Last week's economic news included the NAHB Housing Market Index, reports on housing starts, building reports and existing home sales. Minutes of the Federal Reserve's last FOMC meeting were also released.
Homebuilder Confidence Unchanged, Housing Starts and Building Permits Increase
The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) reported that builder confidence held steady with a reading of 58 in May. Analysts projected a reading of 58 and April's reading was also 58. Builder confidence in market conditions could be slowing due to concerns over acquiring skilled labor and a shortage of developed lots. Demand for homes remains high, but a slim inventory of available properties and builder emphasis on higher-priced homes contributed to sidelining moderate income and first-time buyers.
Commerce Department reports for April Housing Starts and Building Permits issued suggest that tight housing inventories may receive some relief. April housing starts rose from a revised March reading of 1.099 million to 1.170 million starts. Housing starts increased by 6.60 percent in April. Housing starts have slowed as compared to the year-over-year period from April 2015 to 2016; housing starts increased by 10 percent for the same year-over-year period in 2015. While any increase in home construction is welcome, some analysts said that they did not expect a huge increase in home construction in coming months.
Construction of multifamily housing units rose by 10.70 percent, while single-family home construction increased by 3.30 percent. Rising rents and millennials delaying home purchases were seen as fueling multifamily home construction. As homes become less affordable, would-be buyers are continuing to rent, which places higher demand on rental units.
Pre-owned Home Sales Rise in April
Sales of previously owned homes rose by 1.70 percent in April to a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 5.45 million sales. Sales increased by 12.10 percent in the Midwest, where homes are most affordable, and fell by 1.70 percent in the West, where homes are most costly. This development suggests that rapidly rising home prices have or will soon reach maximum levels in high-cost areas. Home prices in many areas rose rapidly in preceding months as short inventory and high demand created bidding wars and keen competition for available homes. A lack of affordable single family homes has caused some buyers to buy condos while others have put buying on hold.
Mortgage Rates Rise, New Jobless Claims Fall
Mortgage rates rose for 30-year fixed rate mortgages rose by one basis point to 3.58 percent; the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage was unchanged at 2.82 percent and the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage rose by two basis points to 2.80 percent. Discount points were 0.60, 0.50 and 0.50 percent respectively. Analysts are watching the Fed closely for any indication that it will raise the target federal funds rate in June, although concerns over the possibility of Great Britain leaving the European Union could cause the Fed to hold off on raising the rate. If the Fed raises the target federal funds rate, loan rates for credit cards and mortgages would also increase.
New jobless claims fell last week to 278,000 new claims against expectations of 279,000 new claims and the prior week's reading of 294,000 new claims. Analysts said that a telecommunications strike caused the prior week's raise in claims as striking workers who are replaced during a strike are eligible for jobless benefits.
This week's scheduled economic releases include new and pending home sales along with weekly reports on mortgage rates and new jobless claims.