Last week’s economic news was plentiful with releases on Case-Shiller Home Price Indices and pending home sales. Readings on government and private sector jobs created, the national unemployment rate and weekly readings on new jobless claims and Freddie Mac’s mortgage rates survey were also released.
Case–Shiller: Western Cities Dominate Home Price Growth
Case-Shiller’s 20-City Home Price Index reported that Seattle Washington topped year-over-year home price growth with an increase of 11.00 percent. Portland, Oregon followed closely with a reading of 10.90 percent, and Denver Colorado held third place with year-over-year home price gains of 8.70 percent.
San Francisco, California, which had posted high home price gains in recent years, posted a month-to-month reading of -0.40 percent and a year-over-year gain of 5.70 percent. Analysts said that this reading was evidence that home prices in high cost areas were topping out. Affordability, strict mortgage requirements and low inventories of available homes continued to present obstacles to home buyers.
Mortgage Rates Rise, Pending Home Sales Dip
According to the U.S. Commerce Department, pending home sales dipped in October to 0.10 percent as compared to a growth rate of 1.50 percent in September. Winter weather and holidays can cause would-be home buyers to postpone their home searches until spring.
Freddie Mac reported higher mortgage rates last week, although the 10-year treasury rate, which is tied to mortgage rates, was unchanged from the prior week. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was five basis points higher at 4.08 percent; the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage rose by nine basis points to 3.34 percent and the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage rose by three basis points to 3.15 percent. Mortgage rates have risen by 51 basis points in three weeks. This trend, coupled with high home prices, doesn’t bode well for first-time and modest income home buyers.
Consumer spending for October increased by 0.30 percent as compared to predictions for a reading of 0.50 percent and September’s 0.70 percent reading. The core inflation reading for October was unchanged and in line with analyst expectations at 0.10 percent. The core reading excludes volatile food and fuel sectors.
Labor Reports: Job Creation Grows, Unemployment Rate Lower
According to the Labor Department’s Non-Farm Payrolls report for November, 178,000 government and private sector jobs were created as compared to expectations of 200,000 jobs created and October’s reading of 142,000 jobs created in October. According to the Commerce Department, the national unemployment rate for November was 4.60 percent as compared to the expected reading of 4.90 percent and October’s reading of 4.90 percent. Analysts noted that while a lower reading could indicate good news, it was also the result of fewer workers in the work force. The unemployment rate is based on unemployment claims filed by those actively seeking work; it does not include those underemployed or those who have stopped seeking work.
First-time jobless claims rose to 268,000 as compared to expectations of 250,000 new claims and the prior week’s reading of 251,000 new claims filed.
In spite of higher mortgage rates and dubious labor reports, the Consumer Confidence Index rose to 107.1 in November from October’s reading of 100.8; Analysts had expected an index reading of 102.5.
Next week’s economic reports include releases on job openings and consumer sentiment along with weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims.