Post-Fiscal Cliff, Mortgage Markets Turn Attention To Jobs Data

Unemployment RateMortgage rates moved higher Wednesday up congressional leaders voted to avoid the “Fiscal Cliff”.

Mortgage-backed securities (MBS) fell as investors bid up stock prices. Confidence among investors and consumers typically causes mortgage rates to rise. That’s what happened Wednesday.

For Thursday and Friday, expect jobs data to dictate where mortgage rates are headed.

The Federal Reserve has said that the national Unemployment Rate will dictate future monetary policy, with the central banker planning to raise the Fed Funds Rate from its target range near zero percent once joblessness falls to 6.5%. Currently, the jobless rate is 7.7 percent.

As the jobs market improves, equity markets should follow, causing mortgage rates to — again — move higher.

Thursday’s Initial Jobless Claims report has already influenced today’s mortgage rates. New claims rose 10,000 to 372,000 for the week ending December 29, 2012. This is slightly higher than Wall Street expected and mortgage bonds are moving better on the news.

Now, Wall Street turns its attention to Friday’s Non-Farm Payrolls report. 

More commonly called “the jobs report”, Non-Farm Payrolls is a monthly publication from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, detailing the U.S. employment situation, sector-by-sector. The economy has added 4.6 million jobs since 2010 and analysts expect another 155,000 added in December 2012.

The Unemployment Rate is expected to tally 7.8%.

As more people get back to work, the nation’s collective disposable income rises, which gives a boost to the U.S. economy. Furthermore, more taxes are paid to local, state and federal governments which are often used to finance construction and development — two jobs creators in their own right.

Furthermore, as the ranks of the employed increase, so does the national pool of potential home buyers. With demand for homes high and rents rising in many U.S. cities, demand for homes is expected to grow. Home supplies are shrinking.

If you’re currently floating a mortgage rate, or wondering whether it’s a good time to buy a home, consider than an improving economy may lead mortgage rates higher; and an improving jobs market may lead home prices higher.

The market is ripe for a refinance or purchase today.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week : December 31, 2012

Jobs report is due Friday and could move mortgage ratesMortgage bonds improved last week, pushing mortgage rates lower nationwide.

Positive economic news and strong housing data was trumped by ongoing Fiscal Cliff discussions on Capitol Hill.

The “Fiscal Cliff” is meant to represent January 1, 2013 — the date on which mandatory spending cuts are enacted by Congress and on which tax rates increases for many U.S. taxpayers.

Some analysts believe that if these two events are to occur simultaneously, it would derail the current U.S. economic expansion and revert the economy back into recession. That concern has spurred a flight-to-quality which has benefited mortgage bonds and, therefore, U.S. mortgage rates.

For example, last week, Freddie Mac reported the average 30-year fixed rate mortgage rate at 3.35 percent nationwide for borrowers willing to pay an accompanying 0.7 discount points plus a full set of closing costs. This is a 0.02 percentage point reduction from the week prior.

The average 15-year fixed rate mortgage rate was unchanged last week at 2.66 percent for borrowers paying an accompanying 0.7 discount points plus closing costs.

In this holiday-shortened week, mortgage rates may fade again.

Congress convened over the weekend in order to discuss the impending Fiscal Cliff, and ways to avoid it. Talks have been ongoing since this year’s election yet it appears unlikely that the simultaneous expiration will be avoided.

How this would affect the economy is unknown but mortgage markets would witness an immediate boost of demand, leading mortgage rates lower. Conventional, FHA and VA mortgage rates would all likely benefit.

And then, Wall Street will turn its attention to Friday’s December Non-Farm Payroll report.

Mortgage rates are expected to make big moves upon the report’s release. This is because, earlier this month, the Federal Reserve said it would begin raising the Fed Funds Rate only after the Unemployment Rate reaches 6.5 percent. Currently, the Unemployment Rate is 7.7 percent. If December’s jobless rate slips, moving closer to the Fed’s stated target, mortgage rates are expected to rise.

Similarly, if the Unemployment Rate rises, mortgage rates are expected to drop.

What’s Ahead for Mortgage Rates This Week: December 24, 2012

Existing Home SalesMortgage markets worsened last week amid ongoing discussions budget and tax conversations in Washington, D.C., and the release of key housing and economic data.

Mortgage rates climbed nationwide.

Freddie Mac reported the average 30-year fixed rate mortgage rate at 3.37 percent nationwide for borrowers willing to pay an accompanying 0.7 discount points at closing, plus closing costs — an increase of 0.05 percentage points from the week prior.

The average 15-year fixed rate mortgage rate was listed at 2.65 percent nationwide with an accompanying 0.7 discount points plus a full set of closing costs.

With certain government funding and tax reductions set to expire December 31, legislators appear unlikely to avoid what’s been called the “Fiscal Cliff”. Some economists believe that reaching January 1 with no agreement in place will set the economy in to recession.

Mortgage rates tend to improve on “negative” news for the economy, which partially explains why mortgage rates made a small comeback late in the week.

In other news, according the National Association of REALTORS®, Existing Home Sales reached their highest point since November 2009, climbing to 5.04 million homes sold on a seasonally-adjusted, annualized basis. In addition, the real estate trade group reports that the Existing Home Supply has dropped to 4.8 months — a figure firmly suggesting a “seller’s market”.

Separately, the Commerce Department reported single-family housing starts rising, too; down 4.1 percent in November but up nearly 23 percent as compared to November 2011.

This week, Fiscal Cliff discussions are likely to dominate mortgage markets. The trading week will be holiday-shortened and volume will be lighter-than-normal. This may lead to volatile pricing and rapid interest rate movements.

Markets close early Monday and remain closed through Tuesday. Wednesday, markets re-open with no new data set for release. Then, Thursday, scheduled economic news events resume Thursday with New Home Sales, Jobless Claims and Consumer Confidence due.

Friday, the Pending Home Sales Index is released.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week : December 17, 2012

Mortgage rates drop, according to Freddie MacMortgage bonds worsened last week, moving mortgage rates higher. Economic news was mostly positive and the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) changed some of Wall Street expectations for future monetary policy.

Freddie Mac reported the average 30-year fixed rate mortgage rate at 3.32 percent nationwide for borrowers willing to pay an accompanying 0.7 discount points plus closing costs. The average 15-year fixed rate mortgage rate was listed at 2.66 percent nationwide with an accompanying 0.6 discount points plus closing costs.

Both mortgage rates had climbed by week’s end, however. Mortgage rates made their best levels Monday afternoon. Between Tuesday and Friday, mortgage rates climbed.

Also last week, the National Association of Homebuilders/First American Improving Markets Index (IMI) reported 201 improving metropolitan economies nationwide. This index uses data including local employment statistics and home values to determine whether an area’s economy is “improving”.

76 new areas were added to the IMI list in December as compared to November. The geographic diversity the newly-added markets suggests an overall improvement in the national economy.

Last week’s major event, however, was the 2-day Federal Reserve meeting, which adjourned Wednesday.

The post-meeting press release after included the Fed’s commitment to hold the Fed Funds Rate near zero percent where it’s been since December 2008. However, the Fed announced a change to in its plans to raise the Fed Funds Rate from near-zero at a future date.

Previously, the Fed had said it would raise the Fed Funds Rate beginning in mid-2015. Now, the Fed says it will start to raise rates when the national unemployment rate reaches 6.5 percent.

This week, mortgage rates have a lot to move on including Housing Starts (Wednesday) and Existing Home Sales (Thursday) from the housing sector; Jobless Claims (Thursday) from the Labor Department; and a key inflation reading from the Department of Commerce. Each has the capability to move mortgage rates.

Markets will respond to Fiscal Cliff discussions, too.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week : December 10, 2012

FOMC meets this weekMortgage bonds worsened last week as Fiscal Cliff talks moved closer to resolution and as the U.S. economy showed continued signs of growth.

Conforming mortgage rates rose slightly, edging off the all-time lows late in November.

According to Freddie Mac’s weekly mortgage rate survey, the average 30-year fixed rate conforming mortgage rate was 3.34% last week for home buyers and refinancing households willing to pay 0.7 discount points at closing plus a full set of closing costs.

Freddie Mac also showed the 15-year fixed rate mortgage averaging 2.67% with an accompanying 0.7 discount points plus closing costs.

1 discount point is equal to 1 percent of your loan size.

The two big stories that moved rates worse last week were the Fiscal Cliff talks and the November jobs report.

With respect to the Fiscal Cliff, mortgage rates worsened as Capitol Hill moved closer to a deal which would avoid the dual-event of expiring U.S. tax break and a mandated government spending rollback. These events are both scheduled to occur December 31, 2012. 

Some analysts believe that these two events — in unison — could slow U.S. economic growth to the point of recession. Other analysts aren’t so sure. However, Wall Street is choosing to be cautious. This is why a break in talks has been good for mortgage rate shoppers of late; and why steps toward avoiding one or both scenarios has been bad for rate shoppers.

Mortgage rates often rise when economic growth is expected. This explains why November’s jobs report pushed mortgage rates worse Friday, too — Wall Street underestimated the Non-Farm Payrolls report which showed 146,000 net new jobs created, and didn’t expect to see the national Unemployment Rate drop to 7.7%.

This week, mortgage rates may rise again with new inflation data and a Retail Sales report set for release.

The big event, though, is the Federal Open Market Committee’s 2-day meeting scheduled, set to begin Tuesday. The FOMC is not expected to add new economic stimulus, but the Fed’s words can carry as much weight as its policies and actions.

The Fed will issue a statement to the markets at 12:30 PM ET Wednesday, and will host a press conference shortly thereafter. Mortgage rates are expected to remain volatile all week.

A Look At This Week’s Mortgage Rates : December 3, 2012

Freddie Mac 30-year fixed rate mortgage ratesLow mortgage rates are pumping up home affordability.

Average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage rates made a new all-time low in November, continuing this year Refinance Boom and giving fuel to the budding housing market recovery.

At month-end, Freddie Mac’s survey of 125 banks nationwide put the benchmark product’s rate at 3.32% for borrowers willing to pay 0.8 discount points. This is just 0.01 percentage point above the record-low rate establishing prior to Thanksgiving.

The 15-year fixed mortgage is similarly low, posting 2.64 percent nationwide, on average. This, too, is only slightly higher the all-time low set the week prior.

Falling mortgage rates have helped to offset rising home prices in many U.S. cities. 

Steady job creation and rising consumer confidence has swelled the pool of home buyers nationwide, causing home inventories to shrink and home prices to rise. The improving economy has also led to rising rents and now, within many housing markets, it’s less costly to buy and own a home than to rent a comparable one.

A $1,000 mortgage payment affords a $225,000 mortgage payment.

Last week, the economy was shown to be improving.

  • The Commerce Department showed that the Gross Domestic Product increased at a 2.7% annual rate in Q3 2012
  • The Labor Department showed first-time unemployment filings dropping by 23,000 claims
  • The Pending Home Sales Index jumped to its highest point since April 2010
  • The Existing Home Sales report showed home sales up 2.1%
  • The Case-Shiller Index showed home values making annual gains 

In addition, Federal Reserve Ben Bernanke said that the central bank will take action to speed economic growth, should the U.S. economy start to side-step. 

This week, there is little on the U.S. economic calendar, save for Friday’s Non-Farm Payrolls report. Wall Street is expecting to see 80,000 net new jobs created in November, and a rise in the national Unemployment Rate to 8.0%.

If the report’s actual results are stronger-than-expected, mortgage rates will likely climb from their all-time lows. If the report comes back weak, rates should stay unchanged.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week : October 29, 2012

The jobs report puts the economy is focusMortgage markets ended the week slightly better last week. Wall Street took its cues from U.S. economic data, from developments in Europe, and from the Federal Reserve, moving mortgage rates lower nationwide.

Pricing for both conforming and FHA mortgage rates improved between Monday and Friday, with the majority of gains occurring late in the week.

The timing of the gains explains why Freddie Mac’s weekly mortgage rate report showed the average 30-year fixed rate mortgage rate rising this week when, in fact, it did not. Because Freddie Mac conducts its mortgage rate survey at the start of the week, its survey respondents had no time to acknowledge late-week improvements.

Freddie Mac said the 30-year fixed rate mortgage rate rose to 3.41% for home buyers and refinancing households willing to pay 0.7 discount points at closing plus a full set of closing costs. 

Mortgage applicants choosing zero-point mortgages should expect a higher rate.

The biggest event of last week was the Federal Open Market Committee’s seventh scheduled meeting of the year. The FOMC’s post-meeting press release described the U.S. economy as growing, and inflation as stable. The Fed re-iterated its pledge to QE3, a stimulus program geared at keeping mortgage rates suppressed. The group also said it would hold the Fed Funds Rate low until at least mid-2015.

Lastly, the Fed showed optimism about the broader U.S. housing market — and for good reason. Since October 2011, housing has trended higher and last week saw the release of the September New Homes Sales report and the September Pending Home Sales Index. Both showed strength.

This week, the market’s biggest story is Friday’s release of the October Non-Farm Payrolls report. Jobs are a keystone in the U.S. economic recovery so the monthly jobs report holds sway over mortgage rates. If the number of jobs created exceeds Wall Street expectations, mortgage rates will rise and purchasing power will shrink.

The U.S. economy has added jobs in each of the previous 24 months. 

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week : October 22, 2012

FOMC meets this week -- mortgage rates get volatileMortgage markets worsened last week as hope for a European economic rebound and stronger-than-expected U.S. economic data moved investors out of mortgage-backed bonds.

Mortgage rates all of types — conventional, FHA and VA — lost ground last week, harming home affordability reducing purchasing power nationwide.

Rising rates also thwarted would-be refinancing households hoping to time a market bottom.

The increase runs counter to Freddie Mac’s weekly Primary Mortgage Market Survey which showed the average 30-year fixed rate mortgage rate dropping 2 basis points to 3.37% nationwide.

This contradiction occurred because Freddie Mac’s weekly mortgage rate survey is conducted Monday through Wednesday, and because the majority of the surveyed banks reply to Freddie Mac on Tuesday. As a consequence, Freddie Mac failed to capture this week’s mid-week movement that took mortgage bonds to a one-month worst.

Access to Freddie Mac mortgage rates is for “prime” borrowers and requires payment of discount points plus closing costs.

This week, mortgage rates may rise again. There is a lot of news on which for Wall Street to trade, beginning with the week’s biggest story — the Federal Open Market Committee’s 2-day meeting scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday.

At the FOMC’s last meeting, the Federal Reserve introduced a third round of qualitative easing (QE3), a program through which the Fed will work to keep mortgage rates low until the economy’s recovery is more complete.

The Fed is expected to announce no new stimulus in this, its seventh of eight scheduled meetings for 2012, however, mortgage rates are typically volatile in the hours after the FOMC adjourns.

New housing data is set for release this week, too.

Wednesday, the U.S. Census Bureau will release September’s tally of New Home Sales. Given the recent strength in Housing Starts and rising confidence among the nation’s home builders, New Home Sales may best analyst calls for 385,000 new home sold last month on a seasonally-adjusted, annualized basis.

Strength in housing has recently correlated with rising mortgage rates.

The housing market’s forward-looking Pending Home Sales Index is released Thursday.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week : October 15, 2012

Freddie Mac mortgage ratesMortgage markets improved slightly last week. With a dearth of new U.S. economic data due for release, investors turned their collective attention to the Europe, China, and the Middle East.

U.S. mortgage rates fell slightly in the holiday-shortened week.

The combination of civil protests, economic slowdowns, and growing political tensions caused investors to dump risky assets in favor of the relative safety provided by the U.S. mortgage bond market.

According to Freddie Mac, the average conforming 30-year fixed rate mortgage is now 3.39% nationwide for borrowers willing to pay 0.7 discount points plus a full set of closing costs. 0.7 discount points is a one-time closing cost equal to 0.7 percent of the borrowed loan size.

As an illustration, a bank’s charge of 0.7 discount points on a $100,000 mortgage would cost $700 to the borrower.

Freddie Mac also reported the average conforming 15-year fixed-rate mortgage rate at 2.70% nationwide with an accompanying 0.6 discount points plus closing costs. Loans with zero discount points carry a higher mortgage rate average.

This week, data returns to Wall Street as a series of housing reports are slated for release, in addition to inflationary reports such Tuesday’s Consumer Price Index (CPI).

The week begins with Retail Sales, released at 8:30 AM ET Monday. On a strong figure, mortgage rates are expected to climb. This is because Retail Sales data is closely tied to consumer spending and consumer spending accounts for more than two-thirds of the U.S. economy. 

A growing economy tends to pull mortgage rates higher.

Tuesday’s CPI may do the same.

Inflation erodes the value of a mortgage bond so when inflation pressures grow, demand for mortgage bonds fall which, in turn, causes mortgage rates to rise. If CPI is higher-than-expected, mortgage rates will likely rise.

Then, there’s a flurry of housing data. The Housing Market Index (Tuesday), Housing Starts (Wednesday) and Existing Home Sales (Friday) all hit this week. Strength in housing may lead mortgage rates higher, harming home affordability for today’s home buyers.

At today’s mortgage rates, every 1/8% increase raises monthly mortgage payments roughly $7 per $100,000 borrowed. 

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week : October 9, 2012

Rates rising on economyMortgage markets worsened last week for the first time in a month as the U.S. economy showed signs of improvement, and the Eurozone stepped closer to launching its $500 billion euro rescue fund.

Conforming mortgage rates rose last week on the whole — even though Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey proclaimed that they fell

This occurred because Freddie Mac’s weekly mortgage rate survey is conducted between Monday and Tuesday each week and, last week, mortgage rates were lower when the week began. Through Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, however, they rose.

According to the Freddie Mac survey, the average 30-year fixed rate mortgage slipped to 3.36 percent nationwide last week, while the 15-year fixed rate mortgage fell to 2.69 percent. Both rates required 0.6 discount points and both marked all-time lows.

As this week begins, to gain access to the same 3.36% and 2.69% mortgage rates from last week, mortgage applicants should expect to pay more closing costs and/or higher discount points.

Improving U.S. employment data is partially to blame.

Friday morning, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its September Non-Farm Payrolls report. More commonly called “the jobs report”, the monthly issuance details changes in U.S. employment by sector and reports on the national Unemployment Rate.

In September, accounting for upward revisions to data from July and August, 200,000 net new jobs were created — far exceeding Wall Street’s estimates for 120,000 net new jobs created. Furthermore, the Unemployment Rate unexpectedly dropped to 7.8%.

Jobs are considered a keystone in the U.S. economic recovery. As a result, when the jobs numbers hit Friday, mortgage rates worsened, building on momentum built earlier in the week as Greece moved steps closer to accepting aid from the Eurozone.

In general, since 2010, weakness in the Eurozone has helped push U.S. mortgage rates lower. As Europe regains its footing, therefore, domestic mortgage rates are expected to rise.

This week, in a holiday-shortened week, there will be little new data to move mortgage rates. The Federal Reserve’s Beige Book is released Wednesday and some key inflation data is due for Friday release. Beyond that, mortgage rates will continue to take cues from the Eurozone.

Mortgage rates remain near all-time lows.