Last week wasn’t kind to stock market investors, but weekly jobless claims fell to an unexpected low of 320,000 new jobless claims filed, the lowest level in nearly six years.
Here is a review of the major events of the week.
Monday: The federal budget for July shows an increase in its deficit to -$98 billion, a deficit increase of $28 billion over June’s figure of -$70 billion. The good news is that the deficit for the first 10 months of the fiscal year is $38 billion less than during the same period of the prior fiscal year.
Thursday: Thursday was a busy day for economic news. The weekly jobless claims report came in lower than expected with 320,000 new jobless claims filed. This was lower than the expected.
While this is a strong sign for the economy that would typically boost stock prices, the markets fell. Analysts cite a good news/bad news scenario in describing what happened. The good news was that jobless claims fell to a new low, but the bad news is that investors feared that this may give the Fed a signal to begin tapering its quantitative easing (QE) program.
The Fed is expected to begin tapering its monthly purchases of $85 billion in treasury securities and mortgage-backed securities as early as next month. The QE purchases are intended to help hold down long term interest rates including mortgage rates.
The fall in stock prices on Thursday and Friday suggested that fear of the Fed ending QE is more compelling than the lowest number of new jobless claims since October 2007.
Freddie Mac reported that the average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage remained unchanged at 4.40 percent with 0.7 percent in discount points. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage ticked upward by one basis point from 3.43 to 3.44 percent.
Discount points fell from 0.70 percent the prior week to 0.60 percent last week.
The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage (ARM) rose from 3.19 to 3.23 percent with discount points unchanged at 0.50 percent. The 5/1 ARM provides an alternative to higher fixed rates for borrowers seeking lower mortgage rates and payments.
Friday: Included Housing Starts for July, which came in at 896,000 as compared to expectations of 915, 00 0 and June’s figure of 846,000 housing starts. Building permits issued in July came in at 943,000, and surpassed June’s reading of 918,000 building permits.
Increasing home values, buyer demand and a short supply of available homes were seen as motivating factors for builders to construct more homes.
This week’s schedule of economic news is set to include the Chicago Fed’s National Activity Index on Tuesday. The FOMC minutes will be released on Wednesday along with Existing Home Sales.
Thursday will bring Weekly Jobless Claims, Freddie Mac’s survey of mortgage rates and the FHFA home price index. Friday will finish the week with a New Home Sales report.