In a week that did not have many major news breaking headlines, investors settled down after their initial enthusiasm last Monday regarding the fact that Fed Chairman Janet Yellen indicated that the economy is showing signs of weakness. Investors took that as another message that the Fed is not going to raise interest rates any time soon which is perceived as a blessing for corporate profits and stock values.
Good news on the housing front if that the Pending Home Sales index jumped 3.1 percent in February. This increase was far more than analyst’s expectations and it follows January’s revised 1.2 percent gain. This is the first back-to-back gain since April and May of 2014. The largest gains were seen in the Midwest followed by the West. The South, which is the largest housing market, along with the Northeast, which is by far the smallest region, remained virtually unchanged.
Another strong factor in the report is that the index is up by 12.0 percent from the same time last year. This is the sixth consecutive month in which the spread between current numbers and prior years has increased.
The final piece of data from the report was the indication that more first time homebuyers are entering the market. The lack of this segment of buyers has been a main driver to the slow housing recovery. First time buyers made up 29 percent of all pending transactions up from 28 percent.
Piggy backing on the pending home sales data, the Case-Shiller Home Price Index shows that prices are becoming more stable. The index increased 0.9 percent in January which follows the same 0.9 percent increase in December, and a 0.8 percent increase in November. This is the longest growth streak we have seen in housing since the last quarter of 2013. Home prices compared to the same time last year are up 4.6 percent.
Mortgage rates have been bouncing up and down however remaining in a narrow range. The Mortgage Bankers Association reported that applications for refinances and purchases jumped in the week ending March 27th. Applications for refinances rose 4.0 percent. Purchase applications, which have been barely rising, jumped 6.0 percent. Speaking with real estate professionals, they have been seeing not only increased buyer traffic, they are enjoying more purchase transactions going into contract which reinforces the fact that the housing market is improving.
This week’s potential market moving reports:
- Monday April 6th – – ISM Non-Manufacturing Index
- Tuesday April 7th – Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey
- Wednesday April 8th – MBA Applications and FOMC Minutes
- Thursday April 9th – First Time Jobless Claims
- Friday April 10th – Import and Export Prices