For the week of April 4, 2011 – Vol. 9, Issue 14
|>> Austin Mortgage Market Update
QUOTE OF THE WEEK…“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.”–Ralph Waldo Emerson
INFO THAT HITS US WHERE WE LIVE…Patience has certainly been needed to weather the ups and downs of the current U.S. housing market. But as we await strong recovery, we can take heart in positive signs when they show up. Last week we had the report that Pending Home Sales were up 2.1% in February. This measure of contracts on existing homes indicates sales should rebound in March following February’s drop.
Other tidbits of goodness included the news that the share of homebuyers for second homes held steady in 2010 versus the year before. But this report from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) did show overall sales volume somewhat declining. Meanwhile, the reverse of that is occurring on the luxury end of the market, where sales of homes priced at $1 million and above were up 3.9% in February versus a year ago.
Those market observers who seem dying to report a double dip in housing prices loved last week’s S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices, which were down for January. But the 10-city composite Case-Shiller home price index is still 2.8% above and the 20-city is still 1.1% above their April 2009 lows. Seems the critics could do with a little patience too.
BUSINESS TIP OF THE WEEK…Attitude is everything. Be a fanatic optimist. Consistently see the glass half full. A great attitude affects all those around you–and always wins in the end.
>> Review of Last Week
JOBS SURPRISE…It was a good week for investors who were encouraged by positive economic news, capped on Friday with a surprisingly upbeat March Employment Report. All three major stock market indexes were up again for the week, which began with signs the consumer’s purchasing power is growing. For February, Personal Income and Personal Spending were both UP, while inflation, as measured by Core PCE Prices, was up only 0.2% for the month and 0.9% since last year. This is well within the Fed’s target range.
The highlight of the week was the aforementioned March Employment Report. Nonfarm payrolls were UP 216,000, with the private sector contributing 230,000 jobs, well above expectations. Best of all, job growth was broadly based, with strong gains in several business sectors. The unemployment rate dropped again and is now at 8.8%. The festivities ended with ISM Manufacturing down a tick for March but, at 61.2, well into expansion territory above 50.
For the week, the Dow ended up 1.3%, to 12,377; the S&P 500 was up 1.4%, to 1,332; and the Nasdaq was up 1.7%, ending at 2,790.
The bond market was hurt by the renewed interest in stocks and the better than anticipated jobs report. The FNMA 4.0% bond we watch was off .02 for the week, closing at $98.10. National average rates for conforming mortgages edged up a bit according to Freddie Mac’s weekly survey, but they’re still at historically low levels.
DID YOU KNOW?…ISM reports come from the Institute for Supply Management. Last week’s ISM Manufacturing is considered by many economists to be the most reliable near-term economic barometer for that sector. This week’s ISM Non-Manufacturing provides insight into the Services sector, representing over 80% of GDP.
>> This Week’s Forecast
TAKING A BREATHER…After the recent avalanche of economic news, this week could be seen as a welcome respite. Tuesday’s ISM Non-Manufacturing index for March is expected to hold steady, reflecting the slow pace of the economic recovery. But the reading above 50 puts services solidly in expansion mode, which is key, since 85% of our jobs are in this sector of the economy.
We also get FOMC Minutes from the Fed’s meeting on March 15. Economists will be looking for signs of how soon the Fed may start pushing rates back up.
>> The Week’s Economic Indicator Calendar
Weaker than expected economic data tends to send bond prices up and interest rates down, while positive data points to lower bond prices and rising loan rates.
Economic Calendar for the Week of April 4 – April 8
>> Federal Reserve Watch
Forecasting Federal Reserve policy changes in coming months…More economists are talking about the need for the Fed to tighten monetary policy by edging rates up. But few expect a hike in the funds rate until well into the second half, or even next year. Note: In the lower chart, a 1% probability of change is a 99% certainty the rate will stay the same.
Current Fed Funds Rate: 0%–0.25%
Probability of change from current policy: