Last week’s economic reports included readings on sales of new and previously-owned homes. Weekly readings on mortgage rates and jobless claims were also released.
New Home Sales Fall in May
New home sales dropped to their lowest reading in a year in May with 769,000 new single-family homes sold on a seasonally adjusted annual basis. May’s reading was 5.90 percent lower than April’s reading of 817,000 sales but was 9.20 percent higher year-over-year.
May’s decline in new home sales was caused by a 14.50 percent decrease in sales in the South; Sales rose by 33 percent in the Northeast and 4.80 percent in the West. The sales pace for new homes in the Midwest was unchanged.
Multiple factors caused fewer new home sales during what is typically a busy home-buying season. Rising costs of lumber, along with high demand for homes and affordability challenges presented obstacles to first-time and moderate-income buyers in recent months, but lumber prices fell in May. High demand for homes created opportunities for cash buyers who sidestepped making purchase offers contingent on mortgage approvals.
Analysts said that falling lumber prices will eventually provide relief for homebuyers, but short inventories of available homes coupled with high home prices continued to sideline first-time and moderate-income buyers. The median price for new homes rose to $374,000 as compared to $369,000 in April. Real estate pros reported a 5.1 month supply of available homes in May, which was the highest reading in a year.
Existing Home Sales Lower in May as Market Slows
Sales of previously-owned homes also fell in May; this was likely due to low inventories of available homes and the covid induced home-buying frenzy easing. Would-be home buyers have also left the market due to affordability challenges.
Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors® said: “Home sales fell moderately in May and are now approaching pre-pandemic activity.” Mr. Yun identified low inventories of available homes and affordability as the main obstacles facing prospective home buyers.
Jobless claims were mixed last week as new jobless claims rose to 412,000 first-time claims filed from the previous week’s reading of 375,000 initial claims filed. Continuing jobless claims were unchanged at 3.52 million claims filed.
Mortgage Rates Rise; Jobless Claims Fall
Freddie Mac reported higher mortgage rates last week; average mortgage rates surpassed three percent for the first time in 10 weeks. Rates for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages rose nine basis points to 3.02 percent; the average rate for 15-year fixed-rate mortgages rose 10 basis points to 2.34 percent. Rates for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages averaged 2.53 percent and were one basis point higher. Discount points averaged 0.70 percent for fixed-rate mortgages and 0.30 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.
New jobless claims fell to 411,000 claims filed last week as compared to the prior week’s reading of 418,000 first-time claims filed. Continuing jobless claims also fell with 3.39 million ongoing claims filed as compared to the prior week’s reading of 3.53 million continuing claims filed.
This week’s scheduled economic news includes readings from Case-Shiller Home Price Indices, and reports on pending home sales, construction spending, and consumer confidence. Weekly readings on mortgage rates and jobless claims will also be published.