|For the week of August 23, 2010 – Vol. 8, Issue 34|
|>> Austin Mortgage Market Update
INFO THAT HITS US WHERE WE LIVE Housing starts were UP 1.7% for July to a 546,000 annual pace, but this was below expectations and all the gain came from a big boost in multi-family starts. Single-family starts were off 4.2%, declining for the third straight month. Looking at the market further out, we saw new building permits down 3.1% for July to a 565,000 annual rate.
There is no denying that these reports reflect a softness in the home building market. But some experts see the data as part of a temporary housing market hangover following the expiration of the tax credits. You may remember how the government cash-for-clunkers program pushed a ton of auto sales into July and August last year. This resulted in a dip in sales immediately afterwards. But that was followed by a pretty nice recovery, with auto sales now up 20% from the first half of 2009. Stay tuned for housing.
The Mortgage Bankers Association’s weekly survey showed purchase loan applications down from the week before, but refinance applications soared, equaling their May 2009 level. Austin mortgage rates, of course, continue at historically low levels.
>> Review of Last Week
NOT SO BAD… Really???!!! Listening to the pundits who were fixated on last week’s negative economic news, you might think things were awful. But as usual, the situation actually wasn’t so bad, with the markets closing Friday with mixed results. The Dow and the S&P 500 dropped for the week, but far less than the week before. And the third major index, the Nasdaq, was UP 0.3%, so there are plenty of investors not paying that much attention to fretful pundits.
Make no mistake, the week did have its disappointments. The housing starts and building permits covered above were not cheered on Wall Street. Then, initial weekly jobless claims came in at 500,000, a bit over estimates and higher than they’ve been for a while. On top of that, the Philadelphia Fed index of manufacturing was down for the month, instead of up as expected, indicating a souring of the outlook in that region.
But wait just a minute. Mortgage refinancings took off, helping consumers and lenders. The Empire State index showed manufacturing in the New York region UP to 7.1 in August from 5.1 in July and suggesting more rapid growth to come. July Industrial Production and Capacity Utilization moved up nicely. Corporations continued to deliver strong profits and we even had renewed M&A action, with Intel buying McAfee for a cool $7.7 billion in cash. None of these are bad economic signs.
Yet for the week, the Dow ended down 0.9%, to 10213.62; the S&P 500 was down 0.7%, to 1071.69; but the Nasdaq was UP 0.3%, to 2179.76.
The bond market had a generally decent time of it, with the less encouraging economic data bringing in safe haven investors. Treasuries did well, while the FNMA 30-year 4.0% bond we watch ended down 13 basis points on Friday, closing at $102.15. Freddie Mac’s weekly survey of conforming mortgage rates showed national average rates at historically low levels for yet another week.
>> This Week’s Forecast
JULY HOME SALES, ANOTHER LOOK AT Q2 GDP…This is the week for July housing. Tuesday’s Existing Home Sales are expected to be down from June, coming off the end of the home buyer tax credits. But Wednesday’s July New Home Sales could be a tick above June. Friday we get the Q2 GDP Second Estimate. This should reflect the economic soft patch we’re going through, as growth is expected to slow to the 1.5% territory.
>> 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 August 23 – August 27
>> Federal Reserve Watch
Forecasting Federal Reserve policy changes in coming months Economists haven’t changed their belief that the Fed meant what it said in its pledge to keep rates “exceptionally low” for an “extended period.” That period is now seen to extend well into 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: