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Case-Shiller: Home Price Growth Expands to All Metro AreasMarch home prices were again dominated by the Northwest with Portland, Oregon posting a year-over-year gain of 12.30 percent followed by Seattle, Washington’s year-over-year gain of 10.80 percent.

Denver, Colorado rounded out the top three cities with a year-over-year gain of 10.00 percent. San Francisco, California, which consistently posted double-digit gains in recent months slipped to a year-over-year gain of 8.50 percent. This may indicate that prices in high cost metro areas are nearing their peak.

S&P Dow Jones Chair David M Blitzer attributed outsized price gains to the shortest supply of available homes since the mid-1980s. Homes for sale account for only two percent of U.S. households. To put rapidly increasing home prices in context, the S&P Case-Shiller 20-City Home Price Index was 11.50 percent below its peak in March, 2006.

Case-Shiller’s 20-City Home Price Index posted a 5.40 percent gain year over year, which was equal to its year-over-year price gain in March 2015. Month-to month home prices gained 0.90 percent; analysts had estimated year-year growth of 5.10 percent and a month-to-month gain of 0.70 percent. All cities in the 20-City Housing Market Index posted gains in month-to-month and year-over-year readings.

Pending Home Sales Exceed Expectations

Pending home sales in April supported trends noted in Case-Shiller’s 20-City Home Price Index. Regional results for pending home sales in April rose by 1.20 percent in the Northeast while pending sales were unchanged in the Midwest. The South posted pending sales gain of 6.80 percent and the West recovered with an 11.40 percent rise in pending sales for April.

Based on April’s pending home sales readings, real estate pros expect a jump in closed sales in May. Home buyer demand remains resilient according to Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors. Mr. Yun also said that the key to continued expansion of home sales is providing buyers sufficient supplies of affordable homes. Builders may provide relief by increasing construction, but have cited shortages of labor and developed land as constraints on new construction. Active demand for high-end homes has also focused construction on higher priced homes.

Mortgage applications are also increasing, which indicates that more homes are being purchased by owner-occupant buyers than investors. Relatively low mortgage rates and waning investor interest could provide buyers relying on financing a leg-up in competing for available homes. 

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What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - May 31, 2016Last week’s economic reports included new home sales, pending home sales along with weekly mortgage rates and new jobless claims.

New Home Sales Surpass Expectations

Sales of new homes surpassed expectations and the prior month’s reading. April’s reading of 619,000 sales exceeded expectations of 523,000 new homes sold and 531,000 new homes sold in March.  New home sales rose by 16.60 percent on a seasonally adjusted annual basis, which was the highest increase in 24 years. 

Analysts said that April’s new home sales indicate that builders are increasing production of new homes to meet high demand for homes. Short inventories of available homes are credited with driving up demand and home prices. Buyers seeking family homes are contending with investor buyers and cash buyers in popular markets.

With affordability becoming limited in many cities, first time and moderate income homebuyers aren’t buying as many homes as they once did. This development contributes to slowing markets, as move-up buyers generally rely on first time buyers to purchase their homes. 

Shortages of available homes has pressured home builders to break ground on new home construction projects, but builders continue to cite labor shortages and a lack of buildable lots as reasons why they aren’t building homes as fast as homes are needed. 

Pending Home Sales Numbers Suggest Peak Buying Season Returns

Pending home sales were also higher than forecast in April with a reading of 5.10 percent as compared to expectations of 0.80 percent for April and the March reading of 1.60 percent. Pending home sales gauge future closings for home sales and reached their highest level in 10 years and posted a year-over-year gain of 4.60 percent. 

Three of four regional readings for pending home sales posted gains, with home sales in the Midwest posting slower growth. On a year-over-year basis, he South posted a gain of 6.80 percent and the Northeast posted a gain of 1.20 percent. The West saw a jump in pending sales with a reading of 11.40 percent after posting a negative reading in March. 

April’s expansion in new and pending sales suggests that the peak home buying season is back.

Mortgage Rates Rise; New Jobless Claims Fall

Freddie Mac reported higher average mortgage rates. The rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was six basis points higher at 3.64 percent; the rate for a 15-year mortgage rose eight basis points to 2.89 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage rose seven points to 2.87 percent. Discount points averaged 0.50 percent for all mortgage types. 

New jobless claims dipped last week to 268,000 as compared to an expected reading of 275,000 new claims and the prior week’s reading of 278,000 new claims. Analysts said that New York school employees that were eligible for benefits boosted jobless claims earlier in May due to a non-typical law that allows some school workers to draw unemployment during school closures such as spring break or labor disputes.

Whats Ahead This Week

This week’s scheduled economic news includes Case-Shiller Home Price Indices, construction spending and reports on inflation, core inflation and consumer sentiment. No reports were scheduled for Monday due to the Memorial Day holiday.