Last week's labor market report, ostensibly showing positive news in the form of 2.9% year-over-year gains for earnings, increased volatility for stock prices as investors reassessed their outlook for market risk and interest rates. Wage gains are good news for rental and for-sale housing demand, but income growth without improvements for worker productivity can be inflationary.
While inflation remains tame, it is showing signs of an increase. For example, the three-month moving average annual change of core CPI is now at 2.9%, the highest since August 2011. As a result, interest rates have increased significantly over the last month, with the 10-year Treasury bond near 2.9%. Higher rates for the 10-year Treasury will push up mortgage rates, with the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage now averaging above 4.3%.
Rising rates increase the cost of buying a home with a mortgage. However, higher incomes are particularly helpful for home buyers saving for a downpayment and help counter the negative effect of higher mortgage rates on housing affordability. This environment can yield overall positive outcomes for housing, provided the wage gains are accompanied by improvement for productivity in the post-tax reform economy.
–NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz