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Fannie Mae ESR Group Expects Housing-Related Components To Become Key Inflation Drivers

Navi Persaud
Jun 16, 2021
Photo of a densely packed suburban area.

Fannie Mae's Economic and Strategic Research Group predicts the housing industry will become a powerful driver of inflation over the next year and a half.

KEY TAKEAWAYS
  • Economic growth expectations increased by 7.1%.
  • The ESR Group projects economic growth to slow by 5.5%.
  • The group estimates domestic inflation measures will remain near 5%.

Economic growth expectations for full-year 2021 increased by 7.1%, one-tenth higher than the previous forecast, due to stronger-than-expected consumer spending data year to date, according to the June 2021 commentary from the Fannie Mae Economic and Strategic Research (ESR) Group.

Additionally, the ESR Group continues to forecast a deceleration in the recently rapid growth trajectory. It is projecting economic growth to slow to 5.5% in the fourth quarter of 2021 and 2.2% in the fourth quarter of 2022, according to the report. However, as discussed in the ESR Group's most recent Housing Insights piece, the group expects housing to “become a meaningful driver of inflation over the next year and a half, contributing to the ESR Group's prediction that domestic inflation measures will remain near 5% through year-end 2021 – before decelerating to approximately 3% by the end of 2022 – well above the Federal Reserve's 2.0% inflation target.”

The ESR Group's substantial upward revision to its inflation expectations has not materially changed its growth forecast, because while it sees underlying inflation pressure building, it believes the factors driving current inflation to be largely transitory, according to the report. However, the downside risks associated with potentially persistently higher inflation, including a more aggressive pace of monetary tightening by the Federal Reserve, could drag on growth over the forecast horizon.

While demand for housing remains quite strong, the ESR Group's latest forecast reiterates that supply-side factors continue to significantly limit construction, mortgage origination, and home sale activity. In fact, the ESR Group downgraded its forecast for second and third quarter home sales – to 6.6 million and 6.5 million, respectively, from 6.9 million and 6.7 million in the prior forecast – due to the ongoing lack of available listings and a slowing pace of new construction due to supply constraints. The ESR Group's 30-year fixed mortgage rate forecast was little changed at 3.0% and 3.3% on a full-year 2021 and 2022 basis, respectively.

“Strong demand for housing continues to run up against a long-running lack of supply,” said Doug Duncan, Fannie Mae senior vice president and chief economist. “We've seen this disconnect lead to rapid house prices gains over this past year, but we believe it will soon reveal itself within inflation measures as well. Demographic factors remain favorable for a strong housing market and many of the supply constraints that homebuilders face are likely to persist in the near term, so this upward pricing pressure is not likely to be as transitory as many of the current inflation drivers.”

“Nonetheless, in the past housing has served as an intermediate-term inflation hedge. If interest rates rise to reflect the increase in inflation based on an expectation of tighter future monetary policy, home sales would likely moderate along with house price appreciation.”

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