According to the Fannie Mae Economic and Strategic Research (ESR) Group’s March outlook, full-year real GDP growth is estimated to come in at 2.2 percent in 2019, unchanged from the prior forecast but down markedly from 2018’s 3.1 percent. The researchers attributed the expected deceleration in growth to the “fading fiscal impact from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, as well as continued sluggishness in business investment and consumer spending.”
Speaking of housing, Doug Duncan, Chief Economist at Fannie Mae said, “We continue to expect another year of steady home sales in 2019. While inventory has improved, it remains low by historical standards—particularly among existing homes—and threatens to derail the spring homebuying season, though a recent jump in single-family starts suggests that new supply is on the way. Considering the general inventory shortage and strong demand for housing, affordability remains a key challenge facing the industry, particularly in the conforming space.”
However, affordability has improved by slowing house price appreciation and more attractive mortgage rates and purchase mortgage originations are expected to expand in 2019 while refinancings contract, the research revealed.
The ESR also noted that the economic growth in the first quarter of 2019 is forecasted to slow to 1.3 percent in part due to consumer caution following significant volatility in households’ financial assets in the fourth quarter. Duncan expects headline growth in the first quarter of 2019 to fall to 1.3 percent annualized–the slowest quarterly growth in over three years. “ As we weigh the downside risks to the economy–including moderating international growth and trade uncertainty–we now project that the Fed will wait until the fourth quarter to raise rates, if at all.”
In its previous report, Fannie Mae indicated that the Fed's pause on rate hikes is likely to help the housing market as well as the broader economy. It noted that the Fed's "patience" on raising rates "has led to easing financial conditions, while the expanding labor pool suggests minimal wage pressures, which together server as potential growth offsets to the opposite direction."