The first week of 2016 was quiet concerning housing and mortgage related news, but reports on construction spending and several labor-related reports were released. Construction spending is connected to housing markets as it provides evidence of builder confidence and also future housing supply. Labor market trends provide a sense of economic performance in general and can influence potential buyers on decisions about buying or not buying homes.
Construction Spending Dips in November
According to the Commerce Department, construction spending dropped by 0.40 percent in November to a seasonally adjusted annual reading of $1.12 trillion. November's reading was short of the expected reading of 0.90 percent, which was based on October's original reading of a 1.00 percent increase in construction spending. October's reading was later revised downward to 0.30 percent. November's construction spending was 10.50 percent higher year-over-year.
While private construction spending decreased by 0.20 percent in November, it was up 12.10 percent year-over-year due to housing construction. Housing markets have been squeezed due to consistently short supplies of available homes. New construction is seen as an important way to ease the bottleneck as buyers sit on the sidelines waiting for homes to come on the market.
Residential construction was up 0.30 percent in November and increased 10.80 percent year-over-year.
Mortgage Rates Mixed, Weekly Jobless Claims Lower
Freddie Mac reported mixed results for mortgage rates. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage dropped four basis points to 3.97 percent; the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage rose two basis points to 3.26 percent and the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage rose by one basis point to 3.09 percent. Last week's discount points averaged 0.60 percent for 30-year fixed rate mortgages, 0.50 percent for 15 year fixed rate mortgages and 0.40 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.
New weekly jobless claims fell to 277,000 as compared to expectations of 275.000 and the prior week's reading of 287,000 first-time claims. Fewer first-time claims for jobless benefits point to stronger economic conditions in general as evidenced by expanding job markets. National unemployment held steady 5.00 percent, which mirrored expectations and the same as November's reading.
Labor Department: 292,000 New Jobs Added in December
According to the Labor Department, 292,000 new jobs were added in December, which resulted in the fifth consecutive year where jobs grew by 2 million or more year-over-year. Upward revisions to jobs reports for October and November supported stronger economic conditions. October's reading was adjusted from 298,000 new jobs to 307,000 new jobs; November's original reading for new jobs was raised from 211,000 jobs added to 252.000 jobs added.
Last week's positive jobs reports were released against a backdrop of market volatility due to fears that the Chinese economy is slowing. As the second largest global economy, China's economy could influence global financial markets and economic conditions if it experiences serious difficulties.
This week's scheduled economic releases include reports on job openings, retail sales and the Federal Reserve's Beige Book. In addition to reports on mortgage rates and new jobless claims, a reading on consumer sentiment will round out this week's news.