Housing news was boosted by the National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index, which posted its highest readings since July of 2002. In other news, the Federal Reserve’s Federal Open Market Committee voted to raise the federal funds rate and Fed Chair Janet Yellen gave a press conference. Mortgage rates rose and weekly jobless claims fell.
Home Builder Confidence Highest in 14 Years, Home Construction Lags
According to the National Association of Home Builders, builder confidence in housing market conditions reached its highest rate since 2002 in December. The NAHB Housing Market Index reading topped out at 70 as compared to November’s reading of 63. Analysts said that December’s high reading resulted from a post-election bump in builder confidence. While high builder confidence could bode well for supplies of new homes, construction rates continued to lag strong economic indicators such as low unemployment and high demand for homes. While builders gained confidence in current and projected housing market conditions, they continued to face shortages of labor and buildable lots.
Fed Raises Rate
The Federal Open Market Committee of the Federal Reserve announced it would raise the federal funds range by 0.25 percent to 0.50 to 0.75 percent. FOMC said strengthening job markets, lower unemployment and rising household spending supported the decision to raise the federal funds rate. Inflation, while below the Fed’s target of 2.00 percent, is gradually moving toward the Fed’s medium term goal. FOMC’s statement indicated that the Fed’s monetary policy would remain accommodative.
Fed Chair Janet Yellen held a press conference and cited “considerable progress” toward the Fed’s dual mandate of maximum employment and price stability as factors supporting the decision to raise the target federal funds range. Labor markets continue to improve; Chair Yellen said that the economy has added 180,000 jobs per month over the last three months. 15 million jobs have been added in the past seven years. Inflation is growing gradually, and the Fed expects to achieve its target inflation rate of 2.00 percent over the next two years.
Month-to-month consumer spending readings held steady at 0.20 percent growth. Core consumer price index data, which excludes volatile food and energy sectors, rose from 0.10 percent to 0.20 percent in November.
Mortgage Rates, Weekly Jobless Claims
Mortgage rates were higher last week, but Freddie Mac said that its survey data was collected before FOMC raised the federal funds rate. Analysts at Freddie Mac suggested a wait-and see position on rate forecasts due to the changing political climate. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was three basis points higher at 4.16 percent; the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage rose one basis point to 2.37 percent and the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was two basis points higher at 3.19 percent. Average discount points for fixed rate mortgages held steady at 0.50 percent and dipped to 0.40 percent for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage.
New jobless claims were lower last week at 254,000 claims filed. Analysts had expected a reading of 250,000 new claims based on the prior week’s reading of 258,000 new claims filed. Volatility in weekly readings for new jobless claims can be expected due to seasonal hiring and layoffs.
Next week’s economic releases include readings on new and previously-owned home sales, inflation and consumer sentiment. Readings for mortgage rates and new jobless claims will also be released.