The high points for economic data in the May 20 week should be the sales numbers for new and existing homes for April. Gauging the health of the housing market may be a bit tricky in reading these reports. Seasonal adjustment factors for this time of year anticipate a busier sales period as potential homebuyers shake off winter and start planning moves based on changing household needs.

However, the housing market got a chill earlier this year when mortgage rates began to rise again and home prices did not ease up despite some slackening in the market. The Freddie Mac weekly report shows mortgage rates for a 30-year fixed rate note trending higher from 6.64 percent in the February 8 week to 6.88 percent in the March 7 week and then up to 6.82 percent in the in the April 4 week. Rates reached 7.10 percent in the April 18 week and have remained above 7 percent since then. Rates near the 7 percent-mark seem to be a point where potential buyers decide to wait for better rates, or, if waiting isn’t an option, to borrow with an adjustable rate. In any case, rates remain at levels not seen since before the Great Recession. The current generation of buyers entering the housing market is taking time to adapt to the reality that mortgage rates under 6 percent are not coming back any time soon. Buyers are and will remain rate sensitive in taking out a mortgage and are looking for any dips to lock in lower borrowing costs when they can.

The NAR report on sales of existing homes in April at 10:00 ET on Wednesday is for purchase contracts signed in February and March. As such, the buyers in these months had a lower rate which may have encouraged them to commit to a purchase with the prospect of rates going up. However, sales could have been restrained by a lack of supply. Those who currently hold mortgages with favorable rates – especially those taken out in 2019-2021 when rates were particularly low – are unlikely to put their home on the market absent a pressing reason. Competition is fierce for the more sought-after units.

The government report on sales of new single-family homes in April at 10:00 ET on Thursday is for contracts signed in that month. As such, the uptick in mortgage rates is expected to limit the number of sales as buyers for new construction could be willing to delay buying until a more favorable rate becomes available.

The minutes of the FOMC meeting of April 30-May 1 are set for release at 14:00 ET on Wednesday. These may be less informative than usual. There may be some nuance about the previously announced decision to reduce the monthly cap on reinvesting US treasuries from $60.0 billion to $25.0 billion starting in June 2024. However, the minutes are now three weeks out of date. FOMC participants have been talking about interest rate policy since the end of the meeting’s communications blackout period. Their recent comments combined with the economic data line up solidly for leaving the fed funds target rate at 5.25-5.50 percent until they achieve enough confidence that the inflation numbers are moving in the right direction again. Chair Powell’s remarks in the last few weeks have focused on the inflation performance in the first quarter. There’s a hint that disinflation is happening again after stalling for a few months. However, the April numbers are only one month’s data and the FOMC will want more than that before changing their rate outlook.

Global Economics Weekly Article

Econoday’s Global Economics articles detail the results of each week’s key economic events and offer consensus forecasts for what’s ahead in the coming week. Global Economics is sent via email on Friday Evenings.

Daily Global Economic Review

The Daily Global Economic Review is a daily snapshot of economic events and analysis designed to keep you informed with timely and relevant information. Delivered directly to your inbox at 5:30pm ET each market day.