Existing Home Sales – Existing home sales were up 1.2% in February to a seasonally adjusted annual pace of 4.88 million. This just shaves a little off the top of last month’s 4.9% drop in sales. January and February represent two of the weaker months for existing home sales since April of last year. However, the year-over-year rate is up 4.7%. Single-family home sales were up 1.4% in February to 4.10 million, a 5.9% year-to-year gain. Condo sales were unchanged at 0.540 million in February, down 3.6% on the year. Home supply is at 4.6 months and the median price is $202,600, up 2.5%.
Consumer Price Index (CPI) – Prices were up 0.2% month to month in February for the first rise in the index since October. Part of the gain was due to a rebound in energy prices, which were up 1.0%. The rebound in energy was partly caused by a recovery in gasoline prices, up 2.4% in their first increase since June 2014. Food prices went up 0.2%. The indexes for shelter, new and used cars and trucks, apparel, tobacco and airline shares increased. Personal care costs went down, while medical costs were unchanged. The CPI is down 0.1% year over year.
New Home Sales – New home sales were up quite a bit in February, coming in at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 539,000. Numbers for January were upwardly revised from 481,000 to 500,000 as well. Supply of new homes in the market is at 4.7 months.
MBA Mortgage Applications – Applications were up this week due to low rates. Purchases were up 5% and the refinance index was up 12%. Applications were up 9.5% overall. The average rate for a 30 year fixed loan was down nine basis points to 3.90%.
Durable Goods Orders – Analysts’ expectations for a 0.7% gain failed to materialize as orders of durables fell by 1.4% in February following a rebound the previous month. Despite this, new orders are still up 0.6% year-over-year. The core declined 0.3%. Transportation was down 3.5% as motor vehicle orders were off by 0.5% and nondefense aircraft were down 8.9%. Primary metals were up, as was electrical equipment. Fabricated metal, machinery, and computers and electronics saw declines.
Jobless Claims – Initial claims fell by 9,000 this week to 282,000. This drove the four-week average down by 7,750 to 297,000 continuing claims fell by 6,000 to 2.416 million. The four-week average sits at 2.422 million.
GDP – The U. S. economy grew by 2.2% in the fourth quarter according to revised numbers released Friday. Analysts had expected a 2.4% rise. Final sales of domestic product were up 2.3% while sales of domestic product to U.S. purchasers was up 3.3%. Inventories failed to contribute to growth bringing things down by 0.10%. Meanwhile, the GDP price index experienced a 0.1% increase.
Consumer Sentiment – Consumer sentiment rebounded from a mid-March reading of 91.2 up to 93.0 at the end of the month. The current conditions component was up to 105 from a mid-month reading of 103. This reading points to good things in terms of consumer activity and the health of the job market. Future expectations also rose 1.6 points to 85.3, a sign that the jobs outlook may be improving for many Americans. Five-year inflation expectations are up one-tenth from February to 2.8%, as gas prices have begun to rise again.
Mortgage rates were down or unchanged this week.
30-year fixed rate mortgages (FRMs) averaged 3.69% with an average 0.6 point for the week ending March 26, 2015, down from last week when they averaged 3.78%. A year ago at this time, 30-year FRMs averaged 4.40%.
15-year FRMs averaged 2.97% this week with an average 0.6 point, down from last week when they averaged 3.06%. A year ago at this time, 15-year FRMs averaged 3.42%.
5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable rate mortgages (ARMs) averaged 2.92% this week with an average 0.4 point, down from last week when they averaged 2.97%. A year ago, 5-year ARMs averaged 3.10%.
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 2.44%.
Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said Friday that any increase in interest rates would likely be gradual. The markets reacted positively to the news, breaking a four-day losing streak Friday. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 34.43 points Friday to close at 17,712.66, down 2.29% for the week. The S&P 500 closed at 4.87 points Friday to 2,061.02. It fell 2.23% for the week. The NASDAQ was up 27.86 points to 4,891.22, down a weekly 2.69%.
The Week Ahead
Monday, March 30
Personal Income and Outlays (8:30 a.m.) – This measures all possible income sources as well as expenditures of the public.
Pending Home Sales Index (10:00 a.m. ET) – The National Association of Realtors developed the pending home sales index as a leading indicator of housing activity. Specifically, it’s a leading indicator of existing home sales, not new home sales.
Tuesday, March 31
S&P Case-Shiller HPI – The S&P Case-Shiller home pricing index tracks monthly changes in the value of residential real estate in 20 metropolitan regions across the U.S.
Consumer Confidence (10:00 a.m. ET) – The Conference Board compiles a survey of consumer attitudes on the economy. The headline Consumer Confidence Index is based on consumer perceptions of current business and employment conditions, as well as their expectations when considering business conditions, employment and income.
Wednesday, April 1
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. For the first time this month, the MBA will also track ice cream sales. (April fools!)
ISM Manufacturing Index (10:00 a.m.) – This index measures the general direction of manufacturing within the U.S. The qualitative survey of purchasing managers looks at production, new orders, order backlogs, inventories and supplier deliveries, among other factors.
Thursday, April 2
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. An increasing trend suggests a deteriorating labor market. The four-week moving average of new claims smooths out weekly volatility.
International Trade (8:30 a.m. ET) – International trade is composed of merchandise (tangible goods) and services. It’s available by export, import and trade balance for six principal end-use commodity categories and for more than 100 principal Standard International Trade Classification system commodity groupings.
Friday, April 3
Employment Situation (8:30 a.m. ET) – The employment situation report measures unemployment in the labor force as well as the sentiments of workers about the job market.
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