Mixed Signals in Housing Data

by August 19, 2009 • 0 comments

We got a mixed bag of economic data on the housing front this week that, on one hand disappointed, but upon closer analysis showed yet another sign that the battered housing market is recovering. On Tuesday the Commerce Department said that initial construction of new homes fell in July after surging in June. Housing starts fell 11% to a seasonally adjusted rate of 581,000 down form 587,000 in June. Commerce also reported that applications for new building permits also fell in July by a more modest 1.8% though both reports came in below economist’s forecasts.

One caveat, however, was that when broken out by construction type, housing starts for single-family homes actually posted a 1.7% gain in July and applications for single-family permits rose by 5.8%. This is the silver lining in these reports as single-family homes are considered the core of the housing market and the overall numbers include the hard hit multi-family sector.

Mortgage rates remain very attractive after last week’s meeting of the Federal Reserve’s Open Market Committee reassured investors that interest rates would remain low for the foreseeable future as inflationary pressures are anticipated to remain weak for some time. Stocks have also helped out rates as consumer spending and consumer sentiment figures released last week have cast more doubt about a speedy recovery for the economy.

The thirty-year conforming fixed rate is sitting right at 5.25% for single-family purchases and the fifteen-year is at 4.625%. Government rates have been just a tad higher at 5.50% and 5.00% respectively. As long doubts linger over the economy, we will continue to have the uncertainty factor that tends to maintain demand in the bond market and keep rates low. Without any inflationary pressures in the short-run, I don’t see any significant rise in rates over the coming weeks and we may even see some further easing.

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