Last week’s economic news included readings on housing starts, building permits issued and sales of pre-owned homes. The Fed’s Federal Open Market Committee issued its customary post-meeting statement and Fed Chair Janet Yellen gave a press conference. Weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims were also released.
Housing Starts Lower, but Building Permits Increase
August saw fewer housing starts with 1.18 million starts on a seasonally-adjusted annual basis. July’s reading was upwardly adjusted to 1.19 million starts; analysts expected 1.175 million starts annually in August. Building permits rose in August, which suggested builder confidence was strong regardless of fewer starts.
Recent hurricanes had little effect on August building permits, but building permits will likely increase as rebuilding gets under way in affected areas. 1.30 million building permits were issued on an annual basis as compared to July’s reading of 1.23 million permits issued. August’s reading for permits issued was the second highest since 2007.
Analysts noted that more permits were issued for single-family residences than for multi-family complexes. This is likely a response to high demand for single-family homes caused by persistent shortages of homes for sale. Multi-family permits issued fell by 5.80 percent in August with 323,000 permits reported. August’s reading for multi-family housing permits was 23 percent lower year-over-year.
Pre–Owned Home Sales Dip, Fed Holds Steady on Federal Funds Rate
Sales of previously-owned homes fell to a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 5.35 million sales in August. Analysts expected a reading of 5.44 million sales, which matched July’s seasonally-adjusted annual reading of 5.44 million sales of previously-owned homes. High demand and very low inventories of homes for sale has caused sales to fall although very low unemployment rates and relatively low mortgage rates were positive indicators for would-be home buyers.
The Federal Reserve’s Federal Open Market Committee announced it did not raise the current federal funds rate of 1.00 to 1,25 percent. Fed Chair Janet Yellen remarked that “the basic message here is U.S. economic performance has been good.” The Fed was puzzled by sluggish inflation and revised its long-term inflation goal from 3.00 percent to 2.80 percent. The Fed is expected to raise its target federal funds rate one more time in 2017 and twice in 2018; this prediction may change if economic forecasts and world events change significantly.
Mortgage Rates Rise, New Jobless Claims Fall
Mortgage rates rose last week in response to the 10-year Treasury rate rising by seven basis points. The average rate for a 30-year mortgage rate rose five basis points to 3.83 percent; the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage rose five basis points to 3.13 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage rose four basis points to 3.17 percent. Discount points averaged 0.50 percent for fixed-rate mortgages and 0.40 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.
New jobless claims were lower with 259,000 new claims filed. Analysts expected a reading of 302,000 new jobless claims based on the prior week’s reading of 282,000 new jobless claims filed.
This week’s scheduled economic reports include readings on new and pending home sales, personal income, and inflation. Weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims are scheduled along with a monthly reading on consumer sentiment.