Key Economic Indicators – September 24, 2018

·      Housing starts in August were up 9.2% from the previous month, and were up 9.4% from a year ago. Building permits were down 5.7% from the previous month, and were down 5.5% from August 2017.

·      August existing home sales held steady at an annualized rate of 5,340 thousand units. The August figure was 1.5% below the August 2017 figure. There were 1,920 thousand homes for sale at the end of the month. This represents a supply of 4.3 months at the current sales rate, compared to 4.1 in August of 2017. The median sales price of existing houses sold was $264.8 thousand, 4.6% above August 2017.

·      The housing market index of National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and Wells Fargo held steady at 67 in September. The Index was 72 in January, and 64 in September of 2017.

·      The results of Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey showed average fixed mortgage rates rose for the fourth consecutive week. The 30-year fixed mortgage rate averaged 4.65% for the week ending September 20, up from last week when it averaged 4.60%. A year ago at this time, the 30-year fixed-rate averaged 3.83%. The 15-year fixed mortgage rate averaged 4.11%, up from last week when it averaged 4.06%. A year ago at this time, the 15-year fixed-rate averaged 3.13%.

·      Mortgage applications decreased 1.8% from a week earlier, according to data from Mortgage Bankers Association’s (MBA) Weekly Applications Survey for the week ending September 7th.

·      The current account deficit decreased to $101.5 billion in the second quarter, from $121.7 billion in the first quarter, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. The deficit decreased to 2.0% of current-dollar gross domestic product (GDP) from 2.4% in the first quarter.

·      The net worth of households and nonprofits rose to $106.9 trillion at the end of second quarter of 2018, compared with $104.7 trillion at the end of the first quarter, and $98.8 trillion at the end of second quarter of 2017.

·      Domestic nonfinancial debt expanded at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.8% in the second quarter of 2018, compared with an annual rate of 7.5% in the previous quarter.

·      Domestic nonfinancial debt outstanding was $50.7 trillion at the end of the second quarter of 2018, of which household debt was $15.4 trillion, nonfinancial business debt was $14.8 trillion, and total government debt was $20.5 trillion.

·      The advance figure for initial claims for unemployment insurance decreased by 3 thousand to 201 thousand in the week ending September 15. This is the lowest level for initial claims since November 15, 1969 when it was 197 thousand.

·      The 4-week moving average was 205.75, a decrease of 2.25 thousand from the previous week’s revised average. This is the lowest level for this average since December 6, 1969 when it was 204.5 thousand.

·      Real gross domestic product (GDP) increased in 312 out of 383 metropolitan areas in 2017 according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Real GDP for U.S. metropolitan areas grew 2.1% in 2017, led by growth in professional and business services; wholesale and retail trade; and finance, insurance, real estate, rental, and leasing. The percent change in real GDP by metropolitan area ranged from negative 7.8% in Enid, Oklahoma to 12.1% in Odessa, Texas.

·      The September 2018 Empire State Manufacturing Survey indicated that business activity continued to grow strongly in New York State, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The headline general business conditions index was 19.0 in September, lower than the August figure of 25.6.

·      The Philadelphia FED business outlook survey for September indicated that manufacturing activity continued to grow. The index for current manufacturing activity in the region increased 11 points to a reading of 22.9. 

·      The Conference Board index of leading economic indicators increased 0.4% in August, following a 0.7% increase in the previous month. In the six-month period ending August 2018, the leading economic index increased 2.5% (about a 5.0% annual rate). The coincident index increased 0.2%, the same increase as in the previous month. The coincident economic index grew by 1.2% (about a 2.3% annual rate) in the six-month period ending in August.

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