Key Economic Indicators – September 25, 2017

·      Housing starts in August were down 0.8% from the previous month, but were up 1.4% from a year ago. Building permits were up 5.7% from the previous month, and were up 8.3% from August 2016.

·      August existing home sales decreased 1.7% to an annualized rate of 5,350 thousand units. The August figure was 0.2% above the August 2016 figure. The median sales price of existing houses sold was $253.5 thousand, 5.6% above August 2016.

·      U.S. house prices rose 0.2% in July, according to the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) seasonally adjusted monthly House Price Index (HPI). House prices were up 6.3% from July 2016.

·      The housing market index of National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and Wells Fargo decreased 3 points to 64 in September. The Index was 67 in January, and 65 in September of 2016.

·      The results of Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey showed average fixed mortgage rates moving higher. The 30-year fixed mortgage rate averaged 3.83% for the week ending September 21, up from last week when it averaged 3.78%. A year ago at this time, the 30-year fixed-rate averaged 3.48%. The 15-year fixed mortgage rate averaged 3.13%, up from last week when it averaged 3.08%. A year ago at this time, the 15-year fixed-rate averaged 2.76%.

·      Mortgage applications decreased 9.7% from a week earlier, according to data from Mortgage Bankers Association’s (MBA) Weekly Applications Survey for the week ending September 15th.

·      The current account deficit increased to $123.1 billion in the second quarter, from $113.5 billion in the first quarter, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. The deficit increased to 2.6% of current-dollar gross domestic product (GDP) from 2.4% in the first quarter.

·      The net worth of households and nonprofits rose to $96.2 trillion during the second quarter of 2017, compared with $94.5 trillion at the end of the first quarter, and $92.2 trillion at the end of 2016.

·      Domestic nonfinancial debt expanded at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 3.8% in the second quarter of 2017, up from an annual rate of 1.7% in the previous quarter.

·      Domestic nonfinancial debt outstanding was $47.9 trillion at the end of the second quarter of 2017, of which household debt was $14.9 trillion, nonfinancial business debt was $13.9 trillion, and total government debt was $19.1 trillion.

·      The advance figure for initial claims for unemployment insurance decreased by 23 thousand to 259 thousand in the week ending September 16. The 4-week moving average was 268.75, an increase of 6 thousand from the previous week’s revised average. This is the highest level for this average since June 4, 2016 when it was 269.5 thousand.

·      Import prices increased 0.6% in August, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, following declines in the previous 3 months. Prices for imports also increased over the past 12 months, advancing 2.1%. 

·      The price index for exports also advanced 0.6% in August, after increasing 0.5% in July. Prices for exports advanced 2.3% over the past year.

·      Real gross domestic product (GDP) increased in 267 out of 382 metropolitan areas in 2016 according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Real GDP for U.S. metropolitan areas grew 1.7% in 2016, led by growth in professional and business services; information services; and finance, insurance, real estate, rental, and leasing.

·      The Philadelphia FED business outlook survey for September indicated improvement in regional manufacturing conditions. The index for current manufacturing activity in the region increased 5 points to a reading of 23.8 and has remained positive for 14 consecutive months. 

·      The Conference Board index of leading economic indicators increased 0.4% in August, following a 0.3% increase in the previous month. In the six-month period ending August 2017, the leading economic index increased 2.3% (about a 4.7% annual rate). The coincident index held steady, following a 0.3% increase in the previous month. The coincident economic index grew by 1.0% (about a 1.9% annual rate) in the six-month period ending in August.

·      The Federal Open Market Committee decided to keep its target for the federal funds rate at 1 to 1.25%, and indicated that the stance of monetary policy remains accommodative, thereby supporting some further strengthening in labor market conditions and a sustained return to 2% inflation.

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