Inflation eased slightly in July, which could bode well for the housing market in the months ahead, says Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of REALTORS®. Overall, inflation slowed from 9.1% in June to 8.5% in July, but prices for food and rent continued to climb, the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index showed Wednesday.
Still, the slight deceleration suggests that consumer price inflation may have peaked, which suggests that mortgage rates also may have peaked, Yun says. The level of inflation “is still high and uncomfortable but may indicate the start of a steady retreat,” Yun adds.
Gasoline prices posted a 7% monthly decline, a significant contributor to the recent moderation in inflation. However, prices remain 44% higher than a year ago and 104% higher than two years ago. Also, the CPI showed that the rising costs of food, up 10.9% in July, continue to hit many Americans’ pocketbooks. That’s the highest increase in food prices since May 1979. Household energy costs were up 20.5%, and furniture costs were up 14.8%.
Rents continued to rise in July, up 6.3% compared to a year prior, the CPI showed. “That is a testament to the ongoing housing shortage,” Yun says.
But could the worst of sky-high inflation be behind Americans? Yun thinks so. “If there is a sustained decline in gasoline prices and more production of apartments and single-family homes, consumer prices will pull back, encouraging the Federal Reserve policy to be less aggressive,” Yun says. “Mortgage rates will fall.”
On Wednesday morning, the 10-year Treasury yield stood at 2.7%. “That should translate into 30-year mortgage rates pulling back to under 5%,” Yun says. “Some recent potential home buyers who were pushed out of the market may now be able to get back in and qualify for a mortgage.”