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Housing Roundup: Lots of Data on Tap This Week

The Exchange

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.

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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!