INFO THAT HITS US WHERE WE LIVE... Coming off their best year in a decade, Housing Starts surprisingly rose 9.7% in January, as home building heated up to a 1.326 million annual rate. The future looks good too, with Building Permits up to a 1.396 million annual rate.
Small wonder the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) found builder confidence in future sales expectations is now at a post-recession high. The NAHB Chair put this to "the pro-business political climate that will strengthen the housing market."
Finally, a recent study reports the median age at which consumers buy their first home is 29.1 years. Yet some three quarters of millennials are not currently homeowners. What an opportunity.
BUSINESS TIP OF THE WEEK... The goal is always to give clients an amazing experience. But make sure the prospects are worth that extra effort. If not, don't take them on.
>> Review of Last Week
REBOUND... After falling sharply the prior two weeks, the stock market rebounded last week, recovering about half its losses, and the three major indexes are again ahead for the year. It seems the big dip on Wall Street was just a correction.
That's not to say we won't have greater volatility this year than last, when stocks gained more than 20% while never posting even a 3% loss. This year, investors worry about inflation driving the Fed to more rate hikes, and last week saw a hotter than expected Consumer Price Index (CPI).
But the economy doesn't seem in danger of overheating. Its strength is growing, with corporate earnings up more than 15% and revenues up nearly 8% the past year, plus historically low unemployment. It's no surprise Michigan Consumer Sentiment hit 99.9, its second highest print in 14 years.
The week ended with the Dow UP 4.3%, to 25219; the S&P 500 also UP 4.3%, to 2732; and the Nasdaq UP 5.3%, to 7239.
In bonds, prices generally softened, as investors shifted money back into equities. The 30YR FNMA 4.0% bond we watch dipped .08, to $102.47. Freddie Mac's latest Primary Mortgage Market Survey reported national average 30-year fixed mortgage rates continue to climb, reaching the level they posted in April 2014. Remember, mortgage rates can be extremely volatile, so check with your mortgage professional for up-to-the-minute information.
DID YOU KNOW?... Mortgage rates are expected to rise, but the market can take it. A recent survey of home buyers by a real estate database reports only 6% of respondents said they would cancel their purchase plans if mortgage rates exceeded 5%.
>> This Week's Forecast
EXISTING HOME SALES STILL GROWING... Forecasters expect to see continued growth in Existing Home Sales in January, hitting an annual rate well above 5.5 million. Not much else gets reported during this four-day week, but we'll keep an eye on Unemployment Claims, predicted to remain historically low.