March 21st, 2017
Last week’s economic readings included reports on inflation and core inflation, the National Association of Home Builders Association Housing Market Index and Federal Reserve FOMC statement and press conference by Fed Chair Janet Yellen. The Commerce Department released reports on housing starts and building permits issued.
Home Builder Confidence, Housing Starts Rise
The National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index for March rose by six points to an index reading of 71. Builders said that subsequent readings may ease as builders continue to face shortages of lots and labor. The President said that he would work to reduce regulations affecting builders, which likely contributed to March’s increased confidence reading. Housing industry leaders continue to monitor builder confidence as it could signal increased development and building. Home sales figures have been held back due to lack of available homes and industry leaders repeatedly say that building new homes is the only way to release the bottleneck in single-family home sales.
High demand for homes has created rapid escalation in home prices in high-demand metro areas; this sidelines first-time and moderate income buyers.
Housing starts rose in February according to the Commerce Department. 1.288 million starts were reported on a seasonally adjusted annual basis; January’s reading was 1.288 housing starts on a seasonally-adjusted annual basis. Building permits issued were lower in February with 1.213 million permits issued as compared to 1.293 million permits issued in January.
Mortgage Rates, Federal Funds Rate Higher
Although Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey of average mortgage rates was completed prior to the Fed’s decision to raise its federal funds rate, mortgage rates were higher. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage rose nine basis points to 4.30 percent. The average rate for a 15-year mortgage fixed rate mortgage was eight basis points higher at 3.50 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable mortgage rose five basis points to 3.28 percent.
After it’s meeting concluded Wednesday, The Federal Open Market Committee, which sets monetary policy for the Federal Reserve announced its decision to raise the target federal funds range from 0.50 to 0.75 percent to 0.75 to 1.00 percent. The post-meeting statement cited stronger economic conditions that advanced the Fed’s dual mandate of achieving maximum employment and stable pricing. Inflation was noted to be nearing the Fed’s mid to long range goal of 2.00 percent annually and the national unemployment rate has held steady in the past several months.
Fed Chair Janet Yellen said in a press conference that the federal funds rate may be raised two more times in 2017, but the FOMC statement and Chair Yellen said that FOMC members base monetary policy decisions on current information relating to domestic and global economic developments.
Inflation grew by 0.10 percent in February as compared to January’s growth rate of 0.60 percent. The core Consumer Price Index, which excludes volatile food and energy sectors. Rose by 0.20 percent as expected and was lower than January’s reading of 0.30 percent growth.