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This chart shows housing market activity over the past two decades. Activity as measured by the Housing Market Index (HMI) improved in December. (SoldAtTheTop)

Housing market improves in December

By Guest blogger / 12.18.13

Today, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) released their latest Housing Market Index (HMI) showing that assessments of housing activity improved in December with the composite HMI index climbing to 58 while the "buyer traffic" index rose to a level of 44.

It's important to note that while the last few months results have suggested a pullback of sorts for home builder activity, the latest trend has been very strong and consistent with the overall recovery seen in the nation's housing markets.

 
Looking at the data, it is fairly clear that the last year of results indicate a major change in builder sentiment likely coming as a result of improvements in confidence given the notable rise in buyer traffic, reduced inventory and a more balanced monthly supply. 

This cart shows the average interest rates for 15- and 30-year fixed rate mortgages over the past five years. Mortgage rates fell slightly this week, but applications plunged. (SoldAtTheTop)

Mortgage applications plunged last week

By Guest blogger / 12.18.13

The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) publishes the results of a weekly applications survey that covers roughly 50 percent of all residential mortgage originations and tracks the average interest rate for 30 year and 15 year fixed rate mortgages as well as the volume of both purchase and refinance applications. 

The purchase application index has been highlighted as a particularly important data series as it very broadly captures the demand side of residential real estate for both new and existing home purchases. 

The latest data is showing that the average rate for a 30 year fixed rate mortgage (from FHA and conforming GSE data) declined 1 basis point to 4.49% since last week while the purchase application volume declined 6% and the refinance application volume declined 4% over the same period. 

The following chart shows the average interest rate for 30 year and 15 year fixed rate mortgages since 2006 as well as the purchase, refinance and composite loan volumes (click for larger dynamic full-screen version).

This chart shows the average mortgage rates for 30-year and 15-year fixed-rate mortgages since 2006. (SoldAtTheTop)

Mortgage rates rise to 4.5 percent

By Guest blogger / 12.13.13

The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) publishes the results of a weekly applications survey that covers roughly 50 percent of all residential mortgage originations and tracks the average interest rate for 30 year and 15 year fixed rate mortgages as well as the volume of both purchase and refinance applications. 

The purchase application index has been highlighted as a particularly important data series as it very broadly captures the demand side of residential real estate for both new and existing home purchases. 

The latest data is showing that the average rate for a 30 year fixed rate mortgage (from FHA and conforming GSE data) increased 11 basis points to 4.50% since last week while the purchase application volume increased 1% and the refinance application volume increased 2% over the same period. 

This chart shows the percent of the population receiving food stamps superimposed with the unemployment rate over the past eight years. Food stamps participation posted a slight year over year decline in 2013. (SoldAtTheTop)

Food stamp use falls for the first time since 2007

By Guest blogger / 12.11.13

As a logical consequence of the prolonged economic downturn, participation in the federal food stamp program is continuing to rise.

The latest data released by the Department of Agriculture indicated that in September, a whopping 359,389 individual recipients were removed from the food stamps program with the current total declining 0.85% on a year-over-year basis, the first annual decline seen since early 2007.

Individuals receiving food stamp benefits declined to 47.30 million which, as a ratio of the overall civilian non-institutional population now stands at a whopping 19.21% of the population.

Households receiving food stamps benefits declined by 94,170 to 22.99 million households with the current total rising 0.11% above the level seen a year earlier.

Total nominal benefit cost declined 1.63% on a year-over-year basis to $6.30 billion for the month.

This chart shows 15- and 30-year fixed mortgage rates over the past five years. Average 30-year fixed mortgage rates climbed to 4.39 percent this week. (SoldAtTheTop)

Mortgage rates climb to 4.39 percent (+video)

By Guest blogger / 12.06.13

The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) publishes the results of a weekly applications survey that covers roughly 50 percent of all residential mortgage originations and tracks the average interest rate for 30 year and 15 year fixed rate mortgages as well as the volume of both purchase and refinance applications. 

The purchase application index has been highlighted as a particularly important data series as it very broadly captures the demand side of residential real estate for both new and existing home purchases. 

The latest data is showing that the average rate for a 30 year fixed rate mortgage (from FHA and conforming GSE data) increased 7 basis points to 4.39% since last week while the purchase application volume declined 4% and the refinance application volume declined 18% over the same period. 

The following chart shows the average interest rate for 30 year and 15 year fixed rate mortgages since 2006 as well as the purchase, refinance and composite loan volumes (click for larger dynamic full-screen version).

This chart shows the monthly and annual change in nonfarm payrolls over the past decade. According to ADP, private employers added 215,000 jobs during the month of November. (SoldAtTheTop)

ADP: 215,000 jobs added in November

By Guest blogger / 12.05.13

Today, private staffing and business services firm ADP released the latest installment of their National Employment Report indicating that the situation for private employment in the U.S. improved in November as private employers added 215,000 jobs in the month bringing the total employment level 1.86% above the level seen in November 2012. 

Look for Friday’s (possibly postponed) BLS Employment Situation Report to likely show somewhat similar trends.

This chart shows show private residential construction spending since 2004, according to the US Census Bureau. (SoldAtTheTop)

Construction spending drops in October

By Guest blogger / 12.02.13

Today, the U.S. Census Bureau released their latest read of construction spending showing declines in October with total private construction spending falling since September while single family private residential construction spending and non-residential construction spending also declined on the month. 

On a month-to-month basis, total residential spending slumped 0.60% from September but still climbing 17.80% above the level seen in October 2012 remaining well below the peak level seen in 2006.

Single family construction spending declined 0.60% from September rising 17.80% since October 2012 remaining well below it's peak level reached in 2006.

Non-residential construction spending declined 0.50% from September falling 3.40% below the level seen in October 2012 and remaining a well below the peak level reached in October 2008.

This chart shows the monthly and annual percent change in US pending home sales since 2004. Pending home sales fell in October, but processing delays stemming from the government shutdown may be to blame, in part. (SoldAtTheTop)

Pending home sales fall. Shutdown to blame?

By Guest blogger / 11.26.13

Today, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) released their Pending Home Sales Report for October showing that pending home sales declined with the seasonally adjusted national index falling 0.6% from September and falling 1.6% below the level seen in October 2012. 

Meanwhile, the NARs chief economist Lawrence Yun suggested that the recent government shutdown impacted pending sales as a result of IRS delays in borrower income verification:

"The government shutdown in the first half of last month sidelined some potential buyers. In a survey, 17 percent of Realtors reported delays in October, mostly from waiting for IRS income verification for mortgage approval, ... We could rebound a bit from this level, but still face the headwinds of limited inventory and falling affordability conditions. Job creation and a slight dialing down from current stringent mortgage underwriting standards going into 2014 can help offset the headwind factors,"

The following chart shows the seasonally adjusted national pending home sales index along with the percent change on a year-over-year basis as well as the percent change from the peak set in 2005 (click for larger version). 

This chart shows the monthly and annual change in single family home sales since 2007. Sales have fallen in recent months following two years of fairly consistent growth. (SoldAtTheTop)

Existing home sales fall 3.2 percent in October

By Guest blogger / 11.21.13

Today, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) released their Existing Home Sales Report for October showing decreased sales with total home sales falling 3.2% since September but rising 6% above the level seen in October 2012. 

Single family home sales also declined falling 4.1% from September but rising 5.2% above the level seen in October 2012 while the median selling price increased a notable 12.7% above the level seen a year earlier.

Inventory of single family homes declined from September to 1.88 million units but climbed 1.1% above the level seen in October 2012 which, along with the sales pace, resulted in a monthly supply of 5.0 months. 

The following charts (click for full-screen dynamic version) show national existing single family home sales, median home prices, inventory and months of supply since 2005. 

This chart show's the NAHB's Housing market Index over the past two decades. Homebuilder activity went flat in November. (SoldAtTheTop)

Homebuilder activity flat in November

By Guest blogger / 11.20.13

Today, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) released their latest Housing Market Index (HMI), showing that assessments of housing activity went flat in November with the composite HMI index remaining at 54 while the "buyer traffic" index slumped to a level of 42.

It's important to note that while the last few months results have suggested a pullback of sorts for home builder activity, the latest trend has been very strong and consistent with the overall recovery seen in the nation's housing markets. 

Looking at the data, it is fairly clear that the last year of results indicate a major change in builder sentiment likely coming as a result of improvements in confidence given the notable rise in buyer traffic, reduced inventory and a more balanced monthly supply. 

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