Last week's economic reports included reports on new and existing home sales and FHFA's monthly home price index for properties associated with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgages. The details:
New Home Sales Surge, Existing Home Sales Drop
According to the Department of Commerce, new home sales rose in January to a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 539,000 which exceeded the expected rate of 455,000 sales and the revised figure of 500,000 sales of new homes in December 2014. This was a 7.80 percent increase over December's figure and was the first time since 2008 that new home sales met or exceeded the benchmark of 500,000 sales for two consecutive months.
Sales of new homes were close to 25 percent higher than for January 2015, and analysts said that more jobs and relatively low mortgage rates could boost the traditionally busy spring and summer home buying season.
The National Association of Realtors® reported that sales of previously owned homes rose by 1.20 percent in February to a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 4.88 million sales against expectations of 4.94 million sales of previously owned homes. Extreme winter weather was cited as a cause for the decline in sales.
Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors® said that the average price for pre-owned homes rose to $202,600, which represents a 7.50 percent increase year-over-year. Wages are rising at an average of 2.00 percent annually and rents are rising at an average of 3.50 percent annually. This is creating affordability issues for renters and would-be homebuyers as their incomes are not keeping pace with escalating housing and rental prices. The share of first-time home buyers rose by 1.00 percent in February, but analysts said that historically the market share for first-time buyers averages about 40.00 percent.
FHFA: Home Price Index Falls by 0.30 Percent
The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) reported that home prices for sales of homes associated with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgages fell by 0.30 percent year-over-year in January to an increase of 5.10 percent year-over-year as compared to January 2014'year-over-year increase of 5.40 percent.
Mortgage Rates, Weekly Jobless Claims Fall
Mortgage rates fell last week. Freddie Mac reported average rates for fixed rate mortgages fell by none basis points with the rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage averaging 3.69 percent and the rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage averaging 2.97 percent. Discount points for fixed rate mortgages were unchanged at 0.60 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage dropped by five basis points to an average of 2.92 percent. Discount points also fell from 0.50 percent to 0.40 percent.
Weekly jobless claims fell to 282,000 new claims against an expected reading of 290,000 new claims and the previous week's reading of 291,000 new jobless claims. This reading supports reports of expanding labor markets that may give would-be home buyers the confidence to buy homes.
This week's scheduled economic news includes the Case-Shiller Home Price Index, Pending Home Sales, Non-Farm Payrolls and the National Unemployment Rate along with regularly scheduled releases on mortgage rates and weekly jobless claims.