Numb. That’s probably a pretty good way to describe the markets right now. Hurricanes Harvey and Irma are starting to have an impact on economic data. Every week, North Korea does something a little more unusual, but it’s gotten to the point where traders don’t really react.
Economic news isn’t even causing a blip on the radar of investors, but we did get a few key indicators of how things are going on that front. Let’s get into it.
Quicken Loans Home Price Perception Index (HPPI)
Homeowners nationwide overestimated the value of their properties by 1.35% in August. Still, that’s an improvement over July, when they estimated 1.55% above appraiser opinions. Homeowners and appraisers are closest to true parity in the West, where estimates are just 1.17% higher than those of appraisers. Southern homeowners are 1.32% high in their estimates. Homeowners in the Midwest and Northeast have estimates coming in 1.46% and 1.48% higher, respectively. At the local level, Philadelphia homeowners have the most overestimated property values, coming in 3.05% higher than appraisers. Dallas residents are undervaluing their property, coming in 2.90% lower than appraiser estimates. Houston homeowners have the best understanding of their local market, with estimates coming in just 0.05% higher than appraisers.
Quicken Loans Home Value Index (HVI)
Home values were up 0.19% in August. This was enough for a 2.64% year-over-year increase. Taking a look at the regional data, values in the West were up 1.34% on the month and 5.08% on the year. Midwestern homeowner saw values rise 0.16% in August and 2.62% annually. There was a value drop in 0.52% in the South, where values are still up 3.77% on the year, and property values in the Northeast also fell 0.58%. Prices are only up slightly on an annual basis, rising 0.34%.
MBA Mortgage Applications
Lower interest rates are finally having a real impact on mortgage applications, which were up 9.9% overall last week. There was an 11.0% increase in the number of purchase applications and a 9.0% increase in those looking to refinance. The average rate on a 30-year fixed conforming mortgage fell three basis points to 4.03%. If you’re in the market, it could be a good time to lock your rate.
Producer Price Index (PPI)
Prices paid by the producers of goods and services rose 0.2% in August, coming in slightly below expectations. Prices are up 2.4% on the year. Prices were only up 0.1% when food and energy were taken out. This category is up 2.0% on the year. When trade services are further removed, the inflation numbers 0.2% and up 1.9%. There’s been particular stagnation in prices for hotels as well as securities and investments. There was a 3.3% jump in the price of energy in August, but this was offset by a drop in food prices. It’s likely that energy price increases will show up even more next month when the effects of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma are taken into account.
Consumer Price Index (CPI)
In contrast to producer price numbers, consumer prices show they were up 0.4% in August and have risen 1.9% on the year. A lot of this had to do with rising energy prices; when food and energy were taken out, prices were up 0.2% and 1.7% on the year. Hurricane Harvey effects were included in part in this report, with energy prices rising 2.8%, including a 6.3% surge for gas prices. Transportation prices were up 1.4% due to these fuel costs. The price for new vehicles was flat, and used vehicle prices fell 0.2%. Housing costs did rise 0.4%, and there was a 4.4% increase in the cost of hotels and motels. Finally, wireless services were down 0.1% as carriers continue to try and undercut each other on price.
Initial jobless claims fell 14,000, coming in at 284,000 last week. The four-week average was up 13,000, in large part because of last week’s big surge in unemployment claims related to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Continuing claims were down 7,000 to 1.944 million. The four-week moving average was down 2,500 to 1.949 million.
Retail sales were down 0.2% in the month of August. Vehicle sales were down 1.6% and numbers were actually up 0.2% when these are taken out. Gas prices were also up 2.5%, and when gas was further removed, sales were down 0.1%. It’s difficult to break out the effects, but there are hints that Hurricane Harvey may have had an effect on energy prices and the drop in car sales. Restaurant sales were up 0.3% and furniture sales were up 0.4%. Also rising was general merchandise, up 0.2%. Sales from non-store retailers were down 1.1%. Building material sales were down 0.5% and apparel fell 1%. The numbers for June were revised from a 0.3% sales gain to a 0.1% drop in sales.
Production in the month of August was down 0.9%. Manufacturing was down 0.3% and factory utilization came in at 76.1%, down from 76.7% in July. Much of this is due to Hurricane Harvey. Mining output was down 0.8% with lower production of oil and natural gas. Utility production was down 5.5% due to the Harvey outages. There were also downturns in machinery and nondurable production that a rise in vehicle production was unable to offset.
A rise of three points in the current conditions component to 113.9 wasn’t enough to keep overall consumer sentiment for the first half of September from falling 1.5 points to 95.3. Consumers are confident in their personal finances despite weakness in wages. Expectations were down 4.3 points to 83.4, a fact that’s being blamed partly on Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. The one-year and five-year inflation expectations were up 0.1% at 2.7% and 2.6%, respectively.
Fixed mortgage rates held at 2017 lows last week. With rates at the best levels they’ve been in a while and a meeting of Federal Reserve officials about a decision on short-term interest rates coming on Wednesday, you might as well lock your rate if you see one you like.
The average rate on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages (FRMs) was unchanged at 3.78% with 0.5 points. At this time last year, the average rate was 3.50%.
Taking a look at shorter terms, the average rate on a 15-year FRM was also flat at 3.08% with 0.5 points. At this time in 2016, the average rate was 2.77%.
Finally, the average rate on 5-year adjustable rate mortgages (ARMs) with 0.4 points was down 2 basis points to 3.13%. At the same time last year, this rate was at 2.82%.
The Dow Jones industrial average had its best week since December and the S&P 500 hit a new record Friday. At least part of this had to be the iPhone effect, as Apple was a major contributor to the gains on the Dow along with Boeing and 3M.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 64.86 points Friday to come in at 22,268.34, up 2.16% on the week. Meanwhile, the S&P 500 hit a new record high of 2,500.23 to close the week up 4.61 points on the day and 1.58% on the week. Finally, the NASDAQ was up 1.39% on the week after gaining 19.38 points Friday to finish at 6,448.47.
The Week Ahead
Monday, September 18
Housing Market Index (10:00 a.m. ET) – The National Association of Home Builders produces a housing market index based on a survey where respondents from the organization are asked to rate the general economy and housing market conditions. The index is a weighted average of separate diffusion indexes, including present sales of new homes, sales of new homes expected in the next six months and traffic of prospective buyers in new homes.
Tuesday, September 19
Housing Starts (8:30 a.m. ET) – A housing start is registered when the construction of a new residential building begins. The start of construction is defined as the beginning of excavation of the foundation for the building.
Wednesday, September 20
MBA Mortgage Applications (7:00 a.m. ET) – The mortgage applications index measures applications to mortgage lenders. This is a leading indicator for single-family home sales and housing construction.
Existing Home Sales (10:00 a.m. ET) – Existing Home Sales tallies the number of previously constructed homes, condominiums and co-ops in which a sale closed during the month. Existing homes (also known as home resales) account for a larger share of the market than new homes and indicate housing market trends.
Thursday, September 21
Jobless Claims (8:30 a.m. ET) – New unemployment claims are compiled weekly to report the number of individuals filing for unemployment insurance for the first time. An increasing trend suggests a deteriorating labor market. The four-week moving average of new claims smooths out weekly volatility.
FHFA House Price Index (9:00 a.m. ET) – The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) House Price Index (HPI) covers single-family housing using data provided by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The HPI is derived from transactions involving conforming conventional mortgages purchased or securitized by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.
We get lots of housing data next week. We’ll have it all here next Monday.
If mortgage rates and economic news don’t have you feeling particularly inspired, we have plenty of home, money and lifestyle content we love to share with you if you subscribe to the Zing Blog below. Thursday marks the first official day of fall. It’s the season of pumpkins, gourds and squash. Check out my friend Miranda’s tips on how to use squashes and gourds in everything from decoration to recipes. Have a great week!