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Sometimes you'll see coverage of economic data that conforms to certain template with a predictable details and word counts. Rarely, the word count will reflect the pace of change in the underlying data series. That's what you're dealing with here. Existing home sales have been depressed since late 2022 and bouncing along the bottom ever since. Pending Home Sales is just another way to view the same problem. Instead of closed transactions, it measures contract signings, thus providing a sort of sneak peak and next month's Existing Home Sales potential. With that in mind, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Existing Sales slip back down after the monthly increase reported last week. Here's why: For those who are uncomfortable without a higher word count, here are a few regional bullet points showing the month over month and year over year change (%): Northeast + 0.8% (down 5.5% annually) Midwest - 7.6% (down 11.6% annually) South - 7.3% (down 9.0% annually) West +0.5% (down 7.0% annually)
The week ending February 23 produced the third consecutive period of declining mortgage activity. The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) said its Market Composite Index, a measure of mortgage loan application volume, decreased 5.6 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis from one week earlier and was down 3,0 percent before adjustment. The Refinance Index declined 7.0 percent from the previous week’s level and was 1.0 percent lower than the same week one year ago. The refinance share of mortgage activity decreased to 31.2 percent from 32.6 percent the previous week. [refiappschart] The Purchase Index was down 5.0 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis and 1.0 percent before adjustment. Volume was 12.0 percent lower than the same week one year ago. [purchaseappschart] “Mortgage rates were little changed last week, with the 30-year conforming rate declining slightly to 7.04 percent but remaining about a quarter percentage point higher than the start of the year,” said Mike Fratantoni, MBA’s SVP and Chief Economist. “Higher rates in recent weeks have stalled activity, and last week it dropped more for those seeking FHA and VA refinances. Purchase activity is running 12 percent behind last year’s pace, but our JanuaryBuilder Application Survey results showed that applications to buy new homes were up 19 percent compared to last year. This disparity continues to highlight how the lack of existing inventory is the primary constraint to increases in purchase volume . However, mortgage rates above 7 percent sure don’t help.”
Despite the upward path of interest rates, both the CoreLogic Case-Shiller indices and the Housing Price Index (HPI) published by the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) showed continued appreciation in home prices last year, although not at the double-digit rate seen during the pandemic and its immediate aftermath. While all indices showed annual gains, all also indicated a softening of the market in recent months. The Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price NSA Index, which covers all nine U.S. census divisions, reported a 5.5 percent annual gain in December, a half-point more than the annual gain in November. The 10-City Composite was up 7.0 percent compared to 6.3 percent the prior month and the 20-City Composite posted a year-over-year increase of 6.1 percent, up from 5.4 percent in November. San Diego reported the highest year-over-year gain among the 20 cities, 8.8 percent, It was followed by Los Angeles and Detroit, each at 8.3 percent. Portland showed a 0.3 percent increase this month, holding the lowest rank and reported the smallest year-over-year growth, however, this reversed 11 consecutive monthly losses. Non-seasonally adjusted month-over-month changes were all negative. The U.S. National Index was down 0.4 percent while the 20-City and 10-City Composites dipped 0.3 percent and 0.2 percent, respectively. After seasonal adjustment, all three indices eked out gains of 0.2 percent. “U.S. home prices faced significant headwinds in the fourth quarter of 2023,” says Brian D. Luke, Head of Commodities, Real & Digital Assets at S&P Dow Jones Indices. “However, on a seasonally adjusted basis, the S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Indices continued its streak of seven consecutive record highs in 2023. Ten of 20 markets beat prior records.