South Orange County Blog from Bob Phillips

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – August 15, 2016

Posted in mortgage rates by southorangecounty on August 15, 2016

Last week’s economic news included reports on job openings, retail sales and recurring reports on mortgage rates and new jobless claims. Job openings and hiring increased, which provided further evidence of stronger economic conditions. Retail sales were flat in July, new unemployment claims dropped and mortgage rates changed little.

Labor Reports Suggest Stronger Economic Trends

The Labor Department reported more job openings in June with 5.60 openings as compared to 5.50 million job openings in May. According to the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, 5.13 million workers were hired in June as compared to May’s reading of 5.15 million hires. June’ JOLTS report also showed that voluntary quits were nearly double the rate of quits during the worst part of the recession. Analysts consider quits an indicator of worker confidence in job markets; in times when jobs aren’t easily found, workers are more likely to stay with current jobs rather than risking uncertainties associated with quitting.

New jobless claims were lower with 266,000 new claims filed against the prior week’s reading of 267,000 new claims filed and expectations of 265,000 new claims filed. Last week’s reading continued a long streak of new jobless claims under 300,000 per week. Labor market trends impact housing markets, as prospective homebuyers typically consider job security as a significant factor in decisions to buy homes.

Mortgage Rates Show Little Change

Freddie Mac said that average mortgage rates held near steady readings last week. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage rose by two points to 3.45 percent; the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage was also two basis points higher at 2.76 percent and rates for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage averaged 2.74 percent. Discount points averaged 0.50 percent for all three loan types reported. Consistently low mortgage rates help to ease concerns caused by rapidly rising home prices caused by short supplies of available homes.

Consumer sentiment fell short of the expected index reading of 91.50 with a reading of 90.40 but surpassed July’s index reading of 90.00. Participants in the University of Michigan Survey cited concerns over increasing prices coupled with slow income growth. Analysts said that consumer participants had grown acclimated to low mortgage rates, which may have offset consumer concerns about stagnant wages and higher prices.

What’s Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic releases include the National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index, Commerce Department Consumer Price Index and Core CPI reports along with weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims.

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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – July 11, 2016

Posted in mortgage rates by southorangecounty on July 11, 2016

Whats-Ahead-Mortgage-Rates-6

Last week’s economic news included minutes from the most recent meeting of the Fed’s Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) along with several reports on private and public sector employment and the national unemployment rate. Weekly reports on mortgage rates and new jobless claims were also released.

FOMC Minutes: Committee Closely Monitoring Economic Developments

The minutes of June’s FOMC meeting indicate that Fed policymakers continue to be cautious based on low inflation and close review of domestic and global economic developments. Committee members acknowledged improvements in the housing market, but also noted that annual inflation remains below the Fed’s two percent goal. Low inflation and wage growth presented obstacles to would-be home buyers who continued to face rapidly rising home prices and low inventories of available homes. FOMC members voted not to increase the current target federal funds rate of 0.25 to 0.50 percent.

FOMC’s June meeting occurred before Great Britain’s decision to leave the EU, which created volatility in financial markets and caused mortgage rates to drop.

Mortgage Rates, New Jobless Claims Fall

Freddie Mac reported an across-the-board drop in average mortgage rates last week. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage fell by seven basis points to 3.41 percent and the rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage averaged 2.74 percent. Rates for a 5/1 adjustable rate averaged 2.68 percent. Discount points were unchanged at 0.50, 0.40 and 0.50 percent respectively.

New jobless claims were decreased to a three-month low of 254,000 as compared to expectations of 265,000 new claims and the prior week’s reading of 270,000 new claims. New jobless claims were higher after the end of the school year, when some school workers became eligible for benefits when schools closed for summer break.

Job Creation Jumps After May Lull

Non-farm payrolls expanded significantly in June after May’s sharp drop. 287,000 jobs were created in June as compared to expectations of 173,000 new jobs and May’s dismal reading of 11,000 new jobs. The non-farm payrolls report includes readings for public and private sector jobs. June’s ADP payrolls report measures private-sector jobs; June’s reading surpassed May’s reading of 168,000 jobs with 172,000 new jobs.

In related news, the Commerce Department reported that national unemployment increased from May’s reading of 4.80 to 4.90 percent. Analysts said that this uptick may not be bad news, but instead indicated an expanding workforce. Unemployment readings are based on the number of workers seeking work and don’t include workers who have left the workforce.

What’s Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic releases include the Consumer Price Index, Core CPI, retail sales and consumer sentiment. Weekly reports on mortgage rates and new jobless claims will also be released.

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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – June 27, 2016

Posted in mortgage rates by southorangecounty on June 27, 2016

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week May 18 2015Last week’s economic news was dominated by Great Britain’s vote to withdraw from the European Union. New and Existing Home Sales were released along with weekly reports on mortgage rates and new jobless claims.

“Brexit” Vote Tanks Stocks, Could Cause Lower Mortgage Rates

US stocks plunged in reaction to the news of Britain’s decision to leave the EU and the resignation of its Prime Minister. While investors don’t want to see their 401(k) values crash, mortgage rates may also fall as a result of “Brexit”. Fallout caused by economic uncertainty connected with Great Britain’s move to regain independence is expected to have lingering influence on global financial and economic developments in coming months and years.

Fed Chair Janet Yellen said in testimony before the Senate Banking Committee that Great Britain’s decision to leave the EU could have significant consequences. Chair Yellen’s comments were made prior to Friday’s announcement of Great Britain’s decision.

Existing Home Sales Highest Since 2007, Home Prices Continue Rising

According to the National Association of Realtors® May sales of pre-owned homes hit their highest level since February 2007. May’s seasonally-adjusted annual reading of 5.53 million sales fell just shy of analysts ‘expectation of 5.55 million sales, but exceeded April’s reading of 5.43 million sales. May’s reading represented a 1.80 percent increase in sales and a year-over-year increase of 4.50 percent.

Short supplies of available homes continued to drive up home prices according to NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun, who expressed concerns about affordability as home prices continued to outstrip wages and inflation. The national median home price was $239,700 in May, which was 4.70 percent higher year-over-year. Although first-time buyers typically represent about 40 percent of homebuyers, they currently account for 30 percent of homebuyers.

New Home Sales Fall in May

Sales of new homes slowed in May after jumping in April. According to the Commerce Department, sales of new homes fell by 6.00 percent on a seasonally adjusted annual basis. 551,000 new homes were sold against the expected reading of 560,000 new homes sold and April’s downwardly revised reading of 586,000 new homes sold. New home sales were 8.70 percent higher year-over-year in May.

Mortgage Rates Rise, Weekly Jobless Claims Fall

Last week’s mortgage rates don’t reflect the Brexit decision and rose slightly on Thursday. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was two basis points higher at 3.56 percent; the average rate for a 15.year fixed rate mortgage was also two basis points higher at 2.83 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was unchanged at 2.74 percent. Discount points rose to 0.60 percent for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage but were unchanged at 0.50 percent for 15-year fixed rate mortgages and 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

What’s Ahead

Next week’s economic events include Case-Shiller Housing Market Indices, Pending Home Sales, Consumer Spending and Construction Spending

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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – March 3, 2014

2014-03-03-WhatsAheadThisWeekLast week’s economic news was mixed, with new home sales increasing and weekly jobless claims higher than expected.

Case-Shiller and FHFA home price reports reflected slower growth in home prices. Mortgage rates moved higher for the third consecutive week.

Weakness in the jobs sector and harsh winter weather were seen as factors contributing to economic events, but sales of new homes jumped unexpectedly to their highest since 2008.

Case-Shiller, FHFA Report Slower Growth for Home Prices

The Case-Shiller composite home price index for December reported that home prices declined by 0.10 percent in December, which was the second consecutive monthly decline.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, home prices rose 0.80 percent in December as compared to November’s reading of 0.90 percent. Year-over-year, home prices grew at a rate of 13.40 percent, their fastest pace since 2005.

The momentum of year-over-year home prices declined in December as compared to November’s year-over-year reading of 13.70 percent. 11 of 20 cities included in the Case-Shiller composite index declined.

Analysts said that low inventories of available homes, higher mortgage rates and severe winter weather contributed to slower growth in home prices.

FHFA’s quarterly House Price Index for the fourth quarter of 2013 posted its tenth consecutive gain in quarterly home prices. Seasonally adjusted home prices rose by 0.80 percent from November to December 2013.

FHFA, which oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, reported that home prices increased by 7.70 percent from the fourth quarter of 2012 to the same period in 2013. Adjusted for inflation, the agency reported a year-over-year increase of 7.0 percent.

FHFA House Price Index data is based on sales information for homes with mortgages held or securitized by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Fixed Mortgage Rates, New and Pending Home Sales Rise

Freddie Mac reported that average rates for fixed-rate mortgages rose last week, with the rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage rising 4 basis points to 4.37 percent.

The rate for a 15-year mortgage also increased by 4 basis points to 3.39 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage fell by 3 basis points to 3.05 percent. Discount points were unchanged at 0.7 0 percent for fixed rate mortgages and 0.50 percent for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage.

Weekly jobless claims also rose to 348,000 against projections for 335,000 new jobless claims. The four-week average for new jobless claims remained steady at 338,250.

The Department of Labor noted that weekly readings are more volatile than the four -week average reading. Poor winter weather and a softer labor market were cited as possible causes for the jump in new claims.

New home sales provided unexpected good news; they jumped by 9.60 percent in January, to a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 468,000 sales against expected sales of 405,000.

December’s reading was upwardly revised from 414,000 to 427,000 new homes sold.

January’s reading was the largest increase in new home sales since July 2008, and there may be more positive housing news ahead as builders said that some of the sales lost during winter months may be recouped during spring.

Pending home sales increased by 0.10 percent in January to an index reading of 95 as compared to December’s reading of 94.9, which was the lowest reading since November 2011.

Whats Coming Up

This week’s scheduled economic news includes construction spending, the Federal Reserve’s beige book report, weekly jobless claims, and Freddie Mac’s report on mortgage rates.

On Friday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics releases its Non-Farm Payrolls and National Unemployment reports for February.

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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – February 24, 2014

Whats-Ahead-Mortgage-Rates-7Last week’s economic data supported recent reports indicating that housing markets are slowing, The National Association of Home builders/Wells Fargo Home Builders Index (HBI) dropped by 10 points to a reading of 46 for February.

Home builder confidence dropped to its lowest reading in nine months,  and fell below the benchmark of 50, which indicates that more builders are pessimistic about current market conditions than not.

Severe weather was blamed for the lower builder confidence reading, which fell below the expected reading of 56.

Regional readings of builder confidence were also lower:

  • Northeast: Builder confidence fell from 41 to 33 points. This suggests that weather is a major concern as this area has experienced a series of nasty winter storms.
  • South: The HBI reading fell from 50 in January to 46 in February and was the smallest decline among the four regions. Fewer index points lost in the South appears to support builder’s concerns about bad weather in other regions.
  • Midwest: Builder confidence dropped from 59 points to a reading of 50.
  • West: Builder confidence fell by 14 points to February’s reading of 57. Desirable areas in the West had been leading the nation in home price appreciation. February’s reading may signal an easing of buyer enthusiasm as rapidly rising home prices have reduced affordable options for first-time and moderate income buyers.

Builders also cited concerns over labor and supplies as reasons for lower confidence readings.

Housing Starts Lower, Mortgage Rates Higher

On Wednesday, Housing Starts for January were released. Although analysts predicted a figure of 945,000 housing starts as compared to an upwardly adjusted 1.05 million housing starts in December, only 880,000 housing starts were reported for January.

The Department of Commerce also cited extreme winter weather as a cause for the drop in housing starts, which reached their fastest pace since 2008 in November. There is some good news. Economists said that housing starts delayed during winter could begin during spring.

According to Freddie Mac’s weekly survey, average mortgage rates rose across the board. The rate for a 30-year fixed rate loan rose by 5 basis points to 4.33 percent. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage rose by two basis points to 3.35 percent.

The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage moved up by three basis points to an average rate of 3.08 percent. Discount points for all three products were unchanged with readings of 0.70 for 30-year and 15-year fixed rate mortgages and 0.50 percent discount points for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that weekly jobless claims came in at 336,000 against expectations of 335,000 new jobless claims. The prior week’s reading was for 339,000 new jobless claims. Analysts said that job growth may be slowing after last year’s growth, but also noted that winter weather had slowed hiring in labor sectors such as construction and manufacturing.

Existing home sales fell by 5.10 percent in January according to the National Association of REALTORS®, which reported a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of home sales at 4.62 million sales against expectations of 4.65 million and December’s reading of 4.87 million sales of pre-owned homes. The national average home price rose to $188,900, which was 10.70 percent higher year-over-year.

January’s inventory of available existing homes was 1.9 million homes; this represented a 4.90 month supply of existing homes for sale. Real estate pros prefer to see at least a six month inventory of available homes for sale.

What’s Ahead

Next week brings a series of economic reports and opportunities for good news. The Case Shiller Home Price Indices, FHFA Home Price Index will be released. Consumer Confidence and the University of Michigan’s Consumer Sentiment report along with New and Pending Home Sales reports round out next week’s scheduled news.

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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – February 18, 2014

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - February 18, 2014Last week’s economic news was dominated by the first address by the new Fed chairperson, Janet Yellen. Tuesday’s news included the Jobs Openings report for December 2013, which matched November’s reading of 4.0 million jobs available. This information was taken from a gauge of competition for available jobs; in December, competition for job openings fell to its lowest level in five years.

Fed Chair Janet Yellens First Address to House                                                                                                  Janet Yellen addressed the House Financial Services Committee for the first time on Tuesday as Chair of the Federal Reserve. Ms. Yellen indicated that she expected “a great deal of continuity” in terms of Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) monetary policy direction, and noted that markets should expect the FOMC to continue its support of low interest rates.

Chairman Yellen emphasized that the FOMC’s current tapering of its quantitative easing program was expected to continue, but is not on a pre-determined course. If economic conditions change, the Fed’s monetary policy would be adjusted according to such developments.

Mortgage Rates Mixed According To Freddie Mac According to Freddie Mac’s weekly Primary Mortgage Market Survey (PMMS), the average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage rose to 4.28 percent from the prior week’s 4.23 percent. The average rate for 15-year fixed rate mortgage mortgages was unchanged at 3.33 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage dropped from 3.08 percent to 3.05 percent. Discount points for each category were unchanged at 0.70 percent for fixed rate mortgages and 0.50 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

In other news, Weekly Jobless Claims were higher last week at 339,000 against a forecast of 330,000 new jobless claims and the prior week’s reading of 331,000 new jobless claims. Analysts cited bad weather and the possibility of slower economic growth as factors, but said that it was too soon to tell if economic growth is slowing down. The University of Michigan’s Consumer Sentiment Index beat expectations with a reading of 81.2 against expectations for a reading of 80.0. February’s reading was unchanged from January.

Whats Coming Up This week’s economic news includes the NAHB Home Builder’s Housing Market Index on Tuesday. Wednesday’s events include Housing Starts and the minutes from January’s FOMC meeting. In addition to Freddie Mac’s PMMS, Thursday’s scheduled reports include Weekly Jobless Claims, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) and Core CPI. Leading Economic Indicators (LEI) for January will also be released. The National Association of REALTORS® will release data for existing home sales in January on Friday.

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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – February 10, 2014

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - February 10, 2014Residential Construction Spending Up

Last week’s mortgage and housing-related reports began with Construction Spending for December, with a reading of 0.10 percent or a seasonally adjusted $930.5 billion. December’s reading fell short of an expected increase of 0.40 percent.

Spending for private sector projects rose by 1.00 percent; of this amount, residential construction spending increased by 2.60 percent and private sector spending for non-residential construction fell by -0.70 percent.

Although construction spending posted a fractional gain, the good news is that construction spending is currently dominated by residential construction and that due to inclement winter weather, any gain in construction spending during December could be considered positive.

Jobs and Unemployment Data Mixed

Employment related reports dominated the week’s economic reports. The ADP employment report for January indicated that only 175,000 new private sector jobs were added for the lowest reading in five months.

December saw 227,000 new jobs. Severe weather conditions were the cause of lower than expected jobs growth. Month-to-month job reports can be unpredictable, but quarterly results provided positive information as the three month period ended in January 2014 saw average monthly job growth of 230,000 jobs as compared to an average reading of 220,000 jobs added during the same period a year ago.

New Jobless Claims came in at 331,000, significantly less than the prior week’s reading of 351,000 new jobless claims, and also lower than the forecast reading of 337,000 new jobless claims. Analysts said that these readings supported gradual improvement in the economy.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released its Non-Farm Payrolls report for January, which indicated that 113,000 new jobs were added during the first month of 2014.

This reading was better than December’s reported 75,000 jobs added, and suggested to economists that bad weather was not the underlying cause of the dip in jobs growth. Healthcare and government sectors cut jobs in January.

With lower job growth, a higher unemployment rate would seem likely, but the national unemployment rate dropped to 6.60 percent from last week’s reading of 6.70 percent.

The Federal Reserve’s FOMC Committee has established a benchmark reading of 6.50 percent as one of the economic indicators it uses in decisions concerning federal stimulus programs.

Readings for labor and unemployment are important for the overall economy and housing markets; consumers worried about jobs that they might lose or jobs they cannot find likely won’t be buying homes in the near term.

Mortgage Rates Drop

According to last week’s Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey, average mortgage rates dropped across the board. The reported rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was 3.23 percent, down from the prior week’s 3.32 percent. Discount points were unchanged at 0.70 percent.

The rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage fell by seven basis points to 3.33 percent. Discount points ticked upward from 0.60 to 0.70 percent. The rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage fell by four basis points to 3.08 percent with discount points unchanged.

Whats Coming Up This Week

This week’s scheduled economic news includes Weekly Jobless claims, Freddie Mac’s report on average mortgage rates, along with retail sales and retail sales except automotive sales.

The University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment report will be released Friday.

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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – February 03, 2014

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week February 03 2014Last week brought mixed news; while the Department of Commerce reported a dip in new home sales, mortgage rates also fell. The Federal Reserve’s FOMC statement revealed that quantitative easing would be further reduced by an additional $10 billion monthly.

New Home Sales: Y-O-Y Reading Best Since 2008

December’s reading of 414,000 for new home sales fell short of November’s revised reading of 445,000 new homes sold as well as expected sales of $455,000. The consensus figure was based on November’s original sales reading of 464,000 new homes sold.

The inventory of new homes available rose from last month’s level of 4.70 month supply to a 5 month supply in December. Cold weather was cited as a cause of lower new home sales.

New home sales increased by 4.50 percent year-over-year; this was the highest reading since 2008. The median price of a new home rose by 0.60 percent in December to $270,299.

The national median home price was $265,800 in 2013, an annual growth rate of 8.40 percent and the highest annual growth rate for median home prices since 2005.

Economists cited rising mortgage rates, new mortgage rules and a lagging labor market as signs that slower home sales could be expected in 2014.

Pending home sales echoed the slowing trend in home sales; the index reading fell by -8.70 percent to a reading of 92.4 in December.

All Four Regions Reported A Drop In Pending Sales As Compared To November:

Northeast              -10.30 percent

West                    -9.80 percent

South                   -8.80 percent

Midwest                -6.80 percent

This was the lowest reading for pending home sales since October 2011.

Case-Shiller: Home Prices Up 13.7%

The Case-Shiller 10 and 20 city home price indices for November reported a 13.70 percent gain in home prices year-over-year. This was the fastest annual growth rate in home prices since 2006. Further evidence of slower growth in home prices was evident as nine of 20 cities tracked reported lower home prices.

Fed Continues Stimulus Reduction

Wednesday’s FOMC statement confirmed expectations that the Fed would continue tapering its monthly asset purchases made under its quantitative easing program.

Monthly purchases of mortgage-backed securities and Treasury securities will be reduced from January’s level of $75 billion to $65 billion in February. Economists expected this reduction to occur.

Freddie Mac’s Primary Market Survey reported lower average mortgage rates. The rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage fell by 7 basis points to 4.32 percent with discount points unchanged at 0.7 percent.

15-year mortgage rates also fell to 3.40 percent with discount points lower at 0.60 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage fell by 3 basis points to 3.12 percent with discount points unchanged at 0.50 percent.

This was welcome news as homebuyers and mortgage lenders have felt the effects of higher home prices and new mortgage rules that became effective January 10.

New Jobless Claims Higher

Weekly jobless claims jumped to 348,000 from the prior week’s 339,000 new jobless claims. This was the highest level of new jobless claims in six weeks. Reasons for increased claims were unclear, but were possibly caused by lingering influences of the holiday season or a sinking labor market.

Consumer confidence rose in January to a reading of 80.7 as compared to December’s reading of 77.5 as compared to January 2012’s reading of 58.4.

This Week

This week’s scheduled economic and housing news includes construction spending, non-farm payrolls and the national unemployment rate. Freddie Mac’s PMMS report and weekly jobless claims will be released as usual on Thursday.

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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – January 27, 2014

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – January 27, 2014Last week was an action-packed week for economic news, and all of it was packed into Thursday:

Weekly Jobless claims came in at 326,000 which was lower than the expected 330,000 new claims. This week’s claims were higher than the prior week’s 325,000 new jobless claims filed.

The NAR released its Existing Home Sales Report for December; sales of existing homes sold at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.86 million.

December’s reading fell shy of estimates of 490 million existing home sales, but the estimate was based on November sales that were later adjusted downward to 4.82 million sales of existing homes. Existing home sales for 2013 came in at 5.09 million sales, a 9.10 percent increase over 2012 sales.

The median price of a pre-existing home reached $198,000 in December, with the median price for all of 2013 at $197,100, which was an increase of 11.50 percent over the average price for an existing home in 2012.

Pent-up demand and a lingering shortage of available homes likely contributed to last year’s rapid rise in home prices.

Mortgage Rates Mixed, FHFA Reports Slower Gain For Home Prices

Freddie Mac reported mixed results for average mortgage rates in its weekly PMMS report. The rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage fell from last week’s 4.41 to 4.39 percent.

The average rate for a 15-year mortgage dipped by one basis point to 3.44 percent; discount points for both 30 and 15-year mortgages were unchanged at 0.70 percent.

The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage rose from 3.10 to 3.15 percent with discount points unchanged at 0.50 percent.

FHFA, the agency that oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, released its Home Price report for November 2012. This report is based on information gathered about homes with mortgages owned or backed by the two firms. According to FHFA, home prices increased by 7.60 percent year-over-year.

Home prices moved up by 0.10 percent in November as compared to a rate of 0.50 percent in October.

Leading Economic Indicators Suggest Economy Strengthening

The Leading Economic Indicators report for December moved up by 0.10 percent, which pushed the index to a reading of 99.4. December’s reading represented the sixth consecutive month that the index gained ground.

Economists associated with the LEI report note that while steady growth is expected during the spring, the economy will likely encounter a few obstacles including rising interest rates and possible political gridlock over raising the national debt ceiling.

This Week

This week’s economic news is set to include New Home Sales, the Consumer Confidence Index, and Weekly Jobless Claims. Freddie Mac’s PMMS mortgage rates and reports on consumer spending and consumer sentiment round out the week’s news.

The FOMC statement expected after the committee concludes its meeting on Wednesday is expected to provide news of the Fed’s plan for further tapering of its quantitative easing program.

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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – January 20, 2014

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – January 20, 2014Welcome news arrived last week as lower mortgage rates and a higher number of housing starts were reported. Other economic news was mixed:

The Federal Reserve released its Beige Book Report released last Tuesday indicated modest economic growth throughout the 12 Federal Reserve districts. Analysts predicted that this would cause the Fed to further reduce the volume of monthly asset purchases made under its quantitative easing program.

The Atlanta, Cleveland and Kansas City districts reported slower home sales, which supported recent expectations of slowing gains in home prices. 

Mortgage Rates Dip, Housing Starts Up

According to Freddie Mac, average mortgage rates fell last week. The rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage dropped from 4.51 to 4.41 percent with discount points unchanged at 0.70 percent. The rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage was 3.45 percent as compared to the prior week’s reading of 3.56 percent.

Discount points rose from 0.60 to 0.70 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage dropped from 3.15 to 3.10 percent; discount points rose from 0.40 to 0.50 percent.

The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Home Builders Confidence Index dropped slightly in January. Although expectations were for a reading of 59, January’s reading was 56 and lower than December’s revised reading of 57.

The NAHB Index has increased by 19 percent year-over-year and is expected to continue rising in 2014 due to relatively lower mortgage rates, and pent-up demand for homes.

Housing starts for December came in at 999,000 against expectations of 985,000 and November’s revised reading of 1.11 million. Cold weather and concerns over rising mortgage rates in 2014 were cited as causing fewer housing starts. As the Fed tapers its QE program, mortgage rates are expected to rise.

Consumer sentiment toward the economy was lower than expected according to the University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index for January. The confidence index was expected to rise to 84.0 based on December’s reading of 82.5, but only achieved a reading of 80.4.

Higher gasoline prices and a slower labor market likely contributed to wavering consumer sentiment; rising inflationary expectations were also considered a cause.

This Week

This week’s scheduled economic news includes an action-packed Thursday as today is Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday and no economic reports are scheduled for Tuesday, Wednesday or Friday.

Thursday’s reports include Weekly Jobless Claims, Freddie Mac’s PMMS, along with Existing Home Prices, FHFA Home Prices and Leading Economic Indicators.

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