Existing Home Sales Jump

By Taff Weinstein at

Existing Home Sales Jump

Existing home sales increased strongly in February, experiencing the largest month-over-month gain since December 2015, according to the National Association of Realtors®. Three of the four major U.S. regions saw sales gains, while the Northeast remained unchanged from last month.

Total existing home sales are completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops.  Total sales shot up 11.8 percent from January to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.51 million in February. 

Lawrence Yun, NAR's chief economist, credited a number of aspects to the jump in February sales. "A powerful combination of lower mortgage rates, more inventory, rising income and higher consumer confidence is driving the sales rebound."

The median existing-home price for all housing types in February was $249,500, up 3.6 percent from February 2018 ($240,800). February's price increase marks the 84th straight month of year-over-year gains.

Total housing inventory at the end of February increased to 1.63 million, up from 1.59 million existing homes available for sale in January, a 3.2 percent increase from 1.58 million a year ago. Unsold inventory is at a 3.5-month supply at the current sales pace, down from 3.9 months in January but up from 3.4 months in February 2018.

Properties remained on the market for an average of 44 days in February, down from 49 days in January but up from 37 days a year ago. Forty-one percent of homes sold in February were on the market for less than a month.

Source: NAR

What Happened to Rates Last Week?

Mortgage backed securities (FNMA 4.00 MBS) gained +50 basis points (BPS) from last Friday's close which caused fixed mortgage rates to move lower compared to the previous week.

Overview:  Mortgage rates dropped to their lowest levels due to three main factors: Weak manufacturing data out of Asia and Europe, a very "dovish" Federal Reserve on Wednesday, and the continued train wreck that is Brexit.  The weak economic data and geo-political instability had money flowing into the safe-haven of our U.S. bonds.

 

The Talking Fed:  As expected, they kept their key interest rate unchanged.  However, they certainly had a more "dovish" tilt to their outlook compared to their last projections in December.
They had three key releases last week:
Read the Official Fed Policy Statement 
Read their Economic Projections here.
Read their Balance Sheet Normalization plans here.
Here are some key points:

  • Fed leaves rates unchanged, says economic growth has slowed form Q4, even as labor market still strong, job gains solid
  • As expected, the Fed will taper its balance-sheet rolloff, sees it ending by the of September
  • Fed signals no rate hike this year with one increase in 2020
  • 11 officials for zero 2019 hikes, four for one hike
  • Federal Open Market Committee still sees a sustained economic expansion, strong labor market conditions, and inflation near 2% objective as the most likely outcomes; will be “patient” in determining what rate moves may be appropriate, given global economic and financial developments and “muted” inflation pressures.
  • Says overall inflation on a 12-month basis has declined, largely due to lower energy prices, while core gauge remains close to 2 percent; now says market-based measures of inflation compensation have remained low in recent months; continues to see survey-based measures of longer-term inflation expectations as little changed
  • The Committee intends to continue to allow its holdings of agency debt and agency mortgage-backed securities (MBS) to decline, consistent with the aim of holding primarily Treasury securities in the longer run.
    • Beginning in October 2019, principal payments received from agency debt and agency MBS will be reinvested in Treasury securities subject to a maximum amount of $20 billion per month; any principal payments in excess of that maximum will continue to be reinvested in agency MBS.
    • Principal payments from agency debt and agency MBS below the $20 billion maximum will initially be invested in Treasury securities across a range of maturities to roughly match the maturity composition of Treasury securities outstanding; the Committee will revisit this reinvestment plan in connection with its deliberations regarding the longer-run composition of the SOMA portfolio.
    • It continues to be the Committee's view that limited sales of agency MBS might be warranted in the longer run to reduce or eliminate residual holdings. The timing and pace of any sales would be communicated to the public well in advance.

Taking it to the House: A block-buster Existing Home Sales Report for February with one of the largest monthly gains on record. 5.510M annualized units beat out estimates of 5.10M and represents a 11.2% MOM gain. The March NAHB Housing Market Index remained at 62, the market was expecting 63. Any reading above 50 is positive and above 60 is very strong.

What to Watch Out For This Week:


The above are the major economic reports that will hit the market this week. They each have the ability to affect the pricing of Mortgage Backed Securities and therefore, interest rates for Government and Conventional mortgages. I will be watching these reports closely for you and let you know if there are any big surprises.

It is virtually impossible for you to keep track of what is going on with the economy and other events that can impact the housing and mortgage markets.  Just leave it to me, I monitor the live trading of Mortgage Backed Securities which are the only thing government and conventional mortgage rates are based upon.

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