Last week’s economic news included releases on new and existing home sales along with weekly readings on mortgage rates and first-time jobless claims.
Home Sales Fall Due to Slim Supply of Homes
December sales of previously-owned homes dipped to an 18-year low with a reading of 5.57 million sales on a seasonally-adjusted annual basis. Pre-owned home sales were expected to reach 5.73 million homes based on November’s downwardly- revised reading of 5.78 million sales. December sales were 3.6 percent lower month-to-month, but were 1.10 percent higher year-over-year.
Analysts credited the shortage of sales to tight inventories of homes for sale. Low inventories of homes for sale have worsened, a situation that sidelines would-be buyers due to the slim selection of homes, rapidly rising prices and buyer competition.
Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist of the National Association of Realtors, said that December sales were lower in all four regions tracked by his organization. The Northeast had 7.50 percent fewer sales; The Midwestern region has 6.30 percent fewer sales in December and the South and West had 1.70 percent and 1.60 percent fewer sales.
Available homes reached a 3.20-month supply; the National Association of Realtors typically views a six-month supply of available homes as average. The national median home price was $246,800 in December and was 5.80 percent higher year-over-year.
Sales of new homes were also significantly lower in December, at an annual rate of 625,000 sales. Analysts expected 679,000 sales and November’s reading showed a sales pace of 689,000 sales.
New Home Sales Fall in December
Sales of new homes were lower in December but were strong overall for 2017. The Commerce Department reported 625,000 sales of new homes for December as compared to expectations of 680,000 sales and November’s downwardly revised reading of 689,000 sales of new homes.
The annual sales pace of new homes was 9.30 percent lower in December than in November, but the sales price of new homes increased 14.10 percent year-over-year. The median price of a new home was $335,400, which was 2.50 percent higher year over year. A 5.6 month supply of new homes for sale reflected healthy market conditions for new homes.
Mortgage Rate, New Jobless Claims Higher
Mortgage rates rose for the third consecutive week with the average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage 11 basis points higher at 4.15 percent; the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage was 3.62 percent and was 13 basis points higher. 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages averaged 3.52 percent and rose by six basis points. Discount points averaged 0.50 percent for fixed rate mortgages and 0.40 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages. Higher mortgage rates were attributed to an increase in the 10-year Treasury yield, which was at its highest rate since 2014.
First-time jobless claims rose last week after reaching a 45-year low the previous week. 233,000 new claims were filed last week; analysts expected a reading of 240,000 new claims filed against the previous week’s reading of 216,000 new jobless claims filed. Bad weather, two holidays in January and seasonal layoffs at the end of the holiday shopping season contributed to the increase in new jobless claims.
This week’s scheduled economic reports include readings from Case-Shiller Home Price Indexes, homeownership rates, and inflation. The Bureau of Labor Statistics will release monthly reports on private and public-sector jobs and the national unemployment rate. Weekly readings on mortgage rates and first-time jobless claims will also be released.