South Orange County Blog from Bob Phillips

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week: February 25th, 2013

Posted in mortgage rates by southorangecounty on February 25, 2013

What's Ahead This WeekA quiet past week in economic news caused mortgage rates to worsen slightly.

This week, however, will be packed with economic reports which may have an impact on interest rates going forward.

Freddie Mac reported that the average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage rose by 3 basis points from 3.53 percent to 3.56 percent with borrowers paying 0.8 in discount points and all of their closing costs.

The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage was unchanged from last week at 2.77 percent with borrowers paying 0.8 in discount points and all of their closing costs.

In other economic news, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for January fell slightly to 0.0 percent as compared to Wall Street expectations of 0.1 percent and December’s reading of 0.1 percent.

The Core CPI, which measures consumer prices exclusive of volatile food and energy sectors, was 0.3 percent for January and surpassed analyst expectations of 0.2 percent and December’s reading of 0.1 percent.

Inflation Remains Low

These readings remain well below the 2.5 percent inflation level cited by the Fed as cause for concern.

According to the Department of Commerce, Housing Starts for January fell to 890,000 from December’s 954,000 and below Wall Street projections of 910,000.

These seasonally adjusted and annualized numbers are obtained from a sample of 844 builders selected from 17,000 newly permitted building sites.

Falling construction rates could further affect low supplies of homes reported in some areas; as demand for homes increase, home prices and mortgage rates can be expected to rise.

Full Economic Calendar This Week

This week’s economic news schedule is full; Treasury auctions are scheduled for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. New Home Sales will be released Tuesday.

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke is set to testify before Congress on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Wednesday’s news includes the Pending Home Sales Index and Durable Orders.

Thursday’s news includes the preliminary GDP report for Q4 2012, the Chicago Purchasing Managers Index, and weekly jobless claims.

Friday brings Personal Income and Core Personal Expenditures (CPE).

Consumer Sentiment, the ISM Index and Construction Spending round out the week’s economic news.

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Breaking Down The Federal Reserve Statement (January 2013 Edition)

Posted in Federal Reserve by southorangecounty on January 31, 2013

FOMC statementThe Federal Reserve’s Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) voted to maintain the Federal Funds Rate within its current range of zero to 0.25 percent, and to continue its current stimulus program of purchasing $85 billion monthly in Treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities (MBS).

Citing weather-related events such as Hurricane Sandy and drought in the Midwest, the committee said in its statement that information received since its December 2012 meeting “suggests that growth in economic activity has paused in recent months in large part because of weather-related disruptions and other transitory factors.”

Concerns over the then-looming fiscal cliff crisis may have also contributed to the economic contraction during the last quarter of 2012. Positive economic trends observed by the Fed included:

  • Improved household spending
  • Improving housing markets
  • Growth in business fixed investments

The Fed initiated its third round of quantitative easing (QE3) in September as part of an ongoing effort to hold down interest rates and to encourage business spending. The benchmark Federal Funds Rate will remain between zero and.0.25 percent until the unemployment rate falls to 6.5 percent and provided that inflation remains stable.

The Fed Funds Rate has stayed near zero since December 2008.

The national unemployment rate was 7.8 percent in December, and Wall Street expects it to be 7.7 percent for January. The Department of Labor will release its monthly jobs report on Friday; this report includes the monthly unemployment rate. Inflation is expected to remain at or below the Fed’s target level of 2.0 percent or less for the medium-term.

While noting that “strains on global financial markets have eased somewhat,” the FOMC said that it “continues to see downside risks to the economic outlook.” Low overall interest rates and gradual inflation work in favor of home buyers as home prices and mortgage rates are likely to rise at a gradual pace.

Mortgage rates in South Orange County improved slightly after the FOMC release.

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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week : August 13, 2012

Posted in mortgage rates by southorangecounty on August 13, 2012

30-year mortgage ratesMortgage markets worsened last week as the investors moved back into risk-taking mode. Better-than-expected economic data in the U.S. plus a general feeling that the ongoing Eurozone issues will be soon be resolved (or lessened) contributed to a second straight week of rising mortgage rates.

One such data point was the weekly Initial Jobless Claims report.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the number of U.S. workers filing for first-time unemployment benefits unexpectedly dropped 6,000 from the week prior on a seasonally-adjusted basis. Economists had expected a week-over-week increase.

In addition, government-backed mortgage securitizers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac both announced quarterly profits last week of a combined $8.3 billion. This, too, reflects well on the economy because both companies attributed strong results to a recovering housing market.

Conforming rates in South Orange County rose for the second straight week, according to Freddie Mac’s weekly mortgage rate survey.

The 30-year fixed rate mortgage rate now averages 3.59% nationwide for mortgage applicants willing to pay 0.6 discount points plus a complete set of closing costs where 1 discount point is a loan fee equal to one percent of your loan size.  This is a 10 basis point increase from late-July, when rates averaged 3.49%.

The 15-year fixed rate mortgage also moved higher, registering 2.84% last week after recently posting at 2.80%, on average.

This week, there won’t be much data to move markets. We’ll see the release of the Producer Price Index and the Consumer Price Index — two inflationary gauges for the U.S. economy — as well as July’s Retail Sales report. Beyond that, however, there won’t be much. Therefore, be wary of day-to-day momentum in the mortgage bond market.

Between January and July, momentum took mortgage rates lower; eventually to an all-time low. Since August 1, however, that momentum has reversed.

If you’re floating a mortgage rate or are otherwise not yet locked, get with your loan officer quickly. Mortgage rates may fall between today and Friday, but there’s much more room for rates to rise instead.

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Fed Minutes Suggest Fiscal Stimulus Later This Year

Posted in Federal Reserve by southorangecounty on July 12, 2012

FOMC Fed MinutesThe Federal Reserve released the minutes from its June Federal Open Market Committee meeting, revealing a Fed divided on the future of the U.S. economy. Mortgage rates are higher after the release of the minutes.

The Fed Minutes is the detailed recap of an FOMC meeting. It is the companion piece to the more brief, more well-known post-meeting FOMC press release.

For a comparison, whereas the Fed’s June 20, 2012 press release contained 5 paragraphs and 490 words, the same meeting’s minutes contain 62 paragraphs and 7,508 words. The extra detail afforded by the extra words Wall Street gives insight into the nation’s central banker.

The June Fed Minutes, for example, suggest that the Fed may soon add new economic stimulus. 

Recent data suggests that the U.S. economy is expanding, but more slowly that it was at the start of the year. The Fed acknowledged that this, in part, is the result of “below-trend” growth in Euro-area economies, plus a general slowdown in China.

The Fed also said that “strains in global financial markets” continue to pose “significant downside risks” to the U.S. economy. The Fed expects U.S. growth to “moderate over coming quarters”.

Other notes from with the Fed Minutes included : 

  • On housing : Home sales, construction and prices suggest improvement
  • On inflation : Prices are stable, and inflation will remain “subdued” through 2014
  • On new policy : Rapid fiscal tightening poses a “downside risk” to the economy

In addition, there was discussion about whether the Fed is missing its dual mandate of low inflation and low unemployment. Several Fed member discussed the need for new stimulus to raise employment and to raise the rate of inflation. This action could occur as soon as next month.

If the stimulus was enacted, mortgage rates would likely rise because inflation, in general, is a threat to low mortgage rates.

The next Federal Open Market Committee meeting is a 2-day affair scheduled for July 31-August 1, 2012. 

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A Simple Explanation Of The Federal Reserve Statement (April 25, 2012)

Posted in Federal Reserve by southorangecounty on April 25, 2012

Putting the FOMC statement in plain EnglishThe Federal Open Market Committee voted to leave the Fed Funds Rate unchanged within its current target range of 0.000-0.250 percent Wednesday.

For the fifth consecutive month, the Fed Funds Rate vote was nearly unanimous. Just one FOMC member, Richmond Federal Reserve President Jeffrey Lacker, dissented in the 9-1 vote.

The Fed Funds Rate has been near zero percent since December 2008. It is expected to remain near-zero through 2014, at least.

In its press release, the Federal Reserve noted that the U.S. economy has been “expanding moderately” since the FOMC’s last meeting in March. Beyond the next few quarters, the Fed expects growth to “pick up gradually”. 

This key phrase will likely be repeated by the press. It suggests that the economy is no longer contracting; instead moving along a path of slow, consistent expansion.  

In addition, the Fed acknowledged that “strains in global financial markets” continue to pose “significant downside risks” to long-term U.S. economic outlook. This is in reference to the sovereign debt concerns of Greece, Spain and Italy, and the potential for a broader European economic slowdown.

The Fed’s statement included the following notes :

  1. The housing sector remains “depressed”
  2. Labor conditions have “improved in recent months”
  3. Household spending has “continued to advance”

Also, with respect to inflation, the Fed said that the higher oil and gasoline prices from earlier this year will affect inflation “only temporarily”, and that inflation rates will return to stable levels soon.

At its meeting, the Federal Reserve neither introduced new economic stimulus, nor discontinued existing market programs. The Fed re-affirmed its intentions to hold the Fed Funds Rate at “exceptionally low” levels through late-2014, and to buy mortgage-backed bonds in the open market.

Immediately following the FOMC’s statement, mortgage markets improved slightly, pressuring mortgage rates lower in Coto de Caza and nationwide.

The FOMC’s next scheduled meeting is a two-day event slated for June 19-20, 2012.

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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week : March 19, 2012

Posted in mortgage rates by southorangecounty on March 19, 2012

Fed Funds Rate 2006-2012Mortgage markets worsened last week as the Federal Reserve’s Federal Open Market Committee suggested economic recovery may be closer than it originally expected, and that inflation may be a near-term economic concern.

Although the FOMC voted to leave the Fed Funds Rate unchanged in its current range near 0.000 percent, its published comments sparked a broad-based mortgage bond selloff.

Conforming mortgage rates throughout California rose sharply post-FOMC, climbing by as much as 0.375%.

If you’ve been shopping for a mortgage rate, the run-up was both untimely and unwelcome.

According to Freddie Mac’s weekly mortgage rate survey, for most of the year, conforming 30-year fixed rate mortgage rates had remained within a tight range near 3.90 percent for mortgage applicants willing to pay an accompanying 0.8 discount points.

This week, though, Freddie Mac is expected to report average 30-year fixed rate mortgage rates well north of four percent. It would mark the highest level for the benchmark mortgage rate since mid-December of last year.

There will be a lot more for rate shoppers to watch this week, too. There is a slew of housing data set for release and the heavily-anticipated HARP 2.0 Refinance program “goes live” nationwide.

HARP is a government-led refinance program meant to help underwater homeowners refinance their Fannie Mae- or Freddie Mac-backed mortgages into new loans at today’s low rates.

The program was first launched in 2009 and helped roughly one million U.S. homeowners. HARP’s newest iteration, though, provides for a more lenient underwriting process that is expected to open the program to an additional 6 million homeowners or more.

Mortgage rates may rise this week as a result of HARP-based loan volume. It may also rise on strength in housing — there are four data points due for release :

  • Monday : Housing Market Index
  • Tuesday : Housing Starts
  • Wednesday : Existing Home Sales
  • Friday : New Home Sales

As in most weeks, it’s less risky to lock a mortgage rate than to float one. Mortgage rates have much room to climb but very little room to fall. If you’re not yet locked, talk to your loan officer and make a plan.

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A Simple Explanation Of The Federal Reserve Statement (March 13, 2012)

Posted in Federal Reserve by southorangecounty on March 13, 2012

Putting the FOMC statement in plain EnglishTuesday, the Federal Open Market Committee voted to leave the Fed Funds Rate unchanged within its current target range of 0.000-0.250 percent.

For the fourth consecutive month, the Fed Funds Rate vote was nearly unanimous. Just one FOMC member dissented in the 9-1 vote.

The Fed Funds Rate has been near zero percent since December 2008. It is expected to remain near-zero through 2014, at least.

In its press release, the Federal Reserve noted that the the U.S. economy has “expanded moderately” since the FOMC’s January 2012 meeting, adding that growth is occurring despite “strains in the global financial markets” that pose “significant downside risks” to long-term outlooks.

The Federal Reserve now expects moderate economic expansion through the next few quarters and a gradual easing in the national Unemployment Rate.

The Fed also noted that :

  1. The housing sector remains “depressed”
  2. Labor conditions have “improved further”
  3. Household spending has “continued to advance”

With respect to inflation, the Fed said that rising oil and gasoline prices will “push up” inflation temporarily, but not over the long-term.

At its meeting, the Federal Reserve neither introduced new economic stimulus, nor discontinued existing market programs. The Fed re-affirmed its intentions to hold the Fed Funds Rate at “exceptionally low” levels through late-2014, and to buy mortgage-backed bonds in the open market.

Immediately following the FOMC’s statement, mortgage markets worsened slightly, pressuring mortgage rates higher in and around Rancho Santa Margarita. 

The FOMC’s next scheduled meeting is a two-day event slated for April 24-25, 2012.

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Federal Reserve Wary Of European Spillover

Posted in Federal Reserve by southorangecounty on February 24, 2012

FOMC Minutes January 24-25 2012The Federal Reserve has released the minutes from its 2-day meeting January 24-25, 2012.

The Fed Minutes is a summary of the conversations and debates that shape our nation’s monetary policy. It receives less attention than the Fed’s more well-known, post-meeting press release, but the Fed Minutes is every bit as important.

To rate shoppers in Coto de Caza , for example, the Fed Minutes can provide clues about whether mortgage rates will generally rise or fall in the coming months.

The most recent Fed Minutes reveals a central bank divided on the future of the U.S. economy. The minutes show some Fed members in favor of new, immediate market stimulus. It shows others in favor of terminating the stimulus that’s already in place.

The Fed’s debate centered on the topic of inflation, and the pressures that a prolonged, near-zero Fed Funds Rate can place on the economy. Ultimately, the Fed did nothing, neither adding new stimulus nor removing that which is already in place.

It did, however, communicate a plan to keep the benchmark Fed Funds Rate rate “exceptionally low” through late-2014, at least.

The Fed Minutes included the following notes, too :

  • On employment : Unemployment rates will “decline only gradually” in 2012
  • On housing : The market is “held down” by the “large overhang” of distressed homes
  • On inflation : Consumer prices have remained “flat”

Furthermore, the Fed expressed optimism regarding European financial markets, noting that market sentiment “appeared to brighten a bit”. Nonetheless, “spillovers” remain possible and the threat continues to weigh on markets. 

Mortgage rates are slightly worse since the Fed Minutes were released. 

The Federal Reserve’s next scheduled meeting is March 13, 2012 — its second of 8 scheduled meetings this year.

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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week : December 19, 2011

Posted in mortgage rates by southorangecounty on December 19, 2011

Fed Funds RateMortgage markets improved last week, but by a slight amount only; not enough to move conventional mortgage rates in California in any significant manner.

Wall Street watched as Eurozone leaders expressed little willingness to increase aid programs within the region, and as the Federal Reserve voted against new economic stimulus for the United States. The Fed Funds Rate remains near 0.000 percent and QE3 was not introduced.

Investors had expected the opposite outcome in both scenarios.

In most weeks, these stories would have led mortgage rates lower. There was, however, a fair amount of data suggesting that the U.S. economy is in recovery, and that tempered any major shifts in markets.

  • Manufacturing data proved to be strong
  • Inflation numbers are heating up
  • Jobless claims continue to drop, week-to-week

In addition, in its last meeting of the year, the Federal Reserve specifically mentioned that the economy has been “expanding moderately”.

These are all good signs for the future of the U.S. economy. Unfortunately, for mortgage rate shoppers and would-be home buyers, it may mean higher mortgage rates ahead.

Since early-November, mortgage rates have idled, moving within a range of less than 2 basis points and centered on 3.99%. According to Freddie Mac, this week’s average 30-year fixed rate mortgage fell to 3.94% which, at first glance, appears to be a “dip”.

To get access to that rate, however, requires more discount points as compared to prior weeks.

This week’s 3.94% with its accompanying 0.8 discount points is the financial equivalent of last week’s 3.99% with its accompanying 0.7 discount points. Going further, last week’s rates are actually less expensive to mortgage applicants for the first 3 years of a loan because the closing costs are so much lower.

So, given global economic conditions and the mortgage bond market’s status as a “safe market”, the failure of mortgage rates to fall suggests that this may be as low as mortgage rates get. It’s time to look at locking in.

This week is a holiday-shortened week. Markets will close early-Friday and volume is expected to be thin. Therefore, expect exaggerated movements in rates. There are 3 releases related to housing (Housing Starts, Existing Home Sales, New Home Sales) and a consumer sentiment release. 

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A Simple Explanation Of The Federal Reserve Statement (March 15, 2011 Edition)

Posted in FOMC by southorangecounty on March 15, 2011

Putting the FOMC statement in plain EnglishToday, for the second straight meeting, the Federal Open Market Committee voted unanimously to leave the Fed Funds Rate unchanged within its target range of 0.000-0.250 percent.

The vote was 10-0.

In its press release, the FOMC noted that since its January 2011 meeting, the economic recovery “is on firming footing”, and that the labor markets are “improving gradually”. In addition, household spending “continues to expand”. Nonetheless, the Fed said, the economy remains constrained by rising commodity prices and the “depressed” housing sector.

The FOMC statement also re-affirms the group’s plan to keep the Fed Funds Rate near zero percent “for an extended period”, and to keep its $600 billion bond market support package — more commonly called “QE2” — intact.

And, lastly, for the third straight time, the Federal Open Market Committee’s post-meeting release statement included a paragraph detailing the Federal Reserve’s dual mandate of managing inflation levels, and fostering maximum employment. Although it acknowledged inflationary pressures on the economy, the Fed said inflation remains too low for the economy currently, and that unemployment remains “elevated”.

In time, the Fed expects both measurements to improve.

Mortgage market reaction to the FOMC has been negative since the statement’s release. Mortgage rates in Coto de Caza are unchanged, but poised to worsen.

The FOMC’s next scheduled meeting is 2-day meeting, April 26-27, 2011.

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