Despite fiscal uncertainties facing the economy, consumer confidence remained sturdy, buoyed by increasing employment and the improving housing market, Freddie Mac said in its January outlook.
Over the first 11 months of 2012, home sales were up 9% from the same period a year earlier, with similar gains projected for 2013.
Click on the graph to view consumer confidence.
In December, 155,000 job gains were registered and November’s payrolls were revised up 24,000, increasing employment to 1.86 million in 2012. This is the highest employment increase since 2006.
About 2 million new jobs are expected to form in 2013, assuming the uncertainty of the fiscal debates during the first quarter doesn’t derail economic expansion. New job creation will gradually nudge the unemployment rate lower.
"As we begin 2013, the economy is undoubtedly at a better place now than at this time in 2012," vice president and chief economist Frank Nothaft of Freddie Mac said.
He added, "And despite the clouds of fiscal uncertainty facing the country, positive jobs reports and the strengthening housing market continue to be the bright spot as we begin the New Year."
Relatively low interest rates are also expected to continue to be a feature of mortgage lending and capital markets in 2013.
Future mortgage lending guidelines were cleared up with the Consumer Financial Protection Board’s unveiling of the qualified mortgage rule, going into effect in 2014.
The December unemployment rate at 7.8% is likely to ensure a continuation of an accommodative policy stance by the Federal Reserve through the coming year, the report said.
The Federal Open Market Committee decided in December to leave rates unchanged and will continue purchases of mortgage-backed securities at a pace of $40 billion per month.
"Taken together, these actions should maintain downward pressure on longer-term interest rates, support mortgage markets, and help to make broader financial conditions more accommodative," the Committee said.