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.