South Orange County Blog from Bob Phillips

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – July 13, 2015

Whats-Ahead-Mortgage-Rates-6Last week’s scheduled economic events were few due to the Independence Day holiday. Freddie Mac’s weekly survey of mortgage rates brought good news as mortgage rates fell across the board. The Federal Reserve released the minutes of its most recent Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting and weekly jobless claims rose.

Job Openings Rise to Highest Level Since 2000

The Labor Department reported that U.S. job openings rose from April’s reading of 5.33 million to 5.36 million job openings in May. This was the highest reading for job openings since the report’s inception in 2000. Private sector job openings rose  to 4.85 million, an increase of 16 percent. Government jobs rose increased by 511,000 open jobs from April’s reading of 430,000 job openings. Based on the Labor Department’s report of 8.67 million unemployed workers, there were 1.60 job seekers for each job opening in May as compared to 2.10 job seekers for each job available in May 2014. There were approximately 1.80 job seekers for each job available when the recession started in December 2007.

FOMC Minutes: Fed Issues No Firm Date for Raising Rates

On Wednesday, the Federal Reserve released the minutes of June’s FOMC meeting, during which nine of ten committee members indicated that they were not ready to raise the federal funds rate. One FOMC member indicated that they were willing to wait for another meeting or two to raise rates. While FOMC has hinted at the likelihood of raising rates this fall, committee members are wary of moving too quickly and cited developments in China and Greece as concerns that contributed to the committee’s current wait and see position. When the Fed does raise its target rates from 0.00 percent, consumers can expect higher mortgage and loan rates.

Freddie Mac: Mortgage Rates Fall, Jobless Claims Rise

Mortgage rates fizzled last week with Freddie Mac reporting average rates lower for all types of mortgages. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was four basis points lower at 4.04 percent and discount points unchanged at 0.60 percent; the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage was also four basis points lower at 3.20 percent. Average discount points for a 15-year mortgage fell from 0.60 to 0.50 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage fell by six basis points to 2.93 percent with discount points unchanged at 0.40 percent.

According to the Labor Department, weekly jobless claims rose to 297,000 new claims filed as compared to 282,000 new claims filed the previous week. There were no estimates for last week’s jobless claims due to the holiday.

What’s Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic reports include Retail Prices, Retail Prices Except Automotive and the NAHB Housing Market Index. The Commerce Department is set to release monthly readings for Housing Starts and Building Permits. In addition to Freddie Mac’s report on mortgage rates and the Labor Department’s report on new jobless claims, the University of Michigan will wrap up the week with its Consumer Sentiment report.

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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – December 22, 2014

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week December 22 2014

Last week’s scheduled economic events were few but informative. Housing related reports included the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index for December, which stayed close to a nine-year high reading of 59 in September. December’s reading was 57 and fell two points shy of the expected reading of 59. November’s reading was 58. Readings above 50 indicate that more builders are positive about market conditions than those who are not.

Housing Starts for November were lower according to the Department of Commerce’s report released Tuesday. The reading for November was 1.028 million starts on a seasonally adjusted annual basis. Analysts expected a reading of 1.035 million housing starts based on October’s level of 1.045 million starts.

Fed Confident, but Watchful of Economic Conditions

The Fed’s Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) released its statement at the conclusion of its final meeting in 2015. Fed Chair Janet Yellen also gave a press conference that primarily supported information contained in the statement. The Fed did not foresee rising the target federal funds rate until mid to late 2015, and said that no changes were likely to be made at the first two FOMC meetings of the year. The target federal funds rate remains steady at 0.00 to 0.250 percent. FOMC members noted improvement in labor markets, but said that housing continued to recover at a slow rate. The Fed repeated its customary statement that FOMC members would monitor ongoing economic conditions and developments as part of any decision to change monetary policy. Chair Janet Yellen affirmed the committee’s position in her press conference.

Mortgage Rates, Jobless Claims Fall

Mortgage rates fell according to Freddie Mac. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was 3.80 percent as compared to the prior week’s reading of 3.93 percent. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage was 3.09 percent, which was 11 basis points below the prior week’s reading. 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages had an average rate of 2.95 percent; this was three basis points lower than the previous week. Discount points remained steady at 0.50 percent with the exception of average points charged for a 15-year mortgage, which increased to 0.60 percent.

Weekly jobless claims fell to 289,000 against expectations of 295,000 new jobless claims; expectations were based on the prior week’s reading of 295,000 new claims. Analysts cautioned that weekly jobless claims readings can be particularly volatile during the holiday and early winter season.

What’s Ahead

Economic news scheduled for next week includes the National Association of Realtors® report on November sales of existing homes and November sales of new homes, which is issued by the Department of Commerce. Consumer sentiment, consumer spending and core inflation reports will also be issued next week. No economic reports will be issued Thursday or Friday due to the Christmas holiday.

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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – Sept 22, 2014

Whats-Ahead-Mortgage-RatestLast week’s economic news largely concerned the Federal Reserve’s FOMC meeting statement and a post-meeting conference given by Fed Chair Janet Yellen. The FOMC statement indicated that the Fed continued its wind-down of Treasury and mortgage-backed securities and that its purchases are expected to cease after the next FOMC meeting.

The FOMC statement said that committee members find the economy to be improving at a moderate pace and currently strong enough to further reduce the QE3 monthly asset purchases. The Fed seeks to achieve and sustain its dual mandate of maximum employment and an inflation rate of 2.00 percent. While the unemployment rate is lower than the Fed’s benchmark of 6.50 percent, FOMC members cited concerns that the labor force is underutilized and that labor markets, while recovering, could use further improvement. The Fed repeated its customary statement that the Fed’s monetary policies are not on a pre-determined course, and that FOMC members continually review and interpret developing financial and economic news as part of their decision-making process.

Chair Yellen explained during her press conference that it is not possible to provide a specific date when the Fed will change its target federal funds rate. Economists and media analysts expressed concerns that raising the target federal funds rate, which is currently at 0.00 to 0.250 percent, could cause overall interest rates to rise. Chair Yellen said that she expects the current target federal funds rate to remain for a “considerable time” after the QE asset purchases cease. She also said that it is impossible to provide a specific date when the Fed will change its target federal funds rate and cited multiple influences considered by FOMC when changing monetary policy.

Home Builder Confidence Grows, Housing Starts Fall

The National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index rose by three points in September for a reading of 59. Analysts had predicted an index reading of 56 against August’s reading of 55. September’s reading was the third consecutive reading above 50. Stronger labor markets were cited as supporting the higher reading, but builders were also concerned by tight mortgage credit standards. Any reading above 50 indicates that more builders perceive market conditions for new homes as positive as those that do not.

August’s housing starts were inconsistent with the Home Builders Index; according to the Department of Commerce, construction of new homes fell by 14.4 percent from July’s reading to 956,000. Analysts expected 1.03 million starts against July’s reading of 1.12 million homes started.

Mortgage Rates Rise, Weekly Jobless Claims Fall

Freddie Mac reported higher mortgage rates last week. Average mortgage rates rose across the board with the rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage 11 basis points higher at 4.23 percent. The rate for a 15-year mortgage also rose by 11 basis points to 3.37 percent and the rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage rose from 2.99 to 3.06 percent. Average discount points were unchanged for all mortgage types at 0.50 percent.

New weekly jobless claims dropped to 280,000 against an expected reading of 305,000 and the prior week’s adjusted reading of 316,000 new jobless claims. The original reading for the prior week was 315,000 new jobless claims. The less volatile four-week average of new jobless claim fell by 4,750 new claims to a reading of 299,500 new claims.

What’s Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic news brings multiple housing-related reports. The National Association of REALTORS® will release its Existing Home Sales report for August. Case-Shiller’s monthly Housing Market Index report and the FHFA’s Home Value report will bring new light to national market trends. The Department of Commerce will release its New Home Sales report, and as usual, Freddie Mac’s weekly report on mortgage rates will come out on Thursday.

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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – Aug 4, 2014

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week Aug 4 2014Last week’s economic news included a number of housing related reports. According to the National Association of REALTORS®, pending home sales dropped by 1.10 percent in June. The S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Index reports for May noted that home prices are growing at a slower rate of 9.30 percent year-over-year than April’s year-over-year growth rate of 10.80 percent. Construction spending was also lower in June.

The Fed’s FOMC statement indicated that asset purchases connected to quantitative easing will cease in October, but that the current target federal funds rate is expected to stay in place “a considerable period” after asset purchases conclude. FOMC noted its concern over housing markets, which was based on slower home price growth and market activity.

Pending Home Sales, Home Price Growth Slower

Pending home sales dropped by 1.10 percent nationwide in June. This was the first decrease in four months. Pending home sales rose by 1.10 percent in the Midwest and 0.20 percent in the West, but dropped by 2.90 percent in the Northeast and 2.40 percent in the South. Pending sales are measured by signed purchase contracts and provide an indicator of future completed sales and mortgage loan activity.

The 20-city Case-Shiller Home Price Index for May fell by 1.50 percent to a year-over-year reading of 9.30 percent from April’s 10.80 percent. No cities in the 20-city index reported declining home prices.

Construction spending fell by 1.80 percent in June against projections of an 0.30 percent increase in spending and May’s reading of an 0.80 percent increase. Reasons cited for lower construction spending included builder focus on high-demand areas. Builders have also indicated concerns about rising mortgage rates and tight loan requirements that impact numbers of home buyers that can qualify for home loans.

Mortgage Rates Little Changed, Fed Continues Wind-Down of Asset Purchases

According to Freddie Mac’s weekly Primary Mortgage Market Survey, rates were little changed last week. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was 4.12 percent as compared to 4.13 percent the prior week. Discount points were unchanged at an average of 0.60 percent. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage fell by three basis points to 3.23 percent with discount points higher by 10 basis points at 0.70 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage fell by one basis point to 2.38 percent with average discount points of 0.40 percent unchanged.

The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) of the Federal Reserve issued its customary post-meeting statement on Wednesday. The FOMC plans to continue reducing asset purchase under the current quantitative easing program until the purchases cease in October. Although some analysts were concerned that the Fed may consider raising its target federal funds rate based on lower than expected unemployment figures, the FOMC said it doesn’t plan to raise the target federal funds “for a considerable time” after the QE purchases cease, but no specific timeline was given.

Labor Sector News

The Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Labor Statistics posted a national unemployment rate of 6.20 percent for July, which was higher than expectations of a 6.00 percent national unemployment rate and June’s reading of 6.10 percent. To put these readings in perspective, the Fed had established an unemployment rate of 6.50 percent as a benchmark for winding down its asset purchases and potentially raising the target federal funds rate.

Non-farm payrolls reported 209,000 jobs added in July against projections of 235,000 jobs added and June’s reading of 298,000 jobs added. While July’s reading was lower, analysts said that job growth suggests ongoing recovery for labor markets. Labor markets have been cited in recent months as reasons for slower demand for homes and home builder skepticism.

Next week’s scheduled economic news contains no housing-related reports other than Freddie Mac’s mortgage rates report.

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FOMC Statement: Asset Purchases to end in October, Labor Market Stronger

Fed-Reserve-FOMC-StatementThe 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.

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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – July 21, 2014

Mythbusters: 5 Reasons Why Diet Sodas Might Not Be as Healthy as You ThinkLast 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.

What’s Ahead

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.

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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – July 14, 2014

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week July 14 2014Last week brought news from the Fed as two Federal Reserve Bank Presidents made speeches and the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) of the Fed released the minutes of its last meeting. The minutes reveal the Fed’s intention to wrap up its bond-buying program in October with a final purchase of $15 billion in mortgage-backed securities (MBS) and Treasury bonds. No economic news was issued Monday following of the 4th of July holiday.

Further indications of a strengthening labor market were seen. May job openings reached their highest level since June 2007, and quits and layoffs fell from April’s reading of 4.55 million to 4.50 million. Weekly jobless claims fell to 304,000 against expectations of 320,000 new jobless claims and the prior week’s reading of 315,000 new jobless claims.

Fed Speeches Address Inflation, Banks Too Big to Fail

Tuesday’s speech by Minneapolis Fed Bank president Narayana Kocherlakota calmed concerns over inflation; Mr. Kocherlakota said that the Fed expects inflation to remain below its target rate of two percent for several more years. He tied low inflation to the unemployment rate and said that the nation’s workforce is not fully utilized in times of low inflation, and cautioned that June’s national unemployment rate of 6.10 percent “could well overstate the degree of improvement of the U.S. labor market.”

Stanley Fischer, the Fed’s new vice-chairman, spoke before the National Bureau of Economic Research last Thursday. Mr. Fischer addressed the issue of breaking up the nation’s largest banks to eliminate the government’s exposure to banks too big to fail. He said that it wasn’t clear that breaking up the largest banks would end federal bailouts of banks considered too big to fail. Mr. Fisher also said that breaking up the biggest banks would be “a complex task with an uncertain payoff.”

Mr. Fischer also said that any efforts to prevent a housing bubble should focus on the supply side and cautioned that “measures aimed at reducing the demand for housing are likely to be politically sensitive.”

FOMC Minutes Reveal End Date for Bond Purchases

The minutes of the Fed’s last FOMC meeting indicate that the Fed plans to continue bond purchases at the rate of $10 billion per month with a final purchase of $15 billion in October. FOMC members re-asserted their oft-stated position that the Fed’s target interest rate of 0.00 to 0.25 percent will not change for a considerable time after the bond purchase program ends.

Mortgage Rates Rise

Average mortgage rates rose across the board last week. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage increased by three basis points to 4.15 percent; discount points were also higher at 0.70 percent. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage rose by two basis points to 3.24 percent with discount points higher at 0.60 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage rose by one basis point to 2.99 percent with discount points unchanged at 0.40 percent.

What’s Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic news includes retail sales and retail sales without the auto sector, Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s testimony, the Fed’s Beige Book report and the NAHB Homebuilder’s Market Index. Housing Starts, Consumer Sentiment and Leading Economic Indicators round out the week’s economic reports.

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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – June 23, 2014

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 Billion

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.

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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – June 16, 2014

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week June 16 2014Last week’s economic news was quiet in the housing sector, but retail sales and employment-related reports provided indications of less consumer spending and reduced consumer confidence.

On Monday, James Bullard, St. Louis Fed President, commented that inflation appears to be rising. Although not a voting member of the Fed’s Open Market Committee (FOMC), inflation has been a topic of concern to the FOMC in recent years. Mr. Bullard had previously noted that inflation was stable.

His remarks set the stage for this week’s FOMC meeting and press conference by Fed Chair Janet Yellen. Analysts expect the Fed to continue tapering its asset purchases as it winds down its quantitative easing program.

Labor related reports were mixed last week. Job openings in April rose to 4.46 million in April; this was the highest reading since September 2007 and exceeded the March reading of 4.17 million job openings in March.

More good news came from the U.S. Labor Department, which 4.71 million hires in April. This was the highest rate of hiring since June 2008 and represented a year-over-year increase of 6.00 percent. At the start of the recession at the end of 2007, about 5 million job openings were reported.

Mortgage Rates, New Jobless Claims Rise

Weekly jobless claims were reported at 317,000 as compared to expectations of 310,000 new jobless claims and the prior week’s reading of 312,000 new jobless claims. The four-week rolling average of new jobless claims rose by 4,750 new claims for a total of 315,250 new jobless claims. The four-week gauge of jobless claims evens out weekly volatility and is viewed by analysts as a better indicator of labor market trends.

Mortgage rates were higher according to Freddie Mac. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage rose by six basis points to 4.20 percent; discount points rose from 0.50 to 0.60 percent.

The average rate for a 15-year mortgage rose by eight basis points to 3.32 percent with discount points unchanged at 0.50 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage rose from last week’s reading of 2.93 percent to 3.05 percent. Discount points were unchanged at 0.40 percent.

The Fed’s quantitative easing program was implemented to control long-term interest rates, including mortgage rates. Gradual tapering of this program is allowing mortgage rates to rise. Other influences include investor concerns over recent decisions made by the European Central Bank.

Consumer sentiment slipped slightly for June according to the University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index. June’s reading was 81.20 as compared to an expected reading of 82.80 and May’s reading of 81.50.

What’s Ahead

Next week’s scheduled economic news includes the NAHB Housing Market Index for June and Housing Starts for May. These readings are important indicators for housing supplies, as a lack of builder confidence can translate to fewer housing starts. Housing markets were impacted by high demand for homes against low inventories of available homes during 2013 and into 2014.

Also noteworthy is the FOMC post-meeting statement and Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s press conference. The FOMC sets the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy and is expected to announce further tapering of the Fed’s quantitative easing program. It will be interesting to learn the Fed’s perspective on inflation, which has been stuck below the Fed’s target level of two percent.

Friday’s release of Leading Economic Indicators for May round out this week’s economic reports.

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