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Last week’s economic reports included NAHB Housing Market Index, Commerce Department readings on housing starts and building permits issued. The National Association of Realtors® released data on existing home sales; Freddie Mac released average mortgage rates and new jobless claims were also released.

Builder Sentiment Dips in April, but Remains Strong

The National Association of Home Builders reported that home builder sentiment dipped three points in April to an index reading of 78. Any reading over 50 indicates that more builders are positive about housing market conditions than not. Builders continued to cite concerns including shortages of labor and buildable lots and increasing materials costs.

Builder confidence in housing market conditions do not always reflect building activity. March housing starts were lower at 1.215 million starts on a year-over-year basis. February’s reading was 1.303 million starts; the expected reading for April was 1.238 million starts. Readings for housing starts include single family homes of one to four units and multifamily complexes with five or more units. Single-family housing starts were 6.20 percent lower than in February at a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 821,000 starts.

While housing starts were lower in March, more building permits were issued in March than in February. 1,260 million permits were issued in March on a seasonally-adjusted annual basis as compared to February’s reading of 1.216 million building permits issued.

Mortgage Rates Fall, Existing Home Sales Up

Mortgage rates fell below three percent according to Freddie Mac. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage dropped from 4.08 percent to 3.97 percent; the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage fell by nine basis point from 3.34 percent to 3.23 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was eight basis points lower at 3.10 percent. Discount points averaged 0.50 percent for fixed rate mortgages and 0.40 percent for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage. Lower mortgage rates are good news for home buyers challenged by rapidly rising home prices based on high demand and low supplies of homes for sale.

Home buyers persisted in March despite higher home prices. Sales of pre-owned homes hit a 10 year high in March as 5.71 million pre-owned homes were sold on a seasonally-adjusted annual basis. As compared to February’s reading of 5.48 million pre-owned homes sold, analysts expected a reading of 5.65 million sales of pre-owned homes in March.

New Jobless Claims Rise

First-time jobless claims were higher last week with a reading of 244,000 new claims as compared to the prior week’s reading of 234,000 new jobless claims. Week-to-week readings for new jobless claims tend to be volatile, but last week’s reading remained well below the benchmark of 300,000 new claims filed.

Whats Ahead

This week’s economic news includes readings on new and pending home sales, Case-Shiller Home Price Index reports, along with weekly reports on average mortgage rates and new jobless claims.

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