Last week's economic news included S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Index reports, the Fed's FOMC meeting statement and pending home sales. Freddie Mac mortgage rates and weekly jobless claims were also released as usual. The details:
Case-Shiller: Denver Leads Home Price Gains in February
The S&P Case-Shiller 20-City Home Price Index showed that home prices continue to appreciate, but at a slower rate than in previous years. Home prices increased at a seasonally-adjusted year-over-year rate of 4.20 percent in February as compared to the February 2014 reading of 4.40 percent.
Denver, Colorado led February's year-over-year home price appreciation rates with a reading of 10.00 percent. San Francisco, California followed closely with a year-over-year reading of 9.80 percent and Miami Florida reported year-over-year home price gains at 9.20 percent.
FOMC Statement: Fed Expects Moderate Economic Growth
In its customary post-meeting statement the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) the Fed repeated its projections for moderate economic growth, but again kept its options open for raising the target federal funds rate, which currently ranges between 0.00 and 0.250 percent. The Fed noted that inflation remains below its goal of 2.00 percent, largely due to earlier decreases in fuel prices. FOMC indicated it will be monitoring inflation data closely.
FOMC members agreed not to raise the target federal funds rate, but said that FOMC will closely monitor data on its dual mandate to achieve maximum employment and an inflation rate of 2.00 percent. Labor market conditions, readings on expected and actual inflation rates and domestic and international economic developments will be considered before the FOMC raises the target federal funds rate. When the Fed does raise rates, mortgage rates can also be expected to rise.
Mortgage Rates Rise, Jobless Claims Fall to 15 Year Low
Average mortgage rates rose last week according to Freddie Mac. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage rose by three basis points to 3.68 percent; the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage rose by two basis points to 2.94 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage increased by one basis point to 2.85 percent. Discount points for fixed rate mortgages were unchanged at 0.60 percent and rose from 0.40 to 0.50 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.
Weekly first-time jobless claims were lower than expected with a reading of 262,000 claims filed against expectations of 287,000 new claims filed and the prior week's reading of 296,000 claims filed. This was the lowest reading for new jobless claims in 15 years. The four-week rolling average of new jobless claims fell by 1250 claims to a reading of 283,750 new claims filed. Analysts typically rely on the four-week rolling average reading as it softens the effects of volatility that can occur from week to week.
Next week's scheduled economic reports are dominated by employment related data including the National Unemployment Rate, Non-Farm Payrolls and the ADP Employment report. Weekly jobless claims and Freddie Mac's Primary Mortgage Market Survey will be released as usual on Thursday.