March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. As March comes in this year, the housing sector continues to roar ahead with good news, while other sectors are struggling. Read on to learn the latest details, and what they mean for home loan rates.
Despite the harsh weather, New Home Sales rose by 9.6 percent from December to January to an annual rate of 468,000, well above expectations. The 468,000 rate was the highest level since July 2008. Pending Home Sales for January also came in just above expectations and well above December’s reading. In addition, research firm CoreLogic reported that completed foreclosures fell by 19 percent from January 2013 to January 2014, while the Case Shiller 20-city Home Price Index ended its best year since 2005.
On the other end of the spectrum, the second reading for 2013 fourth quarter Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was, in a word, gross. GDP fell to 2.4 percent from the initial reading of 3.2 percent, sharply beneath the 4.1 percent recorded in the third quarter of 2013. The decline was due in part to consumer spending and exports that were less robust than initially thought, signaling U.S. economic growth remains choppy. However, there was some good news in the report as company spending was revised up sharply, suggesting an improvement in business conditions.
In labor market news, weekly Initial Jobless Claims rose by 14,000 in the latest week, reaching a one-month high as the job markets continues their up and down pattern. The labor market has been choppy lately, especially after the anemic number of job creations in December and January.
What does this mean for home loan rates? Remember that the Fed is now purchasing $35 billion in Treasuries and $30 billion in Mortgage Bonds (the type of Bonds on which home loan rates are based) to help stimulate the economy and housing market. This is down from the original $85 billion per month that the Fed had been purchasing. With the December and January job creation numbers far below expectations, the Fed will be looking closely at February’s numbers for any signs of a pattern. If this report and other key economic data points are weak, the Fed may have to rethink the tapering it has begun. This story is sure to impact the markets and home loan rates as we move ahead in 2014.
The bottom line is that now remains a great time to consider a home purchase or refinance, as home loan rates remain attractive compared to historical levels. Let me know if I can answer any questions at all for you or your clients.
This week’s economic calendar features a broad array of reports that span a big portion of the U.S. economy.
Remember: Weak economic news normally causes money to flow out of Stocks and into Bonds, helping Bonds and home loan rates improve, while strong economic news normally has the opposite result. The chart below shows Mortgage Backed Securities (MBS), which are the type of Bond on which home loan rates are based.
To go one step further a red “candle” means that MBS worsened during the day, while a green “candle” means MBS improved during the day. Depending on how dramatic the changes were on any given day, this can cause rate changes throughout the day, as well as on the rate sheets we start with each morning.
As you can see in the chart below, Mortgage Bonds had a strong week thanks to investors and some weaker than expected reports. Home loan rates remain near historical lows and I will continue to monitor them closely.