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The Fed publishes meeting minutes 8 times annually — three weeks after each scheduled Federal Open Market Committee get-together. The Fed Minutes summarizes the FOMC meeting.
The Federal Reserve released the minutes from its August 9, 2011 Federal Open Market Committee meeting Tuesday.
The Fed Minutes contained no surprises and, as a result, mortgage rates across CA and nationwide have idled.
Although it gets less press attention, the Fed Minutes is every bit as important as the more highly-publicized, post-meeting statement from the FOMC. With its detailed record of conversation, the Fed Minutes highlights the discussions and debates that shape our nation’s monetary policy.
For example, here is some of what was said at the Fed’s August 2011 meeting :
In addition, the Fed talked about whether a third round of asset purchases should be announced. Ultimately, that plan was rejected by consensus.
The FOMC’s next meeting is a 2-day meeting, scheduled for September 20-21. The meeting was originally scheduled for just one day, but Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke chose to extend it to two. Wall Street believes that the extension was made so Fed members could discuss new forms of economic stimulus.
Depending on the form of said stimulus — if it should even occur — mortgage rates may rise or fall. We can’t know for certain unti the size and scope of the Fed’s plan is known.
For now, mortgage rates remain rock-bottom. There’s more room for rates to rise than to fall. If you’re shopping for a loan and the rate looks right, therefore, consider locking on it.
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After 3 straight months of gains, the Pending Home Sales Index slipped 1 percent in July. The monthly report is published by the National Association of REALTORS® and measures the number of home under contract to sell nationwide.
The Pending Home Sales Index is closely watched by Wall Street and analysts because it’s a forward-looking housing market indicator. Unlike most housing market data, though, Pending Home Sales forecasts a future housing market event. In this case, the Existing Home Sales report.
In its methodology, the Pending Home Sales Index states that 80% of homes under contract close within 2 months, with most of the remaining home going to closing within Months 3 and 4.
We would expect home sales data to taper into the fall buying season, but this year, they may taper more than normal. This is because, in a separate report, the National Association of REALTORS® said that contract cancellation rates are running high.
As compared to a 4 percent contract cancellation rate in May 2011, June and July both registered 16 percent. This means that fewer homes tallied as part of July’s Pending Home Sales Index will show up as “closed sales” this fall.
Contracts can be canceled for any number of reasons including more stringent mortgage guidelines, appraisals falling short of the purchase price, and changing mortgage loan limits.
For home buyers in San Diego , the Pending Home Sales Index may represent an opportunity. Not only are fewer homes going under contract nationwide, but with cancellation rates spiking, sellers may be more willing to “make a deal”.
Note, though, like all real estate, the pace at which homes go under contract is a “local” statistic; you can’t assume national data applies to all markets equally. Your home market, for example, may out-perform — or under-perform — the national average.
For a closer look at what’s happening on your street including the speed at which homes are selling, talk to a local real estate agent.
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Low mortgage rates are terrific — if you can get them.
One week after posting its lowest mortgage rate in 50 years, Freddie Mac reports that the 30-year fixed rate mortgage rose by an average of 7 basis points nationwide this week to 4.22%. To get the rate, you’ll pay an average of 0.7 “points”.
This week’s rise in the 30-year fixed rate mortgage pulled rates off their all-time lows so either you locked last week’s rock-bottom rates, or you missed it.
Mortgage rates are rising.
As a refinancing homeowner or home buyer in San Diego , rising mortgage rates are something to watch. This is because, as mortgage rates rise, so do the long-term interest costs of giving a mortgage, increasing your homeownership costs.
For example, if you failed to lock a rate last week when rates were bottomed, and then decided to lock-in only after rates had climbed 0.25 percent, at the new, higher rate, over the life of your loan, you would have responsibility for an extra $5,300 in interest costs for every $100,000 you borrowed.
Rising mortgage rates can be expensive.
For home buyers, rising mortgage rates pose a second problem — they erode your purchasing power. A home that fits your budget at today’s rates may not fit your budget at next week’s rates. And because mortgage rates change quickly, you can sometimes feel ilke you’re racing the clock.
The hard part about mortgage rates, though, is that we can never know what they’ll do next. On some days they rise, on some days they fall, and on some days they stay the same. Instead of trying to “time the bottom”, therefore, a good strategy can be to lock the first, low rate that fits your budget. Then, if rates are lower in the future, you can look to refinance at that time.
Mortgage rates remain at historical lows. It’s a good time to lock a rate.
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Home resales slipped in July.
According to the National Association of REALTORS®, Existing Home Sales nationwide fell to 4.67 million units on a seasonally-adjusted annualized basis last month. It’s the fourth straight month below the 5 million mark, and the report’s lowest reading since November 2010.
An “existing home” is a home that’s been previously occupied or owned.
In addition, the Existing Home Sales report showed home supplies rising nationwide. At the current pace of sales, in other words, the complete, national “For Sale” inventory would be exhausted in 9.4 months. This, too, is the worst reading since November 2010.
On a units basis, however, the number of homes for sale actually fell in July. As compared to June, home resale inventory dropped 65,000 units to 3.65 million.
From these figures, we can infer that, despite low mortgage rates and lagging home values, buyer activity is slowing in CA and nationwide. This may be seasonal, or it may be a long-term trend.
Either way, there’s opportunity for today’s home buyers.
With mortgage rates at all-time lows, home affordability is peaking. More households can afford housing payments than during any time in history and with the fall season approaching, buyers in San Diego may find contracts negotiations to be more “friendly”.
This can mean lower sale prices and larger concessions from sellers — the hallmark of a Buyer’s Market.
It’s a good time to look at your options. Talk to your real estate agent and see what’s out there for you. Low home prices may persist, but low mortgage rates likely won’t.
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Last week, at its 5th scheduled meeting of the year, the Federal Open Market Committee voted to leave the Fed Funds Rate in its target range near zero percent.
The Fed Funds Rate has been near zero percent since December 2008 and, in its official statement, the FOMC pledged to leave the Fed Funds Rate untouched for at least another 2 years.
This doesn’t mean mortgage rates will be untouched for 2 years, though.
Mortgage rates and the Fed Funds Rate are two different interest rates; completely disconnected. If mortgage rates and the Fed Funds Rate moved in tandem, the chart at right would be a straight line.
Instead, it’s jagged.
To make the point more strongly, let’s use real-life examples from the past decade.
Today, the separation between the two benchmark rates is 407 basis points.
1 basis point is equal to 0.01%.
Between now and mid-2013, when the Fed may begin changing the Fed Funds Rate, the spread between rates will change based on economic expectation — not Fed action (or non-action). If the economy is expected to improve, mortgage rates in San Diego will rise and the spread will widen.
Should mortgage rates cross 6 percent before the Fed starts raising rates, it will create the widest interest rate spread in history, surpassing the 615 basis point difference set in August 1982.
At the time, the Fed Funds Rate was 10.12% and mortgage rates averaged 16.27%.
On the other hand, if the economy shows signs of a slowdown for late-2011 and beyond, mortgage rates are expected to drop.
Shopping for a mortgage can be tough — especially in a volatile environment like the current one. Mortgage rates move independent of the Fed Funds Rate. Make sure you’re watching the proper market indicators. It’s your best chance to lock the lowest rate possible.
Foreclosure activity continues to slow.
According to RealtyTrac, a national foreclosure-tracking firm, the number of foreclosure filings nationwide fell 35 percent as compared to July 2010, a statistic suggesting that the housing market continues to improve.
“Foreclosure filing” is a catch-all term encompassing default notices, scheduled auctions, and bank repossessions.
Filings fell to a 44-month low in July 2011.
For all the improvement, though, activity remains concentrated in just a few states. More than half of all bank repossessions last month occurred in just a handful of states.
In July, 6 states accounted for 52% of activity.
At the other end of the spectrum is Vermont. With just 11 repossessions for all of July, Vermont accounted for 0.016% of repossessions nationwide.
Distressed homes are in high demand with today’s home buyers. According to the National Association of REALTORS®, they account for 30% of all home resales. That’s no surprise, either.
Distressed homes typically sell at 20 percent discounts as compared to non-distressed ones.
But, if buying a foreclosure is in your agenda, be sure to do your homework. Buying bank-owned homes is different from buying from “people”. The contracts are different, the negotiations are different, and the homes are sometimes sold with defects.
If you plan to purchase a foreclosure in San Diego , therefore, be sure to speak with a licensed real estate agent first. There’s plenty of available information online but when it’s time to buy, have an experienced agent on your side.
More Americans are getting back to work.
The latest Non-Farm Payrolls survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that 117,000 net new jobs were created in July, thumping analyst estimates and surprising Wall Street investors.
In addition, May and June’s originally-reported figures were both revised higher:
The national Unemployment Rate slipped to 9.1 percent.
The jobs report’s strong readings would typically be a boon to stock market and a threat to mortgage rates. This is because more employed Americans means more disposable income spent on products and services; and more taxes paid to governments at the federal, state and local level.
This combination fuels consumer spending and supports new job growth, a self-reinforcing cycle that spurs economic growth and often to draw investors into equities.
This month, however, the market reaction has been decidedly different.
Since the Friday release of the July Non-Farm Payrolls report, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has lost close to 6 percent of its value. Furthermore, mortgage bonds — which typically sink on a strong jobs figure — have thrived.
High demand for mortgage-backed bonds have pushed mortgage rates below their all-time lows set last November; the biggest cause of which is Standard & Poor’s credit downgrade of U.S. government-issued debt.
Ironically, the credit rating downgrade sparked a surge of safe haven bidding that has been tremendous to rate shoppers and home buyers in San Diego and nationwide. Bond buyers are flocking to the U.S.
If you’ve been shopping for a mortgage, therefore, or recently bought a home, use this week’s action to your advantage. Call your lender and ask about rates. You may be surprised at what you find.
Tuesday, the Federal Open Market Committee voted to leave the Fed Funds Rate unchanged within its current target range of 0.000-0.250 percent.
The vote was 7-3 — the first time in 5 meetings that the nation’s Central Bank was non-unanimous and the first time since 1992 that the FOMC adjourned with as many as three dissenters.
In its press release, the FOMC had little good to say about the U.S. economy, noting that since its last meeting in June:
The Fed also noted that the housing sector remains depressed.
On the positive side, the Fed said that business investment in equipment and software continues to expand, and that energy costs have dropped and no longer contribute to inflationary pressures on the economy.
In fact, the Fed worries that inflation may be running too low for the country’s good.
To that end, the Federal Reserve has pledged to keep the Fed Funds Rate in its current range near 0.000 percent “at least until mid-2013″. This is a departure from prior statements in which the Fed gave no such date.
Mortgage market reaction to the FOMC statement has been positive this afternoon. Mortgage rates in CA are improving, but note that sentiment can shift quickly — especially in a market as uncertain as this one.
If today’s mortgage rates look good in your household budget, consider locking in a rate.
The FOMC’s next scheduled meeting is September 20, 2011.
Mortgage rates continue drifting downward, despite — or because of — a ratings downgrade on long-term U.S. government debt. Standard & Poors issued a single-notch downgrade after Friday’s market close, from AAA to AA+.
Of the roughly $9.4 billion in publicly-held U.S. debt, 72 percent is long-term (i.e. with duration of 2 years or longer).
U.S. short-term debt was not downgraded.
When an entity — government, business, or other — is cited for a credit downgrade, it means that the risk of lending money to that entity has increased. In theory, higher risk should lead to higher borrowing costs and higher consumer rates.
Except in today’s U.S. Treasury and mortgage bond markets, the opposite is occurring. U.S.-backed bonds are in demand, leading rates lower. It’s an unexpected response to the S&P downgrade.
There are 3 main reasons why mortgage rates aren’t rising.
First, Wall Street is “brushing off” S&P’s downgrade, citing the rating agency’s opinion as flawed. This is, in part, the result of a supposed “math error” in the S&P findings, as caught by the U.S. Treasury.
Second, global finance leaders have made public statements since the Friday downgrade re-asserting their faith in the U.S. government’s ability to repay its debts. This is helped stabilize bonds as well.
And, third, of the three major rating agencies, only Standard & Poor’s downgraded long-term U.S. debt. Competitors Moody’s and Fitch instead chose to re-affirm the top-status rating for U.S. government-issued debt after last week’s debt ceiling accord.
The likely cause for falling rates today is that the global economy is showing signs of a slowdown and the U.S. Treasury market remains the largest and most liquid bond market in the world. Ergo, they’re relatively safe — despite the credit rating of the nation backing them.
Mortgage rates in CA plunged to new 2011 lows this week.
According to Freddie Mac’s weekly Primary Mortgage Market Survey, the national, average 30-year fixed rate mortgage fell to 4.39% this week — the lowest 30-year fixed reading since November 18, 2010.
The 0.16 drop from last week is the largest one-week rate drop in more than 2 years, and, although the 30-year fixed remains above its all-time lows from November 2010, two other benchmark products made new records this week.
Both the 15-year fixed rate mortgage and the 5-year ARM are reporting lower than at any time in recorded history.
Freddie Mac puts those average rates at 3.54% and 3.18%, respectively.
Mortgage rates are dropping for several reasons, including :
The first two items are unfavorable for business and, as a result, stock markets have sold off all week. The Dow Jones Industrial Average posted an 8-day losing streak and Thursday it made its biggest one-day loss since 2008.
When equities lose, bonds tend to gain. This leads mortgage rates lower.
Mortgage rates also fell on “safe haven” buying; bond buys made because of their relative safety to risky assets. Mortgage bonds are considered “safe” so when economies and geopolitics are uncertain, mortgage rates improve.
Going forward, there are reasons for mortgage rates to fall again. The economy won’t rebound overnight and neither will investor confidence. However, markets can be fickle and rates have been known to reverse quickly.
With rates as low as they’ve been history, it’s an advantageous time to refinance your home loan, or purchase a new property.