|QUOTATION OF THE WEEK… “The mind is the limit. As long as the mind can envision the fact that you can do something, you can do it, as long as you really believe 100 percent.” –Arnold Schwarzenegger, Austrian-American actor, businessman, philanthropist, politician, former professional bodybuilder
INFO THAT HITS US WHERE WE LIVE … We got hit with a variety of housing market news last week, starting with Monday’s reveal that Existing Home Sales took a bit of a breather in June, dipping 1.8%. But they’re still at a healthy 5.52 million unit annual rate, and up by 0.7% over a year ago. Economists expect real estate to maintain its overall upward trend of the last few years. Of course we do have the headwinds of tight supply and rising prices, with median existing home prices hitting new record highs two months in a row. But demand stays strong, as 54% of the listings sold in June were less than a month old.
Tuesday we learned New Home Sales moved up 0.8% in June to a 610,000 unit annual rate, putting them up 9.1% versus a year ago. The supply increased to 5.4 months, aided by a 3,000 unit gain in inventories. Plus, the median price of new homes sold was down 3.4% versus last year, indicating builders are moving in the right direction. More evidence of this came with the news the homeownership rate increased in Q2 and is up 0.8% from a year ago, to a three-year high. The chief economist of an national real estate site believes “we may have turned a corner when it comes to the steep dive in homeownership we’ve seen over the past 10 years.” All right!
BUSINESS TIP OF THE WEEK… People are drowning in online content, but they’re still looking for wisdom and guidance from a trusted source. Provide expertise folks can’t find from a Google search, and you’ll be their go-to resource.
>> Review of Last Week
EARNING OUR WAY… The S&P 500 wound up the week essentially unchanged, but did hit a new record on Wednesday, while the Nasdaq finished down just a tick. The Dow, however, posted a nice weekly gain, ending at another all-time high, the 29th new high so far in 2017. In the four months following the election, stocks have rallied an impressive 12%, apparently driven by economic optimism. But it’s more than hope that’s powering equities upward. With more than half the S&P 500 companies reporting Q2 results, earnings are up 9.1% year-over-year. Add to that, a steady stream of improving economic fundamentals.
Feeding that stream, the GDP Advance read for Q2 pegged U.S. economic growth at a 2.6% annual rate. That’s up 2.1% over a year ago and clearly above the anemic annual growth rates we’ve seen in the recovery until now. The Employment Cost Index showed the cost of employing the average U.S. worker was up 0.5% in Q2, another good sign. Picky pundits fretted that these numbers were slightly below expectations. Oh pulease. The Conference Board reported that consumers’ confidence in current conditions remains at a 16-year high, while their confidence in the future edged higher. We’ll go with consumers over the pundits every time.
The week ended with the Dow UP 1.2%, to 21830; the S&P 500 flat, down less than a point, at 2472; and the Nasdaq down 0.2%, to 6375.
Bond prices benefited from the GDP and Employment Cost Index misses, but were beaten back by higher oil prices, better than expected eurozone economic data and Friday’s boost in Michigan Consumer Sentiment. The 30YR FNMA 4.0% bond we watch finished the week down .04, at $105.27. National average 30-year fixed mortgage rates fell again in Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey for the week ending July 27. Remember, mortgage rates can be extremely volatile, so check with your mortgage professional for up-to-the-minute information.
DID YOU KNOW?… People who sold their homes in the second quarter of 2017 made an average profit of $51,000, the largest since 2007 and a 26% increase over initial purchase price, the highest average return since 2007.
>> This Week’s Forecast
PENDING HOME SALES REBOUND, MANUFACTURING, JOBS GROW, BUT NOT INFLATION… June Pending Home Sales are forecast up after slipping in May, so expect higher existing home sales in a few months. The Chicago PMI gauge of Midwest manufacturing and the national ISM Index should show factory activity growing, though a little slower. Growth is also predicted for jobs in June, with just under 200,000 new Nonfarm Payrolls, and, best of all, Hourly Earnings up a bit more. The Fed’s favorite Core PCE Prices inflation measure should stay low enough to squelch rate hikes for a while.
>> The Week’s Economic Indicator Calendar
Weaker than expected economic data tends to send bond prices up and interest rates down, while positive data points to lower bond prices and rising loan rates.
Economic Calendar for the Week of Jul 31 – Aug 4
>> Federal Reserve Watch
Forecasting Federal Reserve policy changes in coming months… After the Fed stood pat on rates at last week’s meeting, the markets don’t see another hike this year. The probability for one in December is now just south of 50%. Note: In the lower chart, a 0% probability of change is a 100% certainty the rate will stay the same.
Current Fed Funds Rate: 1.0%-1.25%
Probability of change from current policy: