Existing Home Sales

Sales of existing homes hit an 18-month high, with transactions of single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, advancing 6.1 percent to an annual rate of 5.19 million in March, according to last week’s report form the National Association of Realtors. Compared annually, March’s sales were 10.4 percent above a year ago, which marked the largest annual increase since August 2013’s 10.7 percent increase.

“The combination of low interest rates and the ongoing stability in the job market is improving buyer confidence and finally releasing some of the sizable pent-up demand that accumulated in recent years,” NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun explained.

The median price for existing homes of all types in March hit $212,100, which marked a 7.8 percent above March 2014. Total inventory of existing homes for March — a key figure real estate watchers are monitoring as it impacts prices — grew 5.3 percent to 2 million existing homes available for sale.

“The modest rise in housing supply at the end of the month despite the strong growth in sales is a welcoming sign,” Yun noted. “ … More listings and new home construction are still needed to tame price growth and provide more opportunity for first-time buyers to enter the market.”

New Home Sales

Meanwhile, sales of new homes were a mixed bag. On the face of things, transactions of new single-family houses in March plummeted 11.4 percent to an annual rate of 481,000, according to last week’s report from the Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. However, given that February posted the strongest sales month for new homes in seven years, it’s not surprising that March wouldn’t maintain that pace.

Moreover, what is also noteworthy is that, compared on annual basis, March’s sales were a whopping 19.4 percent higher the March 2014’s pace of 403,000. That is room for confidence in the spring selling season’s vitality.

“Our expectation is that the strengthening of demand is sustainable and should drive new-home sales for all of 2015,” Richard Dugas Jr., CEO of homebuilding giant PulteGroup Inc. told the Wall Street Journal.

Looking at price and supply, the median sales price for new homes sold in March was $277,400 and the average sales price was $343,300. The estimated supply new homes for sale at the end of March was 213,000, representing 5.3-month supply.

Initial Jobless Claims

Turning to lay-offs, first-time claims for unemployment benefits filed by the newly unemployed during the week ending April 18, notched up to 295,000, a gain of 1,000 claims from the preceding week’s total of 294,000, the Employment and Training Administration reported last week.

Similarly, the four-week moving average — considered a more reliable, less volatile gauge of lay-off activity — grew to 284,500 claims, an increase of 1,750 claims from the prior week’s average of 282,750.

Despite the slight increase, because claims remained below the 300,000 mark, most analysts maintained a positive outlook on the labor market.

“Overall, the level of claims remains low and is consistent with a healthy labor market,” JPMorgan economist Michael Feroli told Reuters.

This week we can expect:

  • Tuesday — April consumer confidence from The Conference Board.
  • Wednesday — Advance first quarter GDP from the Bureau of Economic Analysis.
  • Thursday — Initial jobless claims for last week from the Employment and Training Administration; personal income and spending for March from the Bureau of Economic Analysis.
  • Friday — April constructions pending from the Census Bureau; April car and truck sales from the auto manufacturers; April consumer sentiment from the University of Michigan and Thompson-Reuters Survey of Consumers.
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