Last week’s economic news brought mixed developments as pending home sales moved to their second highest level of 2014.
The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) announced the expected end of asset purchases under its quantitative easing program. In its post-meeting statement, the committee noted improvements in overall economic conditions labor markets as indications of better than expected economic trends.
The Case-Shiller Home Price Index reports for August showed continued slowing in housing price gains. Mortgage rates were higher, but consumer confidence exceeded expectations.
Pending Home Sales Rise, Case-Shiller Reports Slower Price Gains
The National Association of REALTORS® reported that pending home sales gained 0.30 percent in September for an index reading of 105 as compared to August’s reading of 104.7. Analysts said that lower home prices and more homes available likely brought more buyers into the market.
The S&P Case Shiller 10 and 20-city home price index reports for August showed further slowing in home price growth with a year-over-year reading of 5.60 percent as compared to July’s year-over-year reading of 6.70 percent.
This was the slowest price increase since November 2012. Home price growth is slowing as demand decreases. Tight mortgage qualification requirements are likely contributing to lower demand for homes.
FOMC ends QE, Mortgage Rates Rise
The Fed ended its asset purchases under its QE program according to a statement after the FOMC meeting on Wednesday. This move was expected, and the statement repeated its plan to leave the target federal funds rate unchanged for a considerable period after the QE program’s conclusion. Analysts interpreted that to mean that no rate change would likely occur until approximately June 2015.
Mortgage rates responded to the demise of QE with an across the board increase. Average rates reported by Freddie Mac on Thursday were 3.98 percent for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage, 3.13 percent for a 15-year mortgage and 2.94 percent for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage. Discount points were unchanged at 0.50 percent for all three loan types.
New Jobless Claims Up, But No Big Deal
Housing market trends are connected with what’s happening in labor markets. Last week’s report for new jobless claims took an unexpected jump with 287,000 new jobless claims filed against predictions of 281,000 new claims and 284,000 new jobless claims filed the prior week. The four-week average for new jobless claims dropped to 281,000 and new claims remained below the 300,000 benchmark for the seventh consecutive week.
October’s Consumer Confidence Index rose to a reading of 94.50 as compared to the expected reading of 87.3 and September’s reading of 89.0. The Consumer Sentiment Index for October was also showed an increase of 0.50 percent with a reading of 86.9 against a predicted reading of 86.4 and September’s reading of 86.4.
Next week’s scheduled economic news includes construction spending for September, Non-farm payrolls, national unemployment, and the ADP employment report. Regularly scheduled reports on mortgage rates and new jobless claims will be released on Thursday.