Last week's economic calendar was full of new releases including pending home sales, Case-Shiller Home Price Indices and construction spending. Labor related reports including ADP payrolls, federal Non-farm payrolls, and the national unemployment rate were also released along with reports on consumer confidence and weekly reports on mortgage rates and new unemployment claims.
Case-Shiller: January Home Prices Up 5.7% Year-Over-Year
According to the S&P Case-Shiller 20-City Home Price Index for January, home prices increased by 5.70 percent year-over-year. The West led price increases with double-digit price gains posted for San Francisco, California, Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington. Denver, Colorado also posted a double-digit gain, but dropped its recent lead for metro areas tracked by the 20-City Index.
The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reported better than expected growth in February pending home sales. Low mortgage rates pushed pending home sales to their highest rate in seven months. Pending home sales rose 3.50 percent in February, which exceeded the expected reading of 1.80 percent and January's reading of 03.00 percent. NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun said that February's reading indicated that housing markets may be recovering after choppy winter sales. Mr. Yun also noted a "slight uptick in inventory," which is good news for housing markets currently experiencing low inventories of homes for several months or more.
S&P Index Committee Chair David M Blitzer echoed Mr. Yun's remarks about the impact of low inventories of homes for sale. While higher home prices driven by low inventories benefit home sellers, there comes a point where potential buyers cannot find and / or afford available homes. Constructing new homes is the only immediate solution to increasingly limited supplies of homes for sale.
Construction spending slipped in February from January's upwardly revised $1.150 trillion on a seasonally-adjusted annual basis. February's reading was $1.144 trillion. Construction spending fell 0.50 percent as compared to analysts' expectations of 0.20 percent. Year-over-year, construction spending was 10.30 percent higher in February.
Mortgage Rates Mixed, New Jobless Claims Rise
Freddie Mac's weekly mortgage rates survey reported mixed results last week. The average rate for a 30-yar fixed rate mortgage held steady at 3.71 percent; the average rate for 15-year fixed rate mortgages rose by two basis points to 2.98 percent and the rate for 5/1 adjustable rate rose by one basis point to 2.90 percent. Average discount points were unchanged across the board at 0.50, 0.40 percent and 0.50 percent respectively.
New unemployment claims rose to 276,000 against an expected reading of 270,000 new claims and 265,000 new claims the prior week.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported fewer jobs created in March than for February. 215,000 jobs were added in March as compared to the expected reading of 203,000 new jobs and February's reading 245,000 new jobs. ADP reported a lower reading of 200,000 private sector jobs added as compared to expectations of 205,000 jobs added and February's reading of 205,000 private sector jobs added. The national unemployment rate ticked up to 5.0 percent over February's reading of 4.90 percent.
Consumer confidence rose over two percent in March with a reading of 96.20 percent. Analysts expected a reading of 94.20 based on February's reading of 94.00.
What's Ahead This Week
Economic reports scheduled this week include job openings and weekly reports on mortgage rates and new jobless claims.