Last week’s economic news included readings from the National Association of Home Builders, Commerce Department readings on housing starts and National Association of Realtors® report on sales of previously-owned homes. Weekly reports on mortgage rates and first-time jobless claims were also released.
NAHB: Home Builders Lose Confidence as Housing Crunch Continues
Homebuilder confidence fell to a 36 month low in December as homebuilder concerns over rising home prices, high mortgage rates and decreasing inventories of available homes sidelined home buyers. The NAHB Housing Market Index fell four points to 56.
Components of the Housing Market Index reading also fell as builder confidence in current market conditions fell six points to an index reading of 61; builder confidence in new home sales over the next six months fell by four points to a reading of 61. Builder confidence in buyer traffic in new home developments dipped two points to 43.
While any reading over 50 is considered positive, buyer traffic readings under 50 are not unusual.
Analysts and real estate pros often consider the Home Builders Housing Market Index as an indicator of future new home construction and sales. Rising home prices and mortgage rates were cited as reasons contributing to the drop in home builder confidence.
Existing Home Sales, Housing Starts and Building Permits Issued Rise in November
Sales of pre-owned homes rose in November with 5.32 million sales reported on an annual seasonally adjusted basis. Analysts expected a reading of 5.17 million sales based on October’s sales pace of 5.22 million sales.
Three out of four regions reported gains in sales of pre-owned homes. The Northeast reported a gain of 7.20 percent; the Midwest reported a year-over-year gain of 5.50 percent and sales of pre-owned homes were 2.50 percent higher in the South. The West lost traction in existing home sales with a negative reading of -6.30 percent. Known for high home prices, it may be that home prices have peaked in the West.
The Commerce Department reported housing starts at the rate of 1.25 million in November; analysts predicted a rate of 1.230 million starts based on October’s reading of 1.217 million starts. November building permits rose to 1.328 million permits issued as compared to a reading of 1.265 million permits issued in October.
Analysts said that more apartment homes were being built; this trend could be a further indication of home prices being out of reach for would-be home buyers.
Mortgage Rates, New Jobless Claims Dip
Freddie Mac reported lower mortgage rates last week; 30-year fixed mortgage rates averaged 4.62 percent and were one basis point lower than in the prior week. 15-year fixed mortgage rates were unchanged at an average of 4.07 percent.
The average rate for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages was six basis points lower at 3.98 percent. Discount points averaged 0.40 percent for fixed rate mortgages and 0.30 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.
First-time jobless claims fell last week to 206,000 claims filed. Analysts predicted 218,000 new jobless claims based on the prior week’s reading of 206,000 new unemployment claims filed.
This week’s scheduled economic readings include Case-Shiller Home Price Indices, new and pending home sales and weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims. Government shutdown may impact some readings.