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Mixed Economic, Housing Data Cast Doubt on Fed Liftoff

seal-on-money [1]Most analysts and economists are predicting a rate liftoff by the Federal Reserve [2] in December after nine years of at or near zero short term interest rates.

Recent mixed macroeconomic data, which includes many housing metrics, may delay that liftoff until 2016 [3], however, according to National Association of Home Builders (NAHB [4]) Chief Economist David Crowe.

GDP growth, while expected to ease in the third quarter from Q2’s solid rate of 3.9 percent, slowed down much more than expected to a weak 1.5 percent in the “advance” estimate for Q3. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ stellar October employment summary, which reported 271,000 jobs added during the month, is believed by many to be sufficient economic improvement for the Fed to finally raise rates. That October employment summary many not be so rosy after digging a little deeper into the data, Crowe said.

“[T]he bounce back came after soft job readings for September and August,” Crowe said. “Those looking for good news on the labor front can point to a 5 percent unemployment rate. On the other hand, unfilled jobs [5] have been trending up [6] and the labor force participation rate was 62.4 percent in October, down 50 basis points from the 2014 average.”

On the housing side, construction spending on multifamily housing in September was up 27 percent year-over-year, more than double the rate of yearly increase for single-family (13 percent) construction spending, according to the Census Bureau. Pending existing home sales [7] declined for the second consecutive month in September in the National Association of Realtors’ reports.

“As most newly built home sales are due to move-up buyers, this is a trend worth watching.”

David Crowe

“As most newly built home sales are due to move-up buyers, this is a trend worth watching,” Crowe said. “Nonetheless, new home mortgage interest rates remain low [8] and consumer confidence data show rising numbers of households planning to buy a home [9] in the near future.”

In addition, Crowe said, the NAHB/First American Leading Markets Index [10], which uses single-family housing permits, employment, and home prices to measure how close a market is to its “normal” housing and economic levels, inched up by 0.04 percentage points over the year in Q3 up to 0.93 on a national level. A value of “1” indicates a normal market. Meanwhile, 69 percent of the nation’s 364 top metros saw a year-over-year increase in the Leading Markets Index.