Borrowing Costs, Unemployment, Manufacturing

April 02, 2021

Home borrowing costs were essentially unchanged this week and remain at historically low levels. Freddie Mac reports that the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage rose to 3.18% from 3.17% with 0.7 in points and fees. A year ago at this time, the rate was not much higher at 3.33%. It is up from 2.65% on January 7 of this year. Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s Chief Economist said, “We even see that purchase demand is diminished today as compared to late May and early June of 2020, when mortgage rates were the same level. This is confirmation that while purchase demand remains strong, the marginal buyer is feeling the affordability squeeze resulting from the increases in mortgage rates and home prices we’ve experienced in recent months.”

First-time unemployment claims increased in the latest week but the numbers have been on a downward slope. Weekly Initial Jobless Claims rose by 719,000 from 658,000 for the week ended March 27, 2021. To put it into perspective the week of March 14, 2020 claims were 282,000. The week of March 21, 2020, they skyrocketed to 3.3 million as lockdowns took hold. Continuing claims, or those receiving benefits for at least two weeks straight, fell to 3.79 million from 3.84 million. With more and more states reopening their economies, many unemployed Americans should be able to go back to work.

The U.S. economy continues to grow with positive news from the manufacturing sector. The ISM National Manufacturing Index rose to 64.7 in March, the highest reading since 1983. Any number over 50 indicates expansion, below 50 contraction. Within the data, it showed gains for new orders, production and employment. The report also revealed that due to COVID-19 constraints, those surveyed reported that their companies and suppliers continue to struggle to meet increasing rates of demand.