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Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – January 29, 2018Last week’s economic releases included readings on pending home sales, Case-Shiller Home Price Indices and construction spending. The Federal Open Market Committee of the Federal Reserve released its monthly statement and weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims were released. Last week’s economic readings wrapped with a report on consumer confidence.

Case-Shiller: Home Prices Rise in November

Home prices rose an average of 0.70 percent monthly and 6.20 percent year-over-year according to Case-Shiller’s national home price index for November. Seattle, Washington posted the highest year-over-year home price growth rate at 12.70 percent. Las Vegas, Nevada posted year-over-year home price growth of 10.60 percent and San Francisco, California posted a home price growth rate of 9.10 percent. Home price gains were attributed to slim supplies of available homes in many areas.

While analysts suggested that strong housing markets (as reflected by high demand for homes) were good for the economy, issues of affordability, slim inventories of homes available and obstacles facing builders continue to impact housing markets.

Recent gains in home prices are fueled by artificially high demand caused by low inventories of homes for sale. Builders cited shortages of labor and buildable lots and said increasing materials costs were impacting rising prices for new homes. Construction spending rose 0.70 percent in December, which exceeded expectations of 0.50 percent and November’s month-to-month reading of 0.60 percent growth in construction spending.

Pending Home Sales Rise, Key Fed Interest Rate Unchanged

The National Association of Realtors® reported 0.50 percent growth in pending home sales in December and the highest month-to-month reading since March 2017. Year-over-year pending home sales gained only 0.50 percent. Pending sales reflect purchase contracts signed with sales not yet closed.

The Federal Reserve’s Federal Open Market Committee announced that it would not raise the target federal funds range of 1.25 to 1.50 percent, but indicated that inflation was nearing the Fed’s goal of 2 percent annually. Analysts said this could foreshadow a rate increase at the Committee’s next meeting in March.

Mortgage Rates, Weekly Jobless Claims

Mortgage rates rose last week according to Freddie Mac’s weekly Primary Mortgage Markets Survey. Rates for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage rose by seven basis points to an average of 4.22 percent; the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage rose six basis points to 3.68 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage ticked up one basis point to 3.53 percent. Discount points averaged 0.50 percent for fixed rate mortgages and 0.40 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

First-time jobless claims dipped by 1000 claims to 230,000claims. Analysts expected 240,000 new claims. The University of Michigan reported a lower reading for consumer sentiment in January with an index reading of 95.7 as compared to an expected reading of 95.0 and December’s reading of 95.90. Consumer sentiment remains near pre-recession highs. Consumers cited tax breaks and large stock market gains as the basis for high confidence.

Whats Ahead

This week’s economic releases include readings on job openings and consumer credit along with weekly reports on mortgage rates and new jobless claims.

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Fed minutes August 2012Eariler this week, the Federal Reserve released the minutes from its 2-day meeting which ended August 1, 2012. Since the release, mortgage rates have dropped.

The Fed Minutes are released on a schedule, three weeks after the FOMC adjourns from one of its 8 scheduled meetings of the year.

The Fed Minutes are meeting minutes; like you’d see after a corporation shareholder meeting, or after a condo board meeting. Specifically, the Fed Minutes details the conversations among Federal Reserve members which shape our nation’s economic policy.

The most recent Fed Minutes show a central bank closer to adding new market stimulus that previously believed.

At its last meeting, the Federal Reserve’s debate focused on the rate of economic growth and whether it was occurring too slowly to be long-lasting. The Fed appears to think so. Without a “substantial and sustainable strengthening” in the pace of economic expansion, it said, additional monetary stimulus would be “warranted fairly soon”.

Other notes from within the Fed Minutes included :

  • On employment : Unemployment rates will “decline only slowly”
  • On housing : The market appears “to have improved, somewhat”
  • On inflation : Retail energy costs are keeping consumer prices low

However, the Fed expressed an “unusually high level of uncertainty” about its assessments owing to the ongoing European sovereign debt problems. “Spillovers” remain possible and default threats continue to weigh on markets. 

The Federal Reserve’s next scheduled meeting is September 12-13, 2012.

Since the minutes were released — and for the first time this month — mortgage rates in California made a big move lower. This is in contrast to the rest of August through which mortgage rates have climbed steadily.

According to Freddie Mac, on August 1, the average 30-year fixed rate mortgage rate was 3.49% nationwide. Today, the rate is 3.66%. Between now and the Fed’s next policy-making meeting September 13, though, mortgage rates are subject to change. If today’s mortgage rates fit your budget, consider locking in. 

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Fed Funds Rate v 30-Year Fixed RateIn Washington, D.C. today, the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) begins a 2-day meeting, its fifth of 8 scheduled meetings this year.

Mortgage rates are expected to change upon the FOMC’s adjournment. Rate shoppers and home buyers of Orange County would do well to be alert.

The Federal Open Market Committee is a rotating 12-person subcommittee within the Federal Reserve. It’s the group which makes U.S. monetary policy. 

“Making monetary policy” has many meanings but the action for which the FOMC is most well-known is its setting of the Fed Funds Funds. The Fed Funds Rate is the prescribed interest rate at which banks borrow money from each other overnight.

Since late-2008, the Fed Funds Rate has been near zero percent.

The Fed Funds Rate and Freddie Mac’s 30-year fixed rate mortgage rate move along different paths. Sometimes, the two converge. Other times, they diverge. They’ve been separated by as much as 529 basis points in the past 12 years, and they’ve have been as near to each other as 52 basis points.

Clearly, there’s no correlation between the Fed’s Fed Funds Rate and the common 30-year mortgage. However, with its words, the Federal Reserve can influence the direction in which mortgage rates move — on occasion, by a lot.

We’ll be witness to this Wednesday.

When the FOMC adjourns, it is expected to announce no change in the Fed Funds Rate. Yet, based on the verbiage of the post-meeting statement, mortgage rates will rise or fall accordingly. If the Fed notes that the economy is sagging and that new stimulus is planned, mortgage rates are expected to drop throughout California. This is because new, Fed-led stimulus would be a boon for mortgage markets which would, in turn, drive mortgage rates down.

Conversely, if the Fed acknowledges growth in the U.S. economy and/or little need for new stimulus, mortgage rates are expected to rise.

Either way, expect rates to change — we just can’t know in what direction. The FOMC adjourns at 2:15 PM Wednesday.