Last week's economic news brought little housing-related content, but several economic reports in other sectors contributed to overall perceptions of the economy.
In a speech given in Sweden, Fed Vice President Stanley Fischer noted that the economy might be in a period of "secular stagnation." This condition is expected to keep interest rates low for longer than expected.
A survey of small business owners showed that confidence increased by 0.70 in July. Job openings for June increased from 4.60 million to 4.70 million. Readings for several reports fell shy of expectations and new jobless claims were higher than expected.
Economic Readings Lower Than Expected, Weekly Jobless Claims Rise
Retail sales for July were flat and fell shy of June's reading of 0.20 percent, which was also the expected reading for July. Retail sales except autos were also lower in July with a reading of 0.10 percent against the expected reading and June's reading of 0.40 percent.
Weekly jobless claims were reported at 311,000 against expectations of 300,000 new claims and the prior week's reading of 290,000 new jobless claims. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, this was the highest reading since June.
New jobless claims were close to pre-recession levels which suggested a slower pace of layoffs. The four-week average of new jobless claims, which presents a less volatile reading than for weekly reports, rose by 2000 new jobless claims to a reading of 285,750.
Mortgage Rates Lower
Freddie Mac's weekly survey reported lower mortgage rates last week. Average rates were as follows: 30-year fixed rate mortgages had a rate of 4.12 percent and were two basis points lower than the previous week.
Discount points averaged 0.60 percent against the prior week's reading of 0.70 percent. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage was 3.24 percent as compared to the prior week's reading of 3.27 percent. Discount points were unchanged at 0.60 percent.
The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage dropped by one basis point to 2.97 percent with discount points unchanged at 0.50 percent.
A couple of good news bytes from last week included an increase in small business sentiment in July. The National Federation of Independent Business Index for July increased from June's reading of 95.00 points to 95.70 points.
The federal government also reported that job openings increased from 4.60 million in May to 4.70 million in June.
Several housing-related reports are set for release this week. The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) will release its Home Builder Index for August, which measures builder confidence in market conditions for newly built homes.
The Department of Commerce will release Housing Starts for July, and the National Association of REALTORS® will release its Existing Home Sales report for July. The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) of the Federal Reserve will release the minutes of its most recent meeting on Wednesday; this could provide details concerning the Fed's recent monetary policy decisions, which include the wind-down of asset purchases under the current quantitative easing program.