What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – May 28th, 2019

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – May 28th, 2019Last week’s economic news included readings on sales of new and pre-owned homes; weekly readings on mortgage rates and first-time jobless claims were also released.

Sales of New and Pre-Owned Homes Lower in April

Sales of brand-new homes fell nearly seven percent in April according to Commerce Department reports. Analysts noted that March sales of new homes were revised upward, which contributed to the difference between March and April readings. 673,000 new homes were sold in April on a seasonally adjusted annual basis. Analysts expected a reading of 670,000 sale of new homes; this reading was based on the initial March reading which was later revised upward to 723,000 sales.

Factors impacting new home sales include affordability, strict mortgage qualification requirements and new homes being built for higher-end markets. The average sale price for new homes was eight percent higher year-over-year at $342,20.

Year-to-date sales of new homes were 6.70 percent higher in April than for the same period in 2018. Inventories of homes for sale was reported at 5.9 months. Real estate pros typically consider a six-month supply of available homes as an indicator of average market conditions.

Sales of previously-owned homes were lower in April. 5.19 million existing homes were sold on a seasonally adjusted annual basis; this reading fell short of expectations of 5.35 million sales and the sales rate of 5.21 million sales of pre-owned homes reported in March. Sales were lower for pre-owned homes for the second consecutive month in April.

Sales of pre-owned homes were 0.40 percent lower month-to-month and were 4.40 percent lower year-over-year. First-time and moderate income home buyers are attracted to lower asking prices for previously-owned homes; declining sales suggest that prices of pre-owned homes have risen beyond affordability for buyers with moderate incomes and less-than perfect credit ratings.

Mortgage Rates, New Jobless Claims Fall

Freddie Mac reported lower average mortgage rates for fixed-rate mortgages last week. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was one basis point lower at 4.06 percent. Rates for 15-year fixed rate mortgages averaged two basis points lower at 3.51 percent. 

Rates for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages were two basis points higher and averaged 3.68 percent. Discount points averaged 0.50 percent for 30-year fixed rate mortgages and 0.40 percent for 15-year fixed rate mortgages and 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

Initial jobless claims fell to 211,000 new claims filed as compared to the prior week’s reading of 0f 212,000 claims filed. Analysts expected a higher reading of 217,000 new jobless claims filed.

Whats Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic reporting includes readings from Case-Shiller on home prices; pending home sales will also be released along with weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – May 20th, 2019

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – May 20th, 2019Last week’s economic reports included readings from the National Association of Home Builders on housing market conditions, housing starts and building permits issued. Consumer sentiment was reported along with weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims.

NAHB: Builder Confidence Rises in May, Housing Starts Increase in April

The National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index posted its highest reading in seven months in May as headwinds facing home construction waned. Lower mortgage rates were a positive sign. May’s reading rose three points to 66; component readings also rose.

The index of builder confidence in current housing market conditions rose three points to an index reading of 72; the reading for builder confidence in housing market conditions in the next six months rose one point to 72 and the confidence reading for buyer traffic in new housing developments rose two points to 49. The reading for buyer traffic seldom exceeds 50. A reading of 50 or above indicates positive builder sentiment.

Commerce Department reports for April showed higher readings for housing starts and building permits issued. 1.235 million housing starts were reported at a seasonally-adjusted annual pace. Analysts expected 1.209 million starts based on March reading of 1.16 million starts. Housing starts were six percent higher as compared to March, but remained lower year-over-year. Building permits reported in April rose from 1.288 million permits issued on a seasonally-adjusted annual basis in March to 1.296 million permits in April. 

Mortgage Rates, Mixed New Jobless Claims Fall

Freddie Mac reported lower fixed mortgage rates were lower last week, but the average rate for 5/1 adjustable mortgages rose. Rates for 30-year fixed rate mortgages averaged 4.07 percent and were three basis points lower. Rates for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage averaged 3.53 percent and were four basis points lower.

The average rate for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages rose three basis points to 3.66 percent. Discount points averaged 0.50 percent for 30-year fixed rate mortgages and 0.40 percent for 15-year fixed rate mortgages and 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

First-time jobless claims were lower last week with 212,000 claims filed as compared to expectations of 217,000 new claims filed and the prior week’s reading of 228,000 initial claims filed. Analysts said that the drop in first-time claims was a sign of economic strength and job markets.

Consumer sentiment hit a 15-year high according to the University of Michigan’s Consumer Sentiment

Index. reported an index reading of 102.40 in May; analysts expected a reading of 97.10 based on April’s reading of 97.20. Low unemployment fueled consumer sentiment, but analysts emphasized that consumers were surveyed before higher tariffs on China were announced; the costs of tariffs will be passed on to consumers, which is expected to dampen consumer sentiment.

Whats Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic news includes readings on sales of new and pre-owned homes and minutes of the Fed’s FOMC Committee meeting. Weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims will also be released.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – May 13th, 2019

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – May 13th, 2019Last week’s economic news included readings on job openings and inflation. Weekly reports on mortgage rates and first-time jobless claims were also released.

April Inflation Falls Short of Expectations

The Consumer Price Index for April fell by 0.10 percent to 0.30 percent. Analysts expected a reading of 0.40 percent, which hatched the March reading. The Core Consumer Price Index excludes volatile food and fuel sectors; core inflation grew by 0.10 percent in April, which matched the March reading and fell short of the expected growth rate of 0.20 percent.

The Federal Reserve has set an annual inflation rate of 2.00 percent as a benchmark reading for achieving its mandate of price stabilization.

Mortgage Rates, New Jobless Claims Fall

Freddie Mac reported lower average mortgage rates last week as rates for 30-year fixed rate mortgages dropped four basis points to 4.10 percent; rates for 15-year fixed rate mortgages fell three basis points to 3.57 percent on average. Rates for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages were five basis points lower and averaged 3.63 percent.

Discount points averaged 0.50 percent for 30-year fixed rate mortgages and 0.40 percent for 15-year fixed rate mortgages and 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

Freddie Mac analysts said that low mortgage rates would support continued growth in the housing market. Slowing rates of home price growth and lower mortgage rates should help to balance market conditions between sellers and home buyers.

Low mortgage rates, strong job markets and steady wage growth provide a solid basis for first-time home buyers to enter the housing market, but affordability remains an obstacle for first-time and moderate income home buyers.

New jobless claims fell by 2000 claims to 228,000 claims filed.  Analysts expected a reading of 218,000 new claims filed Analysts said the spike was caused by the late Easter holiday’s impact on seasonal adjustments to jobless claims.

Whats Next

This week’s scheduled economic news includes readings on housing markets from the National Association of Home Builders, Commerce Department readings on housing starts and building permits issued will be issued along with a report on consumer sentiment. Weekly readings on mortgage rates and first-time jobless claims will also be released.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – April 29th, 2019

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – April 29th, 2019

Last week’s economic reporting included readings on sales of new and pre-owned homes; weekly reports on mortgage rates and new jobless claims were also released along with a report on consumer sentiment.

Sales of New Homes Hit 16-Month High

The Commerce Department reported that deep discounts offered by home builders boosted sales of new single-family homes to 692,000 sales on a seasonally-adjusted annual basis.

March sales exceeded February’s reading by 4.50 percent and exceeded the expected sales pace of 656,000 sales. The average price of new single family homes fell to $302,700 in March; this was 9.70 percent lower year-over-year.

Real estate pros reported higher inventory of new homes for sale with a six-month supply of homes for sale in March. A six-month supply of available homes indicates that housing markets were evenly balanced between homes for sale and prospective buyers.

Previously-owned homes sold at a seasonally-adjusted annual pace of 5.21 million sales in March. The National Association of Realtors® said that sales of pre-owned homes were 5.90 percent lower than the sales pace of 5.48 million pre owned homes posted for February and that March sales missed expectations of 5.35 million sales.

Sales were likely impacted by higher average sales price for pre-owned homes; the average selling price for pre-owned homes was $259,400, which was 3.80 percent higher year-over-year. Higher home prices challenge first-time and moderate income home buyers; this could explain the slower sales pace for pre-owned homes in March.

Mortgage Rates and New Jobless Claims Rise

Freddie Mac reported higher average mortgage rates last week. Rates for 30-year fixed rate mortgages averaged 4.20 percent and were three basis points higher than for the prior week. Rates for 15-year fixed rate mortgages averaged two basis points higher at 3.64 percent; Rates for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages fell one basis point and averaged 3.77 percent. Discount points for fixed rate mortgages averaged 0.50 percent and 0.40 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

First-time jobless claims jumped to 230,000 new claims filed as compared to the prior week’s reading of 193,000 new claims filed. Analysts said that more first-time claims were likely related to the Easter holiday and spring breaks.

According to the Consumer Sentiment Index for April, consumer sentiment rose to an index reading of 97.20 percent as compared to an expected reading of 97.0 and March’s reading of 96.9.

Whats Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic news includes readings from Case-Shiller, and Commerce Department readings on construction spending and pending home sales. The Federal Open Market Committee of the Federal Reserve will issue its post-meeting statement and Fed Chair Jerome Powell will give a press conference. ADP and Non-Farm Payrolls reports will be released along with the national unemployment rate.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – April 22nd, 2019

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – April 22nd, 2019Last week’s economic news included readings on home builder confidence in housing market conditions and Commerce Department reports on housing starts and building permits issued. Weekly readings on mortgage ratees and first-time jobless claims were also released.

NAHB Housing Market Index: Builder Confidence Rises One Point in April

Home Builder Confidence readings posted by the National Association of Home Builders held steady for April and rose one point overall. Component readings for the NAHB Housing Market Index were mixed; builder confidence in current housing market conditions rose one point to an index reading of 69, but builder confidence in housing market conditions in the next six months fell one point to 62.

Home builder confidence in potential buyer traffic rose three points to 47. NAHB Housing Market index readings above 50 indicate that most builders view market conditions as positive, but the reading for buyer traffic seldom rises above 50.

Housing Starts and Building Permits Issued Fall Short of Expectations in March

Commerce Department reports on housing starts and building permits issued in March were lower than in February and fell short of analyst expectations. Housing starts were reported at a seasonally adjusted annual pace of 1.139 million starts. Analysts expected housing starts at an annual rate of 1,225 billion starts based on February’s reading of 1.142 million starts.

Builders continued to experience headwinds including higher materials costs, shortages of buildable lots and a lack of skilled labor. Analysts cited disparities between new housing developments, which tend to favor luxury homes and the need for affordable housing.

Exclusionary zoning and neighborhood politics can block construction of affordable housing in desirable areas; legal and zoning constraints prevent builders from producing enough affordable homes to meet demand. Housing starts year-to-date were 9.70 percent lower than for the same period in 2018.

Fewer building permits were issued in March than in February. 1.269 million permits were issued on a seasonally adjusted annual basis as compared to expectations of 1.300 million permits issued and February’s reading of 1.291 million permits issued.

Mortgage Rates Rise as New Jobless Claims Fall

Mortgage rates were higher last week as average rates for fixed rate mortgages rose. 30-year mortgage rates averaged five basis points higher at 4.17 percent. Rates for 15-year fixed rate mortgages averaged two basis points higher at 3.62 percent.  

Mortgage rates for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages averaged two basis points lower at 3.78 percent. Discount points averaged 0.50 percent for fixed rate mortgages and 0.30 percent 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

First-time jobless claims fell by 5000 new claims to 192,000 initial claims; this was significantly lower than 204,000 new claims expected.

Whats Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic news includes reports on sales of new and pre-owned homes and consumer sentiment. Weekly readings on mortgage rates and initial jobless claims will also be released.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – April 14th, 2019

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - April 8th, 2019Last week’s economic readings included reports on inflation, mortgage rates, and first-time jobless claims. Monthly reporting on consumer sentiment was delayed.

Consumer Price Index: Inflation Rises in March

The Consumer Price Index rose 0.40 percent in March, which matched expectations and surpassed February’s month-to -month reading of 0.20 percent growth. The March reading showed the highest consumer price growth in 14 months; higher rents, fuel and food prices contributed to month-to-month price gains in March.

The Core CPI excludes volatile food and energy sectors and was unchanged in March although 0.20 percent growth was expected. February’s reading showed 0.10 percent growth. Inflation increased 1.90 percent year over year.

Mortgage Rates Rise

Freddie Mac reported higher mortgage rates last week that stopped weeks of decreasing rates. Mortgage rates for 30-year fixed rate mortgages averaged 4.12 percent and rose four basis points. Rates for 15-year fixed rate mortgages averaged 3.60 percent and were also four basis points higher than during the prior week. The average rate for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages jumped 14 basis points to 3.80 percent. Discount points averaged 0.50 percent for 30-year fixed rate mortgages and 0.40 percent for 15-year fixed rate mortgages and 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

Freddie Mac reported fewer mortgage applications in response to higher rates. Potential homebuyers were sensitive to higher mortgage rates, but may not have to wait long for lower rates to return. Low 10-year Treasury yields suggested that mortgage rates are likely to fall and to remain lower during the peak home-buying season. Mortgage rates are expected to stay comparatively low throughout 2019 according to Freddie Mac.

New Jobless Claims Fall To Lowest Since 1969

First-time jobless claims fell last week to 196,000 initial claims filed as compared to the prior week’s reading of 204,000 new claims filed. Last week’s reading was the first to fall below 200,000 initial claims since 1969 and provided another sign of strong labor markets.

Federal Reserve FOMC Minutes Released

The Federal Reserve released minutes of the Federal Open Market Committee meeting held in March. The minutes explained the Committee’s reversal of its plan to raise the target range of the federal funds rate twice during 2019. Committee members said that they were holding off on raising rates due to slowing in domestic and global economic conditions. While Committee members said that the current economy is strong, they were willing to exercise patience in raising rates based on slower growth of home prices and potential impacts caused by Brexit and slowing in China’s economy.

Whats Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic reports include the National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index, housing starts and building permits issued and data on retail sales. Weekly reports on mortgage rates and first-time jobless claims will also be released.

 

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – April 8th, 2019

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – April 8th, 2019Last week’s economic news included readings on construction spending and inflation; labor sector reports on the national unemployment rate, public and private sector employment were also released. Weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims were also released.

Construction Spending Rises, Retail Sales Slip

Construction spending expanded by one percent in February according to the Commerce Department spending was one percent higher month-to-month; analysts expected a negative reading of -0.10 percent. February saw a revised gain of 2.50 percent growth in construction spending.

Construction spending grew 1.10 percent year-over-year; by comparison, 2016 construction spending reached 10 percent year-over-year. High demand for homes and lower mortgage rates could compel more construction spending as the peak home-buying season starts.

Retail sales slowed in February, but January retail readings were strong. Sales dipped -0.20 percent as compared to 0.30 percent growth expected and January’s reading of 0.70 percent. Retail sales excluding automotive sales fell to a negative reading of -0.40 percent in February as compared to expected sales growth of 0.40 percent and January’s reading of 1.40 percent growth.

Mortgage Rates Mixed, New Jobless Claims

30-year fixed mortgage rates rose two basis points on average to 4.08 percent; rates for 15-year fixed rate mortgages averaged one basis point lower at 3.56 percent and rates for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages were nine basis points lower and averaged 3.66 percent.

Discount points averaged 0.50 percent for 30-year fixed rate mortgages and 0.40 percent for 15-year fixed rate and 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.  Would-be home buyers are expected to join active buyers as lower rates hold steady and warmer weather arrives.

First-time jobless claims fell last week with 202,000 initial claims filed. Analysts expected 216,000 first-time jobless claims based on 212, 000 new jobless claims filed the prior week.

Jobs Data Varied, but Unemployment holds Steady

ADP reported 129,000 private-sector jobs added in March as compared to 197,000 jobs added in February and an expected reading of 165,000 jobs added. Loss of manufacturing jobs caused private-sector jobs growth to fall to its lowest reading in 18 months.

Government readings for public and private jobs growth was higher in March with 196,000 jobs added; this was significantly higher than February’s slim reading of 33,000 jobs added. The national unemployment rate was unchanged at 3.80 percent, which matched expectations.

Whats Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic news includes readings on inflation, minutes from the most recent FOMC meeting and consumer sentiment. Weekly readings on mortgage rates and initial jobless claims will also be released.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – April 1st, 2019

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – April 1st, 2019Last week’s economic reports included readings from Case-Shiller on home price growth, Commerce Department readings on housing starts and building permits issued. The Conference Board issued its monthly reading on consumer confidence. Pending home sales and weekly reports on mortgage rates and first-time jobless claims were also released.

Case-Shiller Home Price Indices: Price Growth Slows in January

S&P Case-Shiller Indices reported the slowest rate of home price growth in six years. January readings suggested that home price growth slowed due to easing demand. Affordability concerns sidelined buyers; participation of first-time home buyers remained lower than average.

Case-Shiller’s 20-City Home Price Index charted its third month-to-month decline in home price growth; the National Home Price Index fell to 4.30 percent during the three months ending in January as compared to 4.60 percent growth for the three month period ending in October 2018.

Las Vegas, Nevada led the 20-City Home Price Index with year-over-year home price growth of 10.50 percent. Phoenix, Arizona held second place with 7.50 percent home price growth. Third place was tied by Minneapolis, Minnesota, Charlotte, North Caroline and Tampa, Florida with 5.10 percent growth. This tie suggested that home prices were leveling out, and west coast cities were notably absent from the top three spots after home prices rocketed to historic levels in recent years.

Housing Starts, Building Permits Issued

Commerce Department readings for housing starts and building permits issued were lower in February. Housing starts posted on a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 1.162 million starts. Analysts expected 1.201 million starts based on February’s reading of 1.273 million housing starts. Single-family housing starts fell 17 percent in March.

Regional readings for housing starts were mixed: The Northeast reading was 30 percent lower; the Southern region posted 7 percent fewer starts in February and housing starts in the West fell 19 percent. The Midwest posted a positive year-over-year growth rate of 27 percent for housing starts.

Fewer building permits were issued in February with 1.295 million permits issued as compared to February’s reading of 1.317 million permits issued. While some of the slowdowns in housing starts and building permits were likely related to winter weather, real estate and mortgage lending pros continued to count on home builders to provide more homes to ease housing shortages in many cities and metro areas.

Pending home sales were lower in February; the National Association of Realtors® said pending sales were 1.00 percent lower in February, and those pending sales had declined nearly 5.00 percent year-over-year. Pending sales represent home sales for which purchase offers have been signed, but not completed.

Lawrence Yun, the chief economist for the National Association of Realtors®, said a shortage of available homes in the West coupled with rapidly rising home prices contributed to lower pending sales numbers.

Mortgage Rates, New Jobless Claims Fall

Average mortgage rates fell to their lowest readings in ten years last week. Freddie Mac reported that rates for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage averaged 22 basis points lower at 4.06 percent; the average rate for 15-year fixed rate mortgages fell 14 basis points to 3.57 percent. Rates for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages averaged 3.75 percent and were 9 basis points lower.

Discount points averaged 0.50 percent for 30-year fixed rate mortgages, 0.40 percent for 15-year fixed rate mortgages and 0.30 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages. Lower mortgage rates are expected to prevail as the Fed announced its decision not to raise the target federal funds rate range in 2019.

Consumer confidence fell to an index reading of 124.1 in February as compared to 131.4 in January. Analysts expected an index reading of 133, which indicates that consumers have less confidence in current economic conditions.

Whats Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic news includes readings on retail sales, construction spending and labor sector reports on jobs and national unemployment. Weekly reports on mortgage rates and first-time jobless claims will also be released.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – March 18th, 2019

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – March 18th, 2019Last week’s economic reports included readings on retail sales, inflation and construction spending. New home sales Consumer sentiment readings were posted along with weekly readings on mortgage rates and first-time jobless claims.

Retail Sales Increase after Lowest Reading in 10 Years

Retail sales rose by 0.20 percent in January; analysts expected an increase of 0.10 percent based on December’s negative revised reading of -1.60 percent. Home centers and internet retailers led in overall sales; retail sales without the automotive sector were higher with an 0.90 percent increase in January, which exceeded expectations of an 0.40 percent increase.

December had a negative reading of –2.10 percent. Auto dealers had fewer sales to car rental firms and other business customers; the reading for retail sales excluding automotive sales rose 0.90 percent as compared to expectations of 0.40 percent more sales and December’s reading.

Inflation rose 0.20 percent in February, which matched expectations after a flat reading in January. Core inflation, which excludes readings for volatile food and fuel sectors, rose 0.10 percent, which fell short of 0.20 percent in January.

Construction Spending Rises as New Home Sales Fall

Commerce Department readings for construction spending rose 1.30 percent in January as compared to December’s negative reading of -0.80 percent. The end of the government shutdown likely helped return construction spending return to positive territory, but real estate and mortgage pros said that building more homes is the only solution to persistent shortages coupled with high demand for homes by would-be buyers.

Slim inventories and home prices rising in excess of wages and inflation are factors contributing to fewer eligible buyers. New home sales fell in January, which is not unusual for winter sales. 607,000 new homes were sold on a seasonally-adjusted annual basis in January; 652,000 new home sales were reported in December, but analysts expected a lower reading of 616,000 sales for January.

Mortgage Rates Fall as New Jobless Claims Rise

Freddie Mac reported lower average mortgage rates last week with rates for 30-year fixed rate mortgages averaging ten basis points lower at 4.31 percent. !5-year fixed rate mortgages averaged 3.76 percent after falling seven basis points. 5/1 adjustable-rate mortgages averaged 3.84 percent and were three basis points lower. Discount points averaged 0.40 percent for fixed-rate mortgages and 0.30 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

Initial jobless claims rose to 239,000 new claims last week; 223,000 claims were filed the prior week and analysts expected 225,000 new claims. Last week’s first-time jobless claims were the highest in ten years, but analysts said that layoffs haven’t risen significantly, which signals healthy labor markets.

The University of Michigan reported higher consumer confidence in March with an index reading of 97.80. The expected reading was 95.0 based on February’s index reading of 93.80. Increased consumer confidence in economic conditions suggests that more families will enter the housing market. Analysts said rising consumer confidence resulted from the resolution of the government shutdown.

What’s Ahead

Economic readings scheduled this week include reports on homebuilder confidence in housing market conditions, sales of pre-owned homes and Commerce departments on housing starts and building permits issued. The Federal Reserve’s scheduled announcement will be followed by Fed Chair Jerome Powell’s press conference. Weekly reports on mortgage rates and new jobless claims will also be issued.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – March 11h, 2019

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – March 11h, 2019Last week’s economic news included readings on new home sales, construction spending, and housing starts. Data on building permits was released along with Labor Department reports on public and private-sector jobs and the national unemployment rate. Weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims were also released.

Construction Spending Slows as New Home Sales Rise in December

Commerce Department data for December indicated less construction spending than for November. Construction spending dipped by -o.60 percent as compared to analyst expectations of a negative reading of -0.30 percent. Construction spending grew by 0.90 percent in November.

Lower cash outlays for winter months are typical; severe winter weather likely slowed construction activity more than usual. Any downturn in building activity pressures housing markets that continue to struggle with short supplies of available homes and high buyer demand.

Sales of new homes rose in December; the Commerce Department reported 621,000 sales of new homes. Analysts estimated 600,000 sales based on November’s reading of 599,000 sales of newly-built homes. December’s reading was 3.70 percent higher than In November and was 7.00 percent lower year-over-year.

Housing Starts, Building Permits Issued Rise in January

Housing starts increased in January with 1.230 million starts annually, which was an 18.60 percent increase from December’s downwardly revised reading of 1.037million starts. 1.215million starts were expected. The revision of December’s reading contributed to the jump in January housing starts. Single-family housing starts rose 25 percent at a pace of 926,000 starts reported.

Building permits rose by 1.40 percent in January to 1,345 million permits issued as compared to December’s reading of 1.326 million permits issued.

Mortgage Rates, New Jobless Claims

Freddie Mac reported higher average mortgage rates last week with rates for fixed-rate mortgages rising six basis points and the average rate for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages rose three basis points. 30-year fixed mortgage rates averaged 4.41 percent; 15-year fixed mortgage rates averaged 3.83 percent and mortgage rates for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages averaged 3.87 percent.

Discount points averaged 0.50 percent for 30-year fixed rate mortgages, 0.40 percent for 15-year fixed rate mortgages and 0.30 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

Initial jobless claims were lower last week with 223,000 claims filed; analysts expected 225,000 new claims based on the prior week’s reading of 226,000 first-time claims filed.

Labor Reports Show Slower Jobs Growth

ADP reported the lowest increase in private-sector jobs since November; February’s reading of 183,000 private sector jobs added reflected declines in jobs within the travel and retail sectors. The Commerce Department reported only 20,000 public and private-sector jobs added for February; this was the lowest reading in 17 months. Analysts cited severe winter weather and seasonal anomalies. Construction and shipping sectors were hardest hit in February.

National unemployment dropped from 4.00 percent in January to 3.80 percent in February.

Whats Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic news includes readings on retail sales, inflation and the latest reading on construction spending. Lingering effects of the government shutdown continues to impact data released from the Federal government. Weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims will also be released.