Pessimistic views on the direction of the economy appears to be affecting consumer sentiment about the housing market.
Fannie Mae’s Home Purchase Sentiment Index (HPSI) showed that consumers have a more negative view on the economy as a whole, with the outlook on the selling a home declining and job confidence weakening. The index decreased 2.5 points to 80.2 in March 2016, the lowest reading in 18 months, Fannie Mae reported.
"Growing pessimism over the last three months about the direction of the economy seems to be spilling over into home purchase sentiment,” said Doug Duncan, SVP and Chief Economist at Fannie Mae.
According to Fannie Mae, for the first time in over a year, more consumers believe now is a bad time to sell a home than a good time to sell. the net share of respondents who say that it is a good time to buy a house fell 2 percentage points to 33 percent as more Americans say it is a bad time to buy. Meanwhile, those that feel now is a good time to sell a home decreased 8 percentage points to negative one percent.
Although the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ March employment report showing strong job creation and continued expansion of the labor force, survey respondents noted that their confidence about not losing their job declined in March.
The much-anticipated February 2016 Employment Summary from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) showed a mixed bag in the U.S. labor market. While February’s job gains were solid at 242,000 and the labor force participation rate shot up to a 15-month high, a noticeable weakness in the labor market is wage growth.
Amid all the positives in the February employment summary, however, the average hourly earnings for all employees declined by 3 cents down to $25.35 after an increase of 12 cents in January. The average workweek also declined in February by 0.2 hours down to approximately 34.4 hours. The lack of wage growth combined with house price appreciation has caused some concerns as far as affordability in the housing market, according to Fannie Mae chief economist Doug Duncan.
“On the housing front, builders continue to hire more workers, but at a steadily slowing pace since last November, suggesting little relief to one factor underlying extremely tight inventories,” Duncan said. “Our forecast of a more modest gain in home sales this year reflects our concern of declining housing affordability from income growth that is trailing home price appreciation. Today’s jobs report is consistent with our view of an affordability-constrained housing expansion."
Fannie Mae found that of those consumers surveyed, those that say they are not concerned about losing their job decreased 7 percent to 68 percent. Meanwhile, the net share of respondents who say their household income is significantly higher than it was 12 months ago fell 4 percentage points to 11 percent.
The net share of respondents who say that home prices will go up rose 1 percentage point to 34 percent, breaking the downward trend from the last few months, the report said. In addition, those that believe mortgage rates will go down rose 5 percentage points to negative 45 percent this month.
“The gap between the share of consumers who think the economy is on the wrong track and the share who think it is on the right track has widened, nearly matching its reading last August, when concerns regarding China and oil prices led to the biggest stock market plunge in years," Duncan said. "In turn, we saw dips this month in income growth perceptions, attitudes about the home selling climate, and job confidence, all of which contributed to the lowest HPSI reading in the last year and a half. These declines seem to be at odds with recent news of solid overall job creation, but may reflect weakening economic performance in certain industries.”
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