Producer Price Index (PPI): Final demand was up 0.2% in March after being down 0.5% in February. Energy prices were up 1.5%. Food prices were down 0.8% on the month. Excluding food and energy, PPI was up 0.2% for the month. On the year, producer prices were down 0.8%.
Retail Sales: Retail sales were up 0.9% in March. A big portion of the gains were in motor vehicles, which gained 2.7% last month. There were also gains in furniture, clothing and department stores. Retail and food service sales were up 1.3% compared to last year. Retail sales excluding vehicles and gas were up 0.5% month to month.
MBA Mortgage Applications: Applications were down 2.3% overall this week as the purchase index fell 3.0% and the refinance index fell 2.0% for the week. The average 30-year-fixed mortgage rate was up just 1 basis point to 3.87% this week.
Industrial Production: Production was down 0.6% in March as utilities were down 5.9%. Manufacturing only rose 0.1% for the month. Durable goods production was up 0.2% because of increases in orders for motor vehicles and parts. Primary metals dropped 3.2%. Nondurable goods production was up 0.1%. Mining was down 0.7% for the month. Production capacity utilization was at 78.4% in March.
Housing Market Index: Home builders expressed increasing confidence in the housing market as the index increased 4 points to 56. There was strength in the expectations component, coming in at 64. Present sales were up 3 points to 61. Meanwhile, traffic of first-time home buyers is up 4 points to 41. Regionally, scores in the South, West and Midwest were in the mid to high 50s. The Northeast trailed, coming in at 43.
Housing Starts: Housing starts came in at 926,000 this month, well below consensus expectations for a 1.04 million level. However, these numbers were still up 2.0% after falling 15.3% in February. There were strong gains in the Midwest and Northeast due to improving weather, while the South and West saw declines. Starts were down 2.5% from a year ago. Meanwhile, permits fell a monthly 5.7% to 1.039 million, below the 1.085 million consensus. Permits were up 2.9% from this time last year.
Jobless Claims: Jobs numbers were mixed this week. Initial claims were 12,000 higher at 294,000. However, the four-week average was up only 250, coming in at 282,750. Meanwhile, continuing claims fell 40,000 in the week of April 4 to come in at 2.268 million. This represents a 15-year low. The four-week average was down 33,000 to 2.329 million.
Consumer Price Index (CPI): A rise in energy prices has boosted the CPI, up 0.2% in the month of March. Gasoline prices were up 3.9%. Meanwhile, food prices were down 0.2%. Prices for shelter, medical care, new and used vehicles, apparel and household furnishings and operations all picked up in March. Airline fares saw their fourth decline in the last five months.
Consumer Sentiment: Sentiment numbers were up 2.9 points in the mid-April reading to come in at 95.9. There was a 3.2-point gain in the current conditions component to 108.2. Future expectations were up to 88 from 85.3.
In the last week, mortgage rates moved up fractionally if they moved at all. Meanwhile, the Federal Housing Finance Agency announced late last week that they would be making some changes to guarantee fees for some borrowers. While not affecting things much overall, interest rates may push slightly higher for some borrowers, while the cost of private mortgage insurance goes down for others.
30-year fixed-rate mortgages (FRMs) averaged 3.67% with an average 0.7 point for the week ending April 16, 2015, up from last week when they averaged 3.66%. A year ago at this time, 30-year FRMs averaged 4.27%.
15-year FRMs this week averaged 2.94% with an average 0.5 point, up from last week when they averaged 2.93%. A year ago at this time, 15-year FRMs averaged 3.33%.
5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable rate mortgages (ARMs) averaged 2.88% this week with an average 0.5 point, up from last week when they averaged 2.83%. A year ago, 5-year ARMs averaged 3.03%.
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%.
The markets were down this week due to events overseas. The Dow Jones industrial average was down 279.47 points on Friday, finishing at 17,826.30, down 1.3% for the week. Losing 23.81 points Friday, the S&P 500 was down 1.0% last week, closing at 2,081.18. The NASDAQ was down 75.98 points for a 1.3% weekly loss, closing at 4,931.81.
The Week Ahead
Wednesday, April 22
MBA Mortgage Applications (7:00 a.m. ET) – The mortgage applications index measures applications at mortgage lenders. This is a leading indicator for single-family home sales and housing construction.
FHFA House Price Index (9:00 a.m. ET) – The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) House Price Index (HPI) covers single-family housing, using data provided by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The House Price Index is derived from transactions involving conforming conventional mortgages purchased or securitized by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.
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 resales) account for a larger share of the market than new homes and indicate housing market trends.
Thursday, April 23
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, as well as the number of continuing claims. A four-week average of both measures helps smooth weekly volatility.
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.
Friday, April 24
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.
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