Last week’s economic news included construction spending and the CoreLogic Home Price Index for January. Reports for February included ADP Employment, Non-Farm Payrolls and national unemployment data.
The Federal Reserve’s Beige Book report and weekly reports on mortgage rates and new unemployment claims rounded out the week’s economic news.
Highlights for last week include:
Consumer spending gained 0.40 percent for January. The expected reading was 0.20 percent and the reading for December was flat.
The Commerce Department reported that increased spending was less an indicator of consumer discretionary spending than an indicator of high utility costs caused by severe winter weather.
Construction spending ticked upward in January with gain of 0.10 percent as compared to expectations of -0.40 percent and the prior month’s reading of 0.10 percent.
January’s reading translates to a seasonally adjusted annual figure of $943.1 billion.
Federal Reserve: Winter Weather Obscures Accurate Economic Outlook
According to the Fed’s Beige Book report, much of the U.S. economy was impacted by severe winter weather. The report is based on anecdotal information provided by business contacts and industry leaders throughout the 12 regions of the U.S. Federal Reserve System.
Eight regions reported slow economic growth. Janet Yellen, chairwoman of the Fed, noted that winter weather was not expected to alter the Fed’s plan to continue reducing its asset purchases under its quantitative easing program. She also said that it may be months before accurate economic readings can be obtained in the aftermath of winter weather conditions.
Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey brought good news on Thursday as mortgage rates fell across the board and discount points were also lower in most cases.
Average mortgage rates were down nine basis points for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage at 4.28 percent. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage was 3.32 percent, a decrease of seven basis points.
The rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was 3.03 percent, down by two basis points from the prior week. Discount points were unchanged for 30-year fixed rate mortgages at 0.70 percent, but dropped to 0.50 percent for 15-year fixed rate mortgages and 0.40 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.
Employment Sector: Surprise Results
The ADP payroll report showed a reading of 139,000 jobs added in February as compared to the prior month’s 127,000 jobs. ADP tracks private sector jobs. The BLS released its Non-Farm Payrolls report for February, which also surpassed expectations.
175,000 jobs were added against expectations of 140,000 jobs added and January’s reading of 129,000 jobs added. The national unemployment rate rose to 6.70 percent against an expected drop to 6.50 percent from January’s reading of 6.60 percent. Once again, foul weather was seen as a major influence.
What‘s Ahead This Week
This week’s economic news schedule is relatively light with no releases set for today.
Mortgage rates will be released by Freddie Mac on Thursday, along with weekly jobless claims. Retail sales and the University of Michigan consumer sentiment index round out next week’s schedule.
These gray, dreary winter days can really sap your energy and dull your enjoyment of life. To survive the winter doldrums, brighten your home.
Use These Easy Tips:
Open your home’s window treatments during the day to let the light brighten and warm your room. Close them again as soon as night falls to retain heat.
Brighten dark rooms with few windows by placing spotlights on the floor behind furniture.
Add a mirror. Wherever a mirror reflects light in a room, it visually doubles that light. Place a mirror opposite a window to immediately brighten your space. No window? Hang a large mirror above a console table and place a pair of lamps in front of the mirror.
Install higher watt bulbs in rooms that tend to be dark.
Eliminate dark corners by adding recessed lighting.
Use full spectrum lighting in areas where you read, knit or do other up-close work.
Lighten living areas with colorful throws and pillows.
Lift the winter blues by adding flowers and plants to your decor. Colorful indoor blooming plants include the African violet, Cyclamen, Orchid and desert cactus. Use tropical flowers to transport yourself mentally to climates where the sun always shines.
Do A Little Winter Cleaning:
Wash the inside of your windows. Fireplace and candle soot coats windows with a dingy film that blocks the sun.
Polish your furniture. Shiny furniture reflects ambient light.
Wash ceiling light fixtures in soapy water. Light is muted when filtered through dirty light fixtures.
Lighting can change how you (and potential buyers) feel about your home. It’s one of the easiest and least expensive ways to quickly improve the ambiance of your home.
If you’d like to sell your home, I can help. Contact your real estate professional today.
Two major indicators of home price trends showed a slowing momentum for home prices in December. The S&P Case Shiller 10 and 20 city indices reported that of 20 cities tracked, home prices were lower in December than for November.
Case-Shiller’s seasonally adjusted month-to month reading showed that home prices rose by 0.8 percent as compared to 0.90 percent in November.
David Blitzer, chairman of the index committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices, said that “Gains are slowing from month-to-month and the strongest part of home price recovery may be over.” He also noted that seasonally adjusted data was showing a loss of momentum for home prices.
December home prices posted a year-over-year gain of 13.40 percent, down from November’s year-over-year reading of 13.70 percent. December’s reading reflected the highest year-over-year increase in home prices since 2005.
Analysts note that a slower pace of increasing home prices may allow more buyers to enter the market, and may also encourage more buyers to list their properties for sale.
This would increase inventories of available homes and relieve pent-up demand for homes. Although home price growth is cooling off, average home prices remain 20 percent below their pre-recession peak in 2006.
Home Prices Face Challenges In 2014
Another factor in slower growth of home prices is regional differences in the rate of economic recovery. Cities including Dallas, Texas and Denver, Colorado recently set records for escalating home prices.
Five states including Florida and Michigan accounted for almost half of foreclosures completed during 2013. Slow job growth and poor winter weather were also blamed for slower gains in home prices.
New mortgage rules and relatively strict mortgage lending standards may continue to dampen housing markets, but there is some good news as some lenders are easing credit standards.
FHFA: Home Prices Higher For 10th Consecutive Quarter
The Federal Housing Finance Administration reported similar trends in December home price data for properties either financed or owned by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. Home prices rose by a seasonally adjusted rate of 0.80 percent in December as compared to November’s reading.
Home prices were 7.70 percent higher for the fourth quarter of 2013 than for the same period in 2012. Adjusted for inflation, this reading indicates an approximate year-over-year increase of 7 percent.
FHFA reported higher readings for 38 states in its fourth quarter 2013 Home Price Index, as compared with 48 states in in the third quarter of 2013. In order of home price appreciation, the top five states with highest growth in home prices were Nevada, California, Arizona, Oregon and Florida.
These calculations were seasonally adjusted and based on home purchases only.
When buying real estate, you may find some unexpected problems. Generally, these issues revolve around plumbing, wiring or sticking doors and windows. Although they aren’t as expensive to fix as other issues, there’s always a possibility that they indicate bigger problems.
Spotting wear and tear on doors and windows is fairly easy. Check the hinges and locks. Squeaking hinges or locks that stick indicate wear on seals and metal.
Although sticking doors and windows aren’t a big deal in and of themselves, these issues can be indications of moderate to severe foundation problems. If you find these issues in real estate, make your way to the basement and look for cracks or dips in the floors and walls.
Pay attention to how the floors of the house feel when you walk. If you’re at all uneasy, have an inspector look at the house before you buy.
Sometimes, plumbing problems aren’t so easy to find. Sellers have been known to use temporary fixes, which does a good job of hiding the issues. However, there are places to look that make the problems easier to find.
Look up in the corners where the walls connect to the ceiling. Spackled ceilings make issues especially easy to spot, as they pick up water stains or crack and flake.
Another place to check is the bathroom, along the bottom of the wall.
Tile grout has a tendency to crack or flake, become discolored or loosen with continuous proximity to water.
Finally, check the closets.
People who use temporary fixes will generally work hard to cover up the problems in lived-in rooms, while forgetting to fix walls and ceilings in closets.
Spotting faulty or old wiring depends on the size of the issue and where it’s located. For instance, a bad socket can be found by looking for darkened spots around the holes. However, it’s impossible to look through the walls to find faulty or old wiring behind them. An electrician will be able to give you a better idea of the wiring in the real estate.
Remember, nothing takes the place of getting real estate you’re thinking of buying inspected by a professional.
Are you considering purchasing a new home? Let me help you get your dream home at the lowest price. Call your trusted real estate professional.