Overview: The coronavirus continues to be the focus of investors. On Tuesday, the Senate agreed on a bill to provide another $484 billion relief package, and it is expected to pass in the House soon. Daily volatility in mortgage markets have remained low, and rates again ended the week with little change.
In March, sales of previously owned (existing) homes fell 9% from February, but still were a little higher than a year ago. However, these figures are based on closings from contracts signed before the pandemic shut down major portions of the economy, and analysts expect sharper declines in sales activity in coming months. National median existing-home prices were up 8% from a year ago. Inventory levels remained low, as the number of homes for sale was at just a 3.4-month supply nationally and 10% lower than a year ago.
Social distancing measures and economic uncertainty restrained home building activity in March. Housing starts dropped 22% from February, while building permits, a leading indicator of future construction, fell 7%. Despite the losses in March, both starts and permits were at higher levels than a year ago.
China, which experienced the effects of the coronavirus earlier than the U.S., reported that its first-quarter gross domestic product (GDP), the broadest measure of economic growth, contracted by 6.8%. This followed an increase of 6.0% in the fourth quarter and was the first decline on record for the world’s second largest economy.
Existing Home Sales (millions)
April 23 — New Home Sales report
April 24 — Durable Goods report
April 29 — U.S. Federal Reserve meeting
April 29 — First-quarter GDP