Housing Starts, CPI, Mortgage Loan Application Volume
January 20, 2016
Wednesday – January 20
After big gains in November, December Housing Starts declined 2.5% from the previous month, raising concerns about the health of the U.S. economy. The Commerce Department reported that Housing Starts came in at an annual pace of 1.149 million units, below the 1.197 million expected. This follows a recent spate of weak economic data. On the bright side, December was the ninth straight month that Housing Starts were above 1 million units, the longest stretch since 2007. For 2015, Housing Starts were up nearly 11%.
Inflation at the consumer level remained tame in December as energy prices continued to decline. The Consumer Price Index (CPI) fell 0.1% after being unchanged in November. The so-called Core CPI, which strips out volatile food and energy prices, rose 0.1%. In the 12 months ending in December, CPI increased 0.7%, the biggest increase in a year, while Core CPI was up 2.1%, the largest gain since July 2012.
The Mortgage Bankers Association reported on Wednesday that its Market Composite Index, a measure of total mortgage loan application volume, rose 9% in the latest week. With mortgage rates just above historical lows, would-be borrowers chose to refinance their homes. The refinance index jumped 19%, while the purchase index fell by 2%. The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances ($417,000 or less) decreased to 4.06%, from 4.12%. In addition, the average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with jumbo loan balances (greater than $417,000) fell to 3.93%, from 4.02%.