Economic update for the week ending July 22, 2017

Stocks almost unchanged this week – In a calm week, the S&P and Nasdaq remained at record highs while the Dow was slightly lower than the record highs of last week. The Dow Jones Industrial Average ended the week at 21,580.07, down from 21,637.74 last week. The S&P 500 closed the week at 2,472.55, up from its close last week of 2,459.27. The NASDAQ closed the week at 6,387.75, up from last week’s close of 6,312.47. 

Bond yields drop this week – The 10-year Treasury bond closed the week at 2.24%, down from 2.33% last week. The 30-year treasury yield ended the week at 2.81%, down from 2.91% last week. Mortgage rates follow treasury bond yields so we watch bond yields carefully.

Mortgage rates lower this week week – The July 20, 2017 Freddie Mac Primary Mortgage Survey reported that the 30-year fixed mortgage rate average was 3.96%, down from 4.03% last week. The 15-year fixed was 3.23%, down from 3.29% last week. The 5-year ARM was 3.21%, down from 3.27% last week. 

L.A. County unemployment rate unchanged in June – The unemployment rate remained at a record low of 4.4% in June. A year ago, the unemployment rate stood at 5.2%. 

California existing home sales and prices up in June – The California Association of Realtors announced that sales of existing, single-family detached homes totaled a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 443,150 units in June. The statewide sales figure represents what would be the total number of homes sold during 2017 if sales maintained the June pace throughout the year. It is adjusted to account for seasonal factors that typically influence home sales. The June figure was up 3.3% from the revised 428,890 level in May and up 2.4% compared with home sales in June 2016 of a revised 432,880. Year-to-date sales are running 3.2% ahead of last year’s pace.  

The statewide median price was up 0.9% from a revised $550,080 in May to reach $555,150 in June, and was 7.0% higher than the revised $518,830 recorded in June 2016. The median sales price is the point at which half of homes sold for more and half sold for less. 

Foreign home buyers set U.S. record – The National Association of Realtors announced that foreigners purchased 284,455 residential properties in the 12 months ending March 31, 2017. That’s an increase of about 34% from the same period one year ago. The dollar volume surged nearly 50% to $153 billion. That was a new record. Chinese nationals purchased $31.7 billion worth of residential properties, up from $27.3 billion one year earlier. The group with the largest increase was Canadians, who purchased $19 billion worth of residential properties, up from $8.9 billion in the 12 months ending March 31, 2016. It was a dramatic jump considering that the strong U.S. dollar makes properties more expensive. Foreign buyers spent $35 billion on California residential properties. That was up from $27 billion one year earlier. Asian buyers represented 71% of foreign buyers in California, up from 51% a year earlier.