Last week’s economic news included several reports related to housing. The Case-Shiller and FHFA reports for June showed a further slowing in home price growth. New home sales for July fell short of the expected reading, but pending home sales exceeded expectations. The details:
Case-Shiller, FHFA: June Home Price Growth Slows
The Case-Shiller 10 and 20-City Home Price Index for June moved from May’s year-over-year reading of 9.40 percent growth to 8.10 percent in June. Home prices grew by 1.00 percent on a month-to-month basis in June as compared to May’s reading of 1.20 percent.
Demand shrank due to increasing inventories of available homes and stricter mortgage standards. For the first time since 2008, each of the 20 cities tracked showed slowing growth in home prices. Home prices are about 17 percent lower than their pre-recession peak in 2006. Case-Shiller also reported that the national median home price rose by 2.90 percent year-over-year to $269,800.
Analysts said that slower gains in home prices coupled with increasing confidence among home builders signals a return to more normal housing market conditions.
FHFA reported that home prices for purchase transactions grew by 0.20 percent less than May’s year-over-year reading of 5.40 percent. FHFA reports on properties connected with mortgages owned or backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
New Home Sales Slip in July, Pending Home Sales Gain
The Department of Commerce reported that New Home Sales missed expectations for July with a reading of 412,000 new homes sold on seasonally adjusted annual basis. June’s revised reading was 422,000 new homes sold, and analysts expected new home sales at a rate of 430,000 in July against June’s original sales pace of 406,000. Three out of four regions posted slower growth rates for new home sales, with the South posted a gain in new home sales. New home sales were 12.30 percent higher than one year ago.
Analysts said that improving labor market conditions and the slower rate of home price growth are positive trends for housing markets as more home buyers can afford to buy homes. Mortgage rates are approximately one-half percent lower than last year, which also increases affordability.
Pending home sales exceeded expectations for July to an 11 month high, which may ease concerns over July’s dip in new home sales. The National Association of REALTORS® Pending Home Sales Index rose to 105.9 in July as compared to June’s index reading of 102.5. Homes under contract increased from a negative reading of -1.30 percent in June to July’s reading of +3.30 percent. Pending home sales are considered a strong indicator of future home sales.
Mortgage Rates Mixed. Consumer Confidence Jumps
Freddie Mac reported that average mortgage rates were little changed. The rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was unchanged at 4.12 percent. 15-year mortgages had an average rate of 3.25 percent which was an increase of two basis points over the previous week. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage moved from 2.95 percent to 2.97 percent. Discount points were unchanged at 0.50, 0.60 and 0.50 percent respectively.
Two gauges of U.S. consumer confidence indicated stronger levels of consumer confidence in the economy. The Consumer Confidence Index rose to 92.4 in August from July’s reading of 91.9 and exceeded a lower expectation of 88.5. The University of Michigan’s Consumer Sentiment Index rose to 82.5 against July’s reading of 79.2 and the expected reading of 80.1. Increasing consumer confidence suggests that as more consumers become comfortable with current economic conditions, they may be more confident about buying homes.
What’s Coming Up
Next week’s economic reports include construction spending and the Fed’s Beige Book Report. The Bureau of Labor Statistics will also release Non-farm Payrolls and the National Unemployment Rate for August. No activity is scheduled for Monday due to the Labor Day holiday.
The Case-Shiller 10 and 20-City Home Price Indices for June reported year-over-year gains of 8.10 percent while the Case-Shiller National Home Price Index covers all nine census regions and reported a year-over-year gain of 6.20 percent.
Readings for all three indices worsened as compared to May readings, and all cities tracked showed slower growth in home prices. The National Home Price Index, which is now published monthly, rose by 0.90 percent from May’s reading, and both the 10 and 20-City Index posted month-to-month gains of one percent.
Five cities including Detroit, Las Vegas, New York, Phoenix and San Diego posted larger gains in June than for May.
Regional Home Price Growth: NYC Leads Cities in June
According to the Case-Shiller 20-City Index, New York City led home price growth in June with a reading of +1.60 percent. Chicago, Detroit and Las Vegas posted gains of 1.40 percent with Las Vegas posting its largest home price gain since last summer.
Year-over-year, Las Vegas posted the highest growth rate at 15.20 percent. San Francisco’s home price gains slowed to a year-over-year rate of 12.90 percent. Phoenix posted its slowest home price growth since March of 2012 with its June reading of 6.90 percent.
Home Prices Rise, But Modestly
While home prices in all cities tracked by Case-Shiller rose for the third consecutive month, analysts said that the Federal Reserve may increase its target federal funds rate as soon as the first quarter of 2015. This would lead to higher mortgage rates, which could further flatten home price growth.
Home affordability became an issue for many would-be buyers after the rapid rate of home price growth seen in 2013. Lower demand for homes could also impact the rate of home price appreciation as inventories of available homes rise. With these factors and no one knowing exactly when the Fed will act to raise rates, it’s unlikely that home prices will rapidly escalate in the coming months.
FHFA Reports Slower Home Price Growth in June
FHFA, the agency that oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, reported that June home prices slowed from May’s reading of 5.40 percent year-over-year to 5.20 percent year-over-year in June. FHFA reports on properties connected with mortgages owned or guaranteed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. FHFA shared some positive trends for seasonally adjusted purchase-only home prices in its June report:
June’s home prices rose in 40 states.
Home prices rose for the seventh consecutive month
Home prices rose for 23 of the last 24 months with the November 2013 as the exception.
Home prices rose in the second quarter of 2014 in 74 of 100 metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) tracked by the federal government.
Home prices in the Pacific and Mountain census districts continued to slow in the second quarter. After rapid growth in home prices in 2013, this appears to indicate and expected adjustment rather than an unexpected crash in home prices for these regions.
While slower growth in home prices is of concern to homeowners, more affordable prices will likely encourage more would-be buyers to become actual buyers.
Last week’s economic news included a number of housing related reports. According to the National Association of REALTORS®, pending home sales dropped by 1.10 percent in June. The S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Index reports for May noted that home prices are growing at a slower rate of 9.30 percent year-over-year than April’s year-over-year growth rate of 10.80 percent. Construction spending was also lower in June.
The Fed’s FOMC statement indicated that asset purchases connected to quantitative easing will cease in October, but that the current target federal funds rate is expected to stay in place “a considerable period” after asset purchases conclude. FOMC noted its concern over housing markets, which was based on slower home price growth and market activity.
Pending Home Sales, Home Price Growth Slower
Pending home sales dropped by 1.10 percent nationwide in June. This was the first decrease in four months. Pending home sales rose by 1.10 percent in the Midwest and 0.20 percent in the West, but dropped by 2.90 percent in the Northeast and 2.40 percent in the South. Pending sales are measured by signed purchase contracts and provide an indicator of future completed sales and mortgage loan activity.
The 20-city Case-Shiller Home Price Index for May fell by 1.50 percent to a year-over-year reading of 9.30 percent from April’s 10.80 percent. No cities in the 20-city index reported declining home prices.
Construction spending fell by 1.80 percent in June against projections of an 0.30 percent increase in spending and May’s reading of an 0.80 percent increase. Reasons cited for lower construction spending included builder focus on high-demand areas. Builders have also indicated concerns about rising mortgage rates and tight loan requirements that impact numbers of home buyers that can qualify for home loans.
Mortgage Rates Little Changed, Fed Continues Wind-Down of Asset Purchases
According to Freddie Mac’s weekly Primary Mortgage Market Survey, rates were little changed last week. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was 4.12 percent as compared to 4.13 percent the prior week. Discount points were unchanged at an average of 0.60 percent. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage fell by three basis points to 3.23 percent with discount points higher by 10 basis points at 0.70 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage fell by one basis point to 2.38 percent with average discount points of 0.40 percent unchanged.
The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) of the Federal Reserve issued its customary post-meeting statement on Wednesday. The FOMC plans to continue reducing asset purchase under the current quantitative easing program until the purchases cease in October. Although some analysts were concerned that the Fed may consider raising its target federal funds rate based on lower than expected unemployment figures, the FOMC said it doesn’t plan to raise the target federal funds “for a considerable time” after the QE purchases cease, but no specific timeline was given.
Labor Sector News
The Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Labor Statistics posted a national unemployment rate of 6.20 percent for July, which was higher than expectations of a 6.00 percent national unemployment rate and June’s reading of 6.10 percent. To put these readings in perspective, the Fed had established an unemployment rate of 6.50 percent as a benchmark for winding down its asset purchases and potentially raising the target federal funds rate.
Non-farm payrolls reported 209,000 jobs added in July against projections of 235,000 jobs added and June’s reading of 298,000 jobs added. While July’s reading was lower, analysts said that job growth suggests ongoing recovery for labor markets. Labor markets have been cited in recent months as reasons for slower demand for homes and home builder skepticism.
Next week’s scheduled economic news contains no housing-related reports other than Freddie Mac’s mortgage rates report.
Last week’s economic news was fairly quiet due to the Memorial Day holiday on Monday and no scheduled news released on Wednesday.
Home Prices Post Modest Gains, But Growth Rate of Home Prices Slows
Tuesday’s release of the S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Index for March showed that home prices are edging up, but at a slower pace than last year. Home prices increased by 12.40 percent year-over-year as compared to February’s reading of 12.90 percent year-over-year.
Analysts expected prices to fall as construction picks up and more homes are listed for sale. Lower demand due to strict mortgage lending standards and high home prices continued to keep many moderate-income and first-time home buyers on the sidelines.
FHFA Reports Home Prices Increased By Over 6 Percent
FHFA, the agency that oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac also released its home price index for properties connected with Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac owned or guaranteed loans. As of March, FHFA reported that home prices increased by 6.50 percent year-over-year as compared to February’s year-over-year reading of 6.90 percent.
Consumer confidence rose by 1.30 percent for May with a reading of 83.0, which matched expectations.
Last Thursday’s news included the weekly Jobless Claims report, which showed 22,000 fewer jobless claims than expected with a reading of 300,000 new jobless claims reported. Thursday’s reading was also lower than the prior reporting period’s reading of 327,000 new jobless claims filed.
The four-week rolling average of jobless claims also showed improvement with 11,250 fewer claims filed and an average reading of 311,500 new weekly jobless claims filed. This was the lowest number of jobless claims filed since August 2007. Analysts look to the four-week rolling average as more accurate than the weekly readings, which can be volatile.
U.S. jobs have increased by 200,000 jobs per month over the last three months reported.
Pending Home Sales Up for Second Consecutive Month
Pending home sales in April rose by 0.40 percent from the March reading of 97.4 to 97.8. The April reading was the highest for pending home sales since November. Pending home sales provide an estimate of future home sales.
Lower mortgage rates likely supported expanded home sales. Freddie Mac reported that the average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was 4.12 percent, a drop of two basis points from last week. The rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage fell by four basis points to 3.21 percent.
The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was unchanged at 2.96 percent. Discount points were unchanged at 0.60 for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage and 0.50 percent for a 15 year mortgage. Discount points dropped from 0.40 to 0.30 percent for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage.
In addition to construction spending for April, this week’s economic news includes several reports that can provide insight about employment and consumer spending.
News events include Motor Vehicle Sales for May, The Fed’s Beige Book report, and Thursday’s usual release of Freddie Mac’s average mortgage rates and weekly Jobless Claims. Non-farm Payrolls and the national unemployment rate for May are also scheduled for release