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Housing Starts, Retail Sales Show Improvement

Overview: There was not much significant market-moving news over the past week. The major economic data was mostly in line with expectations and had just a minor impact. The Federal Reserve minutes also contained no notable surprises, and mortgage rates ended slightly lower.


A lack of inventory has been holding back home sales activity in many regions this year, but the pace of construction has shown signs of picking up over the last few months. In October, housing starts rose 4% from September and were 9% higher than a year ago. Building permits, which are a leading indicator of future construction, increased 5% from last month to the best level since May 2007. The builder confidence index published each month by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) also is at much stronger levels than a year ago.

The latest report on retail sales showed roughly the expected level of solid improvement. In October, retail sales rose 0.3% from September and were a healthy 3.1% higher than a year ago. Consumer spending remains a source of strength for the economy heading into the important holiday shopping season.

The minutes from the October 30 Fed meeting released this week were very similar to recent comments from Fed officials. According to the minutes, monetary policy is not likely to change as long as “incoming information” does not cause a “material reassessment” of the economic outlook. In addition, trade was cited as a potential concern for global economic activity.

Week Ahead

November 21 — Existing Home Sales report

November 26 — New Home Sales report

November 27 — Core PCE Price Index, Durable Goods report, Pending Home Sales Index, and Personal Income and Outlays report

November 28 — Mortgage markets closed in observance of Thanksgiving

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