For the week of September 19, 2011 – Vol. 9, Issue 38

>> Austin Mortgage Market Update 

QUOTE OF THE WEEK…“Work joyfully and peacefully, knowing that right thoughts and right efforts will inevitably bring about right results.”–James Allen (1864-1912), British inspirational writer

INFO THAT HITS US WHERE WE LIVE…We did see some right results for housing last week, and hopefully we’ve been working joyfully and peacefully to bring them about. reported that inventories of homes, condos, townhouses and co-ops shrank in August for the fourth month in a row. They’re now down 19% from a year ago, and rest at 2.27 million units. Dropping inventories do keep home prices from falling and, supporting this, the national median list price was unchanged from June and July and up about 0.5% from a year ago, at $189,900.

National average mortgage rates continued to drift downward, again hitting new record lows. And borrowers are responding, with demand for purchase loans up 7% from the week before, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. Refinancing applications are also up. Freddie Mac’s chief economist noted the average interest rate on outstanding mortgages is 5.28% and that refinancing into a 30-year fixed mortgage at today’s rates could save $1715 a year in interest on a $200,000 loan.

BUSINESS TIP OF THE WEEK…The best indicator of long term success is actually “street smarts.” To develop yours, dive in, don’t dawdle over decisions, learn from your mistakes and experiment continually.

>> Review of Last Week TURNAROUND!…Stocks headed back up five days in a row, giving the S&P500 its best performance since June, though it was just the second weekly rise in eight weeks. The week began with great worry over the status of French banks, but things turned positive on news that the BRIC countries–Brazil, Russia, India and China–are in talks to buy eurozone debt. The European Central Bank also lined up other central banks to help out with loans if needed. This got Wall Streeters feeling so good, they ignored the lackluster U.S. economic reports and sent stock prices skyward. The parade of mediocre data was led by producer inflation, flat for August but up 6.5% from a year ago.

Core CPI consumer inflation was up 0.2% for August and up 2.0% versus a year ago, putting it at the top of the Fed’s target range. That could make this week’s Fed meeting interesting. New jobless claims inched up to 428,000. Retail was flat for August, but even in good times there are off months, and anyway Retail Sales are up 7.2% from a year ago. Finally, the industrial sector continues to lead the recovery, with August production and capacity both UP. For the week, the Dow ended UP 4.7%, at 11509; the S&P 500 was UP 5.4%, to 1216; and the Nasdaq was UP 6.3%, to 2622. Worries about European debt made Treasuries and mortgage bonds look like safe bets, sending prices up at first. But inflation concerns and the stock rally ultimately sent bonds the other way. The FNMA 3.5% bond we track closed Friday at $101.05, down .98 for the week.

Nevertheless, as mentioned above, national average mortgage rates inched down, setting new record lows. DID YOU KNOW?…A prepayment (or prior redemption) privilege is a clause allowing the borrower to pay off a mortgage early without penalty. When interest rates fall, this lets the borrower pay off the mortgage and refinance at a lower rate.

>> This Week’s Forecast NEW CONSTRUCTION, EXISTING HOME SALES AND, OH YES, ANOTHER FED MEETING…It will be useful for folks with our interests to check out Tuesday’s August Housing Starts, expected to be down. This will at least help clear the inventory of new homes. The annual rate for Building Permits should be down a little as well. Wednesday will give us the Existing Home Sales reading for August, predicted to be inching back toward the 5 million level. Wednesday we’ll also see the Fed’s policy statement from the latest FOMC meeting. No one expects the rate to rise, but speculation surrounds Chairman Bernanke’s decision to extend the confab to two days. What will they say about inflation? Will they launch Operation Twist and start buying long bonds? Will they throw more money into the system?

>> 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 Sep 19 – Sep 23

 Date Time (ET) Release For Consensus Prior Impact
Tu Sep 20 08:30 Housing Starts Aug 592K 604K Moderate
Tu Sep 20 08:30 Building Permits Aug 588K 597K Moderate
W Sep 21 10:00 Existing Home Sales Aug 4.70M 4.67M Moderate
W Sep 21 10:30 Crude Inventories 9/17 NA –6.7M Moderate
W Sep 21 14:15 FOMC Rate Decision 9/21 0%-0.25% 0%-0.25% HIGH
Th Sep 22 08:30 Initial Unemployment Claims 9/17 417K 428K Moderate
Th Sep 22 08:30 Continuing Unemployment Claims 9/10 3.730M 3.726M Moderate
Th Sep 22 08:30 Leading Economic Indicators (LEI) Index Aug 0.1% 0.5% Moderate

>> Federal Reserve Watch    Forecasting Federal Reserve policy changes in coming months…This week’s Fed meeting does not have economists expecting a boost in the Funds Rate, even though last week’s inflation figures could bring a hike sooner than the two years the Fed wants to keep the rate at its super low level. 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
Sep 21 0%–0.25%
Nov 2 0%–0.25%
Dec 13 0%–0.25%

Probability of change from current policy:

After FOMC meeting on: Consensus
Sep 21      <1%
Nov 2      <1%
Dec 13      <1%