FOMC Minutes: Rate Hike May be Near

FOMC Minutes Rate Hike May be NearThe minutes for the most recent meeting of the Federal Reserve’s Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) suggest that while committee members won’t specify a date, a rate hike could come sooner than later. Committee members continue to cite concerns over labor markets and other economic factors, but the minutes of the FOMC meeting held July 28 and 29 indicate that a majority of members see a rate change as likely in the near term.

Economic Conditions “Approaching” Readiness for Rate Hike

According to the minutes released Wednesday, the time for raising rates is not hear yet, but a majority of FOMC members feel that the time is approaching when economic conditions will warrant an increase of the target federal funds rate which is currently set at 0.00 to 0.25 percent. When the Fed increases this rate, consumer loan rates including mortgage rates are expected to increase as well.

Achieving maximum employment is one of the Fed’s mandates; labor markets continue to improve as the national unemployment achieved its lowest reading for 2015 as of June, but labor force participation and the unemployment to population ratio have also declined. On a positive note, the number of part-time workers was lower and under-utilization of workers was lower than since the beginning of the year.

Committee members continued to have varied opinions about whether employment rates are low enough to indicate that the Fed’s mandate of “maximum” employment had been achieved.

Inflation remains below the 2.00 percent medium-term goal set by the Fed. FOMC members have consistently indicated that they don’t expect to see inflation achieve the target rate in the near term.

Housing Markets Show Improvement

The minutes noted that while construction of new homes declined in June, new starts increased over the second quarter. Sales of new homes were lower in June, but sales of existing homes increased. Building permits issued suggest the rate of construction is stable but little changed. Pending home sales were stable and suggest little change in completed home sales in the near term.

A jump in multifamily building permits were attributed to an expiring tax credit date, but housing analysts have repeatedly cited the millennial generation as preferring to live and work in large metro areas where housing can be out of reach for all but the top tier of earners. In other economic sectors, the minutes said that auto loans and student loans continued to grow.

The FOMC minutes indicate the same position of FOMC members in recent months; while the national unemployment rate is low, the Fed does not expect to see inflation at the agency’s target rate of 2.00 percent immediately. Committee members note that they will continue to monitor domestic and global financial conditions as part of the fact-finding process necessary for deciding when to the federal target funds rate,

Speculation over when the Fed will move to raise rates has persisted for several months and will no doubt continue until the Fed does decide to raise rates.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – August 10, 2015

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week August 10 2015This week’s scheduled economic news includes reports on construction spending, a survey of senior loan officers, and reports on labor markets including ADP private sector jobs, the federal government’s reports on non-farm payrolls, core inflation and the national unemployment rate.

Construction Spending Slows, Loan Officers Survey Suggests Growing Confidence

Construction spending fell in June after the May reading was revised upward to 1.89 percent from the original reading of 0.90 percent. Spending for residential construction rose by 0.40 percent, while non-residential construction spending remained flat. The seasonally-adjusted annual outlay for construction was $1.06 billion in June.

Analysts continue to note a trend toward construction of smaller residential units including condominiums and apartments, with an emphasis on rental properties. This supports reports that would-be homebuyers are taking a wait-and-see stance to see how factors including rising home prices, fluctuating mortgage rates and labor market conditions perform.

According to a survey of senior loan officers conducted by the Federal Reserve, mortgage lenders reported that mortgage applications increased during the second quarter and indicating that financial constraints on consumers may be easing. According to the survey of 71 domestic banks and 23 foreign-owned banks, 44 percent of respondents reported moderate increases in loan applications, while only 5 percent of survey participants reported fewer loan applications.

Some banks surveyed reported easing mortgage approval standards, but fewer lenders eased standards than in the first quarter. Further supporting growing confidence among lenders, the Fed survey also reported that large banks were easing consumer credit standards for auto loans and credit cards.

Mortgage Rates Fall, Jobless Claims Rise

Freddie Mac reported that average mortgage rates fell across the board last week with the average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage lower by seven basis points to 3.91 percent; the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage fell by four basis points to 3.13 percent, and the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was unchanged at 2.95 percent. Discount points for all loan types were unchanged at 0.60 percent for 30 and 15-year fixed rate mortgages and 0.40 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

Weekly jobless claims rose from the prior week’s reading of 268,000 new claims to 270,000 new claims, which matched analysts’ expectations. In other labor-related news, the government reported a national unemployment rate of 5.30 percent in July; this was unchanged from June’s reading.

The ADP employment report for July showed fewer jobs were available in the private sector. June’s reading showed that private sector jobs grew by 229,000 jobs; July’s reading fell to 185,000 private sector jobs. According to July’s Non-farm Payrolls report, 215,000 new jobs were added in July as compared to expectations of 220,000 jobs added and June’s reading of 231,000 new jobs added.

The Federal Reserve’s Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) is closely monitoring job growth and inflation rates as it contemplates raising the target federal funds rate. Core inflation grew by 0.10 percent in June; which was consistent with May’s reading and expectations. The FOMC recently cited the committee’s concerns about labor markets and lagging inflation. The Fed has set an annual growth rate of 1.65 percent for inflation for the medium term; this benchmark is part of what the Fed will consider in any decision to raise rates.

What’s Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic reports include reports on retail sales and consumer sentiment in addition to usual weekly reports on mortgage rates and new jobless claims.

 

 

Federal Reserve FOMC Announcement

Federal Reserve FOMC AnnouncementThe stage was set in high suspense for FOMC’s post-meeting announcement on Wednesday. As fall approaches, analysts and the media are looking for any sign of when and how much the Fed will raise its target federal funds rate. According to CNBC, some analysts were projecting two interest rate hikes before year end, but the truth of the matter remains unknown until the Federal Open Market Committee announces its intentions.

Meanwhile, reports of what Fed rate hikes will mean for consumers were released prior to the FOMC statement. Real estate analyst Mark Hanson said that a rate hike would “crush” housing markets, which continue to improve slowly in spite of the current 0.00 to 0.25 percent federal funds rate.

Last Friday’s report on June sales of new homes shows unpredictable progress in housing. Analysts estimated that new home sales would reach 550,000 units based on May’s reading of 517,000 new homes sold. June’s reading came in at 482,000 units sold.

FOMC Statement: Current Federal Funds Rate “Remains Appropriate”

The Federal Open Market Committee of the Federal Reserved announced as part of its post-meeting statement that it would not immediately increase the federal funds rate. The FOMC statement cited concerns over the inflation rate, which remains below the Fed’s goal of 2.00 percent. According to the statement, the FOMC will not move to raise the federal funds rate until the committee is “reasonably confident” that inflation will achieve the committee’s goal of 2.00 percent over the medium term.

No prospective dates for raising the target federal funds rate were given. The FOMC statement repeated language included in previous statements indicating that committee members anticipate that economic events could further postpone increases in the federal funds rate. The FOMC statement asserted that committee members continue to monitor domestic and global financial and economic developments as part of the decision-making process for raising the target federal funds rate.

FOMC members agreed that policy accommodation may be required “for some time” after the committee’s dual mandate of maximum employment and 2.00 percent inflation have been achieved. This suggests that FOMC members are not in a hurry to boost rates when economic uncertainty remains.

In terms of housing markets, the Fed’s decision not to raise rates likely caused a sigh of relief as rate increase would have caused consumer interest rates including mortgage rates to rise.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – July 13, 2015

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week July 13 2015Last week’s scheduled economic events were few due to the Independence Day holiday. Freddie Mac’s weekly survey of mortgage rates brought good news as mortgage rates fell across the board. The Federal Reserve released the minutes of its most recent Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting and weekly jobless claims rose.

Job Openings Rise to Highest Level Since 2000

The Labor Department reported that U.S. job openings rose from April’s reading of 5.33 million to 5.36 million job openings in May. This was the highest reading for job openings since the report’s inception in 2000. Private sector job openings rose to 4.85 million, an increase of 16 percent. Government jobs rose increased by 511,000 open jobs from April’s reading of 430,000 job openings. Based on the Labor Department’s report of 8.67 million unemployed workers, there were 1.60 job seekers for each job opening in May as compared to 2.10 job seekers for each job available in May 2014. There were approximately 1.80 job seekers for each job available when the recession started in December 2007.

FOMC Minutes: Fed Issues No Firm Date for Raising Rates

On Wednesday, the Federal Reserve released the minutes of June’s FOMC meeting, during which nine of ten committee members indicated that they were not ready to raise the federal funds rate. One FOMC member indicated that they were willing to wait for another meeting or two to raise rates. While FOMC has hinted at the likelihood of raising rates this fall, committee members are wary of moving too quickly and cited developments in China and Greece as concerns that contributed to the committee’s current wait and see position. When the Fed does raise its target rates from 0.00 percent, consumers can expect higher mortgage and loan rates.

Freddie Mac: Mortgage Rates Fall, Jobless Claims Rise

Mortgage rates fizzled last week with Freddie Mac reporting average rates lower for all types of mortgages. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was four basis points lower at 4.04 percent and discount points unchanged at 0.60 percent; the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage was also four basis points lower at 3.20 percent. Average discount points for a 15-year mortgage fell from 0.60 to 0.50 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage fell by six basis points to 2.93 percent with discount points unchanged at 0.40 percent.

According to the Labor Department, weekly jobless claims rose to 297,000 new claims filed as compared to 282,000 new claims filed the previous week. There were no estimates for last week’s jobless claims due to the holiday.

What’s Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic reports include Retail Prices, Retail Prices Except Automotive and the NAHB Housing Market Index. The Commerce Department is set to release monthly readings for Housing Starts and Building Permits. In addition to Freddie Mac’s report on mortgage rates and the Labor Department’s report on new jobless claims, the University of Michigan will wrap up the week with its Consumer Sentiment report.

Federal Reserve: No Change on Target Fed Funds Rate

Federal Reserve: No Change on Target Fed Funds RateThe Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) of the Federal Reserve did not move to increase the Fed’s target federal funds rate, which is currently 0.00 to 0.250 percent. Although the committee acknowledged further progress toward achieving the Federal Reserve’s dual goal of maximum employment and an inflation rate of two percent, committee members indicated that they want to see further improvements in both areas before raising the federal funds rate.

In its customary post meeting statement, the FOMC said that it may not raise rates when both goals have been achieved. This statement may have been meant to calm ongoing speculation that the Fed will soon raise rates. The statement also said that FOMC members may “elect to keep the target federal funds rate below levels the committee considers normal in the longer term.” This stance suggests that the Fed wants to be very sure that economic improvement is on a solid track before it raises rates.

The statement further indicated that the FOMC is not completely influenced by the Fed’s goals of maximum employment and two percent inflation; instead, the committee said that it will consider ongoing domestic and global news and economic reports along with readings on financial and economic developments as part of its decision to raise or not raise the target federal funds rate.

Analyst reactions to the decision not to raise rates suggests that the Fed is likely to raise rates at its September meeting and possibly again in December.

Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s Press Conference

Fed Chair Janet Yellen gave a scheduled press conference after the FOMC statement was issued and answered questions on a variety of topics. Ms. Yellen noted that retiring baby boomers are expected to take up slack in employment lags; as boomers retire, they drop out of the work force and reduce the number of people actively seeking employment.

Ms. Yellen also noted that when the Fed does raise rates, seniors and retirees could benefit from higher yields on savings.

In response to questions about when the Fed will raise its target federal funds rate, the Fed Chair said that the Fed has not decided when to raise rates and said that unfolding economic developments would play a role when the Fed does decide to raise rates.

Ms. Yellen encouraged emphasis on when the Fed will make its first rate hike. She recommended focusing on “the entire trajectory” of rate increases, which some analysts took to mean don’t panic about the first rate increase.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – May 18, 2015

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week May 18 2015Last week’s economic reports included data from the Federal Reserve on student loan debt, job openings and retail sales. Weekly jobless claims and Freddie Mac’s survey of average mortgage rates were released as usual on Thursday. A report on consumer sentiment wrapped up the week’s scheduled economic new.

Federal Reserve: Student Loan Borrowers Struggle with Payments 

In two reports issued by the New York and St. Louis branches of the Federal Reserve, researchers found that high numbers of student loan borrowers are behind in making payments. According to the New York Fed, 11.10 percent of student loan borrowers were 90 or more days past due on their payments during the first quarter of 2015.

This is a slight improvement over the fourth quarter of 2014, when 11.30 percent of student loan borrowers were 90 or more days behind with their payments. The Fed notes that these percentages do not include borrowers who are behind on payments but who are not required to make payments due to forbearance or other approved payment deferrals. 

The burden of student loan debt is a serious consideration for the housing sector, as student loan debt can keep would-be buyers from qualifying for mortgages needed to buy homes. Worse, delinquency on student loans can damage borrowers’ credit and create further obstacles to getting a mortgage.

Job Openings, Retail Sales Lower

The Labor Department reported that job openings fell to 4.99 million in March as compared to February’s reading of 5.14 million job openings. March job openings increased by 19 percent year-over-year. There were about 1.72 job seekers for each job opening in March, which is lower than the reading of 1.77 job seekers per job when the recession started in December 2007.

Retail sales were unchanged in April against an expected increase of 0.10 percent and the March reading of 1.10 percent. Retail sales without the automotive sector expanded by 0.10 percent against expectations of 0.40 percent growth and March growth of 0.70 percent. Increasing fuel prices and skepticism over economic conditions likely contributed to slack retail sales.

Mortgage Rates Mixed, Jobless Claims Lower

Weekly jobless claims provided some good news as they came in at 264,000 new claims against expectations of 275,000 new claims and the prior week’s reading of 265,000 new jobless claims. This was the third consecutive week that new jobless claims were less than 270,000; this has not occurred since 1975.

Freddie Mac reported that average rates for fixed rate mortgages rose, while the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage ticked downward by one basis point. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage rose by five basis points to 3.85 percent. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage also increased by five basis points to 3.07 percent. Discount points averaged 0.60 percent for fixed rate mortgages and 0.50 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

Consumer sentiment as reported by the University of Michigan dropped to a seven month low of 88.6 as compared to April’s reading of 95.9 and an expected reading of 94.9. Consumers are concerned about the economy and their personal finances. The reading for consumer sentiment prior to the recession averaged 86.9 over the year prior to the recession. Economists cited weak wage growth and rising fuel prices as contributing causes of consumer uncertainty.

What’s Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic news includes a number of housing-related reports. The NAHB Home Builders Housing Market Index, The National Association of Realtors® Existing Home Sales report, Housing Starts and Building Permits and the minutes of the Fed’s last FOMC meeting are set for release. Freddie Mac mortgage rates and Weekly Jobless Claims will be released as usual on Thursday.

 

 

Home Builder Confidence Rises in April

Home Builder Confidence Rises in AprilThe National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) reported that April’s Housing Market Index rose from a reading of 52 in March to 56 for April. This is in line with warmer weather and the peak home buying season in spring and summer. Readings over 50 indicate that more builders view market conditions as positive as those who do not. NAHB members cited lower mortgage rates and better labor market conditions as reasons they expect more home buyers to enter the market.

All Components of Builder Confidence Increase

The NAHB Home Builder Index is calculated from three components. The reading for confidence in current housing market conditions rose from 58 in March to 61 in April. Builder confidence for sales condition in the next six months rose from a reading of 59 to 64, which was the highest reading for 2015 so far.

Home builder confidence in buyer foot traffic moved from 37 to a reading of 41 in April. Lingering winter weather likely kept house hunters indoors in many areas. NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe said that the uptick in the NAHB Housing Market Index indicates that housing market conditions can be expected to improve throughout 2015.

Regional Housing Results Mixed, Fed Beige Book Cites Winter Weather

NAHB measures regional changes in housing markets on a three-month rolling average. April’s results were mixed.

Builder confidence in the southern region increased from 55 to 56 in April. The northwestern region was unchanged from March to April at 42. Builder confidence in Midwestern housing markets fell by two points from 56 to 54. The western region saw builder confidence fall three points from the March reading of 61 to April’s reading of 58.

In an unrelated report, the Federal Reserve also released its Beige Book report which is a collection of anecdotes from business contacts throughout the nation. Winter weather conditions were prominently mentioned in the Beige Book report and were seen as detrimental for housing conditions.

The Beige Book report also mentioned layoffs caused by low oil and gas prices. This could negatively influence housing market conditions in regions where oil and gas provide many jobs and contribute to local economies.

FOMC Minutes: Housing Market Stable But Slow

FOMC Minutes: Housing Market Stable But SlowThe minutes of the March meeting of the Fed’s Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) were released Tuesday and included a staff review of current economic conditions. The minutes noted that while labor markets continued to grow, inflation to the Fed’s target rate of 2.00 percent was impeded by dropping fuel prices. The Committee noted that expectations for longer-term inflation remained stable.

Non-farm payrolls, which include both private and public sector jobs, grew in January and February and the national unemployment rate reached a new low of 5.50 percent in February. Readings for workers employed part time due to economic reasons edged down and workforce participation was up.

These developments are noteworthy as in recent months analysts have repeatedly cited concerns over the numbers of workers who have stopped looking for work and those who work part time because they cannot find full-time employment. Meeting participants said that underutilization of labor resources “continued to diminish,” but also said that levels for those involuntarily working part-time and still elevated numbers of workers no longer seeking employment.

Personal consumption expenditures slowed in the first quarter due to falling fuel prices and winter weather conditions. Households had more disposable income and household wealth increased due to increasing home values. The Committee said that consumer sentiment was near pre-recession levels according to the University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment survey.

Fed Says Housing Activity “Slow,” No Decision on Raising Fed Funds Rate

The FOMC minutes reflect the committee’s view that housing markets are performing at a slower rate than other economic sectors. The minutes said that building permits and housing starts for single family homes were lower in January and February. Sales of new and existing homes were down in January, but pending home sales rose. This suggests that while markets slowed (as they typically do) during winter, pending sales suggest that completed sales will recover in the late winter and early spring.

The FOMC minutes noted that mortgage credit remained challenging for those in the lower portion of the credit score distribution, but said that the cost of mortgages was historically low for those who qualified for home loans.

The Committee also addressed the likelihood of raising the Federal Funds rate in its usual non-definitive manner. While raising the rate at the next meeting seemed unlikely, committee members wanted the flexibility to raise the target federal funds rate when conditions warrant. The target rate is currently set at 0.00 to 0.25 percent; when the FOMC moves to raise the target federal funds rate, the cost of credit including mortgage loans can be expected to increase.

FOMC Statement: Federal Reserve Discusses Rate Increase, but Concerned About Growth

FOMC Statement: Federal Reserve Discusses Rate Increase, but Concerned About GrowthThe post-meeting statement of the Federal Reserve’s Federal Open Market Committee indicated that while the Fed is considering raising its target rate as early as June, the agency is in no hurry to cast anything in cement. The statement cited stronger labor markets and low unemployment rates as encouraging, but noted that FOMC members remain concerned about economic growth due to low inflation failing to meet the FOMC goal of two percent.

15 of 17 Federal Open Market Committee members said that they expected interest rates to increase before year-end, but downwardly revised forecasts of how high rates might be raised. Committee members further expressed concerns about economic growth and inflation, which is likely to impact Federal Reserve decisions about raising interest rates or not.

Economic Growth, Inflation Slower than Expected

The FOMC statement noted that economic growth has “moderated somewhat”, which was less enthusiastic than in January, when the Fed noted solid economic growth. The Fed revised its projections for the national unemployment rate from December’s expected range of 5.20 to 5.50 percent to 5.00 percent to 5.20 percent.

The target federal funds rate remains at a range of 0.00 to 0.250 percent and is expected to increase to 0.625 percent by year-end, and forecasted to reach 0.875 percent by the end of 2016. The target rate is expected to rise to 1.25 percent at the end of 2017.
Raising the target federal funds rate would impact mortgage rates, rates on vehicle loans and corporate loans. As the cost of loans rises, and wages stay relatively flat, consumers will have less cash for discretionary spending and may put off buying homes and purchasing big-ticket items that require financing.

Fed Chair Says Fed Isn’t “Impatient” about Raising Rates

After the FOMC statement was issued, Fed Chair Janet Yellen gave a press conference. Asked about the FOMC removing the word “patient” from its description of the committee’s attitude about raising the target federal funds rate, Chair Yellen said that removing the word patient does not mean that FOMC members are impatient about deciding when to move on interest rates.

Chair Yellen reiterated what’s she has said many times in recent FOMC statements and press conferences, that although the committee may project when it will raise rates, the decision will be based on incoming economic data.

In her opening remarks, Chair Yellen said that when the Fed does raise its target interest rate, the FOMC will retain a “highly accommodative” stance in line with the FOMC’s dual mandate of achieving maximum employment and a target inflation rate of 2.00 percent.

All in all, this FOMC statement and Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s press conference revealed no great changes in the Fed’s stated policy over the last several months. While low unemployment rates are prompting the Fed to consider raising the federal funds rate, no date for doing so has been set; the agency will provide plenty of advance notice before it raises rates and in the meantime will closely monitor domestic and global financial and economic developments for guidance in deciding when to raise rates.

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.