Mortgage Rates Remained Stable Despite Most Recent Jobs Report

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The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) reported This Week in Real Estate that private residential construction spending increased by 0.7% in February, marking the third consecutive month of growth. The rise was primarily driven by increased spending in single-family construction, which saw a 1.4% increase, marking the tenth straight month of growth and a 17.2% increase compared to the previous year. In other economic news, the U.S. economy added more jobs than anticipated in March, with the unemployment rate dropping to 3.8% from 3.9%. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 303,000 jobs were added, surpassing economists’ expectations of 214,000. When job growth exceeds expectations, it typically triggers an increase in rates, with larger deviations resulting in more significant rate jumps, on average. Surprisingly, mortgage rates remained stable despite the robust jobs report. While the jobs report holds significant importance, this week’s Consumer Price Index (CPI) release is anticipated to have a greater impact, possibly explaining the modest movement in the mortgage market as investors await its results scheduled for Wednesday. Below are a few newsworthy events from the first week of April that influence our business:
WHAT ANOTHER STRONG JOBS REPORT MEANS FOR THE MORTGAGE INDUSTRY. The U.S. economy added another 303,000 jobs in March, exceeding economists’ expectations, and well above the average monthly gain of 231,000 jobs over the prior 12 months. Jobs increased in March, up from a revised rate of 270,000 in February, according to data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Friday. The national unemployment rate changed little at 3.8%, down from 3.9% in February. “The housing market is eager to see mortgage rates ease as rates have spent nearly a year above 6.5%, and have most recently been hovering above 6.7%,” Realtor.com economic data analyst Hannah Jones said in a statement. “However, mortgage rate relief is dependent on falling inflation and cooling employment growth. The March jobs data and upcoming inflation data will be important inputs for the FOMC ahead of the committee’s May interest rate decision.” While housing demand remains strong, certain prospective homebuyers will wait for rates to come down later this year. Read the full story here.
FEBRUARY GAINS FOR SINGLE-FAMILY CONSTRUCTION SPENDING. NAHB analysis of Census data shows that private residential construction spending rose 0.7% in February, the third month of gains in a row. The monthly increase in total construction spending is attributed to more single-family construction and improvements. Spending on single-family construction rose 1.4% in February. This marks the tenth straight month of increases since April 2023. The gain for single-family construction is aligned with the strong reading of single-family starts and rising builder sentiment, as the lack of existing home inventory and strong demand are boosting new construction. Compared to a year ago, spending on single-family construction was 17.2% higher. Read the full story here.
POWELL HINTS FED STILL ON COURSE TO CUT RATES THREE TIMES IN 2024. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said Wednesday that recent high inflation readings don’t “change the overall picture,” suggesting the central bank is still on track to lower its key interest three times this year if price increases continue to ease as expected. “The recent data do not, however, materially change the overall picture, which continues to be one of solid growth, a strong but rebalancing labor market, and inflation moving down toward 2% on a sometimes bubbly path,” Powell said in a speech at a forum at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. “We do not expect that it will be appropriate to lower our policy rate until we have greater confidence that inflation is moving sustainably down toward 2%,” Powell said. “Given the strength of the economy and progress on inflation so far, we have time to let the incoming data guide our decisions on policy.” Powell added that the Fed’s benchmark short-term rate has likely reached its peak, and it will probably “be appropriate to begin lowering the policy rate at some point this year.” The fed funds futures market expects the central bank to begin trimming the rate in June and to decrease it three times this year. Read the full story here.

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