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Home Builders Remain Confident in JanuaryHome builders maintained December’s confidence level according to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Housing Market Index for January. The latest reading of 60 mirrored December’s reading, but was two points lower than expected. Readings of more than 50 indicate that more builders were confident about housing conditions than those who were not.

Although January’s reading fell shy of October’s reading of 65, which was a ten-year high for the home builder index. Any reading in the low 60’s suggests gradual improvement in housing market conditions according to NAHB. While December’s year-over-year reading for new home sales was 14 percent higher than in December 2014, home builders cited industry challenges including cost of new lots and a scarce labor force. The Fed’s recent rate hike may have influenced builder confidence as higher mortgage rates would sideline some buyers.

National unemployment reached a seven-year low, which is pushing wages upward. Labor market readings are important to would-be home buyers, who typically need to be confident about jobs before investing in a home. Demand for homes continues to drive new home prices up and contributes to home builder confidence levels. The flip side of high demand is that rising home prices can price some would-be home buyers out of the market.

Components of Housing Market Index Mixed

The NAHB Housing Market Index readings are based on three components. January’s readings were mixed. Builder confidence in current market conditions rose two points to 67, but builder confidence in market conditions over the next six months slipped three points to 63. Builder confidence in buyer traffic in new home developments slipped two points to 44; this was likely due in part to winter weather.

In related news, the University of Michigan released January’s Consumer Sentiment Index last week. Consumer sentiment rose from December’s reading of 92.60 to 03.30 and surpassed the expected reading of 93.0. Low inflation drove consumer confidence according to analysts. Low wage gains were offset by falling inflation rates. Strong consumer confidence readings suggest that more home buyers could enter the market as worries about economic conditions ease.

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Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week September 8 2015Last week’s economic news included reports on construction spending, private and public sector employment data and a report from the Fed indicating that any move to raise interest rates may be delayed. The details:

Construction Spending Meets Expectations, Beige Book Indicates Wage Pressures

Analysts said that construction is gaining strength and could soon be the strongest sector of the economy. Construction spending for July met growth expectations of 0.70 percent as compared to June’s reading of 0.10 percent. The Commerce Department reported that this reading translated to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $1.98 trillion, which was the highest rate of spending in the construction sector since May 2008.

Residential construction spending was up 10.80 percent year-over-year in July, with both single-family and multifamily construction posting double digit gains.

The Federal Reserve issued its Beige Book report last Wednesday, which indicated that wage pressures in many of the 13 Fed districts could cause rising inflation, which the Fed has cited as a component in any decision to raise the federal funds rate. The Fed has set a benchmark of 2.0 percent inflation as an indication for raising rates, but doesn’t expect to see this reading in the short term.

Higher wages increase consumers’ discretionary spending, which would contribute to more hiring and increasing demand for goods and services.

Mortgage Rates, Weekly Jobless Claims Higher

Freddie Mac reported that average mortgage rates rose across the board last week. The rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage rose by five basis points to 3.89 percent; the rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage wash higher by three basis points and the rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage also rose by three basis points to 2.93 percent. Average discount points were unchanged at 0.60 for fixed rate mortgages and 0.40 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

Weekly jobless claims rose to 282,000 new claims against last week’s reading of 270,000 new claims and expectations of 275,000 new jobless claims. While this was the highest reading for new jobless claims in since late June, the reading for new weekly jobless claims has remained below the 300,000 benchmark for the last six months.

The four-week rolling average of new jobless claims rose by 3250 new claims to an average of 275,500 new claims. Analysts said that layoffs are declining and that workers who lose their jobs are finding new employment quickly.

Continuing jobless claims fell by 9000 to a reading of 2.26 million for the week that ended August 22.

ADP Employment Rises, Non-Farm Payrolls, National Unemployment Rate Fall

Private sector payrolls increased by 190,000 jobs in August as compared to July’s reading of 170,000 jobs according to ADP. This supports the trend of stronger hiring seen by economists in recent weeks. The government reported that Non-farm payrolls, which include public and private sector jobs, fell to 173,000 jobs against July’s reading of 245,000 jobs.

The Commerce Department reported that the national unemployment rate dipped to 5.10 percent in August against expected reading of 5.20 percent and July’s reading of 5.30 percent. The declining unemployment rate further supports economic growth and stronger labor markets.

What’s Ahead

This week’s economic reports include job openings, the usual weekly reports on new jobless claims and mortgage rates and a report on consumer sentiment.