The Federal Reserve’s Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) released its customary statement at the conclusion of its meeting on Wednesday. FOMC members oversee the Fed’s monetary policy. In recent months, investors and economists have speculated on whether or not the Fed would continue tapering its asset purchases under its latest quantitative easing (QE) program, and whether the Fed would raise its target federal funds rate of 0.00 to 0.250 percent.
According to its statement, FOMC members plan to continue tapering monthly asset purchases of Treasury securities and mortgage-backed securities until asset purchases under the QE program conclude in October. FOMC statements have repeatedly indicated that members do not foresee raising the target federal funds rate for a “considerable period” after the QE asset purchases cease. Wednesday’s FOMC statement reasserted this position, and said that the committee may keep the current target federal funds rate at its current level for “some time” after employment levels and inflation reach normal levels.
Committee member and Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank President and CEO Charles I. Plosser objected to use of the term “considerable period” as being “…time dependent and not reflecting economic progress made toward the committee’s goals.”
The committee’s comments about asset purchases and the target federal funds rate included the usual reminder that asset purchases and determination of the target federal funds rate are not on a predetermined course and are subject to adjustment should economic conditions merit changes in FOMC monetary policy.
FOMC Concerned with Housing Markets, Unemployment
The committee’s statement said that while FOMC members noted improvements in labor markets, but the unemployment rate remains elevated. The FOMC statement noted that “a range of labor market indicators suggest that there remains significant underutilization of labor resources.”
In spite of encouraging labor market reports, FOMC members remain concerned about overall labor market conditions, and are not relying on the national unemployment rate alone as an accurate measure of labor market health.
Home prices continue to rise, but at a slower pace in many areas. On a positive note, the statement indicated that FOMC members found that the likelihood of inflation running consistently below the committee’s target rate of 2.00 percent was “diminished somewhat.”
While Wednesday’s FOMC statement reflected signs of an ongoing economic recovery, it’s evident that FOMC members plant to keep a close eye on factors that impact their expectations for the economy.
An article by Tory Barringer, of DSNews.com, July 29th, 2014
The Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index reached 90.9 in the group’s July survey, up from 86.4 in June. As of July, the index stands at its highest level since before the Great Recession.
Lynn Franco, director of economic indicators at the Conference Board, said the surge was fueled by strong job growth and a brighter short-term outlook for the labor market and personal incomes.
“Recent improvements in consumer confidence, in particular expectations, suggest the recent strengthening in growth is likely to continue into the second half of the year,” Franco added.
The index component measuring consumers’ feelings about their present situation increased two points to 88.3, the Conference Board reported, while the index gauging future expectations jumped more than six points to 92.7.
Looking at recent economic developments, 15.9 percent of consumers surveyed said jobs are plentiful at the moment, though nearly double that percentage maintained that work is still hard to find.
Looking ahead, however, Americans were more positive, with a greater share expecting more jobs in the months to come and a smaller number expecting labor to fall—an improvement Federal Reserve leaders might take note of as they sit down this week to decide their next move in monetary policy, says Paul Ashworth, chief U.S. economist for Capital Economics.
“The net difference between those two balances shrank to -14.8 in July, from -16.1. That decline strongly suggests that the amount of slack in the labour market really is diminishing quite rapidly, which many Fed officials still aren’t willing to admit,” Ashworth said in a note to clients.
May home prices rose in all 20 cities tracked by the S&P Case-Shiller 20 City Home Price Index. This was the second consecutive month in which all cities posted gains.
On average, national home prices rose by 1.10 percent in May as compared to April’s reading. Year-over-year, home prices rose, but at a slower rate of 9.39 percent in May as compared to 10.80 percent year-over-year for April.
Nevada, Florida and California Cities Post Highest Gains
Cities posting the highest year-over-year price gains in May included Las Vegas, Nevada at 16.90 percent, San Francisco, California at 15.40 percent, Miami, Florida at 13.20 percent. San Diego and Los Angeles, California reported home price growth rates at 12.40 and 12.29 percent respectively.
According to the 20-City Index, home prices are 18 percent below their peak reached in mid-2006, but are 27 percent higher as compared to March 2012 lows.
Pending Home Sales Decline in June
More evidence of sluggish home sales was reported for June. The National Association of REALTORS® reported that pending home sales dropped by 1.10 percent in June. This was a surprise as compared to May’s month-to-month gain of 6.00 percent for pending sales.
Several factors were cited as contributing to slower home sales; higher home prices, stagnant wage growth, higher mortgage rates and stringent loan requirements were seen as obstacles for home buyers. Pending home sales are an indicator of future closings and mortgage activity. Approximately 80 percent of purchase contracts signed sales completed within 60 days.
FHFA House Price Index: Home Price Growth Slips in May
FHFA, the agency that oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, reported that home prices grew by 0.40 percent in May to a seasonally-adjusted year-over-year rate of 5.50 percent as compared to April’s year-over-year reading of 5.90 percent. FHFA’s House Price Index is based on sales of homes connected with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgages.
On a positive note, the reading for the Consumer Confidence Index jumped from 85.20 in June to 90.90 in July. Expanding consumer confidence suggests that more families may decide to transition from renting to owning their homes, and that homeowners may feel confident enough to move up to larger homes.
Sellers, Beware: Five Reasons You Might Not Get Top Dollar when You Sell Your Home (And How to Avoid Them)
For most people, their home is their largest asset, so they want to maximize that asset by getting top dollar when they sell. Here are a few reasons you might not get top dollar when you sell – and how to avoid them!
Selling At The Wrong Time
From early spring to late summer is home-buying season for most people, especially those with children. Putting your house on the market during this period is when you are likely to get top dollar for it. Early fall is also a good time to list your home. Winter – especially December – is the worst time to list. If you list your home outside of prime selling season, you are likely to get less for it than you could have otherwise.
Not Staging Your Home Properly
Many people think of staging as simply rearranging the furniture or changing curtains, but there is so much more to it, and not doing it properly can mean less money for your home. To stage your home properly, you must declutter, putting knick-knacks and family pictures away. You also want to make sure your home is as clean as possible and that you correct any defects such as holes in the wall or cracked window panes. Another thing you should do as part of your staging routine is to paint your walls in neutral colors and update cabinet hardware and light fixtures that are out of date. These little changes can make a big difference.
Not Paying Attention To Curb Appeal
You can spend all the time and money necessary to spruce up the inside of your home, but if your lawn is a patch of dirt and your gutters are falling down, all that work and money can go for naught. To get top dollar for your home, you need to improve your curb appeal. This includes seeding or sodding bare spots in your lawn, trimming trees and shrubbery and fixing up home-related items such as broken concrete and sagging gutters.
Not Getting The Price Right
You might think that to get the highest price out of your house, you have to price it high. However, that’s not necessarily always the case. If you price your house too high, it can make other similar houses that are priced lower look like better deals. You should make sure to pay close attention to what comparable homes are selling for in the area and price your home accordingly.
Not Working With A Real Estate Agent
Many people think they can save a bundle selling their home by not working with a real estate agent. While you might save on the real estate commission, that is probably not the case, since your potential buyer is wanting to save that same commission. So, at best you’re likely only saving HALF the commission. Also, if you’re thinking that the commission is going to be 6%, you’re probably wrong there, as well. Many agents, like me, are willing to offer a substantial discount to a seller – frequently, as low as 1% to 2% on the seller’s side, ( Depending on the price range.) while offering 2.5% to the buyer’s side of the transaction. You can quickly lose more than that 3.5% to 4.5% – that the buyer expects at least 2.5% of – by making mistakes in pricing and marketing.
A real estate agent will have access to resources you don’t, such as information on buyers looking in your neighborhood. An agent will market your home, make sure it is priced accordingly and set up showings. It is worth your time and money to call an agent experienced in selling homes in your neighborhood who can give you a free market evaluation.
In South Orange County, that agent is Bob Phillips, with over 38 years of local, professional real estate service. Why not give me a call or text today, at 949-887-5305, or shoot me an email to BobPhillipsRE@gmail.com. I’d love to talk with you about your real estate plans.
Last week’s economic news brought several housing-related reports, which indicated varying results in terms of gauging the economic recovery. FHFA reported slower growth of home prices associated with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgages, but sales of existing homes as reported by the National Association of REALTORS® surpassed expectations and May’s reading. Sales of new homes slumped to their lowest level in three months. Weekly jobless claims were lower than expected and also lower than for the prior week.
FHFA Home Prices Grow at Slower Rate, Existing Home Sales Higher than Expected
The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) reported that the average sale price of homes associated with mortgages owned or backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac grew by.40 percent in May with year-over year growth of 5.90 percent. While national home price readings continue to rise, they are doing so at a slower pace since 2013’s rapid appreciation of average home prices.
Sales of previously owned homes reached their highest level in eight months in June. Existing home sales surpassed expectations and May’s reading in June, with sales of pre-owned homes at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.04 million units. Analysts forecasted sales of existing homes at 5.00 million against May’s reading of 4.91 million existing homes sold.
New Home Sales Fall Short in June
New home sales did not achieve the expected volume for June. The reading of 406,000 new homes sold was less than the expected reading of 475,000 new homes sold. Projections were based on the original May reading of 504,000 new homes sold, but this was downwardly revised to 442,000 new homes sold in May. Builders were said to be cautious about over-extending themselves are focused on new home construction in high-demand areas where home prices are higher. Homes are less affordable in such areas, which impacts lower sales volume.
Freddie Mac: Mortgage Rates Steady for 30-year FRM
The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was unchanged at 4.13 percent with average discount points also unchanged at 0.60 percent according to Freddie Mac’s weekly survey of mortgage rates. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage rose by three basis points to 3.26 percent with discount points higher at 0.60 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was two basis points higher at 2.99 percent with discount points ten basis points higher at 0.50 percent.
Weekly Jobless Claims Lowest since 2006
A major consideration for home buyers is stable employment. Recent reports suggest that the labor market is expanding; the Weekly Jobless Claims report continued this trend with a lower than expected reading of 284,000 new jobless claims filed against expectations of 310,000 new claims and the prior week’s reading of 303,000 new jobless claims. Analysts found the declining number of new jobless claims consistent with lower unemployment rates, but cautioned that sustained weekly jobless claims readings lower than 300,000 are more consistent with a national unemployment rate of 5.00 percent or less.
This week’s scheduled economic news will add further insight to housing market trends with the release of Pending Home Sales for June and the Case-Shiller Home Price Index report for May. The Bureau of Labor Statistics will also release July’s Non-Farm Payrolls report and National Unemployment report. The Federal Reserve is set to release its customary statement in the aftermath of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting that concludes on Wednesday.
In Tuesday’s post I focused on our local – Orange County, California – housing market. Today I have news about the National housing market. It looks better than most pundits anticipated. It’s not great, but it’s not bad, either.
According to the National Association of REALTORS®, existing home sales surpassed both May sales and expectations for June. Sales of previously owned homes increased by 2.60 percent in June and reached a seasonally adjusted annual level of 5.04 million sales. June’s reading was the third consecutive monthly increase in sales of existing homes and was the highest reading for existing home sales in eight months. Existing home sales remain 2.30 percent below the June 2013 reading of 5.16 million sales of existing homes.
Analysts projected sales of 5 million existing homes for June against May’s initial reading of 4.89 million sales of previously owned homes; the May reading was later revised to 4.91 million sales. Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of REALTORS® said that market conditions are becoming “more balanced,” and noted that inventories of existing homes are at their highest level in over a year and that price gains have slowed to much more welcoming levels in many parts of the country.
Housing Market Headwinds Declining
After a particularly harsh winter and lagging labor reports, analysts forecasted lower annual sales of existing homes for 2014 than for 2013. Labor markets are stronger according to recent labor market reports and a declining national unemployment rate. Steady work is an important factor for families considering a home purchase; as labor markets improve, more would-be homeowners are expected to become active buyers.
Housing markets are not without challenges. In recent unrelated reports, the Federal Reserve has noted higher than anticipated inflation may cause the Fed to raise its target Federal Funds rate in the next several months. Gas and food prices, important components of consumers’ household budgets continue to rise and could slow save toward a home for some families. Steve Brown, president of the National Association of REALTORS®, said that first-time and moderate income buyers continue to deal with affordability due to increased FHA costs and tight mortgage credit. Relief may be in sight as a slower pace of home price growth suggests that more buyers may be able to afford homes.
FHFA House Price Index Reports Gain in May Home Sales
FHFA released its May index of home sales connected with mortgages owned or backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The index posted a month-to-month gain of 0.40 percent in May and a year-over-year gain of 5.90 percent year-over-year. FHFA said that increased sales were driven by a 9/60 percent increase in sales in the Pacific region and that average home prices remain 6.50 percent below April 2007.
Last week’s economic news offered a variety of indications that the economic recovery continues, but some readings missed their expected levels. The Philadelphia and New York branches of the Federal Reserve Bank reported higher than anticipated manufacturing for their respective regions and new jobless claims were lower than expected.
Fed Chair’s Senate Testimony Hints at Coming Interest Rate Hike
Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen testified that the Fed might have to raise interest rates sooner than expected if the economy continues to outperform the Fed’s projections. Ms. Yellen said that the central bank presently estimates that the first rate increases will take place approximately one year from now.
The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) of the Fed has repeatedly stated that members will continue to review data and economic conditions changing monetary policy. Ms. Yellen said in last week’s remarks that this holds true whether economic conditions improve or decline.
In other Fed-related news, the Philadelphia Fed released its manufacturing index for July with higher than expected results. The Philly Fed’s reading for July was 23.90 as compared to expectations of 16.50 and June’s reading of 17.80.
The New York Fed reported a similar trend for July with a reading of 25.60 as compared to an estimated reading of 17.50 and June’s reading of 19.30. This is good news after the Northeast’s economy was slammed by severe weather last winter. Weather conditions stalled area housing and labor markets.
Weekly jobless claims were lower at 303,000 than expectations of 310,000 new jobless claims and the prior week’s reading of 305,000 new jobless claims.
Home Builders Post Positive Confidence Reading for July
The National Association of Home Builders posted its highest builder confidence reading in six months for July with a reading of 53 against the expected reading of 50 and June’s reading of 49. Numbers above 50 indicate that more builders surveyed have a positive outlook than not.
Housing Starts for June were reported lower than expected at an annual level of 893,000 against an expected reading of 1.02 million and May’s reading of 985,000 housing starts.
Mortgage Rates Lower
According to Freddie Mac’s weekly survey, average mortgage rates were slightly lower last week. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage fell by two basis points to 4.13 percent. Discount points were 0.60 as compared to the prior week’s reading of 0.70 percent. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage was 3.23 percent as compared to the previous reading of 3.24 percent.
Discount points for a 15-year mortgage averaged 0.50 percent against the prior week’s reading of 0.50 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage dropped by two basis points to 2.87 percent with discount points unchanged at 0.40 percent.
The University of Michigan’s Consumer Sentiment Index for July fell just short of expectations at 81.3. Analysts expected a reading of 83.0, based on June’s reading of 82.50. Analysts said that although labor markets are improving, consumers continue to face rising costs for gasoline and food, which likely explained the dip in confidence for July.
This week’s economic news releases include Existing Home sales from the National Association of REALTORS®, New Home Sales from the Department of Commerce and the FHFA House Price Index. The Chicago Fed is set to release its National Activity Index. Freddie Mac mortgage rates and New Jobless Claims will be released Thursday as usual.