Last week's economic readings included reports on construction spending, Case-Shiller Home Price Indices and pending home sales. Fed Chair Janet Yellen said in a speech that federal interest rates would "likely" be raised. Weekly reports on new jobless claims and mortgage rates were also released.
Pending Home Sales Slump as Available Homes Dwindle
Pending Home sales fell in January as inventories of available homes declined. Prospective buyers faced with fewer choices may have chosen to wait rather than purchase homes that weren't a good match for their needs. Analysts expected pending home sales to grow by 1.10 percent in January, but they fell by 2.80 percent to an index reading of 106.4, which was the lowest reading since January 2016. Additional factors contributing to lower pending sales, which represent sales under contract but not yet closed, include consumer uncertainty about economic conditions under the new administration and fear of rising mortgage rates. Affordability is also an issue for first-time buyers as short supplies of homes create more competition among prospective buyers.
Real estate pros have repeatedly said that the only way to resolve shortages of homes is to build more. While home builder confidence in market conditions has grown in recent months, housing starts and construction spending have not followed suit. Construction spending in January was 0.10 percent lower despite projections of 0.60 percent growth in construction spending and a positive reading of 0.10 percent in spending for December. Winter weather conditions can affect construction during winter months. Ongoing shortages of available lots and labor have also held back builders from optimum construction rates.
Home Prices Rise in December
S&P Case-Shiller Home Prices rose to 5.80 percent on a seasonally-adjusted annual rate. November's reading showed 5.60 percent growth in average home prices, Home prices continue to grow in the West as Seattle, Washington, Portland, Oregon and Denver, Colorado held on to the top three spots for fastest growth in home prices among cities surveyed.
Mortgage Rates, New Jobless Claims Lower
Freddie Mac reported lower average mortgage rates last week. 30-year fixed rate mortgages averaged 4.10 percent rate, which was six basis points lower than the prior week. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage was five basis points lower at 3.32 percent. 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage rates were two basis points lower at 3.14 percent on average. Discount points averaged 0.50 percent for fixed rate mortgages and 0.40 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.
New jobless claims were lower last week with 233,000 new claims filed as compared to expectations of 245,000 new claims filed. There were 244,000 new claims filed in the prior week.
Labor reports including ADP payrolls Non-farm payrolls and the national unemployment rate will be released along with weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims.