Mortgage rates fell last week and approached or reached record low levels.
According to Freddie Mac, the average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage (FRM) fell from 3.40 percent to 3.35 percent. Average rates for a 15-year FRM moved from 2.61percent to 2.56 percent.
Average rates for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage (ARM) fell to 2.56 from last week's average of 2.58 percent Discount points for last week's mortgage rates ranged from 0.7percent for 30 and 15 year FRM loans to 0.5 percent for a 5/1 ARM.
Rock-bottom mortgage rates can offset the impact of rising home prices.
Last Week Was A Strong Showing For The US Economy
Last week's economic news provided further indications of economic recovery, with housing related reports contributing to overall confidence in a stronger economy.
Highlights of last week's news include:
Monday: Pending home sales moved up to 1.50 percent in March from February's -1.07 percent. This reading also surpassed Wall Street's forecast of 0.90 percent for March.
Tuesday: The Case-Shiller Home Price Index for February reported that the national average home price had increased by 9.3 percent year-over-year between February 2012 and February 2013. By comparison, the average national home price between January 2012 and January 2013 increased by 8.1 percent year-over-year. Rising home prices are contributing to the economic recovery, but in some areas demand for homes exceeds supply, which also contributes to rising home prices.
Wednesday: The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) issued its scheduled statement after its meeting concluded. Committee members noted signs of an improving economy, and cited housing markets as a leading contributor to the recovery. The FOMC statement also indicated that economic conditions were not sufficiently improved for the FOMC to change or cease the Federal Reserve's quantitative easing policy. The Fed's goal for its current quantitative easing program is keeping long-term interest rates including mortgage rates low.
Thursday: The weekly Jobless Claims Report brought better-than-expected news with new jobless claims coming in at 324,000, less than the expected reading of 345,000 new jobless claims and also higher than the previous report's reading of 342,000 new jobless claims.
Friday: The Bureau of Labor Statistics issued its monthly “Jobs Report,” which consists of the Non-farm Payrolls Report and the national Unemployment Rate. Again new jobs added exceeded expectations for April with 165,000 jobs added against expectations of 135,000 new jobs added. April's reading also surpassed the March reading of 138,000 new jobs.
The unemployment rate dropped to 7.5 percent as compared to a consensus of 7.6 percent and last month's reading of 7.6 percent. To put this reading in perspective, the FOMC has targeted an unemployment rate of 6.5 percent as a benchmark for adjusting its current policies including quantitative easing.
What To Look For This Week
This week's economic events include latest Jobless Claims report on Thursday. It will be interesting to see if this week's reading will be lower than last week's reading of 324,000 new jobless claims.
On Friday, the Federal Budget will be released; this could influence financial markets depending on what programs and services are cut or reduced.