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You Ask, We Answer: 5 Ways That You Can Proactively Build and Improve Your Credit ScoreThe first week of 2016 was quiet concerning housing and mortgage related news, but reports on construction spending and several labor-related reports were released. Construction spending is connected to housing markets as it provides evidence of builder confidence and also future housing supply. Labor market trends provide a sense of economic performance in general and can influence potential buyers on decisions about buying or not buying homes.

Construction Spending Dips in November

According to the Commerce Department, construction spending dropped by 0.40 percent in November to a seasonally adjusted annual reading of $1.12 trillion. November’s reading was short of the expected reading of 0.90 percent, which was based on October’s original reading of a 1.00 percent increase in construction spending. October’s reading was later revised downward to 0.30 percent. November’s construction spending was 10.50 percent higher year-over-year.

While private construction spending decreased by 0.20 percent in November, it was up 12.10 percent year-over-year due to housing construction. Housing markets have been squeezed due to consistently short supplies of available homes. New construction is seen as an important way to ease the bottleneck as buyers sit on the sidelines waiting for homes to come on the market.

Residential construction was up 0.30 percent in November and increased 10.80 percent year-over-year.

Mortgage Rates Mixed, Weekly Jobless Claims Lower

Freddie Mac reported mixed results for mortgage rates. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage dropped four basis points to 3.97 percent; the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage rose two basis points to 3.26 percent and the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage rose by one basis point to 3.09 percent. Last week’s discount points averaged 0.60 percent for 30-year fixed rate mortgages, 0.50 percent for 15 year fixed rate mortgages and 0.40 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

New weekly jobless claims fell to 277,000 as compared to expectations of 275.000 and the prior week’s reading of 287,000 first-time claims. Fewer first-time claims for jobless benefits point to stronger economic conditions in general as evidenced by expanding job markets. National unemployment held steady 5.00 percent, which mirrored expectations and the same as November’s reading.

Labor Department: 292,000 New Jobs Added in December

According to the Labor Department, 292,000 new jobs were added in December, which resulted in the fifth consecutive year where jobs grew by 2 million or more year-over-year. Upward revisions to jobs reports for October and November supported stronger economic conditions. October’s reading was adjusted from 298,000 new jobs to 307,000 new jobs; November’s original reading for new jobs was raised from 211,000 jobs added to 252.000 jobs added.

Last week’s positive jobs reports were released against a backdrop of market volatility due to fears that the Chinese economy is slowing. As the second largest global economy, China’s economy could influence global financial markets and economic conditions if it experiences serious difficulties.

What’s Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic releases include reports on job openings, retail sales and the Federal Reserve’s Beige Book. In addition to reports on mortgage rates and new jobless claims, a reading on consumer sentiment will round out this week’s news.

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Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week January 04 20162015 said farewell with reports on Case Shiller home prices, pending home sales, and consumer confidence. The details:

Case-Shiller Home Prices Post Double Digit Gains in October

According to Case-Shiller’s 20 City Home Price Index, Denver, Colorado, Portland, Oregon and San Francisco, California tied for the highest home price gains in October with year-over-year home price gains of 10.90 percent. Lowest annual price gains were posted by Chicago, Illinois at 1.30 percent followed by Washington, D.C with a year-over-year –reading of 1.70 percent. Home prices rose at their fastest rate since August 2014 according to Case-Shiller.

Month-to-month home prices showed mixed results in October. Miami, Florida posted the highest month-to-month gain of 0.70 percent. San Francisco, California posted a gain of 0.60 percent; Phoenix, Arizona and Portland, Oregon posted month-to-month home price gains of 0.60 percent.

Cities posting month-to-month declines in home prices included Chicago, Illinois where home prices declined 0.70 percent, Cleveland Ohio and San Diego, California posted month-to-month declines of 0.40 percent, Washington, DC home prices dropped 0.30 percent month-to-month. Home prices in Boston, Massachusetts and Las Vegas, Nevada were unchanged in October from September readings.

While Case-Shiller’s 20-City Index remains 11 to 13 percent below 2006 peak home prices, the index is approximately 36 percent higher than lowest home prices posted in 2012.

Pending Home Sales Dip in November

According to the National Association of Realtors®, pending home sales dipped 0.90 percent in November after posting a gain of 0.20 percent in October. Analysts expected a 1.0 percent gain in pending sales for November. Pending home sales peaked in May 2015, but short supplies of available homes and rising prices have caused home sales to slow. Pending home sales are defined as homes for which a sales contract is signed, but aren’t yet closed. November’s pending sales were 2.70 percent higher than for October and represented the 15th consecutive month of annual gains in pending home sales.

Regional results for November’s pending sales were mixed. The Northeast reported a reading of 91.8, which was nearly three points lower than October’s reading. The Western region posted a reading of 100.4, a decline of nearly 6 points. The Midwestern region posted a gain of one point to a reading of 104.9. The South had the strongest reading for pending home sales in November with a reading of 119.9, which represented an increase of 1.50 percent.

The National Association of Realtors® expects sales of pre-owned homes to top out at 5.25 million for 2015, which would be the highest reading since 2006. The national median home price for pre-owned homes is $220,700, which is six percent higher than in November 2014.

Mortgage Rates, Consumer Confidence Rise

Freddie Mac reported that the average mortgage rates rose across the board last week. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was three basis points higher at 4.01 percent; the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage was two basis points higher at 3.24 percent and the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage also rose two basis points to 3.08 percent. Average discount points were unchanged at 0.6, 0.6 and 0.4 percent respectively.

On a positive note for year-end, consumer confidence increased to a reading of 96.5 in December as compared to November’s upwardly revised reading of 92.6 and an expected index reading of 93.50. Analysts were relieved to see increasing consumer confidence after an unexpected decline in November.

What’s Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic news includes reports on construction spending, the government’s Non-farm Payrolls report and ADP’s payroll reports. Labor reports act as potential indicators of future housing markets as steady employment is typically a major factor in home-buying decisions.

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Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week December 28 2015This week’s report of economic events is shortened due to the Christmas holiday. Economic news through Wednesday included Existing Home Sales, New Home Sales and Consumer Spending. The details:

Existing Home Sales Dip, New Home Sales Rise

According to the National Association of Realtors®, sales of previously owned homes dipped from October’s seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.32 million sales to 4.76 million sales of pre-owned homes. This was considerably lower than analysts’ expectations of 5.30 million sales. Factors seen as contributing to November’s reading included pent-up demand caused by low inventories of available homes and affordability issues emerging as demand pushes home prices up. New regulations that extended the closing period for home sales were cited as causing some closings to be pushed into December. 

In contrast to lower sales for pre-owned homes, November sales of new homes rose by 4.30 percent from October to November based on a revised October reading of 470,000 sales. The original October reading was 495,000 sales of new homes, which provided the basis for analyst projections of 505,000 new homes sold on a seasonally-adjusted annual basis.

New home sales were up by 9.10 percent year-over-year in November. New home sales account for approximately 9.30 percent of home sales. Regional reports for new home sales were mixed. The Northeast region reported a drop of 28.60 percent, while the Midwest reported a gain of 20.50 percent. New home sales rose 4.50 percent in the South and fell 8.60 percent in the West. The good news about new home sales softened concerns about cooling housing markets caused by the abrupt drop in home resales.

Last week’s financial news ended on a positive note with December’s reading of 92.60 for consumer sentiment rose from November’s reading of 91.30 and also surpassed analysts’ expected reading of 92.

What’s Ahead

This week’s roster of economic reports includes Case-Shiller Home Price Indexes, Pending Home Sales and Consumer Sentiment for December. No reports will be issued Friday in observance of the New Year’s Day holiday.

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Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week December 21 2015Last week’s scheduled economic reports included the NAHB Housing Market Index, Housing Starts, FOMC statement and Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s press conference. In addition to weekly reports on jobless claims and mortgage rates, inflation reports were also released.

Builder Confidence Slips, Housing Starts Increase

According to the NAHB / Wells Fargo Housing Market Index for December, home builder confidence slipped by one point to a reading of 61 as compared to an expected reading of 63 and November’s reading of 62. December’s reading was three points higher year-over-year. Readings over 50 indicate that more builders than fewer are confident about housing market conditions. December’s confidence reading remained higher than 2015’s average reading of 59.

Components used in comprising the NAHB HMI also slipped in December. Builder confidence in current market conditions fell one point to a reading of 66; the six months sales outlook fell two points to 67 and the reading for buyer foot traffic in new developments also decreased by two points to a reading of 46. The reading for buyer foot traffic has consistently remained below the neutral benchmark of 50 since the housing bubble ended.

While builder confidence eased, housing starts rose in November with 1.17 million starts reported. Analysts expected a reading of 1.14 million starts based on October’s reading of 1.06 million housing starts. During much of 2015, demand for homes accelerated due to slim inventories of available homes; new construction is seen as essential to easing demand.

Fed Raises Interest Rates, Mortgage Rates Higher

The Federal Open Market Committee of the Federal Reserve raised its target federal funds rate from a range of 0.00 to 0.25 percent to a range of 0.25 percent to 0.50 percent. While the Fed’s increase is expected to affect consumer lending rates for auto loans and credit cards more than mortgages, Freddie Mac reported that rates for fixed rate home loans rose last week. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage rose by two basis points to 3.95 percent and the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage increased by three basis points to 3.22 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was unchanged at 3.03 percent. Discount points were unchanged for fixed rate mortgages at 0.60 percent and 0.50 percent respectively while average points for a 5//1 adjustable rate mortgage dropped to an average of 0.40 percent.

Weekly jobless claims fell to 271,000 new claims against expectations of 275,000 new claims and the prior week’s reading of 282,000 new claims.

What’s Ahead

Next week’s economic reports include reports on new and existing home sales, consumer spending and consumer sentiment. Weekly jobless claims and Freddie Mac’s mortgage rates report will also be released as scheduled. No reports will be released on Friday due to the Christmas holiday.

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Federal Reserve Raises Short Term Interest RatesAfter prolonged speculation by economic analysts and news media, the Federal Open Market Committee of the Federal Reserve raised short-term interest rates for the first time in seven years. Committee members voted to raise the target federal funds rate to a range of 0.25 to 0.50 percent from a range of 0.00 to 0.25 percent to be effective December 17. The good news about the Fed’s decision is that the Central Bank had enough confidence in improving economic conditions to warrant its decision. But how will the Fed’s decision affect mortgage rates?

December’s FOMC statement cited improving job markets, increased consumer spending and declining unemployment as conditions supporting the Committee’s decision to raise the target federal funds rate. While inflation has not yet reached the Fed’s goal of two percent, FOMC members were confident that the economy would continue to expand at a moderate pace in spite of future rate increases. The FOMC said that the Central Bank’s monetary policy remained “accommodative.”

Little Impact Expected on Mortgage Rates after Fed Decision

The Fed’s decision to raise short-term rates likely won’t affect mortgage rates in a big way. The Washington Post quoted Doug Douglas, chief economist at Fannie Mae: “This one change, will in the larger scheme of things, will be unlikely to make a dramatic impact on what consumers will feel.”

Mortgage rates, which are connected to 10-year Treasury bonds, may not rise and could potentially fall. While the interest rate increase could increase yields on these bonds, analysts say that multiple factors impact 10-year Treasury bonds, so a rate increase is not set in stone for mortgage rates.

Rising Mortgage Rates Would Impact Affordability and Cost of Buying Homes

Higher mortgage rates could sideline some first-time and moderate income home buyers and would also increase the long-term cost of buying a home. Interest rates on vehicle loans and credit cards are more closely tied to the Fed rate and may rise according to current and future Fed rate hikes. Rising consumer interest rates indirectly impact housing markets as prospective home buyers face higher debt-to-income ratios caused by higher interest rates on car loans and credit card balances.

During a press conference following the Fed’s announcement, Fed Chair Janet Yellen emphasized that future rate increases would be “gradual.” Chair Yellen said that the Fed’s decision reflects the agency’s confidence in an economy that is on a path of “sustainable improvement.” When questioned about inflation rates, Chair Yellen said that the Fed will closely monitor both expected and actual changes in the inflation rate.

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Closing Paperwork: How to Read and Understand the Truth-in-Lending Disclosure StatementLast week’s scheduled economic releases included reports on job openings, retail sales and consumer confidence in addition to usual weekly releases on mortgage rates and new jobless claims. The details:

According to the U.S. Labor Department, job openings were down 2.70 percent in October to a reading of 5.38 million as compared to September’s reading of 5.50 million job openings and the all-time high reading of 5.67 million job openings in July. October’s reading was the third highest since the recession ended in 2009.

Analysts said that a gap between job skills sought by employers and job skills applicants bring to the table continues to affect hiring, but fewer job openings may indicate that this gap is closing. Prospective home buyers view healthy job markets as a confidence booster in their decisions to buy a home. The Fed also monitors job openings as part of its decision making on U.S. monetary policy. All eyes will be on the Fed’s Federal Open Market Committee meeting set for next week, as members are expected to raise the federal funds rate. If the Fed raises rates, mortgage rates will also rise.

Retail sales rose in November to 0.20 percent from October’s reading of 0.10 percent growth. Retail sales excluding the automotive sector rose by 0.40 percent against expectations of an 0.20 percent increase and October’s reading of 0.10 percent. This information is consistent with typical increases in sales during the holiday shopping season.

Mortgage Rates, New Jobless Claims Rise

Freddie Mac reported that mortgage rates rose across the board last week; the average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage rose two basis points to 3.95 percent. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage rose by three basis points to 3.19 percent and the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage rose four basis points to 3.03 percent. Discount points were unchanged at 0.60, 0.50 and 0.50 percent respectively. 

New jobless claims rose to 282,000, which exceeded expectations of 270,000 new jobless claims and the prior week’s reading of 269,000 new jobless claims filed. Last week’s reading was the highest since the week of July 4, but also represented the 40th week that new jobless claims were below a benchmark of 300,000 new claims.

Employment figures typically show volatility during the holiday season. Analysts researching trends in jobless claims generally prefer the four-week rolling average of new jobless claims as it evens out volatility shown week-to-week. The four-week reading for new jobless claims increased by 1500 new claims to 270,750 new claims filed.

What’s Ahead

Analysts’ eyes and ears will closely monitor the Fed’s Federal Open Market Committee statement set for next week. Fed policy makers are expected to raise the federal funds rate. If the Fed raises rates, mortgage rates will also rise. Fed Chair Janet Yellen has scheduled a press conference to be given after the FOMC statement. Other scheduled economic reports include Housing Starts, the Wells Fargo/NAHB Housing Market Index and the Consumer Price Index, which tracks inflation.

 

 

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Closing Paperwork: How to Read and Understand the Truth-in-Lending Disclosure Statement

Multiple economic reports released last week indicate further improvement in economic conditions. Pending home sales, construction spending and ADP payrolls increased while Non-farm Payrolls fell and the national unemployment rate held steady. The details:

Pending Home Sales, Construction Spending Increase

According to the Commerce Department, pending home sales increased by 0.20 percent in October as compared to September’s reading of -2.30 percent. Construction spending of 1.00 percent for October exceeded September’s reading of 0.60 percent growth and expectations that October’s reading would hold steady with a growth rate of 0.60 percent. Increased construction spending suggests that home builders may increase home building projects, which could relax tight inventories of available homes and ease demand for homes.

Mortgage Rates, New Jobless Claims Rise

Average mortgage rates fell last week according to Freddie Mac. The average rate for 30-year fixed rate mortgages fell by two basis points to 3.93 percent; average rates for 15-year fixed rate and 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages also fell by two basis points with readings of 3.16 percent and 2.99 percent respectively. Average discount points were 0.60 percent for 30-year fixed rate mortgages and 0.50 percent for fixed rate mortgages. Average discount points for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage held steady at 0.50 percent.

New jobless claims rose last week with 269,000 new claims filed as compared to the prior week’s reading of 260,000 new claims and analysts’ expectations of 265,000 new claims. The level of new jobless claims neared levels not seen since 2000. The four week rolling average of new claims dropped by 1750 claims to a reading of 269,250 new claims filed. The four-week rolling average of new jobless claims is considered less volatile than weekly readings which can be impacted by holidays and other anomalies that can cause volatility.

Labor Reports Show Growth, Unemployment Rate Unchanged 

Hiring increases and lower layoffs have contributed to the lowest national unemployment rate since 2007. The national unemployment rate held steady at 5.00 percent. ADP reported 217,600 new jobs in November as compared to October’s reading of 196,000 new private sector jobs. Non-Farm Payrolls reported lower job growth of 211,000 jobs as compared to expectations of 200,000 jobs added and October’s reading of 298,000 jobs added. Non-Farm Payrolls covers government and private-sector jobs.

What’s Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic releases include reports on job openings, retail sales and consumer sentiment. Weekly reports on mortgage rates and new jobless claims will also be released.

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Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week November 30 2015

Although last week’s economic calendar was cut short by the Thanksgiving holiday, several housing-related reports were released. The FHFA reported on third quarter results for its Housing Market Index and the Commerce Department reported on new home sales for October. Freddie Mac released its weekly report on mortgage rates and data on new weekly jobless claims was also released.

FHFA, Commerce Department report Gains for Home Prices, New Home Sales

Home prices for mortgages associated with mortgages owned or backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac increased 1.30 percent during the quarter ended September 30. This was the 17th consecutive seasonally adjusted quarterly increases for home prices based on sale-only transactions. FHFA home prices rose by 0.80 percent from the second to third quarter of 2015 and rose by 5.70 percent from third quarter 2014 to third quarter 2015 readings.

New home sales rose by a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 10.70 percent to 495,000 sales based on a downwardly revised September reading of 447,000 new home sales.

New home sales results were mixed according to the Commerce Department. Sales of newly built homes rose by an astounding 135.30 percent in the Northeast and increased by 8.90 percent in the South and by 5.30 percent in the Midwest. Sales of new homes declined in the West with a reading of -0.90 percent.

Home shoppers received good news as the median price of a new home fell 6 percent to $281,500. Inventory of new homes increased to its highest level since 2010. Higher inventory could ease demand and rapidly rising home prices associated with low supplies of new homes for sale.

Mortgage Rates Mixed, Jobless Claims Lower

Average mortgage rates varied last week according to Freddie Mac. 30-year fixed mortgage rates were two basis points lower at 3.95 percent; the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage was unchanged at 3.18 percent, and the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was three basis points higher at 3.01 percent. Average discount points where 0.70 for a 30 year fixed rate mortgage and averaged 0.50 percent for 15-year fixed rate mortgages and 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

New jobless claims fell from the prior week’s reading of 272,000 new claims to 260,000 new claims. Analysts expected a reading of 270,000 new claims. The four-week rolling average of new jobless claims was unchanged at 271,000 after an adjustment to the prior week’s average of 270,750 new claims to a weekly average of 271,000 claims filed over the previous four weeks.

What’s Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic news includes reports on construction spending along with Labor Department releases on the national unemployment rate and Nonfarm Payrolls. Freddie Mac’s report on mortgage rates and weekly data on new jobless claims will be released as usual.

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SP CaseShiller September Home Prices Gain Across US

Home prices increased across the S&P Case Shiller 20-City Home Price Index in September. According to the 20-City Home Price Index, Year-over year home price gains increased to 5.50 percent from August’s reading of 5.10 percent. 17 cities posted higher year-over0year price gains in September as compared to August.

Western cities led price gains with San Francisco, California reclaiming its lead with a year-over-year gain of 11.20 percent in September. Denver, Colorado followed with a year-over-year gain of 10.90 percent and Portland, Oregon achieved the third highest year-over-year home price gain of 10.10 percent. Phoenix, Arizona had the longest consecutive run of year-over-year price gains for ten months and had a year-over-year gain of 5.30 percent.

Month-to Month Home Prices Indicate Stronger Housing Markets

After seasonal adjustment, the 20-City Home Price Index reported a month-to-month gain of 0.60 percent in September with home price gains in 19 cities. David M. Blitzer, Chairman of the S&P Indices Committee, said that home prices are growing at more than twice the rate of inflation. While this is good news for home sellers, it also means that home buyers are finding that home prices are rising faster than other economic sectors. Rising home prices present a challenge for first-time and moderate income home buyers. First-time buyers drive housing markets as their home purchases bring new demand into the market and allow current homeowners to move up to larger homes.

Mr. Blitzer also said that in spite of widespread media coverage of the Federal Reserve’s likely plan to raise its target federal funds rate from 0.00 to 0.250 percent to 0.25 to 0.50 percent in December, the increase in the federal funds rate should not cause an major rise in mortgage rates, which are expected to stay near 4.00 percent for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage.

Based on readings for national median income, median home price and average mortgage rates, Mr. Blitzer said that affordability for homeowners within the median income range who were buying median priced homes had “slipped recently.”

Year-end reports on housing markets and general economic conditions will likely cause adjustments to forecasts for home prices and affordability. Strong labor markets may improve affordability for home buyers and the actual impact of any Fed move to raise rates will influence housing markets and home prices in 2016.

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Existing Home Sales Fall More Than Expected

Sales of previously owned homes reached 5.36 million sales on a seasonally adjusted annual basis and fell by 3.40 percent in October according to the National Association of Realtors®. Rising home prices and a shortage of available homes strained housing markets. Concerns over potentially higher mortgage rates may have sidelined home buyers as concerns over an anticipated rate hike by the Federal Reserve persisted. Many analysts expect the Federal Reserve to raise rates at its December meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee, which oversees the Fed’s monetary policy. Raising the target federal funds rate would cause consumer interest rates and mortgage rates to increase as well.

Shortage of Available Homes Could Lead to “Inventory Crunch” Next Spring

Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist for the National Association of Realtors®, cited concerns over the shortage of homes for sale. He said that a persisting shortage of available homes could lead to an inventory crunch during next spring’s peak selling season.

Home prices increased by 5.80 percent year over year to an average of $219.600. Rising home prices impacted decreasing sales in the West and South while home sales held steady in the Northeast, where home price growth was the slowest.

First-time Home Buyers Lag in Home Purchase Numbers

Although first-time buyers represented 31 percent of home buyers in October, which was a two percent increase over September’s participation, first-time home buyers usually represent approximately 40 percent of buyers of existing homes. First-time buyers are important to housing markets as they generate sales of homes by homeowners wishing to move up or relocate.

First-time buyers can be adversely affected by home prices and mortgage rates; a shortage of first-time buyers could create further slowdowns in home sales. There is good news due to steady job growth, which is important to those who are considering buying a home. Strict mortgage credit requirements are showing signs of relaxing and home builders are encouraged by current and future housing market conditions.

The National Association of Realtors® forecasts that 2015 sales of pre-owned homes at a level of 5.3 million sales, which would be the highest sales rate since 2007. Sales of existing homes are expected to rise by 3 percent in 2016, but mortgage rates and affordability will continue to influence actual sales and overall health of housing markets in the New Year.