In this week’s Real Estate News in Brief… we have a recession forecast, the average tax refund, and a really good reason to exercise!
We begin with economic news from this past week, and a report that shows a rebound in economic growth. The Conference Board says the leading economic index was up .4% in March. That’s after a less-than-spectacular .1% increase in February, and a flat reading in January. MarketWatch economists say the growth spurt is due to the strong job market and high stock prices.
Home builders are expressing optimism about the housing market. The National Association of Home Builders’ reports an increase in its monthly confidence index. The trade group says the reading is now 63. Anything above 50 means that home builders are feeling good about the current conditions.
A delayed report from the Commerce Department shows that housing starts fell .3% in February. Permits were also down 1.7%. March could show an another fall off. A report by Credit Suisse on March homebuilding shows that new contracts were 7% lower than March 2018, and that buyer traffic is down 17%. Analysts say the slowdown is partially due to bad weather in much of the country. (1)
Mortgage rates crept higher for a third week in a row. Freddie Mac says the average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage is up five basis points to 4.17%. They were as low as 4.06% at the end of March.
In other news making headlines…
No Recession in Sight
Most Wall Street professionals don’t see a recession coming our way. CNBC says, 96% of the people who responded to a survey do not believe we’ll have a recession by the summer of next year. 70% of them expressed optimism about the overall economy. A majority of them say that first quarter earnings will top expectations. And, 80% of them feel the U.S. is still the best place to spend their investment dollars. (2)
These Wall Street pros include investors, traders, and strategists who also appear on CNBC’s “Fast Money Halftime Report.” CNBC reports that there’s less worry about ongoing issues like federal reserve policy, the global economic slowdown, and the trade dispute between the U.S. and China.
IMF Warns Against Presidential Meddling
The International Monetary Fund is giving President Trump a slap on the nose. It issued a warning about the President’s pressure on the Federal Reserve to lower interest rates. Tobias Adrian of the IMF says, “Undermining central-bank independence would be dangerous.” He says, the Fed is set up as an independent institution, and the governors and the chair don’t have to listen when politicians try to influence their decisions.
President Trump has posted several tweets about the Fed’s monetary policy. He previously criticized the Fed for raising rates, and now that rates are on hold, Trump is pushing for lower rates. He also wants to restore the Fed’s bond-buying program known as quantitative easing. There’s also talk that the President will nominate two political loyalists to the Fed’s board of governors. (3)
Average Tax Refund
If you’re wondering how recent changes in the tax code are affecting tax refunds, the IRS is reporting that the average tax return for the 2019 tax season is $2,833. That’s based on some 65 million refunds worth $191 billion issued by March 22nd. Last year’s average was $31 more at $2,864.
New Tool Maps Big Construction Projects
There’s a new mapping tool that will show you where the nation’s biggest construction projects are taking place. It’s an interactive tool by Construction Dive that shows a map of all 50 states with dots marking various kinds of construction projects. You can click on the dots for a pop-up window with information and a photo. There are nine categories from airports and event centers to office structures and healthcare facilities.
Construction Dive hopes the tool will help identify regional trends and market-based opportunities. It is asking for tips and feedback that will help make the tool more useful.
More Happiness with Exercise than Money
A new study out of Yale and Oxford claims that exercise will make you happier than money. Researchers analyzed data about physical activity and mental wellbeing for more than 1.2 million Americans. The category for physical activity was broad. It included 75 types of activities.
Participants were asked about their mental state during the prior 30 days. They were also asked about their income and the types of activities they participated in. Researchers found that people who exercise regularly, feel bad for an average 35 days a year, but that people who don’t lead active lives had 18 additional “bad days” per year. They also found that physically active people feel just as good about their lives as non-active people who earn $25,000 a year more.
(1) Economic News: MarketWatch Report
(2) No Recession: CNBC Article
(3) IMF Warns Trump