Mortgage Market News

The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) reported on Tuesday that Existing Home Sales in November fell 10.5% from October to an annual rate of 4.76 million units. It was the sharpest monthly decline since July 2010. A spokesperson from the NAR said that new regulations from TRID, affordability and lower inventories led to the decline. Sales declined around the nation, down 13.9% in the West, 6.2% in the South, 15.4% in the Midwest and 9.2% in the Northeast.
The government reported the final figures on economic growth for the third quarter of 2015 today revealing that Gross Domestic Product (GDP) edged lower to 2% from 3.9% recorded in the second quarter. Growth fell due to a larger trade deficit and a smaller buildup in inventories. So far in 2015, GDP is running at 2.16%. well below the historic rate of 3.3%. If the economy continues on this lackluster pace through December 31, it will have failed to reach 3% growth for the 10th straight year, marking the slowest stretch since the end of WWII.
With the holiday shopping season coming to a close, retailers were looking to the weekend before Christmas to boost sales in what has turned out to be a slow start to the season. This past weekend retailers did have increased store traffic, but they were led by promotions. In many parts of the country, the temperatures have been unseasonably high, which slowed sales of sweaters, winter coats, scarves and the like. So if you are heading out for some last minute shopping, there could be some great deals on winter apparel
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Mortgage Market News

Freddie Mac reports that even in the midst of the Federal Reserve raising the benchmark short-term Fed Funds Rate, mortgage rates may see modest increases, but will stay at historic lows in 2016. Freddie went on to say that home sales will remain strong next year, while refinance activity should somewhat cool. Analysts at sister company Fannie Mae said the current fixed of 3.97% will rise only to 4.1% next year this time.
With millions of young Americans entering the workforce or already working, many are straddled with student loans to pay off. With the Federal Reserve raising short-term interest rates earlier this week, the question many are asking is if their interest rates will go up for their existing loans. The answer is no. Those already with loans will not see the rate go up, for they are fixed rates over the life of the loan. It is possible that borrowers taking out new student loans next year may feel a rate increase. The bulk of student loans are issued by the federal government, so as mentioned, those rates will not increase. However, those with private student loans, which often carry a variable rate, could see rates edge higher.
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Mortgage Market News

The Federal Reserve Bank (the Fed) of the U.S. finally raised its short-term interest rate for the first time in nearly a decade yesterday. There is a misconception amongst consumers that mortgage rates automatically will push higher because of this. The Fed, however, does not control long-term rates, which are actually based based on economic conditions and inflation expectations. On the other hand, consumers will be impacted as the following rates are adjusted higher - short term interest rate loans, credit card rates, HELOC rates, and auto, business and student loans.
Americans filing for first-time unemployment benefits declined in the latest week, signaling ongoing improvement in the labor markets. Weekly Initial Jobless Claims fell 11,000 in the latest week to 271,000, the 41st straight week below the 300,000 level. That is the longest stretch since the early 1970s. The four-week moving average of claims, which irons out seasonal abnormalities, remained unchanged at 270,500. Continuing claims or those who still receive benefits fell 7,000 to 2.24 million.
Fannie Mae released its December 2015 Economic and Housing Outlook this week revealing that economic activity in the fourth quarter appears to be weaker than expected. The report went on to say that real consumer spending is expected to rebound early next year amid a tightening labor market and a renewed decline in gasoline prices, helping to offset persistent economic headwinds. “Home sales will likely remain subdued in the near term, but private residential construction spending started the fourth quarter on a strong note and housing demand is looking up as we head into next year,” said Fannie Mae Chief Economist Doug Duncan.
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Mortgage Market News

The housing sector is ending the year on a high note! The Commerce Department reported on Wednesday that Housing Starts in November rose 10.5% from October to an annualized rate of 1.173 million units, above the 1.135 million expected. The big jump in November nearly erases the 12% decline from September to October. Within the report it revealed that single-family starts were up 7.6 percent from October to the highest level since January 2008. Housing Starts are up nearly 17 percent in November from a year earlier.
Americans are gearing up for the end of year holiday traveling to Grandma's house in a big way. Auto club AAA predicts that year-end holiday travelers will hit over 100 million for the first time ever. AAA reports that 1 in 3 Americans will travel 50 or more miles between December 23 and January 3, which is a 1.4% increase over last year and the seventh consecutive year of travel growth for the holiday period. The auto club cites low gas prices at the pumps and a strengthening economy and labor market for the increase. AAA went on to say that driving will be the most popular way to travel.
The decline in gas prices this year has put some extra money in the pockets of American drivers. It is estimated that drivers saved about $540 in 2015 thanks to the low prices at local gas stations. And if you have two drivers in your household, that would double to $1,100. So, what are people doing with the extra cash? Dining out more. The low gas prices have also helped Americans buy a record number of new vehicles this year. If you think gas prices are low now at an average price for a regular gallon of gas at $2, 2016 may bring even lower prices.
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Mortgage Market News

Inflation at the consumer level was tame in November, but an underlying measure of inflation continues to edge higher. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the Consumer Price Index (CPI) was unchanged last month due to lower gas and food costs. However, when stripping out volatile food and energy, the so-called Core CPI rose 0.2% on higher rental costs and hotel rates. On an annual basis, the Core CPI was up 2% and has been trending higher.
The manufacturing sector of the U.S. economy continued to contract in December due to a strong dollar, a weak global economy and low oil and other commodity prices. The New York State Manufacturing Index registered a -4.6 reading this month, which was better than the -5.9 expected and above the -10.7 recorded in November. Just recently the national manufacturing index, the ISM Index, contracted to 48.6% in November, the lowest level since June 2009.
The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) reported that builder confidence slipped in December due to recent concerns with the high price of lots and labor. The NAHB Housing Market Index fell 1 point to 61 this month, below the 62 in November and below the 63 expected. “For the past seven months, builder confidence levels have averaged in the low 60s, which is in line with a gradual, consistent recovery,” said NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. “With job creation, economic growth and growing household formations, we anticipate the housing market to continue to pick up traction as we head into 2016.”
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Mortgage Market News

Oil prices continue to drift lower hitting 11-year lows as a glut of oil supply flows through the global pipelines. West Texas Intermediate oil fell to $34.53 in today's trading. The drop in oil prices has led prices lower at your local gas stations. The national average price for a regular gallon of gasoline is at $2.01, while prices have fallen below $2 a gallon in 41 states. Last year at this time prices at the pumps averaged $2.55, and prices have fallen from the $2.17 seen a month ago. The drop in prices could boost holiday spending, but we will see when the numbers are reported in a few weeks.
The two-day Federal Open Market Committee meeting kicks off on Tuesday and will culminate on Wednesday with the 2:00 p.m. ET release of the monetary policy statement. It is widely expected that the central bank will raise its benchmark Fed Funds Rates by a 1/4 point for the first time in nine years. The Fed has kept the fed Funds Rate near zero percent since 2008 in an effort to promote economic stability and job growth. The Fed Funds Rate is the rate in which financial institutions lend balances held at the Federal Reserve to one another on an overnight basis. The increase could raise interest rates on bank fees, car loans and credit cards.
Be on the lookout for the Grinch in your neighborhood when getting packages delivered from the Post Office, UPS, FedEx and the like this season. U.S. online sales during the season pose a big feast when those packages lay idle at your doorstep. A recent report shows that an estimated 23 million Americans have had packages stolen from their homes and the number is expected to increase as online shopping begins to overtake the traditional brick and mortar stores. So called "Porch Pirates" usually trail a delivery truck and pounce on the merchandise as soon as the driver is out of sight. Delivery companies are now giving alternatives to how they receive their packages. UPS is expanding its UPS Access Point network, which offers package pickup and drop off primarily at neighborhood convenience and grocery stores, dry cleaners and delicatessens to 8,000 U.S. locations and 22,000 worldwide by the end of this year.
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Mortgage Market News


The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) reported this week that mortgage applications for new home purchases declined by 6% in November compared with October. The MBA said that there were 37,000 new home sales in November, a decline of 5.1% compared to the 39,000 sold in October. New Home Sales were at an annual pace of 524,000 units in November, an increase of nearly 6% from the October pace of 495,000.
Consumer Sentiment was virtually unchanged in early December, though Americans evaluated economic conditions more favorably. The Consumer Sentiment Index came in at 91.8, just above the 91.6 expected and higher than November's reading of 91.3. A spokesperson said, "The survey recorded persistent strength in personal finances and buying plans, while the largest loss was in how consumers judged prospects for the national economy during the year ahead."
With the holiday shopping season well underway, consumer spending rose modestly in November, signaling that the sales are off to a good start, though less than spectacular. November Retail Sales rose 0.2% to $448 billion last month, up from 0.1% in October. Cheap gasoline prices have depressed overall sales volumes. The Retail Sales report is closely watched by economists each month to gauge spending habits by consumers, it drives 70% of the U.S. economy.
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Mortgage Market News

The number of Americans filing for first-time unemployment benefits continues to hover near lows seen in the early 1970s as the labor market continues to strengthen. As the end of the year approaches, claims tend to have a tendency to be a bit more volatile around the holiday season. The Labor Department reported that Weekly Initial Jobless Claims rose by 13,000 in the latest week to 282,000, the highest level since early July. Claims have now remained below the 300,000 level for 39 straight weeks.
Mortgage rates edged higher in the latest week following an upbeat Jobs Report, though rates still hover just above all-time lows. Freddie Mac reported that the 30-year fixed conventional mortgage rate ($417,000 or less), rose. The 15-year fixed average rate climbed to 3.19% with average points and fees of 0.5. A year ago the 30-year rate was 3.93%, while the 15-year was 3.2%.
A recent survey conducted by the CNBC All-America Economic Survey reveals that just 22% of Americans see the economy improving, a five-point decline from last year this time. The survey could be signaling that consumers may be spending less on holiday shopping this year. Just 13% of those polled plan to spend more; 56% are planning to keep holiday spending at last year's level and 29% said they will reduce spending. The saving grace this year, low prices at the gas pumps, where the average national price is near $2 a gallon.
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Mortgage Market News

Small business owners' optimism turned lower in November, pointing to slower sales and growing inventories as consumers spent more cautiously. The National Federation of Independent Business's Small Business Optimism Index was unchanged in November slipping to 94.8 from 96.1 in October. Within the report it showed that six of the components fell from October, led by a decline in sales. On the bright side, owners continue to hire at a healthy pace with 45% reporting that they are hiring or trying to hire, though many owners are finding it more difficult to find qualified applicants.
The foreclosure sector of the housing market continues to improve as the housing market strengthens. CoreLogic, a consumer, financial and property information and analytics firm reported on Tuesday that completed foreclosures were down 27.1% from a year ago, while foreclosure inventories were down 21.5% compared with a year ago. The share of mortgages in serious delinquency, which is defined as being 90 days or more past due, as well as those in foreclosure or owned by lenders, hit a near-eight-year low of 3.4% in October.
With the holiday shopping season in high gear, Mintel International released a report showing that consumers are planning to spend $805 on holiday merchandise, up slightly from $802 last year. November and December are two of the most critical months of the year for retailers as sales during this period make up 30% of their annual revenues. Retail sales are expected to increase by 3.7% this year, which will hit an estimated $630.5 billion. Retailers cite improving economic and job growth along with low gas prices as a few of the factors contributing to strong sales this season.
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Mortgage Market News

The continued improvement in the U.S. economy could be a signal that short term interest rates will rise at next week's Federal Open Market Committee meeting held on December 15-16. The Federal Reserve Bank of the United States have held short rate close to zero, since the Great Recession began in late 2008. But with an improving economy, the Federal Reserve feels it is now time that interest rates begin to rise. The interest rate in question is the Federal Funds Rate, which is the rate in which banks lend balances at the Federal Reserve to other banks on an overnight basis.
The U.S. Stock markets got off to a rocky start this week as the closely watched Dow Jones Industrial Average was nearly 200-points lower in early trading. Stocks have had a volatile year after solid gains seen in 2014. The Dow is currently down 1% year-to-date after an 8% rise last year. However, the Dow is up from the 6,500 level hit back in March of 2009 to the present level of 17,700.
Popular food chain, Chipotle, continues to endure the aftershocks from its recent E.coli breakout that has now expanded into nine states. The crux of the problem is due to the fact that Chipotle and other restaurants are putting greater focus on fresh unprocessed foods and while it may be good nutrition wise, it raises the risk of foodborne illnesses because cooking kills pathogens that cause illness. Because of this problem, the company expects sales to fall 8-11% this quarter.
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Mortgage Market News

CoreLogic, a consumer, financial and property information and analytics firm, reported that home price gains, including distressed sales, rose 6.8% from October 2014 to October 2015 as the housing recovery marches on. A spokesperson from CoreLogic said, “Many markets experienced a low inventory of homes offered for sale and strong buyer demand, sustaining upward pressure on home prices.” On a month-over-month basis, prices rose 1%, while the numbers for September 2014 to September 2015 were revised down to 5.55% from the 6.4% originally reported. Looking ahead, CoreLogic sees a 5.2 % increase from October 2015 to October 2016.
National manufacturing slipped again in November and fell below the 50.0 mark for the first time since November 2012 and the lowest level since June 2009. A few of the reasons for the decline is low oil prices coupled with a strong dollar. The ISM Index fell to 48.6 last month, below the 50.5 expected and below the 50.1 recorded in October. A reading above 50 indicates that the manufacturing economy is generally expanding; below 50 indicates that it is generally contracting.
A recent poll conducted by Reuters to a group of economists showed sales of existing homes in the U.S. are expected to pick up in 2016, although house price inflation probably will not. However, there are some risks in so far as some potential borrowers may be shut out due to a lack of available credit, low wage growth and higher interest rates. Of the 22 polled, 19 said they see the housing recovery as modest, three called it robust. None said it will be fragile.
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