For the week of October 25, 2010 – Vol. 8, Issue 43
|>> Austin Mortgage Market Update
INFO THAT HITS US WHERE WE LIVE Last week saw September Housing Starts UP 0.3% to an annual rate of 610,000 units, well ahead of the expected 580,000 unit pace. Even better, starts are UP 4.1% over a year ago. Interestingly, the September gain was totally driven by a healthy 4.4% rise in single family starts, while multi-family starts dropped 9.7%. But multi-family starts are volatile month to month, and are actually up 100.0% compared to a year ago, while single family starts are off 10.8% during the same time frame.
Builders remain cautious, as new Building Permits for September dropped 5.6%, to a 539,000 annual rate. This number of course reflects plans for builder activity a few months out. Nonetheless, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) reported builder confidence rose in October for the first time in five months. This brings it to a level not seen since June. The NAHB’s chief economist feels the new home market is now past the quiet period that followed the expiration of the home buyer tax credits and the summer slowdown in the economy.
>> Review of Last Week
UP WITH VOLATILITY… It was not a quiet week on Wall Street, with a big move down in stock prices, which then came back up. But the markets did close up four out of the five days, so the week ended with all three major indexes ahead once again. Investors focused on a pile of pretty good corporate earnings results, but there were some less than stellar economic reports to get through too.
Industrial Production was off 0.2% in September, below estimates, though production is up at a 4.9% annual rate for the last six months. Capacity Utilization also dipped down to 74.7% for September, although it’s still 6.5 percentage points above the low it hit back in June 2009. Countering these figures, the Philadelphia Fed Index for manufacturing in that region was back into positive territory. Leading Economic Indicators were up 0.3% for the month and weekly jobless claims fell a bit, though they’re still well above 400,000.
The good news came in corporate earnings, with more than 100 S&P 500 companies reporting including 12 of the Dow components. The financials did well, with 21 out of 27 reporting better than expected earnings per share. In the tech sector, Apple and IBM also did nicely in the earnings department. Coca-Cola, Caterpillar, and airlines also showed gains. Even though the recovery has slowed, the vast majority of public companies continue to make good profit numbers.
For the week, the Dow ended UP 0.6%, to 11132.56; the S&P 500 was also UP 0.6%, to 1183.08; and the Nasdaq was UP 0.4%, to 2479.39.
Trading ranges in the bond market didn’t go too wide, as investors stayed interested enough to keep prices up. The FNMA 30-year 4.0% bond we watch ended UP 12 basis points for the week, closing at $103.12. Freddie Mac’s weekly survey showed national average mortgage rates for most mortgages remaining at historically low levels.
>> This Week’s Forecast
NOTHING SCARY… As we head into Halloween this week, it looks like nothing too frightening will be reported on the economic front. Monday’s Existing Home Sales are projected up for September, just like September New Home Sales are expected to report come Wednesday. Friday, we get the Advanced Q3 GDP numbers, which economists are forecasting to be modestly positive.
Consumer Confidence on Tuesday and Michigan Consumer Sentiment on Friday are both projected to be up a tiny bit. Friday’s Employment Cost Index should continue with modest growth, while the Chicago PMI is predicted to show a small decline in manufacturing in that region of the country.
>> 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 October 25 – October 29
>> Federal Reserve Watch
Forecasting Federal Reserve policy changes in coming months As economists debate how big the second round of quantitative easing (QE-2) will be, they’re all in agreement that the Fed Funds Rate will stay at its rock bottom level for quite a bit more 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: