The U.S. economy continues to show signs of a rebound.
According to the Census Bureau, Retail Sales climbed to $329 billion last month on a seasonally-adjusted basis, excluding automobiles. January’s data marks the 18th time in 19 months that Retail Sales rose, a run that’s increased total sales receipts by 11 percent.
This is big news because Retail Sales accounts for close to 70% of the U.S. economy.
In addition, consumer confidence is rising.
In a separate, joint report from the University of Michigan and Thompson Reuters, it was shown that consumer attitudes toward the economy and the future are improving, primarily the result of recent job gains.
The Survey of Consumers posted its highest value in 12 months.
It is not a coincidence that Retail Sales and consumer confidence both made multi-month highs — the readings are more than loosely linked. As consumers feel more confident about the economy and their personal prospects for the future, they’re more likely to spend money on goods and services, which leads to an increase in consumer spending.
For the housing market, the ramifications are two-fold.
First, from the financing side, an expanding economy is linked to rising mortgage rates. This is because Wall Street tends to chase risk in a growth economy and the bond market offers little in the way of risk. As demand for bonds drops, then, mortgage rates rise.
Second, rising consumer confidence can lead home values higher, too.
Confident consumers are more likely than fearful ones to become home buyers. They’re more likely to stop renting and start buying; more likely to list their home and “move-up” to something bigger; more likely to “take the next step”.
So, as more buyers enter the market at a time when the national home supply is shrinking, the supply-demand balance in housing is shifting toward the sellers. This creates price pressures and should lead to higher home valuations.
If you have plans to buy a home in 2012, the best time to buy may be now. Today’s mortgage rates are low and so are the home prices — a combination that’s unlikely to last.