Last week’s economic releases included minutes from the most recent FOMC meeting, a report on January sales of pre-owned homes and weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims.
FOMC Minutes: Economic Strength Hints at More Rate Hikes
Minutes of the January 30-31 meeting of the Fed’s Federal Open Market Committee indicated that most Committee members believe that inflation will reach the Fed’s goal of 2.00 percent. Members found that the economy was stronger since 2017 and expected “a gradual upward trajectory of the federal funds rate would be appropriate.”
While analysts expect three rate hikes in 2018, the FOMC voted to hold the federal funds rate at 1.25 to 1.50 percent. Most FOMC members expected that the goal of 2 percent inflation was within reach in 2018.
Analysts were not as confident about reaching to Fed’s inflation goal. Instead, the said that in response to tax cuts, the labor market could exceed full employment and lead to higher wages and surging inflation.
A minority of FOMC members said that inflation could fall short of the Fed’s goal as retailers would compete by lowering prices.
Existing Home Sales Drop in January
According to the National Association of Realtors®, sales of previously-owned homes dipped from a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 5.56 million sales to 5.38 million sales in January. This reading was the lowest in more than three years; it could indicate that the shortage of homes for sale has reached critical mass.
Months of short supplies of homes for sale have caused rapidly rising home prices, buyer competition and fewer choices of homes for would-be buyers. Real estate pros have repeatedly said the only solution to shortages of available homes is that builders must build more homes but increasing materials costs and labor shortages have caused construction pace to lag demand for homes. Affordability continued to weigh on moderate-income and first-time buyers.
Mortgage Rates Rise for 7th Consecutive Week
Freddie Mac reported higher mortgage rates on average last week. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was two basis points higher at 4.40 percent; rates for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage averaged one basis point higher at 3.85 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was two basis points higher at 3.65 percent.
New jobless claims dropped by 7000 first-time claims and regained a 45-year low. 222,000 new claims were filed last week as compared to expectations of 229,000 new claims and 230,000 new claims filed the prior week. Real estate pros and analysts cite strong labor markets as driving housing markets and high demand for homes. Workers with job security and options for advancement in their careers are more likely to consider investing in a home than paying rising rents.
This week’s scheduled economic releases include Case-Shiller Home Price Indices, readings on new and pending home sales and construction spending. Weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims will be released along with a report on consumer sentiment.