Industrial Production: Industrial production was up 0.1% this month, propped up by a 7.3% surge in utilities production. All other major sectors fell. Manufacturing was down 0.2% and durable goods production dropped 0.6%. Nondurable goods production was up 0.2%. The biggest loss in the durable goods department was from motor vehicle manufacturing, which was down 3.0%. There was a gain of 1.2% in aerospace and other miscellaneous transportation equipment. Mining fell 2.5%.
Housing Market Index: Home builders aren’t feeling as confident in the housing market as they could be, as the index has slipped to 53, an eight-month low. This is blamed primarily on lack of traffic from first-time home buyers, a component that slipped two points this month to 37. Meanwhile, current sales is at 58, down three points from last month and at a five-month low. Future sales is unchanged at 59.
Housing Starts: Housing starts had an unexpected drop-off in February, falling 17.0% to a seasonally adjusted rate of 897,000 annual starts. Single-family units fell 14.9% in February, while multifamily units fell 20.8%. Weather-related problems in the Northeast caused starts to decline by a hefty 56.6%. There were declines of 37% in the Midwest and 18.2% in the West as well.
MBA Purchase Applications: The index fell 3.9% this week. Purchases fell 2.0% and refinances fell 5.0% despite the average 30-year fixed rate dropping two basis points to 3.99%.
Jobless Claims: Initial claims rose by 1,000 this week, crawling to 291,000. The four-week average was up 2,250 to 304,750. This is the sample week for the employment report, and initial claims have risen 9,000 since February. Meanwhile, the same comparison for the four-week average shows a rise of 21,750. Continuing claims fell by 11,000 to 2.417 million. The four-week average moved down by 1,000, coming in at 2.418 million.
Rates were down or unchanged this week following mixed housing data.
30-year fixed-rate mortgages (FRMs) averaged 3.78% with an average 0.6 point for the week ending March 19, 2015, down from last week when they averaged 3.86%. A year ago at this time, 30-year FRMs averaged 4.32%.
15-year FRMs this week averaged 3.06% with an average 0.6 point, down from last week when they averaged 3.10%. A year ago at this time, 15-year FRMs averaged 3.32%.
5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable rate mortgages (ARMs) averaged 2.97% this week with an average 0.5 point, down from last week when they averaged 3.01%. A year ago, 5-year ARMs averaged 3.02%.
1-year Treasury-indexed ARMs averaged 2.46% this week with an average 0.4 point, unchanged from last week. At this time last year, 1-year ARMs averaged 2.49%.
Stocks rose Friday after commodity prices rose due to a weaker dollar. The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished at 18,127.65, up 168.62 points on the day and 2.1% for the week. The NASDAQ was up almost 3.2% week over week after gaining 34.04 points Friday to finish at 5,026.42. The S&P 500 was up 18.79 points to 2,108.06, posting a weekly gain of around 2.7%.
The Week Ahead
Monday, March 23
Existing Home Sales (10:00 a.m. ET) – Existing Home Sales tallies the number of previously constructed homes, condominiums and co-ops in which a sale closed during the month. Existing homes (also known as home re-sales) account for a larger share of the market than new homes and indicate housing market trends.
Tuesday, March 24
Consumer Price Index (8:30 a.m. ET) – The consumer price index measures changes based on the price of a fixed basket of goods and services purchased by consumers.
New Home Sales (10:00 a.m. ET) – New home sales measure the number of newly constructed homes with a committed sale during the month.
Wednesday, March 25
MBA Purchase Applications (7:00 a.m. ET) – The purchase applications index measures applications at mortgage lenders. This is a leading indicator for single-family home sales and housing construction.
Durable Goods Orders (8:30 a.m. ET) – Durable goods orders are based on the new orders placed with domestic manufacturers for factory hard goods.
Thursday, March 26
Jobless Claims (8:30 a.m. ET) – New unemployment claims are compiled weekly to show the number of individuals who filed for unemployment insurance for the first time.
Friday, March 27
GDP (8:30 a.m. ET) – This measures the monetary value of all final goods and services produced within the U.S. This report is released on a quarterly basis.
Consumer Sentiment (9:55 a.m. ET) – The University of Michigan’s Consumer Survey Center questions 500 households each month on their financial conditions and attitudes about the economy. Consumer sentiment is directly related to the strength of consumer spending.
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