Last week’s economic news included reporting on home builder confidence in national and regional housing markets, a post-meeting statement from the Federal Reserve’s Federal Open Market Committee, and Fed Chair Jerome Powell’s news conference. The National Association of Home Builders released its national and regional housing market indices. Weekly readings on mortgage rates and jobless claims were also published.
NAHB Housing Market Indices Reflect Slowing Growth in Housing Markets
June readings from the National Association of Home Builders showed slower growth in builder confidence in current and future U.S. housing markets. The NAHB reported the lowest reading in two years for June’s housing market indices as builder confidence fell for the sixth consecutive month. June’s index reading for the National Housing Market index fell two points to 67 and matched analysts’ forecasts. Readings over 50 indicate a majority of home builders are positive about housing market conditions.
NAHB chair Jerry Konter said, “Six consecutive monthly declines in home builder confidence is a clear sign of a slowing housing market in a high inflation, slow growth economic environment.” Mr. Konter also noted the impact of rising mortgage rates on entry-level and moderate-income home buyers: “Entry-level markets were particularly affected by declines in housing affordability…builders are adopting a more cautious stance as demand softens with higher mortgage rates.” Rising mortgage rates added to builders’ ongoing concerns with high materials costs and shortages of skilled workers.
NAHB’s regional homebuilder indices also declined with homebuilder sentiment in the West falling by nine points; the Midwestern regional index dropped by six points. Home builder sentiment decreased by two points in the South and by one point in the Northeast.
On Wednesday, the Federal Open Market Committee of the Federal Reserve announced that it would raise its benchmark interest rate range by 0.75 percent in its attempts to slow inflation. The Federal Reserve has a dual mandate of maintaining inflation at or near two percent and achieving maximum employment. The Fed is expected to raise its key rate range into 2024 in its efforts to ease inflation.
Mortgage Rates Rise, Jobless Claims Fall
Freddie Mac reported a jump in average mortgage rates last week after the Fed announced its decision to raise its benchmark interest rate range to 0.75 to 1.00 percent. This was the highest federal funds range increase since 1981. The average rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages rose by 55 basis points to 5.78 percent; the average rate for 15-year fixed-rate mortgages rose by 43 basis points to 4.81 percent. The average rate for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages rose by 21 basis points to 4.33 percent. Discount points averaged 0.90 percent for fixed-rate mortgages and 0.30 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.
Initial jobless claims fell to 229,000 first-time claims filed last week as compared to the prior week’s reading of 232,000 first-time claims filed and the expected reading of 220,000 new jobless claims filed. Last week’s reading for continuing jobless claims was unchanged with 1.31 million ongoing claims filed.
This week’s scheduled economic news includes readings on sales of previously owned homes and testimony by Fed chair Jerome Powell to the Senate Banking Committee and the House Financial Services Committee. The University of Michigan will release its monthly index reading on consumer sentiment and weekly readings on mortgage rates and jobless claims will also be released.