Last week's economic news included a few developments connected with housing and mortgage industries. While no economic reports were released on Monday, the rest of the week provided good news for existing home sales, home prices and mortgage rates.
The National Association of REALTORS® reported that existing home sales in September exceeded expectations and the prior month's reading with a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.17 million sales.
Three of four U.S. regions posted higher sales of previously owned homes with only the Midwest region reporting a decline in existing home sales. Analysts said that consistent job growth and improved access to mortgage loans are two keys to improving U.S. housing markets.
FHFA, the agency that oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac reported that home prices for properties associated with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgages rose by 0.50 percent in August.
In a separate development, FHFA Director Mel Watt said that the agency is reviewing policies that could lessen lender concerns over requests to repurchase Fannie and Freddie loans due to early defaults or other deficiencies. This was seen as a possible solution to current strict mortgage approval requirements that are limiting access to home loans by first-time and moderate income buyers.
Mortgage Rates Fall, Weekly Jobless Claims Rise
After falling below four percent the prior week, last week's mortgage rates continued to decrease. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage fell by five basis points to 3.92 percent; 15-year fixed rate mortgages had an average rate of 3.08 percent, a decrease of 10 basis points. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was one basis point below the prior week's reading at 2.91 percent.
Average discount points were unchanged at 0.50 percent. Lower mortgage rates help with making home loans more affordable, but analysts again noted the importance of improved access to mortgage loans for would-be home buyers.
Weekly jobless claims were higher at 283,000 new claims filed as compared to projections of 285,000 and the prior week's reading of 266,000 new claims filed. While higher than in recent weeks, new jobless claims have remained below 300,000 for six weeks. The Labor department reported that new claims over the past month fell by 3000 to 281,000 new claims. This reading was the lowest since May 2000. Due to week-to-week volatility, financial analysts and economists view the month-to-month readings as a more consistent data source.
New Home Sales Hit Six-Year High in September
Sales of new homes in September ended the week on an upbeat note and exceeded expectations; they reached a six-year high in spite of downward adjustments to sales figures reported earlier. September's reading was 467,000 new homes sold on an annual basis as compared to expectations of 455,000 new homes sold and August's reading of 466,000 new homes sold.
Next week's scheduled economic news includes pending home sales, the Case-Schiller home price index reports, the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) post-meeting statement and reports on consumer sentiment and consumer confidence. The Freddie Mac PMMS and Weekly Jobless Claims reports will be released as usual on Thursday.