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Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – February 12th 2018Jerome “Jay” Powell was sworn in as Chair of the Federal Reserve amidst wild fluctuations in U.S. stock markets. Analysts attributed sliding stock prices to fears over inflation.

Mr. Powell, who follows former Fed Chair Janet Yellen, introduced himself via a video clip on the Fed’s website. Weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims were also released.

New Fed Chair Promises Transparency in Video Introduction

In a video introduction posted on the Fed’s website, new Fed Chair Jay Powell promised that the Fed would explain “what we are doing and why we are doing it.” Mr. Powell did not address stock market volatility but said that monetary policy decisions would be made based on the Fed’s dual mandate of achieving maximum employment and price stability along with economic growth.

Mr. Powell took leadership of the Fed as the national unemployment rate dipped to 4.10 percent.

Mr. Powell is an attorney by profession and is the first Fed Chair not to hold a PhD in economics in more than 30 years.

Former Treasury Secretary Advises Against Raising Rates Too Fast

Former Obama administration Treasury Secretary Larry Summers cautioned against raising rates too fast: “If the Fed raises rates sufficiently to assure financial stability, there is a risk that the economy will slow too much.

When the Federal Reserve raises its target federal funds rate financial institutions, mortgage lenders and retail lenders usually follow suit.

Mortgage Rates Rise, New Jobless Claims Fall

Freddie Mac reported higher mortgage rates last week. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was 10 basis points higher at 4.32 percent; the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage rose by nine basis points to 3.77 percent.

The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage gained four basis points to 3.57 percent. Discount points averaged 0.60 percent, 0.50 percent and 0.40 percent respectively.

New jobless claims fell to their lowest level since the 1970s. 221,000 first-time claims were filed as compared to 232.000 new claims expected and the prior week’s reading of 230,000 new claims filed.

Whats Ahead

This week’s economic news releases include readings on inflation, retail sales and the National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Indices. Readings on housing starts and building permits issued will also be released, along with weekly readings on mortgage rates and new unemployment claims.

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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – April 11, 2016Last week’s economic news included minutes of the most recent Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting. Weekly reports on mortgage rates and new jobless claims were also released.

FOMC Minutes Indicate Fed Not Pressing Rate Increases

Minutes of the FOMC meeting held March 15 and 16 suggest that FOMC members are easing their enthusiasm for raising the target federal funds rate. In recent months, the committee has indicated that it was leaning toward raising rates on a slow but steady pace. Ongoing concerns over changing global economic and financial conditions contributed to FOMC’s decision not to raise the key federal funds rate. Low energy prices continue to cause U.S. inflation to stay below the Fed’s goal of two percent, which suggests that the economy is not recovering as fast as originally expected.

Labor markets continued to improve as the national unemployment rate held steady at 4.90 percent in February. FOMC noted that the labor force participation rate and employment to population ratio increased. The four-week moving average of new jobless claims fell in March after increasing in February. These readings support continued expansion of labor markets.

Housing markets and household spending improved. Committee members characterized developments in labor and housing markets as “broadly consistent” with earlier expectations. Some housing markets connected with energy production weakened. FOMC members elected to maintain the target federal funds rate at a range of 0.25 to 0.50 percent. Global financial and economic developments were cited as contributing to the Committee’s decision not to raise its target rate.

Mortgage Rates, Weekly Jobless Claims Lower

Mortgage rates fell across the board last week. According to Freddie Mac’s weekly survey of mortgage rates, the average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage dropped to 3.59 percent from the previous week’s reading of 3.71 percent. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage dropped 10 basis points to 2.88 percent; the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage dropped to 2.82 percent from 2.90 percent. Average discount points held steady at 0.50, 0.40 and 0.50 percent respectively. Last week’s mortgage rates were the lowest in 14 months.

Analysts said this news was positive in the sense that lower rates make mortgages more affordable, but more home buyers entering the market would further increase demand for homes. Low inventories of homes and high demand have fueled higher home prices in many areas.

Weekly jobless claims fell to 267,000 new claims against expectations of 268,000 new claims and the prior week’s reading of 276,000 new jobless claims. New jobless claims remained below the benchmark of 300,000 new claims for the 57th consecutive week.

What’s Ahead This Week

This week’s scheduled economic news releases include retail sales, the Fed’s Beige Book report, the consumer price index and core consumer price index. Weekly jobless claims and Freddie Mac’s mortgage rates report will be released as usual on Thursday.

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 Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week February 29, 2016Last week’s economic reports included Existing and New Home Sales and Consumer Confidence along with regularly scheduled weekly reports on mortgage rates and new jobless claims.

Sales of Pre-Owned Homes Exceed Expectations

January sales of previously owned homes rose to an annual level of 5.47 million sales against expectations of 5.30 million sales and December’s reading of 5.45 million sales. Existing home sales rose by 0.40 percent month-to-month, which was the second-highest month-to-month reading since existing home sales were first tracked. Sales of existing homes had a strong showing with sales 11 percent higher year-over-year.

Real estate markets continue to face challenges as a severe shortage of available homes reached a four-month supply; real estate pros typically consider a six-month supply of available homes a normal reading. The shortage of homes for sale has caused home prices to escalate quickly in many markets; this creates affordability issues for would-be buyers. National Association of Realtors chief economist Lawrence Yun expressed concerns that rapidly rising home prices may not be good for the economy, but there was some positive news.

Nearly 32 percent of existing homes were bought by first-time buyers in January according to the National Association of Realtors. This is good news as first-time and moderate income buyers accommodate homeowners’ ability to move up to larger homes.

New home sales dipped in January to 494,000 sales as compared to expectations of 520,000 new home sales and the prior annual rate of 544,000 new homes sold. As the shortage of available homes continued, analysts said that the market is unbalanced in favor of sellers as offers from cash buyers make it difficult for offers from less qualified buyers to compete. Analysts said that low supplies of pre-owned homes drive buyers to purchase new homes. The number of homes purchased but not yet built is near a ten-year high.

Mortgage Rates Lower And Jobless Claims Rise

Freddie Mac reported lower mortgage rates last week. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was three basis points lower at 3.62 percent; the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage fell by two basis points to 2.93 percent and the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage dropped by six basis points to 2.79 percent. Average discount points were 0.60, 0.50 and.50 percent respectively.

Weekly jobless claims rose to 272,000 new claims as compared to expectations of 270,000 new claims and the prior reading of 262,000 new claims. The four-week rolling average of new claims also posted a reading of 272,000 new claims, which was lower by 1250 new claims. In spite of the higher week-to-week reading, new jobless claims remain near historical lows. Low readings for new jobless claims indicate a low rate of layoffs, which analysts said indicates that employers are maintaining staff levels in spite of conditions suggesting a slower economy.

Consumer confidence dropped more than five points in February. The Conference Board reported an index reading of 92.20 percent as compared to an expected reading of 97.20 and the prior month’s reading of 97.80. Consumers indicated growing concerns about business, personal finances and the labor market.

What’s Ahead This Week

This week’s scheduled economic news includes reports on pending home sales, construction spending, ADP Payrolls, federal Non-Farm Payrolls and the national unemployment rate.

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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week June 23 2014Last week’s scheduled economic news included the National Association of Home Builders /Wells Fargo Housing Market Index, Housing Starts and Building Permits. The Fed’s Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) issued its usual statement at the conclusion of its meeting, and Fed Chair Janet Yellen also gave a press conference.

Home Builder Confidence Improves, But Housing Starts Slow

NAHB released its Housing Market Index report, which reached its highest reading in five months. The index moved up from 45 to 49; a reading of 50 indicates that more builders are confident about housing market conditions than those who are not. David Crowe, NAHB chief economist, said that builder confidence is in line with consumer confidence; he noted that consumers are waiting for a stronger economic recovery before buying homes and that builders didn’t want to build more homes than markets would bear.

According to the latest figures from the Department of Commerce, May housing starts fell to 1.00 million from April’s reading of 1.07 million on a seasonally adjusted annual basis, and missed the consensus reading of 1.02 million. Building permits issued in May fell by 6.40 percent to 991,000 permits issued for single and multi-family construction. In recent months, permits for single family homes have fallen, while permits for multi-family units are increasing. This concerns economists as single-family homes generate sales of retail goods including furniture and home improvement supplies, while multi-family housing is often occupied by renters and yields fewer home related purchases.

Warmer weather was expected to add to the pace of housing starts, but this did not occur during May.

Fed Reduces Asset Purchases, Mortgage Rates 

FOMC members reduced the Fed’s monthly asset purchases by $10 billion, for a monthly volume of $35 billion in Treasury securities and MBS. The meeting minutes noted FOMC concerns that inflation has not yet reached the committee’s benchmark of 2.00 percent inflation as a benchmark of economic recovery.

The minutes reflected FOMC’s position that it will maintain the target federal funds rate at between 0.00 and 0.25 percent for a considerable period after the asset purchases under the current quantitative easing program have ended. While analysts previously associated “considerable period” with a time frame of six months, Fed Chair Yellen stated during her press conference that there was no formula for determining the Fed’s actions; she emphasized that the Fed and FOMC would monitor a wide range of economic indicators, economic reports and developments in support of any decisions to change current monetary policy. 

In response to a question about tight credit, Chair Yellen cited banks’ reluctance to lend to all but those with “pristine” credit scores as a factor contributing to slower recovery in the housing sector.

Mortgage Rates, Jobless Claims

Freddie Mac reported lower mortgage rates on Thursday. The reading for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was 4.17 percent, a decline of three basis points. Discount points were also lower at 0.50 percent. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage was lower by one basis point at 3.30 percent; discount points were unchanged at 0.50 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage fell to 3.00 percent from last week’s reading of 3.05 percent. Discount points were unchanged at 0.40 percent.

New jobless claims were higher than expected at 312,000; analysts had predicted a reading of 310,000 against the prior week’s reading of 318,000 new jobless claims.

No economic reports were released Friday.

What’s Ahead

This week’s economic calendar includes several housing-related reports. Existing home sales, the Case-Shiller Housing Market Index and New Home Sales will be released along with multiple consumer-related reports and weekly updates for mortgage rates and new jobless claims.

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FOMC Statement Quantitative Easing Tapered by 10 BillionThe Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) determined that current economic conditions warranted another $10 billion reduction in the Fed’s asset purchases.

Citing improvements in economic indicators including labor markets and national unemployment, committee members said that further tapering of its quantitative easing (QE) asset purchases was warranted. The Fed will now purchase a total of $35 billion monthly in treasury securities and mortgage-backed securities.

While continued reductions in the Fed’s asset purchases could contribute to rising mortgage rates, the FOMC statement said that the Fed’s “sizeable and still increasing” holdings of long-term securities is expected to hold down long term interest rates including mortgage rates.

The FOMC statement included its standard caveat that reductions to QE purchases are not on a preset course and that committee members will continue close analysis of financial and economic news and conditions as part of decisions to change the volume of QE asset purchases.

Committee Monitoring Unemployment, Inflation

Unemployment remains “elevated” according to the FOMC statement. Committee members said that they will continue to monitor unemployment readings, but committee members expect that overall improvement in economic conditions will continue to justify the current target rate for federal funds at between 0.00 and 0.25 percent.

The FOMC statement notes that this “highly accommodative” policy will likely remain in effect for a considerable period after the QE asset purchases conclude.

Committee members continue to monitor the inflation rate, which remains below the FOMC target rate of 2.00 percent. Noting that inflation persistently below the Fed’s target rate could hamper economic growth, the FOMC said that it expects inflation to move toward its target rate within the medium term.

FOMC Releases Forecasts for Key Indicators

FOMC released a table of its forecasts for certain economic sectors. Highlights include a projected reading of 6.00 to 6.10 percent for national unemployment for 2014, and the rate of inflation for personal consumer expenses at between 1.50 and 1.70 percent for 2014. According to its projections, the Fed’s target inflation rate of 2.00 percent is likely to be reached in 2015 or 2016.

Fed Chair Yellen Gives Press Conference

A major theme of Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s press conference was that there is no set formula for Fed decisions concerning interest rates, inflation and tapering its volume of asset purchases. She cited geopolitical risks including conflicts in Europe and developing civil crisis in Iraq as examples of influences on U.S. financial markets, energy supplies and prices.

Ms. Yellen said that while consumer spending has increased, the Fed wants to see wage growth exceed inflation so that consumers would see an actual increase in their incomes. She also cited the Fed’s target inflation rate of 2.00 percent as important to continued economic recovery.

A wide range of opinions among FOMC members about federal interest rates was mentioned by Ms. Yellen as an example of overall uncertainty about the economy and developing economic trends. She cautioned investors to be mindful of this uncertainty.