Last week's scheduled economic events were few but informative. Housing related reports included the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index for December, which stayed close to a nine-year high reading of 59 in September. December's reading was 57 and fell two points shy of the expected reading of 59. November's reading was 58. Readings above 50 indicate that more builders are positive about market conditions than those who are not.
Housing Starts for November were lower according to the Department of Commerce's report released Tuesday. The reading for November was 1.028 million starts on a seasonally adjusted annual basis. Analysts expected a reading of 1.035 million housing starts based on October's level of 1.045 million starts.
Fed Confident, but Watchful of Economic Conditions
The Fed's Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) released its statement at the conclusion of its final meeting in 2015. Fed Chair Janet Yellen also gave a press conference that primarily supported information contained in the statement. The Fed did not foresee rising the target federal funds rate until mid to late 2015, and said that no changes were likely to be made at the first two FOMC meetings of the year. The target federal funds rate remains steady at 0.00 to 0.250 percent. FOMC members noted improvement in labor markets, but said that housing continued to recover at a slow rate. The Fed repeated its customary statement that FOMC members would monitor ongoing economic conditions and developments as part of any decision to change monetary policy. Chair Janet Yellen affirmed the committee's position in her press conference.
Mortgage Rates, Jobless Claims Fall
Mortgage rates fell according to Freddie Mac. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was 3.80 percent as compared to the prior week's reading of 3.93 percent. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage was 3.09 percent, which was 11 basis points below the prior week's reading. 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages had an average rate of 2.95 percent; this was three basis points lower than the previous week. Discount points remained steady at 0.50 percent with the exception of average points charged for a 15-year mortgage, which increased to 0.60 percent.
Weekly jobless claims fell to 289,000 against expectations of 295,000 new jobless claims; expectations were based on the prior week's reading of 295,000 new claims. Analysts cautioned that weekly jobless claims readings can be particularly volatile during the holiday and early winter season.
Economic news scheduled for next week includes the National Association of Realtors® report on November sales of existing homes and November sales of new homes, which is issued by the Department of Commerce. Consumer sentiment, consumer spending and core inflation reports will also be issued next week. No economic reports will be issued Thursday or Friday due to the Christmas holiday.