“When I was born, I was so surprised I didn’t talk for a year and a half.” –Gracie Allen, American comedian

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reported Pending Home Sales rose in December for the third month in a row, ending 0.5% ahead of a year ago. This index of contracts signed on existing homes foretells sales gains a few months out.

The NAR’s chief economist predicts existing home sales will hit 5.54 million units in 2018: “the larger paychecks most households will see from the tax cuts…and the healthy labor economy and job market will continue to boost demand.” But tight inventories in many markets remain a concern

The Census Bureau reports homeownership in Q4 reached its highest level in three years. Zillow’s Senior Economist feels “after bouncing around near 50-year lows for the past few years, the national homeownership rate finally seems to be gaining sustainable momentum.”

Prospects care more about their needs than your qualifications. Get them talking about their hopes and dreams. Then say how you’ll help achieve them.

Review of Last Week
GOOD NEWS IS BAD NEWS… The bad news was stocks tanked, but that was blamed on the good news of the January jobs report. A better-than-expected 200,000 jobs were added, and average hourly earnings (wages) are now up 2.9% year-over-year, the highest growth rate since 2009.

Unfortunately, this wage growth can also drive up inflation, which could encourage the Fed to do more than the two additional rate hikes expected this year. Who knows. Some felt the big stock selloff was just a normal correction in a market that’s come a little too far a little too fast.

More evidence of a faster growing economy came with Personal Income AND Spending up nicely in December, with Core PCE Prices, the Fed’s favorite inflation read, still a ways from their 2% target. And University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment on the economy remains high.

The week ended with the Dow down 4.1%, to 25521; the S&P 500 down 3.9%, to 2762; and the Nasdaq down 3.5%, to 7241. Bonds headed south from the same inflation concerns that hurt stocks. The 30YR FNMA 4.0% bond we watch fell by .73, to $102.83. In Freddie Mac’s latest Primary Mortgage Market Survey, national average 30-year fixed mortgage rates edged up. Remember, mortgage rates can be extremely volatile, so check with your mortgage professional for up-to-the-minute information.

A recent survey reports 67% of Americans expect their finances to improve in 2018. Millennials were the most optimistic demographic, with 79% seeing financial improvement.

This Week’s Forecast
SERVICES, TRADE DEFICIT BOTH UP… We’re taking a breather from last week’s avalanche of reports, with just a few bits of data worth watching. The ISM Services index is expected to show continued growth for the sector of the economy creating the most jobs. We’d rather not see growth in our Trade Balance deficit, but it looks like imports will keep besting exports.