest Level Since 2000

The Labor Department reported that U.S. job openings rose from April’s reading of 5.33 million to 5.36 million job openings in May. This was the highest reading for job openings since the report’s inception in 2000. Private sector job openings rose to 4.85 million, an increase of 16 percent. Government jobs rose increased by 511,000 open jobs from April’s reading of 430,000 job openings. Based on the Labor Department’s report of 8.67 million unemployed workers, there were 1.60 job seekers for each job opening in May as compared to 2.10 job seekers for each job available in May 2014. There were approximately 1.80 job seekers for each job available when the recession started in December 2007.

FOMC Minutes: Fed Issues No Firm Date for Raising Rates

On Wednesday, the Federal Reserve released the minutes of June’s FOMC meeting, during which nine of ten committee members indicated that they were not ready to raise the federal funds rate. One FOMC member indicated that they were willing to wait for another meeting or two to raise rates. While FOMC has hinted at the likelihood of raising rates this fall, committee members are wary of moving too quickly and cited developments in China and Greece as concerns that contributed to the committee’s current wait and see position. When the Fed does raise its target rates from 0.00 percent, consumers can expect higher mortgage and loan rates.

Freddie Mac: Mortgage Rates Fall, Jobless Claims Rise

Mortgage rates fizzled last week with Freddie Mac reporting average rates lower for all types of mortgages. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was four basis points lower at 4.04 percent and discount points unchanged at 0.60 percent; the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage was also four basis points lower at 3.20 percent. Average discount points for a 15-year mortgage fell from 0.60 to 0.50 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage fell by six basis points to 2.93 percent with discount points unchanged at 0.40 percent.

According to the Labor Department, weekly jobless claims rose to 297,000 new claims filed as compared to 282,000 new claims filed the previous week. There were no estimates for last week’s jobless claims due to the holiday.

What’s Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic reports include Retail Prices, Retail Prices Except Automotive and the NAHB Housing Market Index. The Commerce Department is set to release monthly readings for Housing Starts and Building Permits. In addition to Freddie Mac’s report on mortgage rates and the Labor Department’s report on new jobless claims, the University of Michigan will wrap up the week with its Consumer Sentiment report.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – June 22, 2015

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - June 22, 2015Last 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.

What’s Ahead

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.

Federal Reserve: No Change on Target Fed Funds Rate

Federal Reserve: No Change on Target Fed Funds RateThe Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) of the Federal Reserve did not move to increase the Fed’s target federal funds rate, which is currently 0.00 to 0.250 percent. Although the committee acknowledged further progress toward achieving the Federal Reserve’s dual goal of maximum employment and an inflation rate of two percent, committee members indicated that they want to see further improvements in both areas before raising the federal funds rate.

In its customary post meeting statement, the FOMC said that it may not raise rates when both goals have been achieved. This statement may have been meant to calm ongoing speculation that the Fed will soon raise rates. The statement also said that FOMC members may “elect to keep the target federal funds rate below levels the committee considers normal in the longer term.” This stance suggests that the Fed wants to be very sure that economic improvement is on a solid track before it raises rates.

The statement further indicated that the FOMC is not completely influenced by the Fed’s goals of maximum employment and two percent inflation; instead, the committee said that it will consider ongoing domestic and global news and economic reports along with readings on financial and economic developments as part of its decision to raise or not raise the target federal funds rate.

Analyst reactions to the decision not to raise rates suggests that the Fed is likely to raise rates at its September meeting and possibly again in December.

Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s Press Conference

Fed Chair Janet Yellen gave a scheduled press conference after the FOMC statement was issued and answered questions on a variety of topics. Ms. Yellen noted that retiring baby boomers are expected to take up slack in employment lags; as boomers retire, they drop out of the work force and reduce the number of people actively seeking employment.

Ms. Yellen also noted that when the Fed does raise rates, seniors and retirees could benefit from higher yields on savings.

In response to questions about when the Fed will raise its target federal funds rate, the Fed Chair said that the Fed has not decided when to raise rates and said that unfolding economic developments would play a role when the Fed does decide to raise rates.

Ms. Yellen encouraged emphasis on when the Fed will make its first rate hike. She recommended focusing on “the entire trajectory” of rate increases, which some analysts took to mean don’t panic about the first rate increase.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – May 4, 2015

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week May 4 2015Last week’s economic news included S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Index reports, the Fed’s FOMC meeting statement and pending home sales. Freddie Mac mortgage rates and weekly jobless claims were also released as usual. The details:

Case-Shiller: Denver Leads Home Price Gains in February

The S&P Case-Shiller 20-City Home Price Index showed that home prices continue to appreciate, but at a slower rate than in previous years. Home prices increased at a seasonally-adjusted year-over-year rate of 4.20 percent in February as compared to the February 2014 reading of 4.40 percent.

Denver, Colorado led February’s year-over-year home price appreciation rates with a reading of 10.00 percent. San Francisco, California followed closely with a year-over-year reading of 9.80 percent and Miami Florida reported year-over-year home price gains at 9.20 percent.

FOMC Statement: Fed Expects Moderate Economic Growth

In its customary post-meeting statement the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) the Fed repeated its projections for moderate economic growth, but again kept its options open for raising the target federal funds rate, which currently ranges between 0.00 and 0.250 percent. The Fed noted that inflation remains below its goal of 2.00 percent, largely due to earlier decreases in fuel prices. FOMC indicated it will be monitoring inflation data closely.

FOMC members agreed not to raise the target federal funds rate, but said that FOMC will closely monitor data on its dual mandate to achieve maximum employment and an inflation rate of 2.00 percent. Labor market conditions, readings on expected and actual inflation rates and domestic and international economic developments will be considered before the FOMC raises the target federal funds rate. When the Fed does raise rates, mortgage rates can also be expected to rise.

Mortgage Rates Rise, Jobless Claims Fall to 15 Year Low

Average mortgage rates rose last week according to Freddie Mac. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage rose by three basis points to 3.68 percent; the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage rose by two basis points to 2.94 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage increased by one basis point to 2.85 percent. Discount points for fixed rate mortgages were unchanged at 0.60 percent and rose from 0.40 to 0.50 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

Weekly first-time jobless claims were lower than expected with a reading of 262,000 claims filed against expectations of 287,000 new claims filed and the prior week’s reading of 296,000 claims filed. This was the lowest reading for new jobless claims in 15 years. The four-week rolling average of new jobless claims fell by 1250 claims to a reading of 283,750 new claims filed. Analysts typically rely on the four-week rolling average reading as it softens the effects of volatility that can occur from week to week.

What’s Ahead

Next week’s scheduled economic reports are dominated by employment related data including the National Unemployment Rate, Non-Farm Payrolls and the ADP Employment report. Weekly jobless claims and Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey will be released as usual on Thursday.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – March 23, 2015

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week March 23 2015Last week’s events included the National Association of Home Builder’s Housing Market Index, which fell to its lowest reading since last summer. Other news included reports on housing starts and building permits, the FOMC meeting statement and Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s press conference.

Home Builder Confidence Falls, Building Permits Rise

The NAHB Wells Fargo Housing Market Index fell by two points for a reading of 53 in March. The expected reading was 57. Analysts said that this proves that lower mortgage rates and steady job growth aren’t fueling housing markets as expected. NAHB chief economist David Crowe also cited supply chain issues such as a shortage of available lots, labor shortages and tight mortgage underwriting standards. Home builders remain optimistic that as labor markets continue to improve and more home buyers enter the market during the traditional spring and summer buying season, that builder confidence will also grow.

The Department of Commerce reported that building permits for February rose from January’s reading of 1.06 million to 1.09 million. This represents a 3.00 percent increase and was the highest reading since October. Permits fell for single family homes fell by 6.20 percent in February, but were 2.80 percent higher year-over-year. Single family permits account for 75 percent of building permits issued.

Housing starts fell dramatically due to bad weather. The Northeast saw housing starts fall by 56 percent due to extreme snowfall; Housing starts in the Midwest fell by 37 percent and the West saw housing starts decline by 18.20 percent in February. The South reported a 2.50 percent decrease in housing starts, but since nearly 50 percent of housing starts are in the South, this decline is more significant than it appears.

Fed Rates Hold Steady, Mortgage Rates Fall

The Federal Reserve noted in its post FOMC meeting statement that the Fed is in no hurry to raise rates. Citing ongoing concerns about low inflation and a sluggish housing market recovery, the Fed’s policymakers indicated that they don’t plan to rush on raising the target federal funds rate. In her press conference held after the FOMC statement, Fed Chair Janet Yellen reiterated the Fed’s intention to raise rates only when domestic and global economic developments warrant.

Mortgage rates fell according to Freddie Mac with the average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage eight basis points lower at 3.78 percent. The average rate for a 15-year mortgage was four basis points lower at 3.06 percent; the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was also four basis points lower at an average rate of 2.97 percent. Discount points were unchanged at an average of 0.60 percent for fixed rate mortgages and 0.50 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

What’s Ahead

This week’s housing-related news includes new and existing home sales, the FHFA home price index and FHFA’s home price index. Freddie Mac mortgage rates and weekly jobless claims will also be released as usual on Thursday.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – November 24, 2014

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week November 24 2014Last week’s scheduled economic news included the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index, Housing Starts and Existing Home Sales. FOMC meeting minutes were released along with weekly Freddie Mac mortgage rates and weekly jobless claims.

In addition, the National Association of Realtors® suggested that FHA should lower its mutual mortgage insurance premiums (MMI) as its fund for paying claims has normalized since recession.

Homebuilder Confidence Nears Nine-Year High

The National Association of Home Builders/ Wells Fargo Housing Market Index achieved a reading of 58 for November. This was two points higher than the expected reading of 56 and four points above September’s reading. This was the fifth consecutive month of readings above 50.

Readings above 50 indicate that more builders are confident about housing market conditions than not. Components of the index improved with builder confidence in present sales of new homes up 5 points to a reading of 62, confidence in sales over the next six months rose by two points to 66, and the reading for prospective buyer traffic rose four points to 45.

Housing Starts Slow, Existing Home Sales Suggest Stronger Housing Market

Housing starts were lower by 2.80 percent in October at a seasonally-adjusted rate of 1.01 million against an expected reading of 1.03 million and September’s reading of 1.04 million homes started. October’s reading was affected by a 15.50 percent drop in multi-family construction, but single-family home construction increased by 4.20 percent. Analysts noted that the multi-family sector is notoriously volatile.

The National Association of Realtors® reported that the seasonally-adjusted annual rate of existing home sales for October exceeded the expected reading of 5.15 million with 5.26 million existing homes sold. October’s reading also surpassed September’s reading of 5.17 million previously-owned homes sold. October’s reading represented a 1.50 percent increase over September sales of existing homes, and was the highest reading since September 2013.

The median price of previously-owned homes rose to $208,500 in October, which represented a 5.50 percent increase year-over-year. The inventory of homes for sale is higher with a 5.1 month supply of homes available, which was a year-over-year increase of 5.20 percent. Higher inventories of homes available and low mortgage rates were seen as factors contributing to more home sales.

Builders, Realtors® Call for Lower FHA Premiums

Kevin Kelly, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders and the National Association of Realtors® called for the FHA to lower its mortgage insurance premiums. The cost of FHA loans, which require borrowers to pay an upfront mortgage insurance premium and annual premiums that are pro-rated and added to monthly mortgage payments, were seen as an obstacle to first-time and moderate income homebuyers. This request was based on a report that indicated the FHA fund for paying mortgage insurance claims is in the black for the first time since 2011.

Mortgage Rates, Jobless Claims Fall

Freddie Mac reported that average mortgage rates fell across the board on Thursday with the average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage lower by two basis points at 3.99 percent, and the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage lower by three basis points at 3.17 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage dropped by one basis point to 3.01 percent. Average discount points remained the same for all loan types at 0.50 percent.

The Commerce Department reported that new jobless claims fell to 291,000 from the prior week’s reading of 293,000. Analysts expected a reading of 280.000 new jobless claims, but this was the tenth consecutive week of readings for fewer than 300,000 new jobless claims. The four-week rolling average of new claims rose by 1750 to a reading of 287,500. The four week average reduces the volatility of weekly jobless claims and provides a more accurate reading of unemployment trends.

What’s Ahead

Next week’s scheduled events include the Case-Shiller 10 and 20-City Home Price Indices, FHFA’s House Price Index and New and Pending Home Sales reports. There are no reports set for Thursday or Friday due to the Thanksgiving Holiday.