Last Thursday we got the news that Existing Home Sales were down 3.2% in July, as the annual rate skidded below 5.5 million, settling at 5.39 million units.
This put existing home sales 1.6% lower than they were a year ago. But inventories have been falling on a year-over-year basis for 14 months in a row, so tight supply and the rising prices that go with it are constraining sales in many markets. But there was good news on the demand side: in July, 47% of the homes sold in less than a month.Last week's better housing report was in fact spectacular.
New Home Sales shot up 12.4% in July, putting them at a 654,000 unit annual rate, 31.3% ahead of where they were a year ago. This was the fastest sales pace since before the recession. We saw gains in the Northeast, South and Midwest, while the usually strong West cooled to a merely flat monthly performance. Supply remains tight, at 4.3 months, yet the median new home sales price is down 0.5% versus a year ago. Other home price measures continue to show gains, so this price dip merely reflects a shift by builders to lower priced homes, considered good for the market.
Analysts call comments from Fed members "hawkish" when they're in favor of raising rates, "dovish" when they sound reluctant to do so. Friday, at a yearly symposium in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Fed Chair Janet Yellen said the case for a rate hike had recently strengthened, although soft business investment and weakening exports were concerns. Investors took these remarks as slightly more dovish than hawkish until Fed Vice Chair Stanley Fischer told CNBC two rate increases were still possible this year. He said their decisions would be "data dependent," but investors didn't miss the hawkish message. Stocks tanked.
The Fed's decisions about rates may be data dependent, but their comments don't seem to be especially influenced by economic reports. For example, the strengthening economy Chair Yellen sees was nowhere to be found in the latest GDP read. The GDP - 2nd Estimate for the second quarter (April, May, June) revised U.S. economic growth down to a 1.1% annual rate, pathetic by historical standards. We did get a 4.4% bump in July Durable Goods Orders, and Initial Unemployment Claims logged their 77th straight week below 300,000. However, regular folks are skeptical about the economy, as Michigan Consumer Sentiment fell in August.
The week ended with the Dow down 0.8%, to 18397; the S&P 500 down 0.7%, to 2169; and the Nasdaq down 0.4%, to 5219.
Fears of a Fed rate hike battered bond prices on Friday. Treasuries got it the worst, while the 30YR FNMA 4.0% bond we watch finished the week down just .03, at $107.03. National average 30-year fixed mortgage rates were unchanged in Freddie Mac's Primary Mortgage Market Survey for the week ending August 25. This keeps them near historical lows. Remember, mortgage rates can be extremely volatile, so check with your mortgage professional for up-to-the-minute information.
Analysts expect the Pending Home Sales measure of contracts signed on existing homes up again in July, presaging sales gains when those deals close in September and October. Core PCE Prices should show weak inflation, which ought to keep the Fed quiet on rates. Unfortunately, forecasters see slippage in both the Chicago PMI for Midwest manufacturing and the nationwide ISM Index. Also predicted to slip are new Nonfarm Payrolls, falling back below 200,000, and Hourly Earnings growth.
The Week’s Economic Indicator Calendar
Weaker than expected economic data tends to send bond prices up and interest rates down, while positive data points to lower bond prices and rising loan rates.
Economic Calendar for the Week of Aug 29 – Sep 2
Aug 29 08:30 Personal Income
Aug 29 08:30 Core PCE
Aug 30 10:00 Consumer Confidence
Aug 31 09:45 Chicago PMI
Aug 31 10:00 Pending Home Sales
Aug 31 10:30 Crude Inventories
Sep 1 08:30 Initial Unemployment Claims
Sep 1 08:30 Continuing Unemployment Claims
Sep 1 08:30 Productivity - Rev.
Sep 1 08:30 Unit Labor Costs - Rev.
Sep 1 10:00 ISM Index
Sep 2 08:30 Average Workweek
Sep 2 08:30 Hourly Earnings
Sep 2 08:30 Nonfarm Payrolls
Sep 2 08:30 Unemployment Rate
Sep 2 08:30 Trade Balance
Federal Reserve Watch
Forecasting Federal Reserve policy changes in coming months... Fed watchers are lining up like ducks in a row in the camp of those who expect a December rate hike. Note: In the lower chart, a 33% probability of change is a 67% certainty the rate will stay the same.
Current Fed Funds Rate: 0.25%-0.5%
After FOMC meeting on:
Sep 21 0.25%-0.5%
Nov 2 0.25%-0.5%
Dec 14 0.5%-0.75%
Probability of change from current policy:
After FOMC meeting on:
Sep 21 33%
Nov 2 39%
Dec 14 59%
Get the Insider Track on Interest Rates!
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