QUOTE OF THE WEEK… “Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal.'” –Henry Ford, American industrialist
INFO THAT HITS US WHERE WE LIVE… The week ended with what some saw as an obstacle to reaching our goal of a full housing recovery. New Home Sales were reported down 13.4% in July to a 394,000 unit annual rate, well below consensus expectations. A disappointing report to be sure, but not the end of the recovery. We may have had one bad month, but we’re still on an upward trend, with new home sales up 6.8% and the median new home price up 8.3% versus a year ago. Also, the recent growth of existing home inventories is drawing buyers away from new homes.
Evidence of that buyer interest in existing homes came Wednesday with the news thatExisting Home Sales grew 6.5% in July, at a 5.39 million annual rate. That’s the strongest pace since November 2009, and sales are now up 17.2% from a year ago. The median price dipped slightly, but is still up 13.7% versus a year ago. It was great to see sales up in all regions of the country, with single family homes leading the way, although condo/coop sales also gained. The FHFA index of prices for homes financed by conforming mortgages gained 0.6% in June and is up 7.8% in the past year.
BUSINESS TIP OF THE WEEK… In social media marketing, grabbing people’s attention is the key to success. Say something different, show something special, teach something terrific. Or just look at your competitors’ efforts and do the opposite.
>> Review of Last Week
SECOND-GUESSING THE FED… It was a mixed week on Wall Street, as the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq snapped their two-week losing streaks, but the Dow dropped for the third week in a row. The focus was on how soon the Fed would begin tapering its bond buying program designed to keep interest rates down. Investors fear the economy is not strong enough yet for higher rates, but Fed meeting minutes released on Wednesday indicated tapering could begin in September. Freddie Mac’s chief economist observed, “Several members expressed confidence the housing recovery would be resilient in the face of higher rates.”
Investors were happier on Friday following comments at the Fed’s conference near Jackson Hole, Wyoming. One FOMC member felt they should proceed with caution, while another said there’s no reason to hurry tapering bond purchases. Friday’s deep drop in New Home Sales for July was looked at by the markets as another data point to support deferring tapering for now. The jobs situation watched closely by the Fed also remains iffy. Weekly Initial Unemployment Claims increased by 13,000, to 336,000, and Continuing Claims went up by 29,000 to just a tick under 3 million.
The week ended with the Dow down 0.5%, to 15011; the S&P 500 up 0.5%, to 1664; and the Nasdaq up 1.5%, to 3658.
Friday’s weak New Home Sales report for July boosted bonds on Friday. The FNMA 3.5% bond we watch ended the week up .09, to $99.10. Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey showed average fixed mortgage rates edging higher for the week ending August 22. Remember, mortgage rates can be extremely volatile, so check with your mortgage professional for up to the minute information. The Mortgage Bankers Association purchase loan index was up 1% for the week ending August 16.
DID YOU KNOW?… Residential construction employment is up 4.5% year-over-year, compared to overall employment growth of just 1.7%.
>> This Week’s Forecast
PENDING HOME SALES, GDP, MIDWEST MANUFACTURING UP, INFLATION OK… After their dip in June, Pending Home Sales are expected to recover in July. This measure of contracts signed on existing homes indicates the housing recovery should continue on course. Thursday’s GDP – Second Estimate is forecast to show a slightly higher growth rate for the economy in Q2, nudging just north of 2%.
The week ends with Core PCE Prices predicted to remain within the Fed’s inflation guidelines. The Chicago PMI should show manufacturing in the Midwest continuing to expand at a slightly higher pace.
>> The Week’s Economic Indicator Calendar
Weaker than expected economic data tends to send bond prices up and interest rates down, while positive data points to lower bond prices and rising loan rates.