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Market Minute - April 6, 2020

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Housing/Real Estate Market  

Pending home sales rose in February, but COVID-19 outbreak is slowing real-estate activity further: Before the coronavirus outbreak worsened in the U.S., every region in the country saw gains in contract signings for home purchases. The index of pending homes sales increased a modest 2.4% from the month prior and 9.4% from February of last year.

Home price growth ramped up yet again in January, way before coronavirus pandemic: The S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller 20-city price index increased 3.1% year-over-year on the first month of the year. While it is unclear what effect the COVID-19 national health emergency will have on prices, it will take months before this backward-looking index reflects the real impact on home prices.

Construction spending weak in February: Overall spending on construction projects fell 1.3% and January was revised upward to show a 2.8% increase. Residential construction fell 0.6% and is expected to slow further in months ahead.

 

Macro Economy

Consumer confidence sinks in March to 32-month low: The index fell to 120 from a revised 132 in February. Consumers are rapidly losing confidence in the economy and it’s likely to plunge a lot more in the months ahead as millions are thrown out of work as businesses shut down in an effort to control the spread of coronavirus.

Unemployment rate jumped to 4.4% - on paper: The U.S. economy officially lost 701,000 jobs in March, but in reality losses are much greater as at least another 6.6 million people file for unemployment benefits in latest weekly survey for a total of close to 10 million people. Unemployment rate probably headed toward 10% or even higher.

U.S. manufacturers see biggest plunge in 11 years: ISM manufacturing index decreased from 50.1% to 49.1% in March and expected to drop even further as most manufacturers are contracting instead of expanding.

U.S. service sector continued to expand – albeit at slower pace: ISM non-manufacturing index had slowest growth since August 2016, but surprisingly suggested continued growth in March. Index read above 50% at 52.5%, although it came down from previous month’s 57.3% reading. Index expected to fall below 50% as more businesses contract.

Factory orders flat in February: New orders for manufactured goods unchanged, but down 3 of the last 4 months.

U.S. trade deficit narrows in February – trend likely to continue: Both U.S. imports and exports declined, creating a sharp 12.2% decline in trade deficit. The trade gap shrunk to $39.9B from an upwardly revised $45.5B in January. 

Real Estate Finance

Mortgage rates dropped for second week in a row: The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) decreased to 3.33% from 3.50% the week prior and remains ¾ of a percentage lower than the average of 4.08% recorded a year ago.

Mortgage applications increased: Mortgage applications increased 15.3% from a week earlier on a seasonally adjusted basis and the refinance index increased 26% from the previous week and remains 168% higher than a year ago. New purchase index decreased 11% from the week prior on a seasonally adjusted basis and was 24% lower than the same week of last year.

 

Past Market Minutes
March 30, 2020 - February new home sales dropped, mortgage applications decreased
March 23, 2020 - Market off to a great start before COVID-19 outbreak, interest rates rose
March 16, 2020 - Confidence in housing remains high, small business owners optimistic, rates inch up and refi applications skyrocket
March 9, 2020 - Fed makes emergency rate cut, mortgage rates at all-time low


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