Is housing on the mend or are recent fluctuations merely glimmers of false hope?
Last week we found out that the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index increased for the fourth month straight in August and mortgage rates ticked higher for the third consecutive week after weeks -- make that months -- of new record lows. But housing starts for July were weaker than expected and weekly data also showed fewer people sought to refinance or applied for a new mortgage.
Bulls and bears will again be looking this week for confirmation of their respective views. Here's what to look for in a battery of data over the next two days:
Mortgage Applications (Wednesday 7 a.m., ET): The Mortgage Bankers Association releases a weekly index of mortgage activity. Are prospective homebuyers waiting for better conditions yet -- if they exist -- or are they making their move now because they think rates and prices have already bottomed? Last week the mortgage applications index fell 4.5%.
Existing Home Sales (Wednesday 10 a.m., ET): Existing home sales are expected to have increased in July to 4.55 million from 4.37 million in June.
Mortgage Rates (Thursday 10 a.m. ET): Last week marked the third week in a row Freddie Mac reported rates were on the rise. But at 3.62%, the 30-year fixed rate was still well below even its year-ago level, 4.15%.
New Home Sales (Thursday 10 a.m. ET): New home sales are also expected to have increased in July: to 368,000, from 350,000.
FHFA Housing Price Index (Thursday 10 a.m. ET): The Federal Housing Finance Agency home price index for June and for the second quarter will be released, after an 0.8% increase in May over April, and an 0.7% increase in April over March. The most recent data show prices increased 3.7% in the 12 months up to May to the same level seen in May 2004. That level is 17% below the bubble burst in 2007, according to FHFA.
What do you think is the most indicative of the health of housing: Sales? Prices? Mortgage Demand? Rates? Let us know in the comment section below!