While little housing-related news was released, last week’s economic news showed signs of a brighter economic picture.
Labor statistics were stronger, with job openings up and new jobless claims filed lower than expected.
Mortgage rates fell, and the University of Michigan’s Consumer Sentiment Index was higher than expected.
More Jobs Available, Fewer New Jobless Claims
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that February job
openings rose to 4.20 million, which exceeded January’s reading of 3.9
million jobs. New jobless claims were lower than expected with 300,000
new jobless claims filed against expectations of 316,000 new jobless
claims and the prior week’s reading of 332,000 new jobless claims filed.
The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) of the Federal Reserve
released minutes of its meeting held March 18 and 19. The minutes noted
that payroll jobs expanded, but the unemployment rate remained elevated,
and inflation was below the committee’s goal of 2.00 percent.
Indicators of longer-run inflation expectations were seen as stable.
Severe winter weather was viewed as a cause for slowing economic
activity. FOMC noted that it would be difficult to determine the effects
of winter weather on the economy as opposed to slower economic growth
caused by unemployment or other negative factors.
Housing Starts and Building Permits were lower, but FOMC noted the
impact of winter weather on these reports. FOMC asserted its intention
to continue reducing its monthly asset purchases by $10 billion per
month as economic conditions permit.
The FOMC emphasized its commitment to continuous review of financial
and economic news as it makes month-to-month decisions concerning asset
Mortgage Rates Fall, Consumer Sentiment Rises
Freddie Mac reported lower average mortgage rates last week. The rate
for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage fell from 4.41 to 4.34 percent. The
rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage dropped from 3.47 to 3.38
percent, and the rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage fell by three
basis points from 3.12 percent to 3.09 percent.
Discount points were unchanged at 0.70, 0.60 and 0.50 percent
respectively. Lower mortgage rates may encourage more buyers into the
market as the spring and summer buying season gets under way.
The University of Michigan’s Consumer Sentiment Index for April rose
to 82.60 percent against the March reading of 80.00 percent and the
projected reading of 80.80 percent. If expectations prove correct, this
week’s economic reports are expected to bring more good news.
What‘s Coming Up This Week
This week’s scheduled economic news includes Retail Sales for March,
which are expected to show a gain, the Consumer Price Index which is
expected to hold steady, and the Home Builder Index, which is expected
Projections for Housing Starts are also higher. Fed Chair Janet
Yellen is set to give a speech in New York on Wednesday, and the Fed
Beige Book report will also be released. This week’s economic reports
will wrap up Friday with Leading Economic Indicators.