FHFA House Price Index Rises for 14th Consecutive Quarter

FHFA House Price Index Rises for 14th Consecutive QuarterAccording to the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), U.S. home prices rose by 1.40 percent for the fourth quarter of 2014 and were up by 0.80 percent month-to-month from November. The seasonally adjusted FHFA House Price Index measures purchase transactions for homes connected with mortgages owned by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

FHFA also reported that home prices rose 4.9 percent year-over –year from the fourth quarter of 2013 to the fourth quarter of 2014. FHFA Chief Economist Andrew Leventis described the report for the last quarter of 2014 as “relatively strong” and also cited low inventories of available homes and improving labor markets as contributing to home price growth.

FHFA House Price Index Identifies Significant Trends

FHFA’s expanded house price data, which adds data from county records and the Federal Housing Administration, to the FHFA House Price Index, indicated that home prices grew by 1.30 percent in the fourth quarter; year-over-year home prices grew by 6.0 percent according to FHFA’s expanded house price data report.

According to purchase-only indexes for the 100 most populated metro areas, the San Francisco-Redwood City-south San Francisco, California metro area posted the highest rate of year-over-year home price gains at six percent for the fourth quarter of 2015. The lowest reading was for the El Paso, Texas, which posted a loss of 6.60 percent in the fourth quarter.

The mountain division of the nine U.S. Census divisions posted the highest annual home price growth at 5.50 percent and 1.40 percent in the fourth quarter. House price appreciation was weakest in the New England Division, where home prices fell by0.03 percent.

FHFA also reported that its “distress free” home price indexes which the agency publishes for 12 metro areas have shown less price appreciation than the FHFA purchase only Home Price Index. Distress-free means that foreclosed homes and short sales were not included in these index readings.

FHFA has expanded its home price reports with a set of reports based on three-digit zip codes. Sorting house price data by the first three digits of a zip code provides more specific data for regional home price trends; mortgage and real estate pros can find house price data for specific neighborhoods and communities. FHFA described its three-digit zip code reports as “experimental” at present.

 

Fed Not in a Hurry to Raise Rates: FOMC Meeting Minutes

Fed Not in a Hurry to Raise Rates FOMC Meeting Minutes

Minutes of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting held January 27 and 28 were released on Wednesday. According to the minute’s transcript, it appears that Fed policymakers are in no hurry to raise the target federal funds rate. Members said that raising rates too soon could swamp the strengthening economy and expressed concerns that changing the committee’s current “patient” stance on rising rates could cause more harm than good to current economic conditions.

FOMC members discussed the Fed’s use of the word “patient” in its guidance, and said that dropping the word could incorrectly suggest that the Fed is planning to act sooner than later on raising the Fed’s target interest rates, and could result in “undesirably tight” financial conditions. While a majority of members agreed on protecting current economic conditions by raising rates too soon, member viewpoints varied on which conditions would support the first rate hike.

Target Inflation Rate of Two Percent “Most Consistent” with Fed’s Statutory Mandate

According to the Federal Reserve’s statutory mandate supplied by Congress, the Fed seeks to provide maximum employment, price stability and moderate long-term interest rates. The Fed established a target inflation rate of 2.00percent as a benchmark for economic health, but inflation has remained consistently below the target rate according to the annualized index reading for personal consumption expenditures.

FOMC members did not set a target rate for annual unemployment; FOMC members cited unpredictable “non-monetary factors that affect the structure and dynamics of the labor market” as reasons why it’s impossible establish an accurate target percentage rate for national unemployment. The minutes caution that these factors are sufficiently unpredictable that they may cause the Fed to revise or reverse its policies concerning national unemployment readings.

Committee members noted that short-term fluctuations in the federal funds rate could be expected. The minutes indicated that in general, day-to-day fluctuations outside of the Fed’s target range were not surprising as historical data indicated that such changes had “few if any implications for overall financial conditions or the aggregate economy.”

FOMC members agreed that the economy had expanded at a solid pace, but noted that inflation had fallen due to rapid decreases in fuel prices.

Fed/FOMC Chair Janet Yellen did not hold a post-meeting press conference at the conclusion of January’s FOMC meeting; she is scheduled to hold a press conference at the conclusion of the next FOMC meeting on March 18, 2015.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – February 16, 2015

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week Feburary 16 2015

Last week’s economic news included an index of labor market conditions provided by the Federal Reserve, a report on small business sentiment, and a report from the Labor Department on job openings. Weekly jobless claims, Freddie Mac’s mortgage rates report and a report on Consumer Sentiment rounded out the week. The details:

Labor Market Conditions, Small Business Index Reports Fall

According to the January reading for a labor index report released by the Federal Reserve, labor market conditions declined from December’s reading of 7.3 to January’s reading of 4.9. This index is based on 19 economic indicators and January’s reading was the lowest since September. The National Foundation for Independent Business (NFIB) reported that its index of small business sentiment fell to 97.9 in January as compared to December’s reading of 100.4. Analysts said that this report reflected less optimism about business conditions and sales growth rather than concerns over spending and hiring plans.

In other labor–related news, the Labor Department reported that job openings rose to 5.03 million in December; this was 3.70 percent higher than November’s reading and represented a year-over-year increase in job openings of 28.50 percent. In contrast, all hiring for 2014 increased by 12.50 percent, which suggested that employers may be having trouble finding employees with needed job skills.

Jobless Claims Rise, but Four Week Average Shows Drop in New Claims

According to the Labor Department’s weekly Jobless Claims report, 304,000 new unemployment claims were filed, which once again positioned new jobless claims over the key benchmark of 300,000 new jobless claims filed. Analysts expected a reading of 296,000 new jobless claims based on the prior week’s reading of 279,000 new claims. To put this in perspective, new jobless claims have fallen by 3250 claims over the past four weeks to a reading of 289,750 new claims. Economists say that the four-week average is a more accurate measure of developing trends, as week-to-week readings can be volatile.

Mortgage Rates Rise

Last week’s only scheduled mortgage-related news was Freddie Mac’s weekly survey of average U.S. mortgage rates. Rates were higher with the average rate for a 30 year fixed rate mortgage higher by 10 basis points at 3.60 percent. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage rose by eight basis points to 2.99 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage jumped to 2.97 percent from the previous week’s average of 2.82 percent. Average discount points were 0.60 percent for 30 and 15-year fixed rate mortgages and averaged 0.50percent for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage.

February’s Consumer Sentiment Index dipped as fears of rising inflation caused consumer sentiment to dip from January’s reading of 98.1 and expectations of February’s reading at 98.5; unfortunately, February’s actual reading fell short at 93.6. February’s reading was a three-month low after January’s reading hit an 11-year high. Fears of growing inflation were noted as an influence on the drop in consumer sentiment; fuel prices are rising, which will contribute to rising inflation.

What’s Ahead

No economic reports were scheduled Monday due to the President’s Day holiday. The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) releases its housing market index report on Tuesday, Housing Starts will be released Wednesday along with the minutes of the most recent FOMC meeting. Weekly jobless claims, Freddie Mac’s mortgage rates survey and Leading Economic Indicators round out this week’s scheduled reports.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – February 9, 2015

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week Feburary 9 2015Last week’s economic news included construction spending, which fell shy of expectations but exceeded the prior month’s spending, and several consumer and labor-related reports. The details:

Mortgages More Accessible: Fed Survey

A Federal Reserve survey of senior loan officers at 73 U.S. banks and 23 branches of foreign banks indicated that mortgages may be more accessible. While banks eased credit standards for mortgages eligible for purchase by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, consumer demand for mortgages fell over the last three months. This seems puzzling given lower mortgage rates, but mortgage lending rules remain tough for borrowers with less than pristine credit.

Mortgage rates dropped last week according to Freddie Mac. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was 3.59 percent with discount points higher at 0.70 percent. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage was seven basis points lower at 2.92 percent with discount points higher at 0.60 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was four basis points lower at 2.82 percent with discount points unchanged at 0.40 percent.

Lower mortgage rates are great news for home buyers and homeowners seeking to refinance, but only if mortgage loans are available.

Construction Spending Higher, Consumer Spending Drops, Inflation Stalls

According to the Department of Commerce, Construction Spending rose by 0.40 percent in December against November’s reading of -0.20 percent and expectations of 0.70 percent growth. December’s reading represented $981.2 billion in construction spending on a seasonally-adjusted annual basis. Residential construction rose by 0.30 percent.

Consumer spending fell by -0.30 percent and was consistent with analysts’ expectations. This was the highest month-to-month drop in consumer spending since September 2009. Consumers spent less on vehicles and fuel. Lower fuel prices were seen as the driving force behind less consumer spending. Core personal expenditures did not increase in December. Core inflation, which excludes volatile food and energy sectors, was well below the Fed’s target annual inflation rate of 2.00 percent with a reading of 1.30 percent year-over-year.

Labor Reports: Mixed Signals

Weekly jobless claims rose to 278,000 against the prior week’s reading of 267,000 new jobless claims, but claims were lower than the expected reading of 290,000 new jobless claims. Nonfarm payrolls for January were higher in January at 257,000 jobs added. Analysts expected only 230,000 new jobs added in January based on December’s reading of 267,000 jobs added.

ADP Payrolls reported 213,000 private sector jobs added in January against December’s reading of 253,000 private sector jobs added. January’s lower reading is likely based on seasonal hiring during the holiday season. National Unemployment rose from December’s reading of 5.60 percent to 5.70 percent. In recent months national unemployment rates have fallen below the Fed’s target reading of 6.50 percent.

What’s Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic reports include data on retail sales, job openings, labor market conditions and weekly reports on new jobless claims and Freddie Mac’s survey of mortgage rates.

 

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – January 20, 2015

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week January 20 2015Last week’s scheduled economic news was mixed. Job openings increased and jobless claims increased, and consumer sentiment rose. Mortgage rates fell across the board. Labor market conditions improved and consumer prices fell in large part due to decreasing fuel prices. The details:

Labor Market Conditions Index Suggests Stronger Economy, Jobless Claims Jump

Positive labor market ratings continued to show evidence of strengthening economic conditions. The Federal Reserve’s Labor Market Conditions Index rose from November’s revised reading of 5.50 to December’s reading of 6.10. This index measures 19 economic indicators and rose well above its median reading of 1.90. November’s reading was the highest since May.

The Fed does not comment on month-to-month readings for this index. Job openings increased from November’s reading of 4.80 million to December’s reading of 5.00 million in according to the federal government.

Weekly Jobless Claims jumped to 316,000 as compared to the expected reading of 295,000 new claims and the prior week’s reading of 297,000 new jobless claims. Analysts said that some volatility in new unemployment claims are expected in the aftermath of the holiday season and noted that the latest reading was the highest since September.

Mortgage Rates, Retail Sales Fall

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 3.66 percent; the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage also fell seven basis points to 2.98 percent. The average rate for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages dropped by eight basis points from 2.98 to 2.08 percent.

Discount points for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage were unchanged at 0.60 percent, while average discount points for a 16-year mortgage dropped to 0.50 percent from the prior week’s reading of 0.60 percent. Discount points for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages averaged 0.40 percent as compared to the prior week’s average of 0.50 percent. Lower mortgage rates help increase affordability and support home purchases by first-time and moderate income homebuyers.

Retail Sales for December dropped by -0.90 percent against expectations of -0.20 percent and November’s reading of +0.40 percent. December’s reading for retail sales except autos was lower by-0.10 percent as expected against November’s reading of +0.40 percent.

Last week ended on a positive note with the January reading for the Consumer Sentiment Index beating the expected reading of 95.0 with a reading of 98.20. December’s reading was 93.60.

What’s Ahead

This week’s economic reports include the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Housing Market Index, Housing Starts, The National Association of Realtors® Existing Home Sales report, FHFA Home Prices and Leading Economic Indicators. Freddie Mac’s mortgage rates reports and weekly jobless claims will be released as usual.

 

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – January 20, 2015

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week January 20 2015Last week’s scheduled economic news was mixed. Job openings increased and jobless claims increased, and consumer sentiment rose. Mortgage rates fell across the board. Labor market conditions improved and consumer prices fell in large part due to decreasing fuel prices. The details:

Labor Market Conditions Index Suggests Stronger Economy, Jobless Claims Jump

Positive labor market ratings continued to show evidence of strengthening economic conditions. The Federal Reserve’s Labor Market Conditions Index rose from November’s revised reading of 5.50 to December’s reading of 6.10. This index measures 19 economic indicators and rose well above its median reading of 1.90. November’s reading was the highest since May.

The Fed does not comment on month-to-month readings for this index. Job openings increased from November’s reading of 4.80 million to December’s reading of 5.00 million in according to the federal government.

Weekly Jobless Claims jumped to 316,000 as compared to the expected reading of 295,000 new claims and the prior week’s reading of 297,000 new jobless claims. Analysts said that some volatility in new unemployment claims are expected in the aftermath of the holiday season and noted that the latest reading was the highest since September.

Mortgage Rates, Retail Sales Fall

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 3.66 percent; the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage also fell seven basis points to 2.98 percent. The average rate for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages dropped by eight basis points from 2.98 to 2.08 percent.

Discount points for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage were unchanged at 0.60 percent, while average discount points for a 16-year mortgage dropped to 0.50 percent from the prior week’s reading of 0.60 percent. Discount points for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages averaged 0.40 percent as compared to the prior week’s average of 0.50 percent. Lower mortgage rates help increase affordability and support home purchases by first-time and moderate income homebuyers.

Retail Sales for December dropped by -0.90 percent against expectations of -0.20 percent and November’s reading of +0.40 percent. December’s reading for retail sales except autos was lower by-0.10 percent as expected against November’s reading of +0.40 percent.

Last week ended on a positive note with the January reading for the Consumer Sentiment Index beating the expected reading of 95.0 with a reading of 98.20. December’s reading was 93.60.

What’s Ahead

This week’s economic reports include the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Housing Market Index, Housing Starts, The National Association of Realtors® Existing Home Sales report, FHFA Home Prices and Leading Economic Indicators. Freddie Mac’s mortgage rates reports and weekly jobless claims will be released as usual.

 

FOMC Statement: No Year-End Surprises

You Ask, We Answer: How to Choose Between Expanding Your Current Home and Buying a New OneThe Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) said in its last statement for 2014 that although economic conditions have improved at a moderate pace, the Fed believes that the target federal funds rate of between 0.00 and 0.25 percent remains “appropriate.” While labor markets show expanding job growth and lower unemployment rates, FOMC members noted that housing markets are recovering slowly.

Inflation remains below the committee’s target rate of two percent; this was attributed to lower fuel costs. Household income and business investment were seen as increasing, and the underutilization of workforce resources was described as “diminishing.” These developments indicate better economic conditions for consumers, business and job seekers, as employers picked up the pace of hiring.

Target Fed Funds Rate Unchanged

No year-end changes in monetary policy were made; the Fed issued its usual statement that developing economic conditions would guide the Committee’s decisions concerning the target federal funds rate. The FOMC statement said that changes could be made according to progress toward or away from achieving the Fed’s dual mandate of maximum employment and price stability. No specific date was given for raising the target federal funds rate. The FOMC statement noted that no change is likely as long as the inflation rate remains below the Fed’s longer-term target of two percent.

The FOMC statement was followed by a press conference given by Janet Yellen, fed chair and Chair of the FOMC. 

Fed Chair: Oil Price Influence on Inflation “Transitory” 

Janet Yellen, chair of the Federal Reserve and FOMC, said that she expects lower oil prices to be a transitory influence on inflation, which continues to run lower than the Fed’s target rate of two percent. Media representatives noted that Chair Yellen replaced the phrase “considerable time” with “patient” in reference to when the Fed might raise the target federal funds rate.

Ms. Yellen said that the gross domestic product (GDP) had increased by 2.50 percent over the prior four quarters ending with the third quarter of 2014, and said that the economy continues to grow at approximately the same pace. Concerning falling inflation, Ms. Yellen said that she expected the inflation rate to increase after transitory influences including oil prices dissipate. The Fed Chair said that she perceived lower oil prices to be a positive development for the U.S. economy on net.

In response to questions about when the Fed would raise the target federal funds rate, Chair Yellen said that it would likely occur sometime in 2015 and also mentioned “sometime after the next couple of FOMC meetings. This suggests that mid 2015 may bring a change, but Ms. Yellen repeated the Fed’s oft-stated position that continual review of economic conditions and developing trends would impact any decision to change or not change the federal funds rate.

Federal Open Market Committee, Fed Chair: No Rush to Raise Rates

Federal Open Market Committee Fed Chair No Rush to Raise Rates Wednesday’s customary post-meeting statement issued by the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) of the Federal Reserve provided some relief to investors and analysts concerned that the Fed may soon raise its target federal funds rate. The target federal funds rate has held steady at between 0.00 and 0.25 percent since the inception of the Fed’s current quantitative easing program. The FOMC statement indicated that the committee does not expect to raise the target federal funds rate until the Fed’s dual mandate of maximum employment and reaching its target inflation rate is achieved.

FOMC members don’t expect the wind-down of scheduled securities purchases under the quantitative easing program to cause long-term interest rates to rise quickly. The FOMC statement indicates that the Fed expects its current holdings and acquisitions of securities to hold down long-term interest rates and help with achieving the Fed’s dual mandate of achieving maximum employment and 2.00 percent inflation. As in past meetings, the FOMC statement asserted the committee’s dedication to reading and researching economic and financial reports and repeated that Fed policy is not contingent on a predetermined course, but that FOMC members make decisions based on current economic trends and developing domestic and global events.

FOMC members also re-asserted their position that after employment and inflation achieve levels consistent with the Fed’s dual mandate, the Fed will likely maintain the target federal funds rate at lower levels than the committee considers normal for “some time.”

Fed Chair Janet Yellen provided further insight into Fed policy during a press conference given after the FOMC statement. She also said that the FOMC’s view of current economic conditions has not changed over the past few months. Chair Yellen also said that the committee expects to maintain the current target federal funds rate for a “considerable time” after asset purchases under the QE 3 program cease.

Fed Chair Yellen: Gaps Between Current Data and Fed’s Mandate Shrink Modestly

In a press conference given after the FOMC policy statement was released, Fed Chair Janet Yellen emphasized that the committee’s discussions did not imply any near-term changes to the target federal funds rate. Chair Yellen cited gaps between current unemployment rates and the Fed’s mandate of achieving maximum employment and the current inflation rate and the Fed’s target inflation rate of 2.00 percent as major considerations in forming current Fed policy. She said that the respective gaps had narrowed “modestly,” and again emphasized the Fed’s commitment to constant review of economic and financial data as a significant factor in its decisions to change monetary policy.

Ms. Yellen cautioned media representatives and analysts to avoid making economic projections too far into the future and pointed out that longer term predictions are subject to more variables. Chair Yellen also cautioned press conference attendees not to consider anything in the FOMC statement or her press conference to a definite time frame.

Media reps continued to press for definite dates and time projections, but Chair Yellen held fast to the Fed’s often-repeated position that policy changes cannot be set by a calendar and also depend on economic trends and news that influence the Fed’s monetary policies.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – Aug 11, 2014

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week Aug 11 2014

Last week’s housing related news was minimal, but a Federal Reserve survey of senior loan officers revealed that although credit standards for commercial and industrial loans as well as credit cards are easing, current mortgage credit standards are more stringent than in 2005. This could be a contributing factor to slowing housing market gains while other sectors of the economy are recovering at a faster pace.

Qualified Mortgage Rules Impact Non-Conforming Mortgages

The Senior Loan Officers survey also noted that qualified mortgage rules have slowed approval of prime jumbo mortgages and non-traditional home loans. This suggests that applicants falling outside of stringent qualified mortgage rules can expect challenges when buying or refinancing their homes.

In other housing news, Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey reported that last week’s mortgage rates were mixed. Mortgage rates for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage averaged 4.14 percent with discount points of 0.70 percent against last week’s reading of 4.12 percent with discount points of 0.60 percent. 15-year mortgage rates averaged 3.27 percent with discount points of 0.60 percent. This was an increase of four basis points, although discount points fell from 0.70 percent to 0.60 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was 2.98 percent, a drop of two basis points, with discount points unchanged at 0.50 percent.

Fewer Jobless Claims, Service-Related Business Growth Exceeds Expectations 

The weekly Jobless Claims report brought a lower than expected reading of 289,000 new claims as compared to predictions of 305,000 new jobless claims. In other economic news, the Institute for Service Management (ISM) reported that its non-manufacturing index rose from June’s reading of 56.00 percent to 58.70 percent in July. Analysts had forecasted July’s reading at 56.50 percent. July’s reading represented the highest growth rate for service-related businesses since 2005.

According to the Department of Commerce, June factory orders rose by 1.10 percent over May’s reading of -0.60 percent against an expected reading of 0.60 percent. As business expands and factory orders increase, it’s likely that jobs and hiring will also grow. Steady employment is a compelling factor for most home buyers and positive reports in labor and industrial sectors could boost housing markets as more buyers increase demand for homes.

What’s Ahead

Next week’s economic reports include retail sales, retail sales excluding automotive, industrial production and the weekly reports on mortgage rates and new jobless claims. While there isn’t much housing news expected next week, readings in other economic sectors can suggest potential trends in housing markets

FOMC Minutes: Committee Discusses “Normalizing” Policy

FOMC Minutes: Committee Discusses “Normalizing” PolicyApril’s meeting of the Fed’s Federal Open Market Committee was held along with the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.

Meeting minutes released Wednesday indicated the committee’s interest in “normalizing” its monetary policy. This included the FOMC’s ongoing commitment to tapering its asset purchases under its quantitative easing program.

The committee agreed to taper the Fed’s monthly asset purchases by $10 billion to $45 billion per month. Committee members discussed raising the target federal funds rate, which now stands at 0.00 to 0.25 percent, but the minutes clearly stated that this topic was undertaken as part of “prudent planning, and did not indicate that normalization would necessarily begin sometime soon.”

The FOMC minutes reflected the committee’s concern with achieving a balance between normalizing the Fed’s monetary policy and keeping short-term interest rates under control.

Meeting attendees considered methods for managing interest rates and considered potential impact of each method discussed on overall financial stability.

Importance Of Early Communication

Meeting participants discussed the importance of early communication of pending changes to the Fed’s monetary policy, and agreed that advising the public “well before the first steps in normalizing policy become appropriate.”

Early communication to the public of planned changes was viewed as a means of providing clarity and credibility to FOMC policy decisions and help FOMC achieve its statutory goals of maximum employment, stable pricing and moderate long term interest rates.

Potential Impact Of Achieving Normalcy

 FOMC members discussed the possible impact of tools considered for use in normalizing the economy on the following:

  • Fed control over short-term interest rates
  • The Fed’s balance sheet and Treasury remittances
  • Functionality of Federal Funds Market
  • Financial stability in normal times and times of stress

The minutes noted that the Fed has never used any of the methods discussed while the Fed held a large balance sheet, and recommended that flexibility in using tools for achieving normal fiscal policy.

No decision was made about normalizing current monetary policy; FOMC and Fed Board members agreed that further study and analysis were needed before any decisions would be made.

Fed: Mortgage And Refinance Applications “Tepid”

The FOMC minutes characterized the level of mortgage and refinance applications through March as tepid, due to increasing mortgage rates and home prices.

While a survey of senior loan officers revealed that mortgage credit had been loosened for applicants with prime credit, mortgage credit remained tight for those with less than excellent credit.

The unemployment rate held steady at 6.70 percent and remained above the FOMC’s benchmark of 6.50 percent. There was some good news as the workforce expanded and the ranks of the long-term unemployed decreased.

Stable employment is important to potential home buyers; if unemployment levels continue to fall, numbers of home buyers are likely to increase.