Last week’s economic news brought good news to U.S. consumers on several fronts. Mortgage rates fell and national unemployment fell to its lowest rate in 50 years. Inflation slowed and the Federal Reserve held its target federal funds rate steady.

Freddie Mac analysts credited strong labor markets, high consumer confidence and falling mortgage rates as factors setting the stage for more home sales.

Pending Home Sales Rise as Construction Spending Falls

The National Association of Realtors® reported higher pending home sales in March; home sales under contract but not completed rose 3.89 percent in March as compared to February’s negative reading of -1.00 percent growth. Pending home sales provide a gauge for completed sales and mortgage loan volume.

Increasing home sales will help balance a lop-sided housing market fueled by an acute shortage of homes for sale and rapidly rising home prices that provided prospective home buyers with few options. High demand for homes drove prices up as buyers competed for available homes in popular metro areas.

Real estate pros repeatedly say building more homes is necessary for bringing housing markets back into balance, but construction spending was -0.90 percent lower in March. Analysts expected spending to dip -0.40 percent; February’s reading showed an increase of 0.70 percent in construction spending; Builders face ongoing headwinds including shortages of buildable lots and higher materials prices.

Mortgage Rates Fall as Fed Holds Key Rate Steady

The Federal Reserve did not raise its current federal funds rate range of 2.25 to 2.50 percent and inflation is growing slower than expected. These factors and low unemployment boosted consumer confidence in April; more home buyers were expected to enter the housing market as mortgage rates fell last week.

Freddie Mac reported that the average rate for 30-year fixed rate mortgages fell six basis points to 4.14 percent; the average rate for 15-year fixed rate mortgage was four basis points lower at 3.60 percent. Rates for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages averaged nine basis points lower at 3.68 percent.

Discount points averaged 0.50 percent for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages and 0.40 percent for 15-year fixed rate mortgages and 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

Labor Sector: Lowest Unemployment Rate in 50 Years

National Unemployment fell to 3.60 percent for the first time since 1969; this reading was lower than the expected reading of 3,70 percent the March reading of 3.80 percent. Public and private sector payrolls grew in April.

ADP reported 275,000 new private sector jobs in April; the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 263,000 more public and private-sector jobs; this exceeded expectations of 213,000 jobs added and the reading of 189,000 public and private sector jobs added in March. First-time jobless claims were unchanged from the prior week’s reading of 230,000 first-time claims filed.

Consumer confidence rose to an index reading of 129.20 in April; analysts expected a reading of 126.90 percent based on the March index reading of 124.20.

Whats Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic news includes readings on inflation, job openings and weekly readings on first-time jobless claims and mortgage rates.