For the week of November 1, 2010 – Vol. 8, Issue 44
|>> Austin Mortgage Market Update
INFO THAT HITS US WHERE WE LIVE Last week’s big rush of housing news began on Monday with Existing Home Sales for September UP 10% from the month before. The annual rate hit 4.53 million. This was the second straight monthly gain after July’s record low following the expiration of the tax credits. The national median price for existing homes is now at $171,700, down 2.4% from a year ago. Unsold inventory dropped 1.9% from the prior month to a 10.7 months’ supply.
Tuesday, the S&P Case-Shiller home price indexes came in weaker for August, also seen as a result of the expiration of the tax credits. The 10-city index was down 0.1% for the month and the 20-city index off 0.2%. The Federal Housing Finance Agency’s monthly house price index showed U.S. home prices falling 2.4% from August a year ago and 13.7% off their April 2007 peak. This index only tracks the prices of homes purchased with mortgages sold to or guaranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.
Wednesday, New Home Sales for September were UP 6.6%, coming off record lows in July and August. The seasonally adjusted annual rate was 307,000, which is down 21.5% from a year ago. Good news came with the median new home price rising 3.3% from the year before, now at $223,800. The supply also came in at 8 months, with the actual number of unsold new homes the lowest it’s been since 1968.
>> Review of Last Week
FLAT WEEK, UP MONTH… Investors on Wall Street kept things in check last week, leaving the Dow down by a whisker, the S&P 500 dead flat, and the tech-heavy Nasdaq up a modest 1.1%. Observers felt traders were awaiting this week’s midterm elections and then Wednesday’s Fed meeting statement regarding its next round of quantitative easing to spur growth. For the month, stocks did quite nicely with the S&P 500 up 3.7%; the Dow up 3%, its best October since 2006; and the Nasdaq up 5.9%, its best October in seven years.
In the week’s economic news, a plus always seemed to come with a minus. For example, Consumer Confidence was up in October, but it still remains at historically low levels. This is occurring over a year since the economy transitioned from recession to recovery, at least as measured by overall growth. Durable Goods Orders were up 3.3% in September, but it all came from aircraft and parts. Exclude those, and orders were down 0.8% for the month.
It was somewhat encouraging to see weekly jobless claims dropping for the third straight week. This put them at their lowest level since July, but still in troublesome territory above 400,000. Finally, the advanced estimate of Q3 GDP came in at 2.0% annual growth. This was in line with expectations and shows the economy is in fact growing. But 2% is well below the growth rate economists say we need to make a significant dent in the unemployment rate.
For the week, the Dow was down 0.1%, to 11118.49; the S&P 500 ended flat, at 1183.26; but the Nasdaq was UP 1.1%, to 2507.41.
Bond prices dipped for a good part of the week, then rebounded, but not quite enough. The FNMA 30-year 4.0% bond we watch ended down 10 basis points for the week, closing at $103.02. National average mortgage rates for most mortgages remain at historically low levels. A cautionary note: the Mortgage Bankers Association predicts rates of 30-year fixed-rated mortgages will begin rising next year.
>> This Week’s Forecast
HEARING FROM THE FEDS, WAITING FOR THE JOBS… There are plenty of economic reports to ponder this week, but two items stand out. The Fed will be meeting on Wednesday and while no one expects the Fed Funds rate to go up, everyone will be looking for indications of when the Fed will start its second round of quantitative easing (QE-2) and how much money will get thrown into the system. The other point of interest will be the October jobs report on Friday. The forecast is for payrolls to be up by 45,000 jobs, which isn’t very many, but at least it’s a positive number, though the unemployment rate is predicted to hold at 9.6%.
Highlights of the remaining economic news include the PCE inflation reading expected to stay at 0.4%, and ISM predicted down a little, though still showing manufacturing expanding. The week ends with Friday’s Pending Home Sales for September, forecast to be up 0.5%, a good thing but not quite as good as August’s hike of over 4%.
>> 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 November 1 – November 5
>> Federal Reserve Watch
Forecasting Federal Reserve policy changes in coming months Economists agree that the Fed Funds Rate will stay at its rock bottom level for quite some time. Inflation could change that, of course, but experts feel that’s quite a way down the road. 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: