Last week’s economic news included reports on retail sales and consumer sentiment along with weekly releases on new jobless claims and mortgage rates.
Retail sales jumped 1.30 percent in April as compared to the March reading of 0.30 percent. Retail sales excluding the automotive sector rose from 0.40 percent growth in March to 0.80 percent growth in April. Both retail sales reports exceeded expectations. Growth in consumer spending suggests higher confidence in economic conditions and may lead potential homebuyers to consider buying rather than renting their homes.
Consumer sentiment jumped in May to a reading of 95.8 as compared to an expected reading of 89.5 and April’s reading of 89.0. This reading further supports easing of consumer concerns over current economic conditions and could bode well for housing markets as the peak sales season continues. May’s reading was the highest in nearly a year according to the University of Michigan, which conducts the Consumer Sentiment Survey.
Mortgage Rates Fall, New Jobless Claims Rise
Housing markets received a boost as average mortgage rates reported by Freddie Mac fell. The rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage fell by four basis points to 3.57 percent; the rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage was five points lower at 2.81 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was two basis points lower at 2.78 percent. Discount points averaged 0.50 percent for all three types of mortgages.
In spite of good economic news, lower mortgage rates and higher consumer sentiment, new jobless claims jumped to a 14-month high of 294,000 new claims from the prior week’s reading of 274,000 new claims and expectations of 270,000 new claims. Analysts said this increase could indicate softening of labor markets. Putting last week’s urge in claims in perspective, new claims remained below the benchmark reading of 300,000 new claims for 62 consecutive weeks, which is the longest period since 1973.
Labor laws in New York State likely influenced the jump in claims as certain school workers are allowed to file for unemployment benefits during spring break. A strike by some telecommunications workers likely contributed to the abrupt rise in new jobless claims. Analysts noted that New York allows striking employees replaced by their employers while on strike to collect unemployment benefits, and that new claims were near historically low levels in all other states.
This week’s scheduled economic reports include the National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index and Commerce Department reports on housing starts and building permits issued. Monthly reports on inflation are also expected.The National Association of Realtors® will release its report on existing home sales. Weekly reports on new jobless claims and mortgage rates will also be released.