South Orange County Blog from Bob Phillips

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – May 5, 2014

Whats-Ahead-Mortgage-Rates-4Last week’s economic news included several reports related to housing and mortgages. The NAR started the week on a positive note with its Pending Home Sales Index released Monday. Pending home sales in March were higher with an unexpected increase of 3.40 percent over February for an index reading of 97.40.

This is encouraging news for home sales that were severely affected by a hard winter in many areas, and suggests that as warmer weather approaches, home sales will pick up. Analysts do not expect the rapid rate of price appreciation seen in 2013. The Fed’s tapering of its “quantitative easing” program has caused mortgage rates to rise, and last year’s rapid run-up  of home prices has made affordability an issue in many areas.

The S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Index for February performed slightly better than expected with a seasonally-adjusted month-to-month reading of 0.80 percent. The expected reading was 0.70 percent.

The year-over-year reading fell short of January’s reading of 13.20 percent and the expected reading of 13.00 percent at 12.90 percent. Analysts noted the continuing trend of slowing momentum in home price growth, but seem confident that home prices will continue to increase over the spring months.

Fed Continues Tapering Of QE, Mortgage Rates Mixed

Wednesday brought the FOMC’s customary statement after its two-day meeting concluded. There were no surprises as the statement verified another monthly tapering of $10 billion from the Fed’s quantitative easing (QE) program of asset purchases.

The tapering was evenly divided with $5 billion less in MBS purchased and $5 billion less in treasury securities purchased. The ongoing tapering was seen as contributing to rising mortgage rates, but the Fed asserted that its asset purchases remain sufficient to dampen rapid increases in long-term interest rates, which include mortgage rates.

The Fed repeated its usual reminder that its decisions are not on a pre-set course and that the committee members would closely monitor economic and financial developments as guidance for future decisions.

Freddie Mac reported mixed results for mortgage rates on Thursday. Average rates rose by four basis points to 4.29 percent for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage with discount points of 0.70 percent.

The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage dropped by one basis point to 3.38 percent; discount points steady at 0.60 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage rose by two basis points to 3.05 percent; discount points dropped from 0.50 to 0.40 percent.

Weekly jobless claims made an unexpected jump to 344,000 as compared to the prior week’s revised figure of 329,000 jobless claims and an expected reading of 320,000 new jobless claims.

Analysts note that week-to-week figures continued to show volatility, but said that on balance, the rolling average for jobless claims appeared consistent with moderate growth in labor markets.

This Week

This week’s scheduled economic news shows no events related to housing and mortgages. Highlights include Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s appearance before the Joint Economic Committee in Washington, D.C. and the usual releases of mortgage rates and new jobless claims on Thursday.

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Four Places To Look For Tax Deductions In Your Home

Four Places To Look For Tax Deductions In Your Home Paying your income taxes each year leave your wallet a bit thin? There may be money hiding in your home that lessens your tax burden. Here are four places to look:

1. Home-Office Deduction

If you work from home, you could qualify for a home-office deduction. Taking the deduction can be a bit complicated; so many people who qualify don’t claim the exemption. An estimated 26 million Americans have home offices, but only 3.4 million claim them on their tax return.

Perhaps that’s why the Internal Revenue Service attempted to simplify the process in 2013.

The write-off takes into account depreciation, utilities, insurance, the amount of square footage dedicated for office space, whether you host clients at your house and other factors.

Because the parameters involved in filing a home-office exemption are rather complicated, it’s best to keep all business-related receipts, records of client meetings and other pertinent information to make things easier when you prepare your return.

2. Casualty Loss

Damage to your home from an act of God or a theft or burglary may qualify you for an income tax exemption. To qualify for the write-off, the causality loss must meet the “sudden event test.” That means it must be sudden, unpredictable, have involved some natural force and occur in a single instance.

To claim thefts and burglaries, you must be able to prove that a wrong doing has actually occurred. It can’t just be a case of a lost item that you suspect was stolen. Proof can come in the form of witness statements, police reports or newspaper accounts.

3. Energy Efficiency Upgrades And Repairs

Upgrading your home with energy efficient improvements can qualify you for a tax deduction. New roofs, insulation, windows, doors and a number of additional items qualify for the deduction. The deductions lets homeowners claim 10 percent of the total bill for energy efficient materials. The maximum credit is $500.

4. Real Estate Taxes And Newly Purchased Homes

New home owners should look at their settlement statement a bit closer. If the previous owner prepaid property taxes that cover any of the time you owned the home, you can include the prepaid taxes in your property tax deduction.

Don’t pay more than you have to when you file your taxes each April. Consider these commonly overlooked deductions that can lessen the amount you have to pay.

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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – April 7, 2014

Whats-Ahead-Mortgage-Rates-6Last week’s economic news included readings on February construction spending and multiple reports on employment data.

Private sector employment was higher in March, but The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that Non-Farm Payrolls for   March fell short of expectations. According to Freddie Mac, mortgage rates ticked upward.

Employment And Unemployment News

ADP’s payrolls report for March was higher than February’s reading, with 191,000 new private sector jobs added. In February, 178,000 jobs were added. February’s reading originally showed 138,000 new jobs added.

While analysts were confident that private-sector employment was showing signs of stability, the U.S. Bureau of Labor  Statistics swamped excess confidence in labor markets Friday with its March reading for Non-Farm Payrolls.

192,000 jobs were added in March against predictions of 200,000 jobs added and February’s reading of 197,000 jobs added.

The news was not all bad as job gains for January and February were revised upward. January’s job gains were revised from 129,000 to 144,000 and February’s reading was revised from 175,000 to 197,000 jobs added. The revised readings represent a total of 37,000 more jobs added.

As data impacted by severe winter weather “shakes out,” it would not be surprising to see a revision to March’s new jobless claims reading as well.

Unemployment Rate Holds Steady, Workforce Numbers Higher

While readings on employment have been up and down in recent months, the national unemployment rate has held relatively steady, with last week’s reading at 6.70 percent. 503,000 workers joined the workforce this increased the labor participation rate for March from 63 percent to 63.20 percent.

Mortgage rates were incrementally higher last week according to Freddie Mac. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage increased by one basis point to 4.41 percent; discount points moved from 0.60 percent to 0.70 percent.

The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage rose by five basis points to 3.47 percent with discount points unchanged at 0.60 percent. 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages had an average rate of 3.12 percent, which was two basis points higher than the previous week. Discount points for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages were unchanged at 0.50 percent.

This Week’s Economic News Highlights

Job openings for February, FOMC minutes and the University of Michigan consumer sentiment index for March are set for release this week. As usual, Freddie Mac will post results of its latest Primary Mortgage Market Survey and weekly unemployment claims will also be reported.

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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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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – January 13, 2014

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – January 13, 2014The first post-holiday week of 2014 brought mixed economic and housing-related news. CoreLogic reported via its Housing Market Index that November home prices grew by 11.80 percent year-over-year.

This was just shy of October’s year-over-year reading of 11.90 percent. As with Case-Shiller’s recently reported Home Price Indices, a slower rate of home price growth suggested to analysts that the housing market is cooling down.

The Federal Reserve’s Federal Open Market Committee released the minutes from its December meeting. The minutes reiterated the Committee’s decision to begin tapering its asset purchases this month.

The Fed announced that it would reduce its monthly asset purchases by $10 billion to $75 billion. As always, the Fed indicated that it would continue monitoring economic data for determining future actions concerning monetary policy.

Mortgage Rates Mixed

Freddie Mac’s Primary Market Survey reported mixed results for average mortgage rates last week. The rate for a 30-yer fixed rate mortgage dropped to 4.51 percent from 4.53 percent with discount points lower at 0.70 percent; the rate for a15-year fixed rate mortgage was 3.56; this was one basis point higher than for last week.

Discount fell from 0.70 to 0.60 percent. The rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage jumped by 10 basis points to 3.15 percent with discount points unchanged at 0.50 percent.

Employment, Unemployment Data Mixed

The week’s jobs-related readings provided mixed readings for the labor sector. The ADP Employment report for December showed 238,000 private sector jobs added and matched expectations of 215,000 new private sector jobs. December’s reading also exceeded November’s reading of 229,000 jobs added.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics released the Non-Farm Payrolls report for December; it reported 74,000 jobs added in December against expectations of 193,000 new jobs and November’s reading of 241,000 jobs added.

The sharp drop in new jobs during December was partially blamed on poor weather, but analysts also said that it could be a sign of further ups and downs in the U.S. economy.

In a statement given in connection with the December Non-Farm Payrolls report, St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank President James Bullard, a member of the FOMC, said that he did not expect the Fed to stop tapering its asset purchases due to December’s sharp drop in new jobs.

The national unemployment rate improved to a reading of 6.70 percent. This was the lowest reading in five years and only two-tenths of a percent above the FOMC’s targeted unemployment rate of 6.50 percent. 347,000 workers left the workforce, which helps to explain the discrepancy between the lower number of new jobs and the lower unemployment rate.

This Week

This week’s scheduled economic news includes retail sales and retail sales except autos, the Federal Reserve’s Beige Book report, Weekly Jobless Claims, Freddie Mac’s PMMS. The NAHB Home Builders HMI and the Housing Starts report will also be released. Friday’s release of the University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment index rounds out the week.

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Case Shiller Price Index Shows Highest Year-Over-Year Gains Since 2006

Case Shiller Price Index Shows Highest Year-Over-Year Gains Since 2006The Case-Shiller 10 and 20-City Home Price Indices for October were released on December 31. Although home prices in most cities continued to show year-over-year gains, the pace of home price appreciation is expected to slow in 2014.

Year-over-year increases have been in double digit territory since March 2013, but month-to-month readings suggest that the rate of increasing home prices is slowing.

According to David Blitzer, Chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices, “…the monthly numbers show that we are living on borrowed time and the boom is fading.”

The 10 and 20 city indices are showing that home prices some cities that were showing little or no growth in 2013 are posting higher rates of appreciation, while growth in cities that have shown very high increases in home prices are beginning to lose momentum.

Year-over-Year Growth In Double Digits

The 10-and 20-city indices each posted year-over year gains of 13.60 percent between October 2012and October 2013. These were the highest year-over-year gains since February of 2006.

Home prices recovered to mid-2004 levels in October, but remained 20 percent lower than peak home prices seen in June and July of 2006.

Here are figures for 10 cities showing the highest increases in home prices year-over-year in October 2013:

City                                                                        Y-O-Y Growth Rate

Las Vegas, NV                                              27.10 %

San Francisco, CA                                         24.60%

Los Angeles, CA                                           22.10%

San Diego, CA                                             19.70%

Atlanta, GA                                                  19.00%

Phoenix, AZ                                                 18.10%

Detroit, MI                                                   17.30%

Miami, FL                                                    15.80%

Tampa, FL                                                   15.20%

Seattle, WA                                                 13.10 %

Home prices in the 10 and 20-city indices have gained 23.10 percent and 23.70 percent since home prices reached their lowest points in March 2012.

Month-To-Month Readings Indicate Slower Growth

Month-to-month readings show a slowing trend in home price growth. 18 of 20 cities included in the S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Indices showed slower growth in October as compared to September’s readings.

The Federal Reserve will begin tapering its asset purchases this month and will continue doing so unless economic conditions slow to a point where the Fed considers tapering counter-productive to economic growth.

Concerns over the tapering of “quantitative easing” and higher mortgage rates are seen as contributing to slower gains in home prices.

Although some analysts have identified indicators of economic growth, most seem to agree that home prices are likely to increase by single-digit percentages in 2014.

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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – January 6, 2014

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – January 6, 2014The last week of 2013 brought relatively good news in view of the economic roller coaster rides caused by legislative impasse. A brief shutdown of federal government agencies, and nail-biting suspense over if and when the FOMC of the Federal Reserve would taper its quantitative easing program.

Last week’s news was not high in volume due to the New Year holiday, but it does suggest that a general economic recovery is progressing and that housing markets are leading the “charge!”. Here are the details:

The NAR’s data of month-to-month reading of 0.20 percent showed an increase of 0.20 percent over October’s reading of -1.20 percent, which was the lowest reading for pending home sales in five months.

Lawrence Yun, chief economist for NAR, said that “…the positive fundamentals of job creation and household formation are likely to foster a fairly stable level of contract activity in 2014.”

November’s year-over-year reading for pending home sales was 101.7 against a reading of 103.3 for November 2013. The good news is that November’s reading exceeded a 10-month low of 101.50 for October 2013.

Rapid Rises In Home Prices May Have Peaked

The S&P Case-Shiller 10 and 20- city home price indices for October was released Tuesday with positive results for both indices showing year-over-year gains in average home prices at 13.60 percent.

On an un-adjusted basis, the 10 and 20 city indices each gained 0.20 percent between September and October. The indices each showed a 1.00 percent gain in home prices on a seasonally adjusted annual basis. Case-Shiller cautioned that home prices are expected to rise at single-digit rates during 2014.

Consumer Confidence Rises, Housing And Manufacturing Sectors Improve

December’s consumer confidence reading gained 6.1 points for a reading of 78.1. This also exceeded the expected reading of 76.2.

The prior two months had shown decreased in readings thought to have been caused by the government shutdown in October. Consumers indicated that they are more confident about the economy than they have been in five and a half years.

Housing and manufacturing are leading the recovery, which reflects stronger housing, production and possibly manufacturing jobs, which have lagged behind increased production.

The national unemployment rate stood at 7.00 percent last week, which remains 0.50 percent above the Federal Reserve’s targeted rate of 6.50 percent.

Weekly jobless claims came in lower than expectations of 342,000 jobless claims at 339,000 new jobless claims. The prior week’s reading showed 341,000 new jobless claims.

Although a small decrease in new claims, last week’s reading further suggested that the economic recovery is on track.

Mortgage Rates

Thursday’s mortgage interest rate survey showed incremental increases in mortgage rates; concerns over continued tapering of the Fed’s QE program may have been a factor in the slight uptick in last week’s rates.

Average rates for mortgage loans rose as follows. The rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage increased from 4.48 to 4.53 percent with discount points rising from 0.70 percent to 0.80 percent.

The rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage was 3.55 percent with discount points unchanged at 0.70 percent. The rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage rose by five basis points to 3.05 percent with discount points unchanged at 0.40 percent.

Economists seem to agree on continued improvement in the economy for 2014, however rising mortgage rates and high unemployment remain as obstacles for faster economic recovery.

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Home Sales Show Healthy Year-Over-Year Increase

New Home Sales Show Healthy Year-Over-Year IncreaseThe holiday season and winter weather slowed home sales in November. Last week, the NAR reported that sales of existing homes had slumped to their lowest level in nearly a year, but this was not unexpected.

The unusual start of this year’s short supplies of available homes, evolved into a “normal” housing inventory, and coupled with later rising mortgage rates, largely eliminated 2013’s earlier pent-up demand for homes.

Improvement In The Labor Market

4.90 existing homes were sold in November; this was lower than the 5.13 million existing homes sold in October, as well as lower than expectations of 5.00 million existing home sales in November.

Existing home sales for November 2013 were also 1.20 percent lower than for November 2012; this is the first time in 29 months that existing home sales were lower year-over-year.

Lawrence Yun, chief economist for NAR, described the slow-down in sales as a “clear loss of momentum.” The outlook for 2014 is better, as analysts expect continued improvement in the labor market.

The pent-up demand for homes will ease as homeowners begin to list their homes for sale as home prices increase. Mr. Yun also noted that prices for existing homes are increasing at their highest rate in eight years.

The national median home price of existing homes rose to $196,000 in November, which represents a year-over-year increase of 9.40 percent. There was a 5.1 month supply of previously homes available at the current sales rate.

Housing Market Continues To Progress Over Long Term

The Census Bureau and HUD report that 464,000 new homes were sold in November. This was 2.10 percent lower than October’s rate of 474,000 new homes sold. This represents an increase of 16.60 percent as compared to the 398,000 new homes sold in November 2012.

The national median home price for new homes in November was $270,900; with an average new home price of $340,300. The seasonally-adjusted estimate of new homes for sale in November was 167,000; this reading represents a 4.30 month supply of new homes for sale.

While home builder confidence is up and recent labor reports indicate improving job markets, the Fed’s decision to taper its quantitative easing program in January is generating some uncertainty as mortgage rates will likely rise as the Fed winds down the QE program.

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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – December 30, 2013

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week- December 30, 2013The University of Michigan’s Consumer Sentiment Index was improved for December at 82.5, after the November reading was adjusted from 82.5 to 75. Analysts noted that consumers were relieved when legislative gridlock ended.

Durable goods orders reached their highest level since May with November’s reading of + 3.5 percent. Without the volatile transportation sector, the reading for November was +1.2 percent.

This could be a sign of economic recovery for manufacturing, as more orders are being placed. Economists expected an overall increase of 2.0 percent for overall durable goods orders.

The U.S. Commerce Department provided housing markets with good news with its New Home Sales report for November. 464,000 new homes were sold in November against expectations of 440,000 new homes sold.

This expectation was based on the original reading of 444,000 new homes sold in October, which has been revised to 474,000 new homes sold. The latest reading for October is the highest since July of 2008.

While rising mortgage rates slowed home purchases during the summer, analysts note that home buyers seem to be adjusting for higher mortgage rates by purchasing smaller homes in less costly areas.

Home Builder Confidence recently achieved its highest reading since 2005, a further indication of overall economic recovery and housing markets in particular.

After Wednesday’s holiday, the Weekly Jobless Claims report came in with a reading of 338,000 new jobless claims filed. This reading was lower than expectations of 345,000 new jobless claims and significantly lower than the previous week’s report of 380,000 new jobless claims.

This was the largest decrease in new jobless claims since the week of November 17, 2012. After seasonal volatility associated with the holidays, analysts expect new jobless claims to decrease at a slower rate in early 2014,

Freddie Mac released its Primary Mortgage Market Survey on Thursday. Although some economic analysts had expected a jump in mortgage rates after the Fed announced its plan to begin tapering its monthly securities purchases in January, mortgage rates showed little change.

The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage rose by one basis point to 4.48 percent with discount points unchanged at 0.70 percent. Average 15-year mortgage rates also rose by one basis point to 3.52 with discount points moving up from 0.60 to 0.70 percent.

The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage rose by 4.00 basis points to 3.00 percent, with discount points unchanged at 0.40 percent.

2014 shows promise of a steady economic improvements, and given the latest New Home Sales report, it’s possible that improving housing markets will continue leading the way.

What’s Ahead

As with last week, this week’s schedule of economic events is reduced due to the New Year holiday. Pending home sales for November will be released Monday, Tuesday’s economic reports include The Case/Shiller Housing Market Indices and the Consumer Confidence report.

After the holiday on Wednesday, Thursday’s scheduled reports include the Weekly Jobless Claims and Freddie Mac PMMS on mortgage rates. Construction Spending will also be released. There is no housing or mortgage-related economic reports set for release on Friday.

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