South Orange County Blog from Bob Phillips

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 – December 2, 2013

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week -December 2, 2013The short holiday week brought a flurry of economic reports last week. Highlights included pending home sales, the S&P Case-Shiller Housing Market Indices and the FHFA home price index. No reports were released on Thursday and Friday in observance of the Thanksgiving holiday.

The NAR released its Pending Home Sales report for October. Although pending home sales dropped by -0.60 percent, the decline was less than September’s reading of -4.60 percent.

NAR cited higher home prices and mortgage rates along with concerns over the then-pending government shutdown as factors that contributed to fewer pending sales. Pending sales are determined by signed purchase contracts and are considered an indication of future completed home sales and mortgage loan closings.

Department of Commerce reported that building permits issued increased from 974,000 in September to 1.03 million for October. Permits for multi-family dwellings rose by 17 percent from September, but permits for single-family homes rose by 1.00 percent.

A lagging supply of available single-family homes has been driving home prices up as demand also increases. The multi-family reading reflected the sector’s volatile nature and was largely concentrated in the West.

Case-Shiller And FHFA Report Higher Year-Over-Year Average Home Prices

The S&P Case-Shiller 20-City Housing Market Index for September reported its highest year-over-year gain in seven years, but the month-to-month reading was lower. The year-over-year reading was 13.30 percent in September and the month-to-month reading showed lackluster growth at 0.70 percent.

When seasonally adjusted, September’s reading was 1.00 percent against the seasonally-adjusted August reading of 1.90 percent.

In addition to the then-looming government shutdown, concerns over rapidly rising home prices in the West may have caused would-be buyers to sit on the sidelines as fears of another “housing bubble” gained traction.

Rising home prices also impact affordability and impact the ability of buyers depending on mortgage loans to compete with cash buyers.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency, which oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, issued its housing market index report for September. Based on sales of homes financed with Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac-owned mortgages, FHFA’s report indicated that year-over-year home prices at an annual rate of 8.50 percent in September as compared to August’s year-over-year reading of 8.40 percent.

Economists noted that the increase of home prices is slowing due to a number of factors including higher mortgage rates and restrictive lending policies that are making it more difficult for buyers to purchase homes.

Analysts said that next year could bring a more sustainable rate of home appreciation with year-over-year readings averaging between five and eight percent.

Freddie Mac issued its weekly Primary Mortgage Market Survey on Wednesday; average mortgage rates for 30 and 15 year mortgages rose to 4.29 percent and 3.30 percent respectively.

Discount points for fixed rate mortgages were unchanged at 0.70 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage dropped by one basis point to 2.94 percent with discount points unchanged at 0.50 percent.

What’s Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic reports include Construction Spending, ADP Employment, New Home Sales and the Fed’s Beige Book. The Bureau of Labor Statistics will release its Non-farm Payrolls report and the national unemployment rate.

Weekly jobless claims and Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey will be released as usual on Thursday.

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