Last week brought a variety of housing related news. Highlights included the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index for July, which showed a 12.40 percent year-over-year increase in national home prices. This was up from 12.10 percent in June.
The FHFA Housing Price Index reading traces home prices on properties securing mortgages owned or backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The year-over-year reading for July showed an increase of 8.80 percent as compared to a year-over-year reading of 7.80 percent in June.
Rising mortgage rates and rising home prices have caused some buyers to leave the market, while others are jumping in before mortgage rates move higher. Pent-up demand for homes and short supplies of homes for sale are expected to sustain buyer interest and home prices.
The Consumer Confidence Index for September fell to 79.70 percent for September as compared to August’s reading of 81.80 percent, but was slightly higher than the expected reading of 79.50 percent.
Sales Of New Homes Surpass Expectactions
Sales of 421,000 new homes in August surpassed expectations of 420,000 sales and the revised number of 390,000 sales of new homes in July. A short supply of existing homes for sale is attracting buyers to new homes.
Freddie Mac’s weekly Primary Mortgage Market Survey provided good news as average mortgage rates fell. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was 4.32 percent as compared to last week’s 4.50 percent.
The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage was 3.37 percent as compared to last week’s reading of 3.54 percent. Discount points were unchanged at 0.70 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was 3.07 percent, which was four basis points lower than last week. Discount points were unchanged at 0.50 percent.
Pending home sales fell by 1.60 percent in August as compared to July; the National Association of REALTOR cites higher home prices and mortgage rates along with depleted supplies of available homes as reasons for fewer signed contracts in August.
The West reported a drop of 1.60 percent in pending sales and the Midwest reported 1.40 percent fewer pending sales in August. The Northeast came out ahead with 4.00 percent more pending home sales in August.
Weekly jobless claims were reported at 305,000 new jobless claims as compared to expectations of 327,000 new jobless claims and the prior week’s reading of 310.000. The Federal Reserve recently cited the national unemployment rate of over seven percent as a clear indication that employment levels are not recovering quickly.
Next Week’s Economic News
While few housing and mortgage related reports are set for release next week, the calendar should provide indications of overall economic conditions. On Tuesday, Construction Spending for August will be released. Wednesday brings the ADP employment report for September. This report tracks private sector jobs.
Thursday brings Freddie Mac’s PMMS report of average mortgage rates and the weekly jobless claims report.
The federal Non-farm Payrolls and National Unemployment Reports for September are set for release on Friday.
Last week didn’t feature any housing-related news other than Freddie Mac’s weekly survey of mortgage interest rates.
Reports on consumer credit, job openings and weekly jobless claims suggest that without some relief in the jobs market, Americans may be taking a “wait-and-see” stance toward buying homes.
Consumer Credit Rose By $10.40 Billion In July
The Federal Reserve reported Tuesday that revolving credit fell by an annual rate of 2.60 percent as compared to an annual decrease of 5.20 percent in June. Non-revolving consumer credit such as vehicle and education loans rose at an annual rate of 7.40 percent.
Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey indicated that mortgage rates were unchanged for both 30-year and 15-year fixed rate mortgage loans. The average rate for a 30-year FRM was 4.57 percent with discount points of 0.80 percent; this was higher than last week’s 0.70 percent.
Average rates for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage were unchanged at 3.57 percent with 0.70 percent in discount points. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage fell by six basis points from 3.28 to 3.22 percent with discount points unchanged at 0.50 percent.
Mortgage rates are likely to change next week in response to any announcement by the Federal Reserve regarding its plan for reducing the amount of monthly bond purchases in its current quantitative easing program.
Mortgage rates would likely rise if the Fed begins tapering its $85 billion monthly purchase of securities, but if the Fed maintains its current rate of purchases, mortgage rates could remain steady or fall in response to the news.
Retail sales fell short of expectations on Friday. The Department of Commerce reported a seasonally-adjusted growth rate of 0.20 percent in August against an expected reading of 0.50 percent and July’s revised reading of 0.40 percent, which was initially reported at 0.20 percent.
The University of Michigan/Thompson Reuters Consumer Sentiment Index for September fell to its lowest reading since April. The September reading was 76.80 percent as compared to expectations of 81.50 percent and August’s reading of 82.10 percent.
What’s Coming, Will The Fed Taper Its Securities Purchases?
This week’s economic news is highlighted by the Fed’s FOMC statement scheduled on Wednesday after its two-day meeting. The announcement is expected to include an indication of the Fed’s intention concerning its QE program and whether or not monthly securities purchases will be reduced. Fed chairman Ben Bernanke is scheduled to give a press conference after the FOMC statement.
Other scheduled economic news for this week includes the Consumer Price Index and Home Builders Housing Market Index on Tuesday; Wednesday brings reports on Housing Starts and Building Permits in addition to the FOMC statement and press conference. Thursday’s economic reports include Weekly Jobless Claims and the Freddie Mac PMMS along with Existing Home Sales and Leading Indicators.
Last week was relatively calm due to the Labor Day Holiday on Monday providing little mortgage and housing related news. However, there were several positive indicators for overall economic conditions.
Construction spending rose by 0.60 percent in July and surpassed economists’ expectations of 0.30 percent and June’s zero percent growth. While this may seem a small increase, any indication that construction spending is increasing could indicate that residential construction is ramping up.
This would be good news for home buyers, who’ve been facing a shortage of available homes in many areas of the U.S.
The Fed Released Its Latest Beige Book Report
Federal Reserve districts reported rising consumer spending in most districts, modest expansion in manufacturing and moderate residential real estate sales. Higher mortgage rates may have dampened home buyer enthusiasm, but an ongoing shortage of available homes is also likely to have contributed to slower sales.
Mortgage rates will likely rise if the Fed tapers its $85 billion monthly purchase of mortgage-backed securities and Treasury bonds as demand for bonds is expected to decrease. When bond prices fall, mortgage rates usually rise.
ADP released its report on private sector jobs added for August; 176,000 jobs were added against expectations of 185,000 jobs added and July’s 198,000 jobs added. The three-month rolling average of private sector jobs added shows steady job growth as jobs added rose from 140,000 in May to 188,000 jobs for August.
Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey reported that the average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage rose by six basis points to 4.57 percent with discount points unchanged at 9.70 percent.
The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage rose by five basis points to 3.59 percent with discount points unchanged at 0.70 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage rose by four basis points to 3.28 percent with discount points unchanged at 0.50 percent.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Non-Farm Payrolls Report for August, 169,000 jobs were created, which fell shy of expectations of 173,000 new jobs. Expectations were based on the original number of 162,000 jobs created in July, but July’s number was revised downward to 104,000 jobs created.
The unemployment report for August was 7.30 percent, down 0.10 percent from July’s reading of 7.40 percent.
The combination of higher mortgage rates, persistently high unemployment and fewer jobs created could signal the Fed to postpone its plan to start reducing its monthly securities purchases.
What’s Coming Up
This week’s scheduled mortgage and housing news is relatively flat, but Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey will provide the last indication of mortgage rates’ direction before the FOMC meeting on September 18.
The Fed will also likely be watching the Weekly Jobs report and the University of Michigan’s Consumer Sentiment Index as part of its decision-making process on whether to taper or maintain current QE securities purchases.
The National Association of REALTORS reported Wednesday that pending sales of existing homes fell by 1.30 percent in July.
According to the organization’s Pending Home Sales Index, this was the second straight month that pending home sales dropped. July’s Pending Home Sales Index reading was 109.50.
Signed Purchase Contracts For Existing Homes Tracked In The U.S.
- ·Northeast: – 6.60 percent
- ·Midwest: – 1.00 percent
- ·West: - 4.90 percent
- ·South: + 2.60 percent
Pending home sales were 6.70 percent higher year-over-year on a national basis. This indicates that the housing recovery is progressing, but at a slower pace.
Short supplies of available homes have also impacted sales. In some areas homebuyers are facing competition from multiple buyers for individual homes.
Another report released earlier in the week showed that the pace of rising home prices also slowed. This connects with fewer pending home sales, as when demand for homes cools, prices are likely to fall as well.
Pending home sales serve as an indicator for future home sales, as purchase contracts typically lead to completed home sales within two to three months.
Housing Market Developments Could Delay Fed Stimulus Decision
The Federal Reserve has indicated that it may begin reducing its stimulus program of buying $85 billion per month in U.S. Treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities.
The Fed has repeatedly stated that continued monitoring of economic trends would weigh heavily on its decision if and when to modify its current stimulus program.
Mortgage rates have risen more than a percentage point since May when the Fed began discussing potentially “tapering” its monthly bond purchases.
The Fed may interpret the slower pace of rising home prices and pending home sales as a sign that it’s not yet time to reduce its stimulus program. This could help with lowering mortgage rates, which are expected to rise when the Fed reduces its monthly securities purchases and eventually ends its stimulus plan.
Housing has led the economic recovery; faltering indicators in the housing sector suggest that the overall recovery is a fragile process.
There was potentially good news for mortgage rates on Wednesday as the Fed’s Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) announced that its quantitative easing (QE) program would remain unchanged for the present.
Economists expect the Fed to begin tapering the amount of QE toward the end of the year in accordance with Chairman Ben Bernanke’s previous statements that “tapering” would likely begin near year-end.
No specific date for reducing the QE assets purchases was given.
Chairman Bernanke has previously indicated that the Fed will closely review domestic and global economic developments as part of its decision-making process for changing the QE program. Wednesday’s FOMC statement reaffirmed this plan.
Fed Cites Economic Expansion and Improving Labor Conditions
The FOMC statement cited modest economic expansion, improving labor markets and continued high unemployment levels as a basis for continuing its current level of QE.
The Fed’s mandate requires it to support price stability and low unemployment; reversals in these or other economic areas could cause the Fed to continue its QE at present levels. At present, economists expect QE to end in mid-2014.
The FOMC statement also indicated that the target federal funds rate will remain between 0.00 and 0.25 percent at least until the national unemployment rate falls to 6.50 percent. Chairman Bernanke did not give a press conference after Wednesday’s statement was released.
Quantitative Easing: Monthly Purchase of MBS, Treasury Securities Intended to Control Mortgage Rates
The Fed currently purchases $40 billion in mortgage-backed securities (MBS) and $45 billion in Treasury securities monthly. These purchases are intended to control long-term interest rates including mortgage rates.
When the Fed begins tapering and eventually concludes these asset purchases, demand for MBS and Treasury securities are expected to fall and their prices will likely fall as well. When prices for bonds include MBS fall, mortgage rates traditionally rise.
With mortgage rates recently moving up, reducing the level of the Fed’s QE asset purchases is cause for concern. Higher mortgage rates make homes less affordable; the combination of rising home prices and mortgage rates presents challenges for first-time home buyers and others without sufficient funds for meeting higher down payments and monthly mortgage payments.
Now would be a very good time to ask your trusted mortgage professional for a personal review of your mortgage situation. Give them a call and ask for your private assessment today.