Perhaps the biggest “cloud” for the US economy came with the final reading on Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the first quarter, which came in at an anemic -2.9 percent. This is the first negative reading for GDP since the first quarter of 2011. GDP is the broadest measure of economic activity, and it will be important to see if the number improves as we head further into 2014.
Another “cloud” to note: Retail Sales for May rose by just 0.3 percent, less than the 0.7 percent expected and the lowest level since January’s reading. Retail sales account for about one-third of consumer spending, and are the main driver of U.S. economic activity. Growth in this area is a key factor in our economic recovery.
Housing continues to be a bright spot as New Home Sales for May surged by 18.6 percent to an annual rate of 504,000, well above expectations. Existing Home Sales for May were also up 4.9 percent from April, reaching their highest monthly rate since August 2011. However, it’s important to note that Housing Starts, which measure the number of new residential construction projects, and Building Permits, a sign of future construction, both declined from April to May.
Inflation is also a key story to monitor this summer. Remember that inflation is the archenemy of Mortgage Bonds, as inflation reduces the value of fixed assets like Bonds. And since home loan rates are tied to Mortgage Bonds, high inflation could spell trouble for both Mortgage Bonds and home loan rates. While May’s Consumer Price Index (which measures inflation at the consumer level) came in hotter than expected, the Core Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE) showed inflation remains tame.
All in all, the data shows that our economy continues to face some hurdles. When economic data is weak, investors often move their money out of Stocks and into less risky assets like Mortgage Bonds. So, one benefit from some of the recent tepid reports is that they have helped Mortgage Bonds and home loan rates reach some of their best levels of the year.
The bottom line is that now remains a great time to consider a home purchase or refinance, as home loan rates remain attractive compared to historical levels. Let me know if I can answer any questions at all for you.