Last week’s housing related economic reports were slim, but an unexpected increase in weekly jobless claims gained attention. Analysts calmed concerns by noting that last week’s reading of 315,000 new jobless claims was not far removed from jobless claim levels before the recession. Expectations for last week’s reading were for 301,000 new jobless claims based on the previous week’s original reading of 302,000. The previous week’s reading was revised to 304,000 new jobless claims.
Jobless Claims: 4-Week Average for Continuing Claims Hits Lowest Level Since 2007
Prospective home buyers and current homeowners typically consider their jobs and employment prospects before seeking a home purchase mortgage or refinancing their existing home loans. Last week’s readings released by the Department of Labor suggest that while weekly jobless claims increased, overall trends in hiring and continuing jobless claims indicate a stronger labor sector.
The four-week average of new jobless claims rose from 303,250 to 304,000. The four-week average is typically less volatile than week-to-week readings. Continuing jobless claims increased by 9,000 to 2.49 million for the week ended August 30. The four-week average for continuing jobless claims fell by 15,500 claims to 2.50 million continuing jobless claims. This was the lowest reading for continuing jobless claims since 2007.
In other labor related news, job openings were nearly steady at 4.67 million in July against June’s reading of 4.68 million new job openings. The Labor Department reported that job openings increased by 22 percent year-over-year, with private sector jobs rising to 4.19 million job openings and government jobs increasing by 101,000 job openings to 485,000 in July. The number of hires in July rose from June’s reading of 4.79 million to 4.87 million in July. This was the highest number of hires since 2007. Pre-recession hiring levels were approximately 5 million; this suggests that U.S. labor trends are approaching pre-recession levels.
Mortgage Rates Rise, Discount Points Unchanged
Freddie Mac reported higher mortgage rates on Thursday, with average discount points unchanged at 0.50 across the board. Average rates for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage rose from 4.10 percent to 4.12 percent; the average rate for a 15-year mortgage was two basis points higher at 3.26 percent and the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage rose to 2.99 percent from the prior week’s average of 2.97 percent.
This week’s scheduled news includes several reports related to housing. In addition to Freddie Mac’s usual mortgage rates report, The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) will release its Housing Market Index and the Department of Commerce will release data on housing starts in August. General economic reports include the Consumer Price Index, Core Consumer Price Index, and Leading Economic Indicators.
The Federal Open Market Committee of the Federal Reserve will release its post-meeting statement on Wednesday, and Fed Chair Janet Yellen is also expected to give a press conference. The Federal Reserve may provide further indication of its intention concerning the target federal funds rate, which is currently at 0.00 to 0.250 percent. The Fed may address its intentions concerning the federal funds rate, but the FOMC has been consistently vague about details concerning its economic strategy.
Last week’s housing-related economic news was slim, likely due to the Labor Day holiday Monday. On Tuesday, the U.S. Commerce Department reported that construction spending for July increased by 1.80 percent as compared to June’s revised reading of 1.0 percent and expectations of a 1.0 percent increase for July.
The Federal Reserve released its Beige Book report Wednesday; the collection of anecdotes from business contacts within the 12 Federal Reserve districts indicated that the general economy was strengthening as well as labor markets. The Fed noted a shortage of skilled workers. New construction and home sales grew modestly, but the Fed reported that fewer than half of the districts reported growth in real estate activity.
This information appears to be consistent with recent media reports of falling home sales, mortgage originations and demand for homes. Analysts say that mortgage lenders remain wary of loosening mortgage credit standards without protection from having to repurchase faulty mortgages from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Mortgage Rates Saw Little Change
Freddie Mac reported that average mortgage rates and discount points saw little change last week. The average rates for a 30-year mortgage and a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage were unchanged at 4.10 percent and 2.97 percent respectively. Discount points were also unchanged at 0.40 percent. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage fell by one basis point to 3.24 percent with discount points also lower at 0.50 percent.
Non-Farm Payrolls Add 142,000 Jobs, Unemployment Rate Unchanged
The Bureau of Labor Statistics Reported that 142,000 new jobs were added in August. Analysts had expected 228,000 new jobs added, but many analysts said that the abrupt decline in jobs added was a fluke. A couple of short-term incidents impacted retail and automotive sectors as a supermarket chain cut hours and fewer July layoffs in the automotive sector led to fewer workers called back in August. The unemployment rate remained at 6.10 percent.
Weekly jobless claims rose to 302,000 against expectations of 300,000 new jobless claims and 298,000 new jobless claims in the prior week.
This week’s scheduled economic news is also light on housing and mortgage reports. Retail spending, consumer credit, and federal budget data are some of the reports set for release.
Last week’s housing related news was minimal, but a Federal Reserve survey of senior loan officers revealed that although credit standards for commercial and industrial loans as well as credit cards are easing, current mortgage credit standards are more stringent than in 2005. This could be a contributing factor to slowing housing market gains while other sectors of the economy are recovering at a faster pace.
Qualified Mortgage Rules Impact Non-Conforming Mortgages
The Senior Loan Officers survey also noted that qualified mortgage rules have slowed approval of prime jumbo mortgages and non-traditional home loans. This suggests that applicants falling outside of stringent qualified mortgage rules can expect challenges when buying or refinancing their homes.
In other housing news, Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey reported that last week’s mortgage rates were mixed. Mortgage rates for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage averaged 4.14 percent with discount points of 0.70 percent against last week’s reading of 4.12 percent with discount points of 0.60 percent. 15-year mortgage rates averaged 3.27 percent with discount points of 0.60 percent. This was an increase of four basis points, although discount points fell from 0.70 percent to 0.60 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was 2.98 percent, a drop of two basis points, with discount points unchanged at 0.50 percent.
Fewer Jobless Claims, Service-Related Business Growth Exceeds Expectations
The weekly Jobless Claims report brought a lower than expected reading of 289,000 new claims as compared to predictions of 305,000 new jobless claims. In other economic news, the Institute for Service Management (ISM) reported that its non-manufacturing index rose from June’s reading of 56.00 percent to 58.70 percent in July. Analysts had forecasted July’s reading at 56.50 percent. July’s reading represented the highest growth rate for service-related businesses since 2005.
According to the Department of Commerce, June factory orders rose by 1.10 percent over May’s reading of -0.60 percent against an expected reading of 0.60 percent. As business expands and factory orders increase, it’s likely that jobs and hiring will also grow. Steady employment is a compelling factor for most home buyers and positive reports in labor and industrial sectors could boost housing markets as more buyers increase demand for homes.
Next week’s economic reports include retail sales, retail sales excluding automotive, industrial production and the weekly reports on mortgage rates and new jobless claims. While there isn’t much housing news expected next week, readings in other economic sectors can suggest potential trends in housing markets
Last week’s economic news was quiet in the housing sector, but retail sales and employment-related reports provided indications of less consumer spending and reduced consumer confidence.
On Monday, James Bullard, St. Louis Fed President, commented that inflation appears to be rising. Although not a voting member of the Fed’s Open Market Committee (FOMC), inflation has been a topic of concern to the FOMC in recent years. Mr. Bullard had previously noted that inflation was stable.
His remarks set the stage for this week’s FOMC meeting and press conference by Fed Chair Janet Yellen. Analysts expect the Fed to continue tapering its asset purchases as it winds down its quantitative easing program.
Labor related reports were mixed last week. Job openings in April rose to 4.46 million in April; this was the highest reading since September 2007 and exceeded the March reading of 4.17 million job openings in March.
More good news came from the U.S. Labor Department, which 4.71 million hires in April. This was the highest rate of hiring since June 2008 and represented a year-over-year increase of 6.00 percent. At the start of the recession at the end of 2007, about 5 million job openings were reported.
Mortgage Rates, New Jobless Claims Rise
Weekly jobless claims were reported at 317,000 as compared to expectations of 310,000 new jobless claims and the prior week’s reading of 312,000 new jobless claims. The four-week rolling average of new jobless claims rose by 4,750 new claims for a total of 315,250. The four-week gauge of jobless claims evens out weekly volatility and is viewed by analysts as a better indicator of labor market trends.
Mortgage rates were higher according to Freddie Mac. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage rose by six basis points to 4.20 percent; discount points rose from 0.50 to 0.60 percent.
The average rate for a 15-year mortgage rose by eight basis points to 3.32 percent with discount points unchanged at 0.50 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage rose from last week’s reading of 2.93 percent to 3.05 percent. Discount points were unchanged at 0.40 percent.
The Fed’s quantitative easing program was implemented to control long-term interest rates, including mortgage rates. Gradual tapering of this program is allowing mortgage rates to rise. Other influences include investor concerns over recent decisions made by the European Central Bank.
Consumer sentiment slipped slightly for June according to the University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index. June’s reading was 81.20 as compared to an expected reading of 82.80 and May’s reading of 81.50.
Next week’s scheduled economic news includes the NAHB Housing Market Index for June and Housing Starts for May. These readings are important indicators for housing supplies, as a lack of builder confidence can translate to fewer housing starts. Housing markets were impacted by high demand for homes against low inventories of available homes during 2013 and into 2014.
Also noteworthy is the FOMC post-meeting statement and Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s press conference. The FOMC sets the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy and is expected to announce further tapering of the Fed’s quantitative easing program. It will be interesting to learn the Fed’s perspective on inflation, which has been stuck below the Fed’s target level of two percent.
Friday’s release of Leading Economic Indicators for May round out this week’s economic reports.
Last week’s economic news was mixed. Construction spending grew, but fell below the expected level. CoreLogic reported that April home prices continued to rise, but did so at their slowest growth rate in more than a year. Employment reports for private sector and government jobs indicated fewer jobs, but the national unemployment rate was steady. Here are the details:
Construction Spending, Home Price Growth Slows
Construction spending reported by the Department of Commerce reached $953.5 billion annually, and increased by 0.20 percent month-to-month against expectations of an 0.80 percent increase and the March reading of 0.60 percent growth.
According to CoreLogic, the rate of home price growth slowed to 10.50 percent year-over-year in April as compared to the 11.10 year-over-year rate of increase in April 2013. Home prices increased by 2.10 percent over March; these gains in home prices were the slowest posted in more than a year, but there was good news.
No states posted a drop in home prices, and eight states posted new record highs for home prices.
CoreLogic said that although a short supply of available homes has driven home prices up, price gains lost momentum due to affordability; CoreLogic expects home prices to increase at a slower pace and projects that home price growth will reach a pace of 6.30 percent by April 2015.
Mortgage Rates Mixed
Freddie Mac reported that mortgage rates for fixed rate mortgages rose while the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage fell. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage increased by two basis points to 4.14 percent; discount points fell to an average of 0.50 percent. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage also increased by two basis points to 3.23 percent; discount points were unchanged at 0.50 percent. Rates for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage averaged 2.93 percent, a drop of three basis points. Average discount points rose from 0.30 to 0.40 percent.
Jobs, Unemployment Data Suggest Economic Strength
Labor markets impact consumer decisions to buy homes; several labor-related reports released last week indicated that the economy continued to gain strength as more jobs were added and fewer workers filed jobless claims.
ADP reported that 179,000 private-sector jobs were added in May as compared to 215,000 jobs added in April. The Bureau of Labor Statistics released its Non-farm Payrolls report for May; 217,000 jobs were added as compared to projections of 210,000 jobs added and 288,000 jobs added in April.
New weekly jobless claims were reported at 312,000 as compared to expectations of 311,000 new jobless claims and the previous week’s 304,000 new claims. The four-week rolling average of weekly jobless claims fell by 2250 new claims to 310,250; this was the lowest reading since June 2007, and was 10 percent lower than the reading for the same week in April 2013 and was 17 percent lower than for the same week in 2012.
Another sign of economic growth was reported last week. Continuing jobless claims dropped to a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 2.60 million for the week ended May 24; this was the lowest reading reported since October 2007.
The national unemployment rate for May matched April’s reading of 6.30 percent, and was lower than projections of 6.40 percent for May. The Federal Open Market Committee of the Federal Reserve (FOMC) has repeatedly cited an unemployment rate of 6.50 percent as a benchmark indication of economic recovery; it appears likely that the Fed may continue its tapering of asset purchases as it winds down its quantitative easing program.
This week’s scheduled economic news includes Retail Sales, Retail Sales without vehicle sales, and the Producer Price Index. Freddie Mac mortgage rates and Weekly Jobless Claims will be released Thursday, and the University of Michigan will release its Consumer Sentiment Index on Friday.