Last week's economic events included reports the National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index, Housing Starts and the release of minutes for the most recent meeting of the Fed's Federal Open Market Committee. The details:
NAHB: Builder Confidence in Housing Markets Dip
The National Association of Home Builders reported that builder confidence dropped to a reading of 62 as compared to October's revised reading of 65. Any NAHB reading above 50 indicates that more builders are positive about market conditions than not. NAHB's assessment of housing market conditions is based on readings for three aspects of current and future market conditions. November's reading of 67 for current housing market conditions was three points lower than October's reading of 70. Expectations for market conditions for sales of single family homes over the next six months fell by five points in November to a reading of 70. Builders' sentiment about prospective buyer foot traffic in new single family developments rose by one point to 48.
Home builders started more new homes than at any time since September 2007; analysts cited wage growth and low unemployment figures along with high demand for homes as driving builder confidence in housing markets. Demand for homes continued to exceed homes available for purchase, which is a driving force for builder confidence.
NAHB Regional Builder Confidence Readings
Regional readings provide a snapshot of regional housing market conditions on a month-to-month bases and on a three month rolling average. The monthly readings for November were lower except for the Western region, which gained one point for a reading of 77. The Northeastern region held steady with a reading of 52; the Midwest's reading also decreased by one point to 59 and builder confidence in the Southern region fell by five points to 62.
Monthly regional readings for home builder confidence can be volatile due to regional economic conditions; the NAHB provides a three-month rolling average for its four U.S. regions. In November, the Northeast region reported a reading of 50 which was three points higher than October's reading. The Midwest region was unchanged from October's reading of 60; the South also reported no change from its October reading of 65. The Western region posted an increase of 69 to 73 over the three months between August and November
Housing Starts Lowest Since Spring Floods
According to the Commerce Department, housing starts fell by 11 percent to an annualized reading of 1.06 million in October. This was the lowest reading since last spring, when construction was adversely impacted by flooding. September's reading was adjusted to 1.19 million starts. Meanwhile, building permits issued rose by 4.10 percent to an annual rate of 1.15 million starts in October.
While housing starts fell by 18.60 percent in the South, permits issued rose to their highest level since 2007. The South is the most active region for home construction and accounts for half of all new home construction in the U.S.
Mortgage Rates, New Jobless Claims Lower
Mortgage rates fell across the board last week according to Freddie Mac. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage fell by one basis point to 3.97 percent; the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage fell two basis points to 3.18 percent and the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was five basis points lower at 3.03 percent. Discount points averaged 0.60 percent for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage and 0.50 percent for 15-year fixed rate mortgages and 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.
New jobless claims also fell last week to a reading of 271,000 new claims filed as compared to expectations of 270,000 new claims filed and the prior week's reading of 276,000 new claims filed. Lower jobless claims indicate further strengthening of labor markets, but seasonal hiring may have positively impacted the reading for new jobless claims.
Next week's scheduled economic news releases include several housing reports. Existing Home Sales, the S&P Case-Shiller Housing Market Index, FHFA House Prices and New Home Sales will be posted along with regularly scheduled reports on mortgage rates and new jobless claims. There will be no economic reports released on Thursday or Friday due to the Thanksgiving holiday.