Consumer Confidence Reaches Highest Level In 3 Years. The Conference Board reported This Week in Real Estate a third consecutive monthly increase in the January Consumer Confidence Index, reaching its highest level since December 2021. New data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that the labor market in 2024 began on a high note, surpassing economists’ predictions by approximately twice the expected amount. Concurrently, the unemployment rate remained stable at a historically low 3.7 percent. The Federal Reserve’s monetary policy committee maintained the federal funds rate at its January meeting, marking the fourth consecutive meeting with no changes. The January Fed statement suggests a current holding pattern for the central bank. Additionally, U.S. home prices experienced the fastest annual growth in 11 months in November. Below are a few newsworthy events from the final week of January that influence our business: HOME PRICES JUMPED BY THE MOST IN ALMOST A YEAR. A closely watched housing market barometer housing market barometer shows U.S. home prices in November posted their biggest annual gain in more than a year. S&P Dow Jones Indices’ CoreLogic Case-Shiller national home price index rose 5.1% over the 12 months ended in November. That’s the index’s fifth straight annual gain and the biggest since December 2022, according to data released this week. U.S. home prices are now up 45% since March 2020, the early days of the pandemic. The November reading was down 0.2% from October, marking the first monthly decline in the home price index since January 2023. Read the full story here. U.S. JOBS REPORT SURPRISES TO THE UPSIDE. The U.S. economy added significantly more jobs than expected during the first month of the year. Jobs increased by 353,000 in January, up from a revised rate of 333,000 in December, according to data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Friday. January’s reading far exceeded the monthly average of 255,000 new jobs per month in 2023. Meanwhile, the national unemployment rate remained unchanged for the third month in a row at 3.7%. This month’s surprisingly strong employment report will likely delay any interest rate cuts by the Fed and push them back to May, according to economists. “The strong job market is good news for the spring buying season as higher household incomes are a necessary component, but it also means that mortgage rates are not likely to drop much further at this point,” Mortgage Bankers Association senior vice president and chief economist Mike Fratantoni said in a statement. Read the full story here. FEDERAL RESERVE HOLDS INTEREST RATES STEADY AS CONSUMER CONFIDENCE IMPROVES AND INFLATION SLOWS. The Federal Reserve announced Wednesday it was keeping interest rates at their current levels amid improving consumer confidence and a declining inflation rate. traders believe the economy remains strong enough that they have estimated the probability of the Fed’s first-rate cut happening in March at 61.5% – down from a 73% likelihood a month ago. If the Fed does indeed reduce interest rates in March, it will have been two years since it first began raising them to fight inflation. Not everyone is that optimistic about an imminent rate cut. Meanwhile, two gauges of consumer confidence show that Americans are starting to feel more upbeat about the economy. On Tuesday, the Conference Board’s consumer confidence index reached a two-year high on what the business group said was “surging views of current conditions” and “declining pessimism about [the] future.” That followed a reading earlier this month from the University of Michigan’s consumer confidence survey that reached its highest level since 2021. Read the full story here.
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