Fed Raises Key Interest Rate For 3rd Consecutive Time

Fed Raises Key Interest Rate for 3rd Consecutive TimeThe Federal Open Market Committee of the Federal Reserve announced that it raised the target federal funds rate to a range of 2.00 percent to 2.25 percent. This was the third consecutive increase in the Fed’s key interest rate and was the eighth time the Fed raised its key interest rate since 2015.

In its customary post-meeting statement, Committee members cited strong economic conditions and continued labor market growth coupled with historically low unemployment rates as a basis for raising the federal funds interest rate.

Fed Cites Steady Inflation, Healthy Household And Business Spending

Further economic conditions cited in the FOMC statement were steady inflation, which has held close to the Fed’s objective of two percent for a year. Projections on long-term inflation were “little changed” according to the statement.

FOMC’s statement explained how committee members make decisions about the target range for the federal funds rate. The Federal Reserve must make decisions based on its legislative mandate of achieving and maintaining maximum employment and an inflation rate at or near two percent.

The FOMC also considers measures of economic and labor conditions, pressures on inflation and projections on inflation. Committee members keep up-to-date on domestic and global economic developments.

After the FOMC statement was released, Fed Chair Jerome Powell gave a press conference.

Fed Chair: Economy Strengthening Without Need Of Fed Accommodation

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell expressed confidence in current economic conditions and said that future rate hikes would help maintain the Fed’s goals and promote healthy economic growth. Mr. Powell said that future meetings of the Federal Open Market Committee would be guided by asking and answering the question of whether current monetary policy is set to achieve FOMC goals. Analysts interpreted Chair Powell’s comments as indicating that current economic conditions are as good as could be expected and that the Fed’s monetary policy decisions are working as planned.

 

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – June 13, 2016

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - June 13, 2016Last week’s economic news was highlighted by Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s speech in Philadelphia. Although Chair Yellen alluded to future Fed rate hikes, she did not specify when Fed policymakers would next raise the target federal funds rate. 

Increases in the fed funds rate typically signal increases in consumer credit and home mortgage rates. Last week’s speech was seen as a precursor to the Federal Open Market Committee statement that will occur at the conclusion of next week’s FOMC meeting. 

Chair Yellen is also scheduled to give a press conference after the FOMC statement next Wednesday.

Mortgage rates and new jobless claims also fell last week.

Fed Chair Speech: Fed Rate Increases Likely, but Subject to Economic Developments

Fed Chair Janet Yellen said that remarks would be “largely favorable” although economic developments were “mixed.” Chair Yellen cited economic progress toward the Fed’s dual goal of achieving maximum employment and price stability. Labor benchmarks included national unemployment below five percent, rising household income and indications of rising wages were cited as positive signs for economic expansion.

Slowing job growth and inflation staying below the Fed’s goal of 2.00 percent were cited as signs that the U.S. economic recovery is underway, but Chair Yellen also said signs of slower job creation along with uncertainties in global economic conditions and oil prices prevented short-term predictions about how the economy would perform.

Fed Chair Yellen also repeated her usual caution that Fed policy is not set in stone, but instead is subject to FOMC members’ ongoing review of economic developments and related readings.

Mortgage Rates, New Jobless Claims Lower

Freddie Mac reported lower mortgage rates last week. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was six basis points lower at 3.60 percent; the rate for a 15-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 2.87 percent, which was five basis points lower than the previous week. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was six points lower at 2.82 percent. Discount points averaged 0.50 percent for all three loan types tracked by Freddie Mac.

New jobless claims were also lower at 264,000 new claims filed against expectations of 270,000 new claims and 268,000 new claims filed in the prior week.

What’s Ahead This Week

This week’s scheduled economic news includes the Fed’s post-meeting FOMC statement and press conference, reports on the consumer price index and core CPI, housing starts and the NAHB Housing Market Index. Reports on mortgage rates and new jobless claims will be released according to their weekly schedule.

Economic indicators such as price inflation, rising mortgage rates and housing data impact housing markets and consumers’ ability or willingness to buy homes.  

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – February 16, 2016

Last week’s economic events included weekly releases on new jobless claims, mortgage rates and testimony by Fed Chair Janet Yellen concerning the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy. Here are the details:

Mortgage Rates, New Jobless Claims Drop

Freddie Mac reported that average mortgage rates fell across the board last Thursday, with the rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage seven basis points lower at 3.65 percent. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage was six basis points lower at 2.95 percent, and the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was two basis points lower at 2.83 percent. Discount points averaged 0.50 percent for 30 and 15 year fixed rate mortgages and 0.40 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

Lower mortgage rates may encourage first-time and moderate income home buyers to enter the market, although slim supplies of available homes and rising home prices have caused ongoing concerns about affordability in many markets.

Weekly jobless claims were also lower. 269,000 new claims were filed as compared to estimated claims of 280,000 new claims and the prior week’s reading of 285,000 new jobless claims. This was the lowest reading in two months and suggests healthy labor markets as more workers find jobs. Readings lower than 300,000 new jobless claims indicate healthy jobs markets. The four-week rolling average of new jobless claims was lower by 3500 claims at 281,250 new claims filed. Analysts consider the four-week reading as a more accurate indicator of labor markets as it smooths out anomalies in weekly claims.

Yellen Testimony: Fed Won’t Change Course on Rates

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said that she doesn’t expect interest rate cuts in view of slowing economic indicators. In testimony before the House Financial Services panel, Chair Yellen indicated that although there are signs of slower economic conditions, there was still room for economic growth. She cited a strong labor market and strong consumer and business spending as indicators of economic expansion. Analysts interpreted Chair Yellen’s testimony to indicate that the Fed would not likely raise its target federal funds rate in March.

Chair Yellen said that monetary policy is not on a “preset course”. Federal Reserve press releases consistently state that policy makers review current and developing domestic and global economic trends as part of any decision to raise rates. In view of this, Chair Yellen’s testimony did not cover what could happen if future economic developments influence Fed policy. Recent concerns over volatile financial markets caused by the weakening in China’s economy were cited as examples of “downside risks” that could impact the Fed’s monetary policy.

Readings for Consumer Sentiment suggest that consumers are also watching economic developments. February’s reading decreased to 90.7 as compared to January’s reading of 92.0.

What’s Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic events include the National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index, federal reports on housing starts and building permits. FOMC minutes and weekly reports on mortgage rates and new jobless claims will also be released.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – Feburary 8, 2016

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week Feburary 8 2016Last week’s scheduled economic news included reports on construction spending and several labor-related reports along with weekly reports on mortgage rates and new jobless claims. The details:

Construction Spending Higher in December

U.S. construction spending rose by 0.10 percent in December for a seasonally adjusted annual total of $1.12 trillion. The Commerce Department reported that construction firms spent 10.5 percent more than in 2014.Residential construction spending totaled $416.8 billion for 2015, which was 12.60 percent higher than in 2015.

Higher construction spending can be a double-edged sword, as it can indicate that builders are stepping up construction or that they are paying higher prices for labor and supplies. Builders have consistently cited labor shortages and slim supplies of buildable land as concerns. Short supplies of available homes impacted housing markets in 2015. Low inventories of homes drive up home prices and impact affordability for first-time buyers; these conditions eventually slow housing markets with fewer qualified buyers and home sales.

Fed Benchmarks Show Mixed Readings

The Federal Reserve consistently cites its goals of achieving maximum employment and an inflation rate of 2.00 percent as benchmarks for its decision to raise or not raise the target federal funds rate. National unemployment reached a new low of 4.90 percent in January against expectations of 5.00 percent and December’s reading of 5.00 percent. Inflation held steady with no increase in January; this offsets the good news concerning unemployment. Lower oil prices are holding inflation well below the Fed’s desired rate of 2.00 percent.

Mortgage Rates Fall, Jobless Claims Rise

Freddie Mac reported lower average rates across the board. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage fell by seven basis points to 3.72 percent; the corresponding rate for 15 year mortgages fell six basis points to 3.01 percent and the average rate for a5/1 adjustable rate mortgage dropped five basis points to2.85 percent. Average discount points were 0.60, 0.50 and 0.40 percent respectively.

Weekly jobless claims rose to 285,000 new claims against expectations of 280,000 new claims and the prior week’s reading of 277,000 new jobless claims. While rising jobless claims could suggest a slowing jobs market, the low unemployment rate suggests otherwise.

Non-Farm Payrolls, ADP Payrolls Fall

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, non-farm payrolls added 151,000 jobs in January as compared to expectations of 180,000 jobs added and December’s reading of 262,000 jobs added in December. Analysts said that January’s reading is further evidence that a long-running decline in new jobless claims has ended.

ADP payrolls were also lower in January with 205,000 new jobs posted as compared to December’s reading of 267,000 private sector jobs added. Holiday hiring likely impacted higher readings in December, but time will tell if declining job growth is trending.

What’s Ahead

Next week’s economic reports include data on job openings, consumer sentiment and Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s Congressional testimony.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – January 18, 2016

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week January 18 2016In addition to weekly reports on mortgage rates and new unemployment claims, last week’s economic news included the Fed’s Beige Book report, retail sales and consumer sentiment. January’s Empire State Index showed an unexpected dip and Consumer Sentiment increased for January.

Fed’s Beige Book Shows Diverse Economic Trends

According to the Federal Reserve’s Beige Book report for January, the central bank’s business contacts reported strength in housing, while agriculture, energy and manufacturing sectors were struggling. New York’s Empire State Manufacturing Index for January supported this trend with a sharp drop. New York manufacturing has hit its lowest level since the recession and has stayed in negative territory since March 2009. Two analysts said that the Fed’s recent rate hike and subsequent hikes could slow housing markets. Consumer lending rates, including mortgage rates, typically follow suit when the Fed increases its target federal funds rate. 

In other news, retail sales posted negative growth of -0.10 percent in December against an expected reading of -0.20 percent and November’s reading of +0.40 percent. December retail sales not including auto motive also posted a reading of -0.10 percent as compared to expectations of +0.20 percent and November’s reading of 0.30 percent.

Mortgage Rates Fall, New Unemployment Claims Rise

Last week’s average mortgage rates fell across the board according to Freddie Mac. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage dropped by five basis points to 3.92 percent; the average rate for a 15-year mortgage rate also fell by five basis points to 3.19 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was eight basis points lower at 3.01 percent. Average discount points were 0.60, 0.50 and 0.40 percent respectively.

New unemployment claims rose to 284,000 against expectations of 275,000 new claims and the prior week’s reading of 277,000 new claims. Analysts said that the jump in claims resulted from job losses related to temporary holiday positions, but noted that last year’s momentum of falling jobless claims has slowed.

Last week’s economic news ended on a positive note; consumer sentiment rose according to the University of Michigan. Lower prices were credited for the boost in consumer confidence in current economic conditions.

What’s Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic events include the National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index, Housing Starts, Consumer Price Index and Core Consumer Price Index. No news will be released on Monday due to the Martin Luther King holiday.

Federal Reserve Raises Short-Term Interest Rates

Federal Reserve Raises Short Term Interest RatesAfter prolonged speculation by economic analysts and news media, the Federal Open Market Committee of the Federal Reserve raised short-term interest rates for the first time in seven years. Committee members voted to raise the target federal funds rate to a range of 0.25 to 0.50 percent from a range of 0.00 to 0.25 percent to be effective December 17. The good news about the Fed’s decision is that the Central Bank had enough confidence in improving economic conditions to warrant its decision. But how will the Fed’s decision affect mortgage rates?

December’s FOMC statement cited improving job markets, increased consumer spending and declining unemployment as conditions supporting the Committee’s decision to raise the target federal funds rate. While inflation has not yet reached the Fed’s goal of two percent, FOMC members were confident that the economy would continue to expand at a moderate pace in spite of future rate increases. The FOMC said that the Central Bank’s monetary policy remained “accommodative.”

Little Impact Expected on Mortgage Rates after Fed Decision

The Fed’s decision to raise short-term rates likely won’t affect mortgage rates in a big way. The Washington Post quoted Doug Douglas, chief economist at Fannie Mae: “This one change, will in the larger scheme of things, will be unlikely to make a dramatic impact on what consumers will feel.”

Mortgage rates, which are connected to 10-year Treasury bonds, may not rise and could potentially fall. While the interest rate increase could increase yields on these bonds, analysts say that multiple factors impact 10-year Treasury bonds, so a rate increase is not set in stone for mortgage rates.

Rising Mortgage Rates Would Impact Affordability and Cost of Buying Homes

Higher mortgage rates could sideline some first-time and moderate income home buyers and would also increase the long-term cost of buying a home. Interest rates on vehicle loans and credit cards are more closely tied to the Fed rate and may rise according to current and future Fed rate hikes. Rising consumer interest rates indirectly impact housing markets as prospective home buyers face higher debt-to-income ratios caused by higher interest rates on car loans and credit card balances.

During a press conference following the Fed’s announcement, Fed Chair Janet Yellen emphasized that future rate increases would be “gradual.” Chair Yellen said that the Fed’s decision reflects the agency’s confidence in an economy that is on a path of “sustainable improvement.” When questioned about inflation rates, Chair Yellen said that the Fed will closely monitor both expected and actual changes in the inflation rate.

S&P Case-Shiller: September Home Prices Gain Across U.S.

SP CaseShiller September Home Prices Gain Across US

Home prices increased across the S&P Case Shiller 20-City Home Price Index in September. According to the 20-City Home Price Index, Year-over year home price gains increased to 5.50 percent from August’s reading of 5.10 percent. 17 cities posted higher year-over0year price gains in September as compared to August.

Western cities led price gains with San Francisco, California reclaiming its lead with a year-over-year gain of 11.20 percent in September. Denver, Colorado followed with a year-over-year gain of 10.90 percent and Portland, Oregon achieved the third highest year-over-year home price gain of 10.10 percent. Phoenix, Arizona had the longest consecutive run of year-over-year price gains for ten months and had a year-over-year gain of 5.30 percent.

Month-to Month Home Prices Indicate Stronger Housing Markets

After seasonal adjustment, the 20-City Home Price Index reported a month-to-month gain of 0.60 percent in September with home price gains in 19 cities. David M. Blitzer, Chairman of the S&P Indices Committee, said that home prices are growing at more than twice the rate of inflation. While this is good news for home sellers, it also means that home buyers are finding that home prices are rising faster than other economic sectors. Rising home prices present a challenge for first-time and moderate income home buyers. First-time buyers drive housing markets as their home purchases bring new demand into the market and allow current homeowners to move up to larger homes.

Mr. Blitzer also said that in spite of widespread media coverage of the Federal Reserve’s likely plan to raise its target federal funds rate from 0.00 to 0.250 percent to 0.25 to 0.50 percent in December, the increase in the federal funds rate should not cause an major rise in mortgage rates, which are expected to stay near 4.00 percent for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage.

Based on readings for national median income, median home price and average mortgage rates, Mr. Blitzer said that affordability for homeowners within the median income range who were buying median priced homes had “slipped recently.”

Year-end reports on housing markets and general economic conditions will likely cause adjustments to forecasts for home prices and affordability. Strong labor markets may improve affordability for home buyers and the actual impact of any Fed move to raise rates will influence housing markets and home prices in 2016.