For the week of December 5, 2011 – Vol. 9, Issue 49


>> Austin Mortgage Market Update 

QUOTE OF THE WEEK…“Motivation is the art of getting people to do what you want them to do because they want to do it.”–Dwight D. Eisenhower


INFO THAT HITS US WHERE WE LIVE…Enough people were motivated to buy new homes in October to push monthly sales up 1.3% to a 307,000 annual rate. Even better, the motivation was strong enough to send the median price to $212,300, UP 4% over a year ago. Going forward, what should motivate everyone is that the supply of new homes fell to 6.3 months. Nonetheless, new home sales need to get to an annual rate around 950,000 and some observers say that will take another few years.


Housing market pessimists had to be really disappointed by October’s Pending Home Sales. This measure of signed contracts for existing home sales that have not yet closed was UP 10.4% for the month and is 9.2% higher than it was a year ago. This bodes well for existing home sales a few months out. Additional home price data went in opposite directions. The Case-Shiller home price index in the 20 largest metros was down 0.6% in September, but the FHFA index registered a 0.9% price increase for homes financed with conforming mortgages.


BUSINESS TIP OF THE WEEK…A great thought this time of year: give generously without expecting anything in return–it will pay off in the long run.

>> Review of Last Week

YO-YO MARKETS…That’s how one chief investment officer described what’s been happening on Wall Street. The worst ever Thanksgiving week for stocks was followed by the S&P 500’s biggest weekly gain since March 2009, the Dow’s largest weekly gain since July 2009 and a seriously strong upturn for the Nasdaq. The bulls got back in control starting with some reassuring news for Europe. The Fed and five other central banks agreed to lower the cost of borrowing dollars for foreign banks. This doesn’t solve fiscal problems for the Europeans, but it does keep the money flowing to buy them more time.


Decent economic data kept the bulls on their charge. In addition to the housing news, sales for the first full weekend of holiday shopping were UP 16.4% over last year according to the National Retail Federation. ComScore reported Black Friday online sales were up 26% from last year. Then Friday’s November Employment Report showed 120,000 new jobs, plus revisions to October and November added another 72,000 payrolls. The unemployment rate dropped to 8.6%, but this was due to a decrease in the labor force of 315,000. There was also concern over the 0.1% drop in average hourly earnings. 


For the week, the Dow ended UP 7%, at 12019; the S&P 500 went UP 7.4%, to 1244; and the Nasdaq was UP 7.6%, to 2627.


Stocks were surging, so bonds should have tanked if things had gone by the book. But these days, not many things financial follow a predictable course. Bond performance was actually mixed, which turned out well for the FNMA 3.5% bond we watch. It ended the week up .86, to $102.06. According to Freddie Mac’s weekly survey, national average mortgage rates remained at or near record lows for the fifth week in a row.


DID YOU KNOW? The Trade Balance reported this week is the country’s exports, minus imports. It is the largest component of our balance of payments.

>> This Week’s Forecast

LIGHT ON THE NEWS… This week won’t have much in the way of economic data, but it’s good to keep a watch on ISM Services, as that sector provides the vast majority of our jobs. This index is expected to be up a bit for November and still expanding. The Trade Balance is forecast to show a slightly higher deficit for October, while University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment should also stay near previous levels.

>> 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 Dec 5 – Dec 9


 Date Time (ET) Release For Consensus Prior Impact

Dec 5

10:00 ISM Services Nov 53.4 52.9 Moderate

Dec 7

10:30 Crude Inventories 12/3 NA 3.932M Moderate

Dec 8

08:30 Initial Unemployment Claims 12/3 395K 402K Moderate

Dec 8

08:30 Continuing Unemployment Claims 11/26 3.700M 3.740M Moderate

Dec 9

08:30 Trade Balance Oct -$44.0B -$43.1B Moderate

Dec 9

09:55 Univ. of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Dec 65.0 64.1 Moderate


>> Federal Reserve Watch   

Forecasting Federal Reserve policy changes in coming months…Economists see no change coming in the Fed Funds Rate well into next year. Of course, inflation will have to be watched. 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%

After FOMC meeting on: Consensus
Dec 13 0%–0.25%
Jan 25 0%–0.25%
Mar 13 0%–0.25%


Probability of change from current policy:


After FOMC meeting on: Consensus  
Dec 13      <1%  
Jan 25      <1%  
Mar 13      <1%