For the week of September 27, 2010 – Vol. 8, Issue 39
|>> Austin Mortgage Market Update
INFO THAT HITS US WHERE WE LIVE As promised, last week’s reports gave us a complete picture of the housing market in August. Housing Starts rose 10.5% month-over-month to a 598,000 annual rate, well ahead of the expected 550,000 number. Building Permits, which reflect builder sentiment further out, grew a more modest 1.8% month-over-month to a slightly smaller 569,000 annual rate. Thursday, Existing Home Sales came in UP 7.6% over July, at a 4.13 million annual rate. But let’s remember, July was a record low, so this gain still left sales down 19% from August a year ago. The median price for Existing Homes, however, ticked up 0.8% year-over-year, as reported by the National Association of Realtors.
Friday saw New Home Sales for August come in unchanged from the previous month, meeting expectations at a 288,000 annual rate. The increases in Existing Home Sales and Housing Starts are welcome, as is the lack of a drop in New Home Sales. But sales are still at fairly weak levels. Observers feel that with the government tax credit, we had an artificial boost in home sales, so what followed was obviously an artificial low and we’re now slowly climbing back toward normalcy.
>> Review of Last Week
FOUR IN A ROW… The stock market opened the week strongly, but then lost ground for three days before the bulls were back in control igniting a big rally on Friday, just shy of a 200 point gain for the day. This put stocks UP for the fourth straight week, with the Dow again nearing 11,000 and the broad-based S&P 500 hitting a four-month high.
It was a mixed bag of economic data once again. Housing numbers, covered above, were showing some signs of recovery, but then initial jobless claims grew to 465,000, higher than anticipated and indicating the labor market is still soft. The week ended with Durable Goods Orders down for August.
But the big event was the Federal Reserve meeting Tuesday. They left the fed funds rate unchanged as expected. They also kept policy statement language that says economic conditions are likely to keep the rate at exceptionally low levels for “an extended period.” But they have now added that the Fed is prepared to provide additional accommodation if needed. Some think this is what sent stocks up, as investors felt they couldn’t lose. If the economy improves, stocks will go up. If the economy stalls, the Fed will step in, so stocks will still go up! We’ll see.
For the week, the Dow ended UP 2.4%, to 10860.26; the S&P 500 was UP 2.1%, to 1148.67; and the Nasdaq was UP 2.8%, to 2381.22.
Bonds were on the move up and down all week, and Friday was a down day as investors flocked to those rallying stocks. Yet for the week, the FNMA 30-year 4.0% bond we watch ended UP 8 basis points, closing at $102.17. Freddie Mac’s weekly survey of national average mortgage rates reported fixed-rate mortgages not budging from their historically low levels.
>> This Week’s Forecast
CONSUMERS, Q2 GDP, INFLATION… Economic reports on the consumer’s September mindset bookend the week, with Consumer Confidence expected off a tad on Tuesday but Michigan Consumer Sentiment up a fraction come Friday.
Thursday features the third estimate of Q2 GDP numbers, but no change is expected from the prior reading, which showed a slower 1.6% growth rate. Friday’s Personal Spending and Core PCE Prices for August should reveal inflation still well under control.
>> 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 September 27 – October 1
>> Federal Reserve Watch
Forecasting Federal Reserve policy changes in coming months The policy statement from last week’s FOMC meeting preserved the language that the Fed would probably keep rates low for “an extended period.” The statement also added that the central bank was ready to provide more accommodation if needed, so economists do not expect to see any change in the Fed funds rate well into next year. 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: