For the week of June 7, 2010 – Vol. 8, Issue 23
|>> Austin Mortgage Market Update
INFO THAT HITS US WHERE WE LIVE The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reported the Pending Homes Sales index rose in April for the third month in a row, registering a 6% increase over the upwardly revised March figure. This index measures the number of homebuyers signing purchase contracts. April Pending Home Sales hit their highest level since October 2009 and are UP 22.4% year-over-year. Like Existing and New Home Sales the week before, a good part of the gain was put to the tax credit expiration that required a signed contract by April 30. The NAR also forecast new home sales will be UP 18.5% for the year.
April construction increased 2.7%, its fastest gain in a decade. This includes commercial, government, and home construction. Home improvements led the residential gain, but new single-family homes were up as well, showing increased confidence among homebuilders.
>> Review of Last Week
SUMMER SLUMP… The Memorial Day-shortened trading week ended with a slump in stocks on Friday. This was driven by concerns that Hungary may default on its debt, followed by the May Employment Report, whose payroll numbers were lower than expected and had investors selling off big time. The Dow lost over 300 points on the day and all three major indexes were down for the week.
The facts did not actually justify such extreme investor reaction. No U.S. bank has major exposure to European debt and Europe accounts for only a minor percentage of our export business. Yes, the employment report showed a headline payroll number below expectations, with the private sector adding just 41,000 jobs. But the average workweek went from 34.1 to 34.2 hours. If hours per worker had remained the same, that extra labor demand would have created 315,000 more private sector jobs. For the moment, employers are clearly preferring to meet rising labor needs with more hours for existing workers, rather than new hires. Ignored in all the negative hoopla was the DROP in the unemployment rate to 9.7%, which beat expectations.
Before Friday’s market slide, other economic data had sent stock prices up. We had the great Pending Home Sales gain covered above. The ISM Manufacturing index continued to show strength in that sector, hitting levels not seen since 2004, while the ISM Services index showed non-manufacturing business at its highest level in almost four years. And final Q1 productivity came in at a 2.8% annual growth rate, UP 6.1% from a year ago.
For the week, the Dow ended down 2.0%, to 9931.97; the S&P 500 was down 2.3%, to 1064.88; and the Nasdaq was down 1.7%, to 2219.17.
Bonds blasted skyward on Friday fueled by the goulash coming out of Hungary, then boosted further by the lower than expected payroll numbers. The flight to safety benefited the FNMA 30-year 4.5% bond we watch, which closed UP 66 basis points for the week, ending at $102.69. National average mortgage rates held at their historic levels for another week, according to Freddie Mac’s weekly survey.
>> This Week’s Forecast
CONSUMERS WEIGH IN… This is a fairly quiet week for economic data, but we’ll have a good look at the consumer’s participation in the recovery with Friday’s May Retail Sales. The June Michigan Consumer Sentiment index will follow. Expectations are for continued improvements in these numbers. Initial and Continuing Unemployment claims will also be watched closely given last week’s jobs report. Thursday’s April Trade Balance will show us the strength of U.S. business in the global economy.
>> 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 June 7 – June 11
>> Federal Reserve Watch
Forecasting Federal Reserve policy changes in coming months With jobs still not enthusiastically joining the rest of the recovery, most economists now feel we’ll be in a low-rate environment for a considerable period of time. 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: