We have had some good news on the housing front over the past week as the National Association of Homebuilders reported that builder confidence rose in September for the third consecutive month to its highest level since May of 2008. The Census Bureau also released a report on August home starts that showed builders broke ground on 598,000 new homes, up 1.5% from July.
The good news was tempered, however, by a surprising drop in the number of single family home starts. While overall starts were up, thanks to a resurgence in multi-family property starts, single-family starts actually fell 3% in August. Some analysts suggested the drop in single-family home starts could simply be an anomaly and point to the overall report as yet another sign that the housing market has bottomed.
Mortgage rates have continued to defy the rally in the stock market with the benchmark conforming thirty-year, fixed-rate settling in at 5.125% with no points. The fifteen year fixed also improved to just under 4.50% as the bond market continues to bet that the Federal Reserve will keep rates low for the foreseeable future. Fed Chairman, Ben Bernanke, has helped reaffirm this belief by stating that while the economy may be approaching the end of the recession the overall economy, and particularly job growth, are likely to remain weak for some time. With the apparent lack of any inflationary pressures on the horizon, the Fed is determined to keep monetary policy very accommodating to insure the economy does not slip back into recession. Over the short-run, I expect mortgage rates to remain in their current narrow range and could ease even further.
One late report out this week from the IRS said that, so far, 1.4 million first-time homebuyers have taken advantage of the $8,000 tax credit. The credit is due to expire on November 30th though there are already some calls from Congress that it should be extended. I’ll keep you posted.Print Story