National new home sales metrics; January 2021

New Home Sales
Sales of new single-family houses in January 2021 were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 923,000, according to
estimates released jointly today by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
This is 4.3 percent (±18.1 percent)* above the revised December rate of 885,000 and is 19.3 percent (±19.5
percent)* above the January 2020 estimate of 774,000.
Sales Price
The median sales price of new houses sold in January 2021 was $346,400. The average sales price was $408,800.
For Sale Inventory and Months’ Supply
The seasonally-adjusted estimate of new houses for sale at the end of January was 307,000. This represents a
supply of 4.0 months at the current sales rate.

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Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index for January, 2021

New York, February 23, 2021…The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index® improved again in February, after increasing in January. The Index now stands at 91.3 (1985=100), up from 88.9 in January. The Present Situation Index—based on consumers’ assessment of current business and labor market conditions—climbed from 85.5 to 92.0. However, the Expectations Index—based on consumers’ short-term outlook for income, business, and labor market conditions—fell marginally, from 91.2 last month to 90.8 in February.  

The monthly Consumer Confidence Survey®, based on a probability-design random sample, is conducted for The Conference Board by Nielsen, a leading global provider of information and analytics around what consumers buy and watch. The cutoff date for the preliminary results was February 11. The survey results did not fully capture the events surrounding the Texas power crisis nor the loosening of dining restrictions in NYC.

“After three months of consecutive declines in the Present Situation Index, consumers’ assessment of current conditions improved in February,” said Lynn Franco, Senior Director of Economic Indicators at The Conference Board. “This course reversal suggests economic growth has not slowed further. While the Expectations Index fell marginally in February, consumers remain cautiously optimistic, on the whole, about the outlook for the coming months. Notably, vacation intentions—particularly, plans to travel outside the U.S. and via air—saw an uptick this month, and are poised to improve further as vaccination efforts expand.”

Consumers’ assessment of current conditions improved in February. The percentage of consumers claiming business conditions are “good” increased from 15.8 percent to 16.5 percent, while the proportion claiming business conditions are “bad” fell from 42.4 percent to 39.9 percent. Consumers’ assessment of the labor market also improved. The percentage of consumers saying jobs are “plentiful” increased from 20.0 percent to 21.9 percent, while those claiming jobs are “hard to get” declined from 22.5 percent to 21.2 percent.

Consumers, however, were marginally less optimistic about the short-term outlook in February. The percentage of consumers expecting business conditions will improve over the next six months fell from 34.1 percent to 31.0 percent; however, the proportion expecting business conditions will worsen also declined, from 19.0 percent to 17.7 percent. Likewise, consumers’ outlook regarding the job market was somewhat mixed. The proportion expecting more jobs in the months ahead decreased from 30.4 percent to 26.1 percent; however, those anticipating fewer jobs also declined, from 22.1 percent to 20.6 percent. Regarding short-term income prospects, 15.2 percent of consumers expect their incomes to increase in the next six months, down slightly from 15.8 percent in January. Conversely, 13.2 percent expect their incomes to decrease, down from 15.5 percent last month.

Source: February 2021 Consumer Confidence Survey®

The Conference Board / Release #8036

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Conference Board LEI Index for January; 2021

NEW YORK, February 22, 2021The Conference Board Leading Economic Index® (LEI)for theU.S. increased 0.5 percent in January to 110.3 (2016 = 100), following a 0.4 percent increase in December and a 0.9 percent increase in November.

“While the pace of increase in the U.S. LEI has slowed since mid-2020, January’s gains were broad-based and suggest economic growth should improve gradually over the first half of 2021,” said Ataman Ozyildirim, Senior Director of Economic Research at The Conference Board. “As the vaccination campaign against COVID-19 accelerates, labor markets and overall growth are likely to continue improving through the rest of this year as well. The Conference Board now expects the U.S. economy to expand by 4.4 percent in 2021, after a 3.5 percent contraction in 2020.”

The Conference Board Coincident Economic Index® (CEI) for the U.S. increased 0.2 percent in January to 103.3 (2016 = 100), following a 0.1 percent increase in December and no change in November.

The Conference Board Lagging Economic Index® (LAG) for the U.S. decreased 0.6 percent in January to 106.2 (2016 = 100), following a 0.5 percent increase in December and no change in November.

The next release is scheduled for Thursday, March 18 at 10 A.M. ET.

About The Conference Board Leading Economic Index® (LEI) for the U.S.

The composite economic indexes are the key elements in an analytic system designed to signal peaks and troughs in the business cycle. The leading, coincident, and lagging economic indexes are essentially composite averages of several individual leading, coincident, or lagging indicators. They are constructed to summarize and reveal common turning point patterns in economic data in a clearer and more convincing manner than any individual component – primarily because they smooth out some of the volatility of individual components.

The ten components of The Conference Board Leading Economic Index® for the U.S. include:

Average weekly hours, manufacturing

Average weekly initial claims for unemployment insurance

Manufacturers’ new orders, consumer goods and materials

ISM® Index of New Orders

Manufacturers’ new orders, nondefense capital goods excluding aircraft orders

Building permits, new private housing units

Stock prices, 500 common stocks

Leading Credit Index™

Interest rate spread, 10-year Treasury bonds less federal funds

Average consumer expectations for business conditions

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CEO Confidence Index for January, 2021

CEO Confidence Increased to a 17-Year High in Q1 2021

Short-term Expectations improved, as CEOs Prepare for Fewer Layoffs and Higher Wages

New York, NY, February 18, 2021 …The Conference Board Measure of CEO Confidence™ in collaboration with The Business Council improved further in the first quarter of 2021, following a sharp increase in the previous survey, conducted in September 2020. The measure now stands at 73, up from 64. This marks the highest level of CEO confidence since Q1 2004, when the measure stood at 74. (A reading above 50 points reflects more positive than negative responses.)

The outlook for employees’ wages has improved, while the potential for layoffs has receded. In Q1, 36 percent of CEOs foresaw increasing their employees’ wages by more than 3 percent over the next 12 months, compared with 22 percent in the previous survey. Moreover, just 12 percent CEOs said they anticipated reducing their workforce over the next 12 months, down from 34 percent. Talent shortages appear to be slowly reemerging: In Q1, business leaders reporting some trouble attracting qualified workers, in key or several areas, increased from 36 percent to 49 percent.

“With the vaccine rollout underway in major economies, CEOs entered 2021 historically upbeat,” said Dana Peterson, Chief Economist of The Conference Board. “They foresee the economy improving further over the next six months. However, setbacks from the pandemic remain a risk to future growth.”

Overall, 82 percent of CEOs expected economic conditions to improve over the next six months, up from 63 percent in the previous survey. The proportion expecting conditions to worsen was cut in half—from 15 percent to 7 percent. Similarly, 78 percent of CEOs anticipate short-term prospects in their own industries to improve, up from 65 percent last September.

“CEOs across industries are planning for life after COVID-19,” said Roger W. Ferguson, Jr., Vice Chairman of The Business Council and Trustee of The Conference Board. “If downside risks are avoided, then this optimism will likely translate into higher wages, employment, and capital spending over the next year.” 

Current Conditions

CEOs’ assessment of general economic conditions remained positive overall in Q1:

  • 67 percent of CEOs reported economic conditions were better compared to six months ago, down slightly from 70 percent
  • However, only 10 percent said conditions were worse, down from 21 percent

CEOs remained optimistic about conditions in their own industries in Q1 compared to the prior survey:

  • 68 percent of CEOs reported conditions in their industries were better compared to six months ago, unchanged from the September survey
  • However, only 8 percent said conditions were worse in their own industries, down from 20 percent 

Future Conditions

Expectations about the short-term economic outlook improved considerably in Q1 over the previous survey:

  • 82 percent of CEOs expected economic conditions to improve over the next six months, up from 63 percent
  • Moreover, only 7 percent expected conditions to worsen, down from 15 percent

CEOs’ expectations regarding short-term prospects in their own industries also improved in Q1:

  • 78 percent of CEOs anticipated improved conditions in their industry, up from 65 percent
  • 7 percent expected conditions to worsen, down from 11 percent

Capital Spending, Employment, Recruiting, and Wages

The survey also gauged CEOs’ expectations about four key actions their companies plan on taking over the next 12 months.

  • Capital Spending: 45 percent of CEOs expected to increase their capital budgets in the year ahead, while 15 percent anticipated decreasing spending, compared with 25 percent and 37 percent, respectively
  • Employment: 47 percent of CEOs expected to expand their workforce; up from 33 percent in the September survey
  • Hiring Qualified People: 50 percent of CEOs expected  few, if any, problems finding qualified workers, down from 62 percent
  • Wages: 36 percent of CEOs expect to increase wages by 3 percent or more; just 1 percent foresee wage cuts

Source: CEO Confidence Survey, January 2021 / The Conference Board

The CEO Confidence survey was fielded from January 14th through January 29th.

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National new home building permits, starts and completion metrics; January 2021

Building Permits


Privately-owned housing units authorized by building permits in January were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,881,000. This is 10.4 percent (±1.2 percent) above the revised December rate of 1,704,000 and is 22.5 percent (±1.8 percent) above the January 2020 rate of 1,536,000. Single-family authorizations in January were at a rate of 1,269,000; this is 3.8 percent (±0.9 percent) above the revised December figure of 1,223,000. Authorizations of
units in buildings with five units or more were at a rate of 557,000 in January.

Housing Starts

Privately-owned housing starts in January were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,580,000. This is 6.0 percent (±16.4 percent)* below the revised December estimate of 1,680,000 and is 2.3 percent (±13.9 percent)* below the January 2020 rate of 1,617,000. Single-family housing starts in January were at a rate of 1,162,000; this is 12.2 percent (±11.3 percent) below the revised December figure of 1,323,000. The January rate for units in buildings with
five units or more was 402,000.


Housing Completions


Privately-owned housing completions in January were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,336,000. This is 2.3 percent (±6.6 percent)* below the revised December estimate of 1,368,000, but is 2.4 percent (±11.0 percent)* above the January 2020 rate of 1,305,000. Single-family housing completions in January were at a rate of 1,036,000; this is 10.0 percent (±8.5 percent) above the revised December rate of 942,000. The January rate for units in buildings with five units or more was 296,000.

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MBA national forbearance metrics; 2/8/21

WASHINGTON, D.C. (February 8, 2021) – The Mortgage Bankers Association’s (MBA) latest Forbearance and Call Volume Survey revealed that the total number of loans now in forbearance decreased by 3 basis points from 5.38% of servicers’ portfolio volume in the prior week to 5.35% as of January 31, 2021. According to MBA’s estimate, 2.7 million homeowners are in forbearance plans.

The share of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac loans in forbearance decreased to 3.07% – a 3-basis-point improvement. Ginnie Mae loans in forbearance decreased 5 basis points to 7.46%, while the forbearance share for portfolio loans and private-label securities (PLS) decreased by 2 basis points to 9.14%. The percentage of loans in forbearance for independent mortgage bank (IMB) servicers decreased 4 basis points to 5.73%, and the percentage of loans in forbearance for depository servicers decreased 1 basis point to 5.36%.  

“The share of loans in forbearance decreased at the end of January across all investor categories. Almost 14 percent of homeowners in forbearance were reported as current on their payments at the end of last month, but the share has declined nearly every month from 28 percent in May,” said Mike Fratantoni, MBA’s Senior Vice President and Chief Economist. “While new forbearance requests increased slightly at the end of January, the rate of exits picked up somewhat but remained much lower than in recent months. We are anticipating a sharp increase in exits in March and April as borrowers hit the 12-month expiration of their forbearance plans.”  

Fratantoni added, “The job market rebounded slightly in January following a decline in December, but there are still 6.5 percent fewer jobs in the U.S. economy compared to February 2020. The proportion of long-term unemployed also remains troubling, with 4 million people who have been actively looking for work for 27 weeks or more. These are the homeowners who are likely to still be in forbearance and need additional support until the job market recovers to a greater extent.”

Key findings of MBA’s Forbearance and Call Volume Survey – January 25 to January 31, 2021

  • Total loans in forbearance decreased by 3 basis points relative to the prior week: from 5.38% to 5.35%.
    • By investor type, the share of Ginnie Mae loans in forbearance decreased relative to the prior week: from 7.51% to 7.46%.
    • The share of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac loans in forbearance decreased relative to the prior week: from 3.10% to 3.07%.
    • The share of other loans (e.g., portfolio and PLS loans) in forbearance decreased relative to the prior week: from 9.16% to 9.14%.
  • By stage, 16.52% of total loans in forbearance are in the initial forbearance plan stage, while 80.98% are in a forbearance extension. The remaining 2.50% are forbearance re-entries.
  • Total weekly forbearance requests as a percent of servicing portfolio volume (#) increased relative to the prior week: from 0.06% to 0.07%.
  • Of the cumulative forbearance exits for the period from June 1, 2020 through January 31, 2021:
    • 28.4% represented borrowers who continued to make their monthly payments during their forbearance period.
    • 25.5% resulted in a loan deferral/partial claim.
    • 15.6% resulted in reinstatements, in which past-due amounts are paid back when exiting forbearance.
    • 13.5% represented borrowers who did not make all of their monthly payments and exited forbearance without a loss mitigation plan in place yet.
    • 7.7% resulted in a loan modification or trial loan modification.
    •  7.5% resulted in loans paid off through either a refinance or by selling the home.
    • The remaining 1.8% resulted in repayment plans, short sales, deed-in-lieus or other reasons.
  • Weekly servicer call center volume:
    • As a percent of servicing portfolio volume (#), calls increased from the previous week from 7.2% to 8.4%.
    • Average speed to answer decreased from 2.4 minutes to 2.2 minutes.
    • Abandonment rates decreased from 6.7% to 6.2%.
    • Average call length remained unchanged relative to the prior two weeks at 8.0 minutes.
  • Loans in forbearance as a share of servicing portfolio volume (#) as of January 31, 2021:
    • Total: 5.35% (previous week: 5.38%)
    • IMBs: 5.73% (previous week: 5.77%)
    • Depositories: 5.36% (previous week: 5.37%)

MBA’s latest Forbearance and Call Volume Survey covers the period from January 25 through January 31, 2021, and represents 74% of the first-mortgage servicing market (37.0 million loans). To subscribe to the full report, go to www.mba.org/fbsurvey. If you are a mortgage servicer interested in participating in the survey, email fbsurvey@mba.org.   NOTE: Due to the observance of President’s Day next Monday, February 15, 2021, the next Forbearance and Call Volume Survey will be released on Tuesday, February 16, 2021 at 4 p.m. ET. 

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Conference Board Employment Trends Index; January 2021

The Conference Board Employment Trends Index™ (ETI) Increased in January

Uncertainty Remains, but a Stronger Labor Market Recovery May Occur by Late Spring

NEW YORK, February 8, 2021…The Conference Board Employment Trends Index™ (ETI) increased in January, the ninth consecutive monthly increase since May of last year. The index now stands at 99.27, up from 98.55 (a downward revision) in December. The index is currently down 10.0 percent from a year ago.

“The Employment Trends Index has been increasing in recent months, with the largest contributing component being the number of jobs in the temporary help industry. Over the next few months, expect some uncertainty around job growth, especially if some potentially adverse COVID-19 developments manifest – namely, the rapid spread of more aggressive virus strains. On the upside, however, by spring we expect strong job growth to resume and continue throughout the remainder of the year,” said Gad Levanon, Head of The Conference Board Labor Markets Institute. “By late spring, we expect that the number of new infections will be significantly lower due to the rollout of vaccinations, possibly prompting businesses to start adding jobs again at an accelerated pace. Most of the job gains are expected in in-person services such as restaurants, hotels, recreation, passenger transportation, and childcare services. Between now and the end of the year, the unemployment rate could drop to about 5 percent.”

January’s increase was driven by positive contributions from five of the eight components. From the largest positive contributor to the smallest, the components were: Number of Employees Hired by the Temporary-Help Industry; Ratio of Involuntarily Part-time to All Part-time Workers; Industrial Production; Percentage of Firms With Positions Not Able to Fill Right Now; and Job Openings.

The Employment Trends Index is a leading composite index for employment. Turning points in the index indicate that a turning point in employment is about to occur in the coming months. The Employment Trends Index aggregates eight leading indicators of employment, each of which has proven accurate in its own area. Aggregating individual indicators into a composite index filters out “noise” to show underlying trends more clearly.

The eight leading indicators of employment aggregated into the Employment Trends Index include:

*Statistical imputation for the recent month

**Statistical imputation for two most recent months

The Conference Board publishes the Employment Trends Index monthly, at 10 a.m. ET, on the Monday that follows each Friday release of the Bureau of Labor Statistics Employment Situation report. The technical notes to this series are available on The Conference Board website: http://www.conference-board.org/data/eti.cfm.

About The Conference Board

The Conference Board is the member-driven think tank that delivers trusted insights for what’s ahead. Founded in 1916, we are a non-partisan, not-for-profit entity holding 501 (c) (3) tax-exempt status in the United States. www.conference-board.org.

Media Contact

Jonathan.Liu@tcb.org

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Conference Board commentary on BLS employment metrics

Commentary on today’s U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Employment Situation Report

By Gad Levanon, Head of The Conference Board Labor Market Institute

After a decline in December, in January the number of jobs increased by just 49,000, undershooting economists’ expectations. The employment level is still nearly 9 million jobs lower relative to pre-pandemic levels. The published unemployment rate significantly dropped from 6.7 to 6.3 percent, and the true rate, after adjusting for the misclassification error, is 6.9 percent. The labor force participation rate slightly declined to 61.4 percent, and unlike the unemployment rate it is not showing signs of improvement in recent months.

In January, the number of jobs in the leisure and hospitality sector continued to decline, but much less rapidly than in December. Sectors that had been doing well, such as manufacturing, warehousing, and retail, were weak in January. On the positive side, the most notable increase, 80,900, was in the temporary help industry, one of the most reliable leading indicators of employment, suggesting that job growth may improve in the coming months.

The number of new infections in the US peaked in early January, after which it has been sharply declining. However, the labor market continues to be at risk of job losses. Over the next couple of months, there will be two competing forces that will determine how the labor market will expand: new strains of the coronarvirus, which may spread more rapidly, and the distribution of vaccines.

By late spring, however, we expect that the number of new cases will be significantly lower due to the rollout of vaccinations, and the economy could start adding jobs again at an accelerated pace. Between now and the end of the year, around 4 million jobs could be gained, and the unemployment rate could drop to about 5 percent. Larger-than-expected government stimulus could lead to even larger job gains.

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National residential new home sales; December, 2020

MONTHLY NEW RESIDENTIAL SALES, DECEMBER 2020
Release Number: CB21-12
January 28, 2021 – The U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development jointly
announced the following new residential sales statistics for December 2020:
NEW RESIDENTIAL SALES
DECEMBER 2020
New Houses Sold1
: 842,000
New Houses For Sale2
: 302,000
Median Sales Price: $355,900

New Home Sales
Sales of new single-family houses in December 2020 were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 842,000, according to estimates released jointly today by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

This is 1.6 percent (±15.8 percent)* above the revised November rate of 829,000 and is 15.2 percent (±17.2 percent)* above the December 2019 estimate of 731,000.


An estimated 811,000 new homes were sold in 2020. This is 18.8 percent (±4.3 percent) above the 2019 figure of 683,000.


Sales Price
The median sales price of new houses sold in December 2020 was $355,900. The average sales price was $394,900.


For Sale Inventory and Months’ Supply
The seasonally-adjusted estimate of new houses for sale at the end of December was 302,000. This represents a supply of 4.3 months at the current sales rate.

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Conference Board LEI index for December; 2020

The Conference Board Leading Economic Index® (LEI) for the U.S. Increased in December

This month’s release incorporates annual benchmark revisions to the composite economic indexes, which bring them up-to-date with revisions in the source data. These revisions do not change the cyclical properties of the indexes. The indexes are updated throughout the year, but only for the previous six months. Data revisions that fall outside of the moving six-month window are not incorporated until the benchmark revision is made and the entire histories of the indexes are recomputed. As a result, the revised indexes, in levels and month-on-month changes, will not be directly comparable to those issued prior to the benchmark revision. For more information, please visit our website at http://www.conference-board.org/data/bci.cfm or contact us at indicators@conference-board.org

NEW YORK, January 28, 2021The Conference Board Leading Economic Index® (LEI)for theU.S. increased 0.3 percent in December to 109.5 (2016 = 100), following a 0.7 percent increase in November and a 0.9 percent increase in October.

“The US LEI’s slowing pace of increase in December suggests that US economic growth continues to moderate in the first quarter of 2021. Improvements in the US LEI were very broad-based among the leading indicators, except for rising initial claims for unemployment insurance and a mixed consumer outlook on business and economic conditions,” said Ataman Ozyildirim, Senior Director of Economic Research at The Conference Board. “While the resurgence of COVID-19 and weak labor markets remain barriers to growth, The Conference Board expects the economy to expand by at least 2.0 percent (annual rate) in Q1 and then gain momentum throughout the year.”

The Conference Board Coincident Economic Index® (CEI) for the U.S. increased 0.3 percent in December to 103.3 (2016 = 100), following a 0.1 percent increase in November and a 0.6 percent increase in October.

The Conference Board Lagging Economic Index® (LAG) for the U.S. increased 0.1 percent in December to 107.6 (2016 = 100), following a 0.1 percent increase in November and a 0.2 percent increase in October.

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