June 20th, 2017
Last week’s economic reports included readings on inflation, core inflation, and the Federal Reserve’s FOMC statement. The NAHB Housing Market Index, housing starts and building permits issued were also released, along with weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims.
Inflation fell by -0.10 percent in May, which was lower than the no-change reading expected by analysts based on April’s reading of +0.20 percent. The core inflation reading for May, which excludes volatile food and energy sectors, grew by 0.10 percent. Analysts had estimated a gain of 0.20 percent based on April’s reading of 0.10 percent growth.
Builder Confidence Slips, Housing Starts and Building Permits Lower
The National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index was two points lower in June with an index reading of 67. Each of the three component readings for the HMI was also two points lower than May’s readings. While any reading over 50 is considered positive, builders cited ongoing concerns with shortages of lots and labor challenges to builder confidence and new home construction.
Housing starts and building permits issued were lower in May. 1.09 million starts were reported on a seasonally-adjusted annual basis as compared to expectations of 1.23 million starts and April’s reading of 1.16 million starts. Builders started fewer multi-family housing developments and concentrated on single-family homes. Housing starts fell year-over year and were lower for the third consecutive month. Fewer building permits were issued in May according to the Commerce Department. Building permits were 4.90 percent lower than in April and hit a 13-month low.
Mortgage Rates Rise, Fed Raises Target Federal Funds Rate
Freddie Mac reported higher mortgage rates last week. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage rose three basis points to 3.91 percent; the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage increased by two basis points to 3.18 percent. Rates for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage rose four basis points to 3.15 percent on average. Discount points averaged 0.50 percent for all three mortgage types and were unchanged from the prior week.
The Federal Reserve’s Federal Open Market Committee raised the target federal funds rate to 1.00-1.25 percent as expected. Consumer loan and mortgage rates typically rise along with the federal funds rate. Last week’s dip in the inflation rate could cause rates to fall in coming weeks.
New jobless claims fell to 237,000 last week as compared to an expected reading of 244,000 new claims and the prior week’s reading of 245,000 new jobless claims. Strong readings in the labor sector suggest that job markets are healthy, but can also be influenced by workers leaving the workforce. Unemployment claims require workers to be actively seeking employment.
Consumer sentiment fell to an index reading of 94.50 in June as compared to an expected reading of 97.30 and May’s index reading of 97.10. The University cited consumer uncertainty related to recent political events as the cause of waning consumer confidence.