Last week's economic highlights included the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Housing Market Index for October. The Commerce Department also released Housing Starts for September. Freddie Mac reported that the average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage dropped below four percent. The Fed released its Beige Book report, and Weekly jobless claims came in lower than expected. Here are the details:
Homebuilder Confidence Slips in Spite of Lower Mortgage Rates
U.S. Homebuilder confidence in housing market conditions slipped by 5 points to October's reading of 54 as compared to September's reading; this was also lower than the expected reading of 59. Builders are concerned over strict mortgage credit rules, but the NAHB's chief economist noted that pent-up demand, lower mortgage rates and improved labor markets are expected to drive builder confidence in the near term. Readings of 50 and above indicate that more builders are confident about market conditions than not.
Freddie Mac reported lower average mortgage rates across the board with the rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage at 3.97 percent, a drop of 15 basis points from the prior reading. 15-year fixed rate mortgages had an average rate of 3.18 percent from the prior week's reading of 3.30 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage fell by 13 basis points to 2.92 percent. Average discount points remained at 0.50 for all mortgage types.
If 30-year fixed rate mortgages can stay below the four percent mark, this could mean additional incentive for fence-sitters to become active home buyers.
Surprise: New Jobless Claims Hit 14-Year Low
Concerns over job markets and employment stability have consistently been of concern to home buyers in the aftermath of the recession. Last week's jobless claims report brought encouraging news as it came in at 264,000 new jobless claims filed against predictions of 289,000 new claims and the prior week's reading of 287,000 new jobless claims filed. This was the lowest number of new jobless claims filed in more than 14 years. Analysts said that lower numbers of weekly jobless claims indicate fewer layoffs, which should help boost prospective home buyers' confidence in job stability.
Fed: Economy Growing at "Modest to Moderate Pace"
The Federal Reserve released its Beige Book report on Wednesday. This report contains anecdotes from business sources within the 12 Federal Reserve districts. The report said that the economy continues to grow at a modest to moderate pace and noted that potential concerns over the stronger U.S. dollar causing increases in export costs did not concern the Fed's business sources.
Housing Starts, Consumer Confidence Up
September's housing starts were above both expectations and August's reading. 1.02 million starts were reported with the majority being multi-family homes. The expected reading was 1.015 million housing starts; this was based on August's reading of 956,000 starts. This news is consistent with the drop in builder confidence for sales of new single-family homes.
The University of Michigan/Thompson-Reuters Consumer Sentiment Index for October rose to 86.4 against an expected reading of 83.5 and September's reading of 84.6. This was the highest consumer sentiment reading in seven years. Analysts rained on the consumer sentiment parade by noting that recent jitters over Wall Street and concerns about Ebola outbreaks could cause the Consumer Sentiment Index to lose ground.
Next week's scheduled economic reports include the National Association of REALTORS® Existing Home Sales report, FHFA's Home Price Index and New Home Sales. Leading Economic Indicators will also be released.