A number of economic reports released last week indicate mixed economic progress. The 20-City Home Price Index released by S&P Case Shiller showed that August home prices rose, but New Home Sales dropped in September. The Federal Open Market Committee of the Federal Reserve indicated that it may reserve the target federal funds range at its next meeting in December.
Case-Shiller Reports Higher Home Prices in August
August’s 20-City Home Price Index issued by S&P Case Shiller showed that average home prices rose in 18 of 20 cities with Denver, Colorado and San Francisco, California posting year-over-year increases of 10.70 percent. Portland, Oregon closely followed with a year-over-year gain of 9.40 percent. Cities lagging in home price gains were Chicago, Illinois and Washington, D.C. with year-over-year gains of 1.90 percent and New York City with a year-over-year gain of 1.80 percent.
Higher home prices were seen by analysts as contributing to a lag in New Home Sales in September. The Commerce Department reported that pending home sales dropped by -2.30 percent as compared to August’s reading of -1.40 percent. Fewer home sales in September were consistent with the winding-down of the peak spring and summer home buying season, but analysts cited higher home prices and concerns about cooling economic trends as factors contributing to slowing home sales.
Federal Reserve Hints at December Rate Hike
Economists and media have been trying to predict when the Federal Reserve will raise its target federal funds range, which is currently set at 0.00 to 0.25 percent. The Federal Open Market Committee of the Fed indicated in its post-meeting statement that rates could be raised in December, when the committee meets for the final time in 2015. While no specifics were given, eyes and ears will be paying close attention for precursors of a December rate hike. When the Fed does raise rates, mortgage rates and other consumer lending rates can be expected to increase as well.
October Consumer Sentiment decreased to a reading of 97.6 as compared to an expected reading of 101.6 and September’s reading of 102.6; this suggests that consumers are increasingly wary of economic conditions as well as potentially higher interest rates.
Mortgage Rates Mixed, Jobless Claims Rise
Freddie Mac reported that the average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage fell by three basis points to 3.76 percent. Discount points were unchanged at an average of 0.60 percent. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage was unchanged at 2.98 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was also unchanged at 2.89 percent. Average discount points were 0.60 for fixed rate mortgages and 0.40 percent for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage.
Jobless claims were slightly higher with a reading of 260,000 new claims filed against expectations of 265,000 new claims and last week’s reading of 259,000 new claims filed.
This week’s scheduled economic reports include reports on Construction Spending, ADP Payrolls, the Non-Farm Payrolls report and the National Unemployment report. These reports are will provide information related to general economic conditions and labor trends.