What a Wild Ride

20140309-080351.jpgThings are supposed to get quiet as the holidays approach. But we had nothing but noise in the markets leading up to the holidays this year. It seemed as if the markets were on a roller coaster as we closed in on the end of the year. For example, the Dow was at 16,321 on October 13 and by December 5, it closed over 17,950. By December 16 the Dow had fallen to below 17,100 and a few days later it was up over 18,000. Meanwhile oil prices and interest rates were just as volatile. The precipitous drop in the price of oil has been discussed previously as the move has brought the price down close to 50% in just over a year.

Interest rates have also moved significantly in the past few months. Two major factors have influenced rates during this time. Stronger job growth has convinced the markets that the Federal Reserve Board will raise short-term interest rates during the first part of next year. At the same time, slower growth overseas and lower oil prices have contributed to a drop in long-term rates — including rates on home loans. Following the lead of the stock market, long-term rates have drifted when the stock market experienced their downturns and the drop in oil prices, but there has been a lot of volatility on the way. At the same time, short-term interest rates have risen steadily in anticipation of action by the Fed.

So where do we go from here? The fact that short-term rates have risen while long-term rates have fallen this year demonstrates an interesting point. Just because the Federal Reserve Board raises rates, it does not mean that rates on home loans will be rising. The Fed directly controls short-term rates, but does not directly control long-term rates, though they can influence long-term rates significantly. If the markets perceive that the Fed is raising short-term rates in a direct response to the threat of inflation caused by a stronger economy, it is more likely that long-term rates will also rise. But if the markets feel that the Fed is raising short-term rates at a time in which the economic recovery is still in question, then the move in mortgage rates may not be as strong.


The Markets. Fixed rates on home loans trended upward, but remained close to their lowest levels of the year in the past week. Freddie Mac announced that for the week ending December 24, 30-year fixed rates rose to 3.83% from 3.80% the week before. The average for 15-year loans increased one tick to 3.10%. Adjustables were also higher, with the average for one-year adjustables increasing to 2.39% and five-year adjustables rising to 3.01%. A year ago, 30-year fixed rates were at 4.48%, which continues to be over 0.5% higher than today’s levels. Attributed to Frank Nothaft, vice president and chief economist, Freddie Mac — “Rates on home loans were up slightly following a week of mixed economic releases. Existing home sales were down 6.1 percent in November to annual rate of 4.93 million units, below economists’ expectations. New home sales fell 1.6 percent last month to an annual rate of 438,000, also below expectations. Meanwhile, the third quarter real GDP was revised sharply higher to 5.0 percent according to the final estimate released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis.” Rates indicated do not include fees and points and are provided for evidence of trends only. They should not be used for comparison purposes.

Current Indices For Adjustable Rate Mortgages
Updated December 26, 2014

Daily Value Monthly Value
Dec 23 November
6-month Treasury Security 0.14%  0.07%
1-year Treasury Security 0.26%  0.13%
3-year Treasury Security 1.17%  0.96%
5-year Treasury Security 1.76%  1.62%
10-year Treasury Security 2.26%  2.33%
12-month LIBOR  0.562% (Nov)
12-month MTA  0.114% (Nov)
11th District Cost of Funds  0.671% (Oct)
Prime Rate  3.25%

  The housing market doesn’t hibernate in the winter. Sellers who list and buyers who buy often find the winter season the most advantageous time to make a move in real estate, according to a new study by the real estate brokerage Redfin. The winter season officially takes place between Dec. 21 and March 20, and real estate professionals should be ready for a season that often brings in more focused and active sellers and buyers. In an update to a two-year analysis it completed last year, Redfin researchers studied nationwide home listings, sales prices, and time-on-market data from 2010 through October 2014. The study found that February is “historically the best month to list, with an average of 66 percent of homes listed then selling within 90 days,” according to Redfin’s research. Even in cold weather cities researchers found that home sellers were better off listing their homes in the winter than during other seasons. The winter tends to net sellers’ more than their asking price during the months of December, January, February, and March than listings from June through November. Listing during those four winter months has resulted in higher percentages of above-asking-price sales than listing during any months, other than April and May. Redfin researchers found that in 2012, December listings were producing the highest percentage of above-asking-price sales for the entire year at 17 percent. Researchers say the winter market is less competitive for sellers since many people tend to wait until the spring to list. The smaller inventory of active listings helps sellers get more attention from buyers on their properties. Also, many large corporations often transfer employees or hire new ones early in the year, creating opportunities for winter sellers from very motivated purchasers. Source: The Los Angeles Times

Millennials are showing more practicality than pizzazz in their real estate tastes, tending to buy homes that are smaller, older, and less expensive, according to a report by the National Association of Home Builders that analyzes newly released 2013 American Housing Survey data. They don’t tend to gravitate toward new homes. Less than 9 percent of Millennial home buyers purchased a new home compared to 12 percent of older home buyers. More than two-thirds of Millennial buyers purchased a single-family detached home, but Millennials are more likely to consider condos as well. Nearly 9 percent of Millennial home buyers purchased a multifamily condo compared to less than 6 percent of older home buyers. Since this is often their first time entering home ownership, Millennials focus on lower price ranges. Half of all homes purchased by Millennials cost less than $148,500. Therefore, the homes tended to be smaller, averaging less than 1,650 square feet. Millennials surveyed say that financial reasons are among one of the biggest influences when home shopping, while older generations consider finding the right size home a more powerful influence. Millennials also carefully consider location, and they are more likely to pay attention to commute times to work and being near good schools, the survey found. Source: NAHB

This year is expected to end with lackluster economic growth, but economists are projecting a strengthening heading into the new year, due to forecasted consumer income rises, reduced fiscal headwinds, and a broadening housing recovery, according to Fannie Mae’s latest report from its Economic & Strategic Research Group. Fannie Mae Chief Economist Doug Duncan says economists expect the fourth quarter of this year to be weaker than the third quarter, but doesn’t see it as a sign of overall weakness. “Although real consumer spending growth has disappointed this year, it appears poised to accelerate in November due to a significant jump in auto sales and a likely pick-up in home heating costs,” Duncan says. “The decrease in oil prices certainly may support consumer spending over time, particularly now during the holiday shopping season, as well as hold down inflation as a potential benefit to consumption.” Fannie Mae has upgraded its forecast for 2015 from a projected 2.5 percent growth in the economy to 2.7 percent. “Similarly, the housing market is likely to continue its gradual climb upward next year after a subpar 2014,” says Duncan. “We anticipate a fairly strong increase in housing starts in response to stronger employment and some improvement in related household incomes. As a result, that may help to unfold some of the suppressed household formation numbers and incent builders to meet some of that increased demand.” For all of 2015, Fannie Mae economists project that total housing starts will rise by about 22 percent and total home sales will increase by about 5 percent. Source: Fannie Mae

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