Rapid Acceleration in Economic Growth Expected as Social Restrictions Ease

Tuesday, April 20th, 2021

Full-year 2021 real GDP growth expectations improved to 6.8 percent, including 9.1 percent annualized growth in the second quarter, due primarily to the continued easing of virus-related social restrictions and stimulus-driven consumer spending, according to the April 2021 commentary from the Fannie Mae (OTCQB: FNMA) Economic and Strategic Research (ESR) Group. Economic activity rebounded sharply following February's weather-related pullback, and the acceleration is expected to continue through the second quarter before tapering in the second half of the year. Given the unprecedented nature of last year's pandemic-induced slowdown, risks to this part of the forecasted recovery remain elevated. Uncertainties to the forecast include the extent of consumers' willingness to tap into their accumulated savings and return to previously COVID-restricted activities; they also include well-publicized supply chain disruptions, the pace of inflation, and both monetary and fiscal policy uncertainty.

While housing demand remains strong, the ESR Group revised its annual home sales forecast slightly downward due to continued supply constraints and a modestly higher outlook for mortgage rates. Even so, home sales and purchase mortgage originations in 2021 are expected to rise 6.2 percent and 14.5 percent, respectively, year over year. Additionally, given the continued supply-demand imbalance, home prices are forecast to rise 8.0 percent in 2021 – up from the previously forecast 4.2 percent – before decelerating to 2.9 percent annualized in 2022, as measured by the FHFA Home Price Index.

"The ramp-up we'd previously forecast for the economy is underway, as evidenced by, among other measures, increasing airline passenger reservations and restaurant bookings," said Doug Duncan, Senior Vice President and Chief Economist. "Vaccinations are continuing to roll out, and consumers appear to be increasingly looking toward post-pandemic life. While inflationary pressure is growing, our latest forecast update suggests that in the near term interest rates will remain steady at borrower-friendly levels. In fact, despite the recent increases, mortgage rates remain near historical lows, which we expect will help maintain strong housing demand in 2021.

Duncan added: "An above-average pace of renters converting to first-time homebuyers is continuing, with many migrating into the suburbs from denser urban areas. However, strong consumer demand for housing continues to hit up against a lack of supply, limiting sales and bolstering home prices, which we expect will further compound affordability concerns in the months ahead as homebuilders also wrestle with input supply restraints."

Visit the Economic & Strategic Research site at fanniemae.com to read the full April 2021 Economic Outlook, including the Economic Developments Commentary, Economic Forecast, Housing Forecast, and Multifamily Market Commentary. To receive e-mail updates with other housing market research from Fannie Mae's Economic & Strategic Research Group, please click here.