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New and Existing Home Sales were something to celebrate in November, while home prices continued to heat up.
The National Association of REALTORS® reported that Existing Home Sales in November edged higher by 0.7 percent from October to an annual rate of 5.61 million units, a hot nine-year high. November New Home Sales were also up 5.2 percent from October, coming in above expectations at an annual rate of 592,000, per the Commerce Department.
In new home construction, Building Permits and Housing Starts cooled in November. Building Permits were 4.7 percent below October and 6.6 percent below the same time last year. Permits for single-family units, however, were up 0.5 percent from October. Housing Starts, which measure when excavation begins on a home, were down 18.7 percent from October and down 6.9 percent from November 2015. November's numbers could be a bit distorted to the downside as builders may have held back on projects ahead of the election.
Home price gains continue across much of the country. CoreLogic, a leading provider of consumer, financial and property information, reported that home prices, including distressed sales, rose by 6.7 percent from October 2015 to October 2016. Looking ahead, prices are expected to rise 4.6 percent from October 2016 to October 2017.
Trends in Spending, Inflation
While homebuyers were paying more for homes, consumers, in general, pulled back on spending in November as other costs ticked up too.
The Commerce Department reported that Retail Sales rose 0.1 percent in November, down from the 0.6 percent recorded in October (which was revised lower from 0.8 percent). Sales were up 3.8 percent from November 2015.
Inflation is starting to trend higher at both the wholesale and consumer levels, upping costs for a variety of items. The Producer Price Index came in hotter than expected in November. The Consumer Price Index for November was in line with expectations, though it is edging higher when compared to November 2015.
Inflation is an important measure for home loan rates because it reduces the value of fixed investments like Mortgage Backed Securities. These are the type of Bond to which home loan rates are tied. When Mortgage Bond prices worsen, home loan rates also worsen and vice versa.
Both consumer spending and inflation were important data points for the Federal Open Market Committee as it wrapped up its final meeting of 2016 in December and announced an increase to the benchmark Fed Funds Rate. This is the rate at which banks lend to one another overnight, and the increase does not directly influence home loan rates. That being noted, the Fed indicated the potential for three additional rate increases to the Fed Funds Rate in 2017 based on economic indicators, a strengthening job market and inflation.
For now, although home loan rates edged higher at the end of 2016, they are still in attractive territory. If you have any questions about rates or loan products, please contact me. I'd be happy to help.