NATIONAL MARKET UPDATE
Single-family housing starts rose 2.7% in March, up for the second month in a row for the first time since 2021. With the drop in multi-units, overall starts were off a tick, but homes under construction remain near the highest level on record.
That backlog of projects tells why building permits fell in March. The National Association of Home Builders sentiment index rose for the fourth month, though still less than half the builders see conditions as good.
Sales of existing homes cooled in March after their big February surge. The good news for buyers was that median prices fell 0.9% from March 2022 and are down 12.7% from their mid-2022 peak.
REVIEW OF LAST WEEK
SLIDING SIDEWAYS… Traders played a waiting game ahead of this week’s big batch of Q1 corporate earnings reports, so stocks slid mostly sideways, with the three major indexes ending down just a tick.
Disappointing data included the most continuing jobless claims since November 2021, the weakest Philadelphia Fed manufacturing index since May 2020, and the lowest Leading Economic Index since November 2020.
But we did get some better-than-expected corporate earnings, the first positive read in five months for the Empire State manufacturing index, and preliminary April IHS Markit Manufacturing and Services PMIs both showing growth.
The week ended with the Dow down 0.2%, to 33,809; the S&P 500 down 0.1%, to 4,134, and the Nasdaq down 0.4%, to 12,072.
Mimicking stocks, bond prices were off a tick overall, though the UMBS 5.5% ended UP 0.87, at $101.11. In Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey, the national average 30-year fixed mortgage rate edged up after five weeks of declines. Remember, mortgage rates can be extremely volatile, so check with your mortgage professional for up-to-the-minute information.
DID YOU KNOW… A recent study by Zillow found that some two-thirds of the millennial and Gen Z Americans polled say it’s still realistic to think they can buy a home in the next five years.
THIS WEEK’S FORECAST
NEW AND PENDING HOME SALES, HOME PRICES, INFLATION… Forecasts call for March New Home Sales to be off slightly, but for the Pending Home Sales index of signed contracts on existing homes to move up. The S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Index should show price increases leveling off in February. Inflation is expected to continue moderating in March according to PCE Prices, the Fed’s favorite measure.