Last week’s economic releases included the National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index for May, Commerce Department reports on housing starts and building permits issued. Weekly readings on mortgage rates and first-time jobless claims were also released.
Home Builder Confidence Rises in May
According to the National Association of Home Builders, home builders surveyed indicated higher confidence in housing market conditions for May. April’s reading was downwardly revised to an index reading of 68; analysts expected a reading of 69. May’s home builder confidence reading was 70. Any reading over 50 indicates that more builders consider housing market conditions to positive.
Three-month rolling readings for regions showed mixed results in May. Northeast and Western regions were unchanged with index readings of 55 and 76 respectively. Midwestern and Southern regions posted a one-point drop with respective index readings of 65 and 92. The NAHB cited high lumber prices as a concern and said that rising materials costs were impacting builders’ ability to produce affordable housing for first-time buyers.
Both housing starts and building permits issued were lower in April than for March; The Commerce Department reported1.287 million housing starts in April as compared to 1.336 million starts in March. Housing starts are calculated on a seasonally-adjusted annual basis. Although housing starts were 3.70 percent lower in April, analysts said there was little concern as the rate of housing starts remained near the highest levels in 11 years.
April’s decline in housing starts was attributed to volatile multi-unit projects; construction rates for single-family homes were little changed. The South reported an increase in housing starts as all other regions reported fewer housing starts. Builders said that labor shortages continue to impact construction rates. Analysts expected construction rates to expand throughout 2018 as demand for homes rises. Building permits issued fell in April to a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 1.352 million from the March reading of 1.377 million permits issued.
Mortgage Rates, New Jobless Claims
Mortgage rates rose to their highest level in seven years. Rates for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage were six basis points higher and averaged 4.61 percent. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage was seven basis points higher at 4.08 percent. Mortgage rates for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage averaged five basis points higher at 3.82 percent. Discount points averaged 0.40 percent for fixed rate mortgages and 0.30 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.
First-time jobless claims rose to 222,000 new claims last week as compared to 211,000 new claims filed the prior week. Analysts expected 215,000 new claims filed.
This week’s economic releases include readings on sales of new and previously-owned homes and consumer sentiment. Weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims will also be released.