Last week’s economic reporting included readings on housing markets from the National Association of Home Builders, sales of previously-owned homes, and government reports on housing starts and building permits issued. Weekly readings on mortgage rates and jobless claims were also released.
NAHB: Builder Confidence Slips Two Points in March
The National Association of Home Builders reported that home builder confidence in housing market conditions slipped two points to an index reading of 79. Analysts expected a reading of 80 based on February’s reading of 81. Robert Dietz, the NAHB’s chief economist, said: “While low existing inventory and favorable demographics are supporting demand, the impact of elevated inflation and higher interest rates suggest caution for the second half of 2022.” Builders also expressed ongoing concerns over rising materials costs and labor shortages.
While springtime traditionally opens peak home-buying season, industry analysts cautioned that this year’s homebuying season may fall far short of its usual performance as concerns over the pandemic and rapidly rising inflation persist. Home prices increased significantly in 2021 and affordability issues challenged prospective first-time and moderate-income home buyers. Demand for homes may ease as fewer buyers can afford rising home prices, mortgage rates, and qualify for financing due to tighter mortgage lending standards.
Mortgage Rates Rise After Fed Raises Key Interest Rate for First Time in Four Years
In its customary statement made after the meeting of Federal Reserve policymakers, the Fed announced its first increase in the federal interest rate range in four years. The rate range increased from 0.00-0.25 percent to 0.25-0.50 percent. Fed leaders announced that a strategy of measured interest rate increases is planned to ease rapid inflation.
Freddie Mac reported higher average mortgage rates last week as the rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages rose 31 basis points to 4.16 percent. The average rate for 15-year fixed-rate mortgages rose 30 basis points to an average of 3.39 percent. Rates for 5/1 adjustable-rate mortgages averaged3.19 percent and were 22 basis points higher. Discount points averaged 0.80 percent for fixed-rate mortgages and 0.20 percent for 5/1 adjustable-rate mortgages.
Initial jobless claims fell to 214,000 claims filed as compared to the previous week’s reading of 229,000 first-time jobless claims filed. Analysts expected a reading of 220,000 new jobless claims filed. Continuing jobless claims were also lower with 1.42 million ongoing jobless claims filed; 1.49 million continuing claims were filed in the previous week.
The federal government reported a seasonally-adjusted annual pace of 1.77 million housing starts in February; analysts estimated 1.70 million starts as compared to January’s reading of 1.66 million housing starts. Fewer building permits were issued in February with a seasonally-adjusted annual pace of 1.86 million permits issued as compared to January’s year-over-year pace of 1.90 million building permits issued. Analysts expected a seasonally-adjusted annual pace of 1.85 million building permits issued.
This week’s scheduled economic reporting includes readings on new home sales and pending home sales; the University of Michigan will release its final consumer sentiment index for March. Weekly readings on mortgage rates and jobless claims will also be published.