The last week of 2013 brought relatively good news in view of the economic roller coaster rides caused by legislative impasse. A brief shutdown of federal government agencies, and nail-biting suspense over if and when the FOMC of the Federal Reserve would taper its quantitative easing program.
Last week's news was not high in volume due to the New Year holiday, but it does suggest that a general economic recovery is progressing and that housing markets are leading the "charge!". Here are the details:
The NAR's data of month-to-month reading of 0.20 percent showed an increase of 0.20 percent over October's reading of -1.20 percent, which was the lowest reading for pending home sales in five months.
Lawrence Yun, chief economist for NAR, said that "...the positive fundamentals of job creation and household formation are likely to foster a fairly stable level of contract activity in 2014."
November's year-over-year reading for pending home sales was 101.7 against a reading of 103.3 for November 2013. The good news is that November's reading exceeded a 10-month low of 101.50 for October 2013.
Rapid Rises In Home Prices May Have Peaked
The S&P Case-Shiller 10 and 20- city home price indices for October was released Tuesday with positive results for both indices showing year-over-year gains in average home prices at 13.60 percent.
On an un-adjusted basis, the 10 and 20 city indices each gained 0.20 percent between September and October. The indices each showed a 1.00 percent gain in home prices on a seasonally adjusted annual basis. Case-Shiller cautioned that home prices are expected to rise at single-digit rates during 2014.
Consumer Confidence Rises, Housing And Manufacturing Sectors Improve
December's consumer confidence reading gained 6.1 points for a reading of 78.1. This also exceeded the expected reading of 76.2.
The prior two months had shown decreased in readings thought to have been caused by the government shutdown in October. Consumers indicated that they are more confident about the economy than they have been in five and a half years.
Housing and manufacturing are leading the recovery, which reflects stronger housing, production and possibly manufacturing jobs, which have lagged behind increased production.
The national unemployment rate stood at 7.00 percent last week, which remains 0.50 percent above the Federal Reserve's targeted rate of 6.50 percent.
Weekly jobless claims came in lower than expectations of 342,000 jobless claims at 339,000 new jobless claims. The prior week's reading showed 341,000 new jobless claims.
Although a small decrease in new claims, last week's reading further suggested that the economic recovery is on track.
Thursday's mortgage interest rate survey showed incremental increases in mortgage rates; concerns over continued tapering of the Fed's QE program may have been a factor in the slight uptick in last week's rates.
Average rates for mortgage loans rose as follows. The rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage increased from 4.48 to 4.53 percent with discount points rising from 0.70 percent to 0.80 percent.
The rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage was 3.55 percent with discount points unchanged at 0.70 percent. The rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage rose by five basis points to 3.05 percent with discount points unchanged at 0.40 percent.
Economists seem to agree on continued improvement in the economy for 2014, however rising mortgage rates and high unemployment remain as obstacles for faster economic recovery.