What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – May 23, 2016

You Ask, We Answer: 5 Ways That You Can Proactively Build and Improve Your Credit ScoreLast week’s economic news included the NAHB Housing Market Index, reports on housing starts, building reports and existing home sales. Minutes of the Federal Reserve’s last FOMC meeting were also released.

Homebuilder Confidence Unchanged, Housing Starts and Building Permits Increase

The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) reported that builder confidence held steady with a reading of 58 in May. Analysts projected a reading of 58 and April’s reading was also 58. Builder confidence in market conditions could be slowing due to concerns over acquiring skilled labor and a shortage of developed lots. Demand for homes remains high, but a slim inventory of available properties and builder emphasis on higher-priced homes contributed to sidelining moderate income and first-time buyers.

Commerce Department reports for April Housing Starts and Building Permits issued suggest that tight housing inventories may receive some relief. April housing starts rose from a revised March reading of 1.099 million to 1.170 million starts. Housing starts increased by 6.60 percent in April. Housing starts have slowed as compared to the year-over-year period from April 2015 to 2016; housing starts increased by 10 percent for the same year-over-year period in 2015. While any increase in home construction is welcome, some analysts said that they did not expect a huge increase in home construction in coming months.

Construction of multifamily housing units rose by 10.70 percent, while single-family home construction increased by 3.30 percent. Rising rents and millennials delaying home purchases were seen as fueling multifamily home construction. As homes become less affordable, would-be buyers are continuing to rent, which places higher demand on rental units.

Pre-owned Home Sales Rise in April

Sales of previously owned homes rose by 1.70 percent in April to a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 5.45 million sales. Sales increased by 12.10 percent in the Midwest, where homes are most affordable, and fell by 1.70 percent in the West, where homes are most costly. This development suggests that rapidly rising home prices have or will soon reach maximum levels in high-cost areas. Home prices in many areas rose rapidly in preceding months as short inventory and high demand created bidding wars and keen competition for available homes. A lack of affordable single family homes has caused some buyers to buy condos while others have put buying on hold.

Mortgage Rates Rise, New Jobless Claims Fall

Mortgage rates rose for 30-year fixed rate mortgages rose by one basis point to 3.58 percent; the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage was unchanged at 2.82 percent and the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage rose by two basis points to 2.80 percent. Discount points were 0.60, 0.50 and 0.50 percent respectively. Analysts are watching the Fed closely for any indication that it will raise the target federal funds rate in June, although concerns over the possibility of Great Britain leaving the European Union could cause the Fed to hold off on raising the rate. If the Fed raises the target federal funds rate, loan rates for credit cards and mortgages would also increase.

New jobless claims fell last week to 278,000 new claims against expectations of 279,000 new claims and the prior week’s reading of 294,000 new claims. Analysts said that a telecommunications strike caused the prior week’s raise in claims as striking workers who are replaced during a strike are eligible for jobless benefits.

What’s Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic releases include new and pending home sales along with weekly reports on mortgage rates and new jobless claims.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – May 16, 2016

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week December 21 2015Last week’s economic news included reports on retail sales and consumer sentiment along with weekly releases on new jobless claims and mortgage rates.

Retail sales jumped 1.30 percent in April as compared to the March reading of 0.30 percent. Retail sales excluding the automotive sector rose from 0.40 percent growth in March to 0.80 percent growth in April. Both retail sales reports exceeded expectations. Growth in consumer spending suggests higher confidence in economic conditions and may lead potential homebuyers to consider buying rather than renting their homes.

Consumer sentiment jumped in May to a reading of 95.8 as compared to an expected reading of 89.5 and April’s reading of 89.0. This reading further supports easing of consumer concerns over current economic conditions and could bode well for housing markets as the peak sales season continues. May’s reading was the highest in nearly a year according to the University of Michigan, which conducts the Consumer Sentiment Survey.

Mortgage Rates Fall, New Jobless Claims Rise

Housing markets received a boost as average mortgage rates reported by Freddie Mac fell. The rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage fell by four basis points to 3.57 percent; the rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage was five points lower at 2.81 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was two basis points lower at 2.78 percent. Discount points averaged 0.50 percent for all three types of mortgages.

In spite of good economic news, lower mortgage rates and higher consumer sentiment, new jobless claims jumped to a 14-month high of 294,000 new claims from the prior week’s reading of 274,000 new claims and expectations of 270,000 new claims. Analysts said this increase could indicate softening of labor markets. Putting last week’s urge in claims in perspective, new claims remained below the benchmark reading of 300,000 new claims for 62 consecutive weeks, which is the longest period since 1973.

Labor laws in New York State likely influenced the jump in claims as certain school workers are allowed to file for unemployment benefits during spring break. A strike by some telecommunications workers likely contributed to the abrupt rise in new jobless claims. Analysts noted that New York allows striking employees replaced by their employers while on strike to collect unemployment benefits, and that new claims were near historically low levels in all other states.

Whats Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic reports include the National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index and Commerce Department reports on housing starts and building permits issued. Monthly reports on inflation are also expected.The National Association of Realtors® will release its report on existing home sales. Weekly reports on new jobless claims and mortgage rates will also be released.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – May 9, 2016

Closing Paperwork: How to Read and Understand the Truth-in-Lending Disclosure Statement

Mortgage rates fell across the board last week according to Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey. Other economic news included reports on construction spending, public and private sector employment and national unemployment.

Construction Spending Grows in March

The Commerce Department reported that the growth rate for construction spending fell in March to 0.30 percent/Analysts expected a reading of 0.70 percent based on February’s upwardly revised growth rate of 1.0 percent. Construction spending was propelled by a 1.50 percent increase in residential construction spending; this is good news for would-be home buyers who’ve been shut out of the market due to high demand and low inventories of available homes.

Housing market analysts have repeatedly said that new home construction is the answer to short supplies of homes and high buyer demand. Year-over-year, construction spending is up 8.0 percent overall; residential construction spending grew by 7.60 percent year-over-year.

Mortgage Rates Dip

Average mortgage rates were lower last week. The rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage fell by five basis points to 3.61 percent; the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage was three basis points lower at 2.86 percent and the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage dropped six basis points to an average of 2.80 percent.

While any drop in mortgage rates is welcomed by home buyers, the high demand for homes continues to drive prices up and has raised concerns about affordability of single-family homes in many communities.

Jobs Growth Slows

The national unemployment rate held steady at 5.0 percent in April, but job growth slowed in public and private sectors. ADP reported private sector jobs increased by 156,000 jobs as compared to 194,000 jobs added in March. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Non-Farm Payrolls increased by 160.000 jobs as compared to expectations of 203,000 jobs added and March’s reading of 208,000 jobs added. Non-Farm payrolls measure public and private sector job growth.

New jobless claims rose by 17,000 to 274,000 new claims, but remained below the benchmark of 300,000 new claims for 61 consecutive weeks. Analysts projected that new claims would grow by 265,000 new claims based on the prior week’s reading of 257,000 new claims. The less volatile four-week rolling average of new jobless claims indicated that 258,000 new claims were filed. The labor force participation rate dropped from 65 percent to 63 percent in March. Retiring baby boomers contributed to some but not all of this workforce decline.

What’s Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic news includes weekly reports on mortgage rates and new jobless claims along with a report on consumer sentiment.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – May 2, 2016

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates

Last week’s economic news included Case-Shiller Home Price Indices, along with new and pending home sales readings. The Federal Open Market Committee of the Federal Reserve met analyst’s expectations and did not raise the target federal funds rate, which remains at 0.25 to 0.50 percent. Freddie Mac’s mortgage rates survey and the Labor Department’s weekly jobless claims report were also released.

Case-Shiller: Home Price Growth Slows in February

Average home prices growth slowed in February according to the S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Index. Home prices fell from January’s year-over-year reading of 5.70 percent to 5.40 percent. 13 of 20 cities included in the index showed slower growth in home prices. Portland, Oregon showed the highest year-over-year price gain at 11.90 percent followed by Seattle, Washington at 11.00 percent and Denver, Colorado at 9.70 percent

Washington, DC had the slowest year-over-year growth rate of 1.40 percent; Chicago, Illinois and New York, New York where home prices grew 1.80 percent and 2.10 percent respectively. S&P Index Chairman David Blitzer said that tight inventories of available homes continued to drive home prices. Analysts are concerned with shrinking affordability, which keeps first-time and moderate income buyers from buying homes. Analysts caution that first-time and moderate-income buyers are the “bread and butter” of housing markets. Without their participation, current homeowners cannot sell and move up to larger homes.

New Home Sales Lower after February Reading Revised

New home sales dipped in March to a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 511,000 after February’s reading was revised upward to 519,000 sales. Regional results for new home sales were mixed. The Northeast posted flat sales in March; The Midwest posted the highest year-over-year growth in home prices at 18.50 percent followed by the South with a year-over-year gain of 5.00 percent. New home sales fell by 23.60 percent in the West, which was likely due to rapidly escalating home prices in high-cost metro areas.

Pending home sales for March grew by 1.40 percent for a second consecutive monthly increase. Analysts viewed March’s reading as positive for a healthy spring season for home sales. Pending home sales forecast future closings and mortgage lending.

Mortgage Rates, New Jobless Claims Rise

Freddie Mac reported higher mortgage rates last week with the average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage seven basis points higher at 3.66 percent. 15-year fixed mortgage rates were four basis points higher at 2.89 percent; the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was five basis points higher at 2.86 percent. Discount points averaged 0.60, 0.50 and 0.50 percent respectively.

New jobless claims also rose last week with 257,000 new claims filed as compared to expectations of 260,000 new claims and the prior week’s reading of 248,000 new claims filed. Analysts said that fewer layoffs suggest strengthening job market. Last week’s four-week average of new jobless claims was 256,000 new claims, which was the lowest reading since December 1973. Improving labor markets can encourage would-be home buyers to become active buyers.

What’s Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic news includes reports on construction spending, private sector employment, non-farm payrolls and the national unemployment rate. Weekly reports on new jobless claims and mortgage rates will be released as usual.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – April 25, 2016

What's Ahead In Mortgage News

Last week’s economic releases included Existing Home Sales, Commerce Department Releases on Housing Starts and Building Permits and the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index. Mortgage rates and new jobless claims were released according to their weekly schedule.

Home Builder Confidence Holds Firm in April

According to April’s National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index, home builder confidence held steady with a reading of 58 for the third consecutive month. Analysts viewed April’s reading as a sign of steady expansion for home building, but builders noted concerns over labor shortages. NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz said that builders were “cautiously optimistic” concerning housing market conditions.

The National Association of Realtors® reported a jump in sales of previously owned homes in March. The seasonally-adjusted annual rate of sales rose to 5.33 million and surpassed expectations of 5.30 million sales and February’s reading of 5.07 million sales of pre-owned homes.Mr. Lawrence Yun, chief economist for NAR, said that demand is increasing and noted that the national average home price increased more than twice as fast as average wages.

In other housing-related reports, the Commerce department reported slower growth in housing starts, which reached 1.089 million starts in March. Analysts expected 1.170 million starts based on March’s reading of 1.194 housing starts. Building permits were also lower with 1.086 million building permits issued as compared to 1.177 million building permits issued in March.

National Association of Realtors®: Sales of PreOwned Homes Exceed Expectations

March sales of previously owned homes reached a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 5.33 million sales against predictions of 5.30 million sales and February’s reading of 5.07 million sales. While March sales of pre-owned homes coincide with the approaching peak home selling season, high demand for homes and low supplies of homes for sale could slow sales. Inventories of available homes are currently at a 4.5 month supply; a six month supply of available homes indicates a normal reading for available homes.

Mortgage Rates Mixed, Jobless Claims Lowest Since 1973

Freddie Mac reported mixed results for last week’s average mortgage rates. The rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was one basis point higher at 3.59 percent. The rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage was one basis point lower at 2.85 percent while the average rate for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages fell by three basis points to 2.81 percent. Discount points averaged 0.60 percent for fixed rate mortgages and 0.50 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

Weekly jobless claims dropped to their lowest level since 1973 with a reading of 247,000 new claims filed. Analysts expected a reading of 265,000 new claims filed based on the prior week’s reading of 253,000 new claims filed. Strong labor markets can be an incentive to home buyers to move up to larger homes or transition from renting to owning, but short supplies of available homes and rapidly rising home prices present obstacles. First-time buyers account for approximately 30 percent of home sales; their participation could diminish unless available homes increase and demand for homes eases.

Whats Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic reports include the S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Indices along with new and pending home sales reports. Weekly reports on mortgage rates and new jobless claims will be released on schedule.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – June 2, 2014

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – June 1, 2014Last week’s economic news was fairly quiet due to the Memorial Day holiday on Monday and no scheduled news released on Wednesday.

Home Prices Post Modest Gains, But Growth Rate of Home Prices Slows

Tuesday’s release of the S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Index for March showed that home prices are edging up, but at a slower pace than last year. Home prices increased by 12.40 percent year-over-year as compared to February’s reading of 12.90 percent year-over-year.

Analysts expected prices to fall as construction picks up and more homes are listed for sale. Lower demand due to strict mortgage lending standards and high home prices continued to keep many moderate-income and first-time home buyers on the sidelines.

FHFA Reports Home Prices Increased By Over 6 Percent

FHFA, the agency that oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac also released its home price index for properties connected with Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac owned or guaranteed loans. As of March, FHFA reported that home prices increased by 6.50 percent year-over-year as compared to February’s year-over-year reading of 6.90 percent.

Consumer confidence rose by 1.30 percent for May with a reading of 83.0, which matched expectations.

Last Thursday’s news included the weekly Jobless Claims report, which showed 22,000 fewer jobless claims than expected with a reading of 300,000 new jobless claims reported. Thursday’s reading was also lower than the prior reporting period’s reading of 327,000 new jobless claims filed.

The four-week rolling average of jobless claims also showed improvement with 11,250 fewer claims filed and an average reading of 311,500 new weekly jobless claims filed. This was the lowest number of jobless claims filed since August 2007. Analysts look to the four-week rolling average as more accurate than the weekly readings, which can be volatile.

U.S. jobs have increased by 200,000 jobs per month over the last three months reported.

Pending Home Sales Up for Second Consecutive Month

Pending home sales in April rose by 0.40 percent from the March reading of 97.4 to 97.8. The April reading was the highest for pending home sales since November. Pending home sales provide an estimate of future home sales.

Lower mortgage rates likely supported expanded home sales. Freddie Mac reported that the average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was 4.12 percent, a drop of two basis points from last week. The rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage fell by four basis points to 3.21 percent.

The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was unchanged at 2.96 percent. Discount points were unchanged at 0.60 for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage and 0.50 percent for a 15 year mortgage. Discount points dropped from 0.40 to 0.30 percent for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage.

What’s Ahead

In addition to construction spending for April, this week’s economic news includes several reports that can provide insight about employment and consumer spending.

News events include Motor Vehicle Sales for May, The Fed’s Beige Book report, and Thursday’s usual release of Freddie Mac’s average mortgage rates and weekly Jobless Claims. Non-farm Payrolls and the national unemployment rate for May are also scheduled for release

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – May 5, 2014

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – May 5, 2014Last week’s economic news included several reports related to housing and mortgages. The NAR started the week on a positive note with its Pending Home Sales Index released Monday. Pending home sales in March were higher with an unexpected increase of 3.40 percent over February for an index reading of 97.40.

This is encouraging news for home sales that were severely affected by a hard winter in many areas, and suggests that as warmer weather approaches, home sales will pick up. Analysts do not expect the rapid rate of price appreciation seen in 2013. The Fed’s tapering of its “quantitative easing” program has caused mortgage rates to rise, and last year’s rapid run-up of home prices has made affordability an issue in many areas.

The S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Index for February performed slightly better than expected with a seasonally-adjusted month-to-month reading of 0.80 percent. The expected reading was 0.70 percent.

The year-over-year reading fell short of January’s reading of 13.20 percent and the expected reading of 13.00 percent at 12.90 percent. Analysts noted the continuing trend of slowing momentum in home price growth, but seem confident that home prices will continue to increase over the spring months.

Fed Continues Tapering Of QE, Mortgage Rates Mixed

Wednesday brought the FOMC’s customary statement after its two-day meeting concluded. There were no surprises as the statement verified another monthly tapering of $10 billion from the Fed’s quantitative easing (QE) program of asset purchases.

The tapering was evenly divided with $5 billion less in MBS purchased and $5 billion less in treasury securities purchased. The ongoing tapering was seen as contributing to rising mortgage rates, but the Fed asserted that its asset purchases remain sufficient to dampen rapid increases in long-term interest rates, which include mortgage rates.

The Fed repeated its usual reminder that its decisions are not on a pre-set course and that the committee members would closely monitor economic and financial developments as guidance for future decisions.

Freddie Mac reported mixed results for mortgage rates on Thursday. Average rates rose by four basis points to 4.29 percent for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage with discount points of 0.70 percent.

The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage dropped by one basis point to 3.38 percent; discount points steady at 0.60 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage rose by two basis points to 3.05 percent; discount points dropped from 0.50 to 0.40 percent.

Weekly jobless claims made an unexpected jump to 344,000 as compared to the prior week’s revised figure of 329,000 jobless claims and an expected reading of 320,000 new jobless claims.

Analysts note that week-to-week figures continued to show volatility, but said that on balance, the rolling average for jobless claims appeared consistent with moderate growth in labor markets.

This Week

This week’s scheduled economic news shows no events related to housing and mortgages. Highlights include Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s appearance before the Joint Economic Committee in Washington, D.C. and the usual releases of mortgage rates and new jobless claims on Thursday. 

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – April 28, 2014

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - April 28, 2014Last week’s economic news supported recent reports that home sales were fewer and home prices increased, but did so at a slower pace.

The NAR reported a slower pace of existing home sales, and FHFA reported a slower year-over-year rate of growth for home prices on properties financed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

The U.S. Commerce Department reported that new home sales fell to their lowest level since July 2013. Mortgage rates rose for fixed rate mortgages, but were unchanged for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages. Here are the details:

Existing Home Sales Slow, Moderate Growth In Home Prices

March sales of existing homes dipped by 0.20 percent according to the NAR. 4.59 million previously owned homes were sold on a seasonally adjusted annual basis against projections of 4.55 million sales and February’s reading of 4.60 million pre-owned homes sold.

Rising home prices contributed to the slowdown in sales, which started last summer. Rapidly rising home prices due to short supplies of available homes and high demand for homes caused some buyers to leave the market. The national average price for existing homes was $198,500 in March, which represented a year-over-year increase of 7.90 percent.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency, which governs Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, reported that home prices for homes financed with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac owned mortgages rose by approximately 7.0 percent year-over-year as of February.

Severe winter weather was cited as a possible factor in slowing home sales, but as the peak home buying season gets underway, analysts forecast that some sales lost may be recovered in warmer weather.

 Mortgage Rates Rise, New Home Sales At Lowest Level In 21 Months

Freddie Mac reported that average mortgage rates for fixed rate mortgages rose. The rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage rose by six basis points to 4.33 percent; the rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage also rose by six basis points to 3.39 percent.

The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was unchanged at 3.03 percent. Discount points were also unchanged at 0.60,.60 and 0.50 percent respectively.

Sales of new single-family homes slumped to their lowest level in since July 2012 according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. The median price of a new single family home rose to $290,000, which represented a 12.60 percent increase year-over-year.

Analysts noted that month-to-month home sales numbers are not as reliable as sales trends measured over months, but 384,000 March sales of new homes fell markedly short of expectations of 450,000 new home sales and February’s upwardly revised reading of 440,000 new homes sold.

Unemployment Ups And Downs Contribute To Buyer Uncertainty

New jobless claims rose to 329,000 against expectations of 315,000 new jobless claims and the prior week’s reading of 305,000 new jobless claims. The Labor Department said that seasonal adjustments were incomplete due to the Easter holiday, which occurs on different dates.

As labor and other sectors of the economy endure ups and downs during the economic recovery, it is reasonable to expect some home buyers to put off buying homes.

This Week 

This week’s scheduled economic news includes Pending Home Sales, Case-Shiller’s Housing Market Index, the FOMC meeting and statement and Construction Spending. The Bureau of Labor Statistics will release April’s Non-Farm Payrolls Report and National Unemployment Report on Friday.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – March 3, 2014

2014-03-03-WhatsAheadThisWeekLast week’s economic news was mixed, with new home sales increasing and weekly jobless claims higher than expected.

Case-Shiller and FHFA home price reports reflected slower growth in home prices. Mortgage rates moved higher for the third consecutive week.

Weakness in the jobs sector and harsh winter weather were seen as factors contributing to economic events, but sales of new homes jumped unexpectedly to their highest since 2008.

Case-Shiller, FHFA Report Slower Growth for Home Prices

The Case-Shiller composite home price index for December reported that home prices declined by 0.10 percent in December, which was the second consecutive monthly decline.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, home prices rose 0.80 percent in December as compared to November’s reading of 0.90 percent. Year-over-year, home prices grew at a rate of 13.40 percent, their fastest pace since 2005.

The momentum of year-over-year home prices declined in December as compared to November’s year-over-year reading of 13.70 percent. 11 of 20 cities included in the Case-Shiller composite index declined.

Analysts said that low inventories of available homes, higher mortgage rates and severe winter weather contributed to slower growth in home prices.

FHFA’s quarterly House Price Index for the fourth quarter of 2013 posted its tenth consecutive gain in quarterly home prices. Seasonally adjusted home prices rose by 0.80 percent from November to December 2013.

FHFA, which oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, reported that home prices increased by 7.70 percent from the fourth quarter of 2012 to the same period in 2013. Adjusted for inflation, the agency reported a year-over-year increase of 7.0 percent.

FHFA House Price Index data is based on sales information for homes with mortgages held or securitized by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Fixed Mortgage Rates, New and Pending Home Sales Rise

Freddie Mac reported that average rates for fixed-rate mortgages rose last week, with the rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage rising 4 basis points to 4.37 percent.

The rate for a 15-year mortgage also increased by 4 basis points to 3.39 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage fell by 3 basis points to 3.05 percent. Discount points were unchanged at 0.7 0 percent for fixed rate mortgages and 0.50 percent for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage.

Weekly jobless claims also rose to 348,000 against projections for 335,000 new jobless claims. The four-week average for new jobless claims remained steady at 338,250.

The Department of Labor noted that weekly readings are more volatile than the four -week average reading. Poor winter weather and a softer labor market were cited as possible causes for the jump in new claims.

New home sales provided unexpected good news; they jumped by 9.60 percent in January, to a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 468,000 sales against expected sales of 405,000.

December’s reading was upwardly revised from 414,000 to 427,000 new homes sold.

January’s reading was the largest increase in new home sales since July 2008, and there may be more positive housing news ahead as builders said that some of the sales lost during winter months may be recouped during spring.

Pending home sales increased by 0.10 percent in January to an index reading of 95 as compared to December’s reading of 94.9, which was the lowest reading since November 2011.

Whats Coming Up

This week’s scheduled economic news includes construction spending, the Federal Reserve’s beige book report, weekly jobless claims, and Freddie Mac’s report on mortgage rates.

On Friday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics releases its Non-Farm Payrolls and National Unemployment reports for February.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – February 24, 2014

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week February 24, 2014Last week’s economic data supported recent reports indicating that housing markets are slowing, The National Association of Home builders/Wells Fargo Home Builders Index (HBI) dropped by 10 points to a reading of 46 for February.

Home builder confidence dropped to its lowest reading in nine months,  and fell below the benchmark of 50, which indicates that more builders are pessimistic about current market conditions than not.

Severe weather was blamed for the lower builder confidence reading, which fell below the expected reading of 56.

Regional readings of builder confidence were also lower:

  • Northeast: Builder confidence fell from 41 to 33 points. This suggests that weather is a major concern as this area has experienced a series of nasty winter storms.
  • South: The HBI reading fell from 50 in January to 46 in February and was the smallest decline among the four regions. Fewer index points lost in the South appears to support builder’s concerns about bad weather in other regions.
  • Midwest: Builder confidence dropped from 59 points to a reading of 50.
  • West: Builder confidence fell by 14 points to February’s reading of 57. Desirable areas in the West had been leading the nation in home price appreciation. February’s reading may signal an easing of buyer enthusiasm as rapidly rising home prices have reduced affordable options for first-time and moderate income buyers.

Builders also cited concerns over labor and supplies as reasons for lower confidence readings.

Housing Starts Lower, Mortgage Rates Higher

On Wednesday, Housing Starts for January were released. Although analysts predicted a figure of 945,000 housing starts as compared to an upwardly adjusted 1.05 million housing starts in December, only 880,000 housing starts were reported for January.

The Department of Commerce also cited extreme winter weather as a cause for the drop in housing starts, which reached their fastest pace since 2008 in November. There is some good news. Economists said that housing starts delayed during winter could begin during spring.

According to Freddie Mac’s weekly survey, average mortgage rates rose across the board. The rate for a 30-year fixed rate loan rose by 5 basis points to 4.33 percent. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage rose by two basis points to 3.35 percent.

The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage moved up by three basis points to an average rate of 3.08 percent. Discount points for all three products were unchanged with readings of 0.70 for 30-year and 15-year fixed rate mortgages and 0.50 percent discount points for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that weekly jobless claims came in at 336,000 against expectations of 335,000 new jobless claims. The prior week’s reading was for 339,000 new jobless claims. Analysts said that job growth may be slowing after last year’s growth, but also noted that winter weather had slowed hiring in labor sectors such as construction and manufacturing.

Existing home sales fell by 5.10 percent in January according to the National Association of REALTORS®, which reported a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of home sales at 4.62 million sales against expectations of 4.65 million and December’s reading of 4.87 million sales of pre-owned homes. The national average home price rose to $188,900, which was 10.70 percent higher year-over-year.

January’s inventory of available existing homes was 1.9 million homes; this represented a 4.90 month supply of existing homes for sale. Real estate pros prefer to see at least a six month inventory of available homes for sale.

What’s Ahead

Next week brings a series of economic reports and opportunities for good news. The Case Shiller Home Price Indices, FHFA Home Price Index will be released. Consumer Confidence and the University of Michigan’s Consumer Sentiment report along with New and Pending Home Sales reports round out next week’s scheduled news.