Economy Watch: Home Price Growth Slows; Mortgage Delinquencies, AIA Billings Index Edge Up

The House Price Index was up 0.3 percent in August compared with the previous month, although economists expected a larger monthly increase. The mortgage delinquency rate increased from 6.2 percent in August to 6.46 percent in September. And the American Institute of Architects reported that its September Architecture Billings Index

In another indication that home price appreciation isn’t quite as fleet-footed as it has been recently, the Federal Housing Finance Agency said on Wednesday that its House Price Index was up 0.3 percent in August compared with the previous month. The month-over-month increase in July, previously reported as 1 percent, was revised downward to 0.8 percent.

Economists were expecting a somewhat larger monthly increase for August, perhaps as much as in July. But it’s possible that this summer’s uptick in interest rates – and maybe generalized uncertainty – is putting the brakes on prices appreciation before it gets too bubble-like.

Compared with August 2012, home prices increased 8.5 percent, according to the agency. The index is still 9.4 percent below its most recent peak in April 2007, but roughly the same as in April 2005. The FHFA calculates its index using price information from mortgages either sold to or guaranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. While not the entire universe of mortgages, that’s still a meaty slice of the total.

Mortgage Delinquencies Edge Up

Lender Processing Services reported on Wednesday that the U.S. mortgage delinquency rate — by which it means loans 30 or more days past due, but not actually in foreclosure — increased from 6.2 percent in August to 6.46 percent in September, though that’s mostly a normal seasonal variation. In September 2012, the delinquency rate was 7.4 percent.

Also, according to the company, the percent of loans in the foreclosure process saw a small monthly decline, from 2.66 percent in August to 2.63 percent in September. In August 2012, the rate was 3.87 percent, so the year-over-year improvement is considerable — down by about a third. Still, the current rate is well above a “normal” (pre-recession) rate of 1 percent or so.

All together, about 4.59 million properties nationwide were either delinquent or in foreclosure in September, notes LPS. That’s up from 4.46 million in August, but down from 5.64 million in September 2012.

AIA Billings Index Edges Up

The American Institute of Architects reported on Wednesday that its September Architecture Billings Index was 54.3, up from 53.8 in August. The score reflects an increase in design services (any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings), according to the organization. Things might slow down later, however: the new projects inquiry index was 58.6 in September, down from the reading of 63.0 the previous month.

Amid some weak-ish earnings reports, Wall Street suffered a down day on Wednesday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average losing 54.33 points, or 0.35 percent. The S&P 500 was off 0.47 percent and the Nasdaq declined 0.57 percent.