Last Wednesday, the Commerce Department reported that Housing Starts dropped 11.7% in October. This drop put Housing Starts at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 519,000, their lowest level in 18 months. But most of the fall off came from a 43.5% decline in multifamily construction, a volatile part of the market. Single-family building, accounting for more than 80% of all starts, was off just 1.1%, to 436,000 units. And September single-family starts were revised UP to a 2.1% gain. Meanwhile, Building Permits, which reflect builders' views of the future, were UP 0.5% to 550,000, another hopeful sign.
Overall, trading today has been a range-bound affair with prices above yesterday’s lows and below yesterday’s highs. Traders call this an “inside day” which is simply a neutral pattern. Expecting mortgage pricing to hold steady is a pretty good bet.
As promised, last week's reports gave us a complete picture of the housing market in August. Housing Starts rose 10.5% month-over-month to a 598,000 annual rate, well ahead of the expected 550,000 number. Building Permits, which reflect builder sentiment further out, grew a more modest 1.8% month-over-month to a slightly smaller 569,000 annual rate. Thursday, Existing Home Sales came in UP 7.6% over July, at a 4.13 million annual rate. But let's remember, July was a record low, so this gain still left sales down 19% from August a year ago. The median price for Existing Homes, however, ticked up 0.8% year-over-year, as reported by the National Association of Realtors.
The chance for additional Treasury purchases by the Fed helped Austin mortgage rates improve early this week. Stronger than expected economic growth data trimmed the gains later in the week. The net result was that Austin mortgage rates ended the week a little lower.
Housing starts were UP 1.7% for July to a 546,000 annual pace, but this was below expectations and all the gain came from a big boost in multi-family starts. Single-family starts were off 4.2%, declining for the third straight month. Looking at the market further out, we saw new building permits down 3.1% for July to a 565,000 annual rate.
Tuesday, June Housing Starts came in down 5.0% from May to a 549,000 annual rate. This was below expectations, but still up 15.1% from the low they hit in April 2009. Most of the drop came from volatile multi-family starts. Single-family starts were down a mere 0.7%. Most significantly, housing completions shot up 26.2% in June, the biggest monthly gain going back to the late 1960's. Builders clearly shifted focus from starting to finishing, as they pushed to close sales qualifying for the homebuyer tax credit. Finally, Building Permits were UP 2.1% for June, beating expectations, so things are looking up for the months ahead.
Last Tuesday the National Association of Realtors (NAR) reported the Q1 median price for existing homes was up in 91 out of 152 metro areas compared to a year ago, showing the housing market is starting to stabilize. This was a nice gain over Q4 of last year when prices were up in only about 40% of the cities tracked. Even more encouraging, the percentage price increases in 29 cities were in double-digits.
riday, March Housing Starts came in above expectations, UP 1.6%, at an annual rate of 626,000 units. Throw in revisions to February and starts were UP 8.9%. Single-family starts were down a tad for the month, but for all of Q1, they were UP at a 41% annual rate versus the Q4 average. New Building Permits for March also beat estimates, UP 7.5% to a 685,000 annual rate. Some experts feel we're in the early stage of a substantial rebound in home building. And they point out that the pace of building is still slow enough that inventories can come down even as new construction increases.
As you can see, our best case is for Austin mortgage rates to hold steady so use this time to be a little defensive into the FOMC announcement.
Bill Gross, Pimco’s bond god, said the decisions were based on their view of the dollar’s direction (negative) and increased government debt. All of the above has been good for mortgage pricing and bad for your 401K.