Posts filed under ‘Ben Bernanke’

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week : March 26, 2012

Housing Starts 2010-2012Mortgage markets carved out a wide range last week, eventually closing slightly worse. Mortgage-backed bonds sold off early in the week on rising investor sentiment. Then, they reversed higher on prepared remarks from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, which tempered Wall Street optimism.

When bonds prices rise, mortgage rates fall.

Conforming and FHA mortgage rates in Michigan edged higher on the week, and remain at a 5-month high.

According to Freddie Mac’s weekly Primary Mortgage Market Survey, the average 30-year fixed rate mortgage is now 4.08% and the 15-year fixed rate mortgage is now 3.30%. Both loan types require an accompanying 0.8 discount points, plus a full set of closing costs.

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

Last week’s conforming mortgage rates represent a sharp increase from the week prior when rates for the 30-year fixed rate mortgage and 15-year fixed rate mortgage averaged 3.92% and 3.16%, respectively.

If you’ve been shopping for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage, the interest rate increase added $9.22 to your monthly payment per $100,000 borrowed.

We can’t know in what direction mortgage rates will move this week, but we can be certain they’ll be volatile. Wall Street is suddenly on edge, unsure of whether the economy is improving as recent data suggests, or if the Federal Reserve is correct in that threats to growth persist.

The week’s data schedule is as follows :

  • Monday : Pending Home Sales Index
  • Tuesday : Consumer Confidence; Case-Shiller Home Price Index
  • Wednesday : Durable Goods
  • Thursday : Initial Jobless Claims; GDP
  • Friday : Personal Income and Outlays

In addition, there are 6 Federal Reserve speakers scheduled for the week, including Chairman Bernanke. Expect mortgage rates to change frequently throughout the week as Wall Street wrestles with data and rhetoric.

Although mortgage rates spiked last week, historically, they remain low. If you’re nervous that rates may rise more, consider locking something in.

March 26, 2012 at 9:27 am Leave a comment

The Fed Meets Today : Protecting Your Housing Payment

Comparing the 30-year fixed versus the Fed Funds RateThe Federal Open Market Committee meets today, its second of 8 scheduled meetings this year. As a home buyer or would-be refinancing household in Michigan State University , get ready for changing mortgage rates.

The Federal Open Market Committee is the 12-person sub-committee within the Federal Reserve that votes on the nation’s monetary policy. Led by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, the FOMC’s most prominent role is as steward for the Fed Funds Rate.

The Fed has said repeatedly that it intends to keep the Fed Funds Rate near 0.000 for an “extended period of time”, through 2014 at least.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean that Okemos mortgage rates will remain low as well. Mortgage rates are not set by the Federal Open Market Committee. Mortgage rates are set by Wall Street.

As proof that the Fed Funds Rate is distinct from mortgage rates, consider that, since 2000, the difference between the Fed Funds Rate and the average, 30-year fixed rate mortgage rate has been as wide as 5.25% and as narrow at 0.50%.

If the Fed Funds Rate was tied to mortgage rates, the chart at right would be linear.

That said, the FOMC can influence mortgage rates. 

After its meetings, the FOMC issues a standard press release to the public which reflects the group’s overall economic outlook. When the FOMC statement is generally “positive”, mortgage rates tend to rise in response. This is because investors often assume more risk in an improving economy and this can harm bond market prices — including those for mortgage-backed bonds.

Conversely, when the Fed is generally negative in its statement, mortgage rates can improve.

Since the FOMC’s last meeting, there has been little about which to be negative with the U.S. economy. Housing and manufacturing are improving; employment is higher; and global markets are regaining their respective footing. The Fed may make note of it. Or, it may not.

Regardless, mortgage rates are expected to move so consider locking your mortgage rate ahead of today’s 2:15 PM ET statement.

There too much risk in floating.

March 13, 2012 at 8:51 am Leave a comment

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week : March 5, 2012

Net Non-Farm Payrolls (2010-2012)Mortgage markets worsened last week as the U.S. economy continued to show that it’s in recovery, and as Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke publicly hinted at the same.

In a congressional testimony Wednesday, Chairman Bernanke suggested that new, Fed-led stimulus may not be imminent, surprising Wall Street analysts and market traders who, for months, have expected a third round of quantitative easing from the Fed.

Bernanke’s comments sparked a sharp bond market sell-off that briefly pushed conforming and FHA mortgage rates up 0.375% in Michigan.

Other relevant data from last week included :

Also, the Pending Home Sales Index posted its highest reading since the end of the 2010 federal home buyer tax credit, suggesting a strong spring housing market.

The economy appears much improved over this time last year.

By the end of the week, mortgage rates had recovered somewhat, but still closed worse on the week. Mortgage rates are higher than their lows of the year.

According to Freddie Mac’s weekly mortgage rate survey, the average 30-year fixed rate mortgage is now 3.90% nationwide with an accompanying 0.8 discount points and a full set of closing costs. Borrowers in Okemos wishing to pay no points, or fewer fees, should expect higher rates than the Freddie Mac average.

The average 15-year mortgage rate is 3.17% with 0.8 discount points and closing costs.

This week, mortgage rates should be volatile. There aren’t many new data points set for release, but the ones on the calendar are bona fide market-movers — especially Friday’s Non-Farm Payrolls Report.

More commonly called the “jobs report”, Non-Farm Payrolls data is closely watched because of the jobs market’s close ties to the health of the economy. Businesses have added jobs through 16 straight months and are expected to show another 210,000 added in February. If the actual number of net new jobs added exceeds 210,000, expect for mortgage rates to rise.

If the number falls short, watch for rates to fall.

March 5, 2012 at 10:01 am Leave a comment

A Simple Explanation Of The Federal Reserve Statement (December 13, 2011 Edition)

Putting the FOMC statement in plain EnglishTuesday, the Federal Open Market Committee voted to leave the Fed Funds Rate unchanged within its current target range of 0.000-0.250 percent.

The vote was nearly unanimous for the second straight month. Just one FOMC member dissented in the vote, favoring additional policy stimulus beyond what the Federal Reserve currently provides.

In its press release, the Federal Reserve sais that the the U.S. economy is improving, noting that since its November 2011 meeting, the economy has been “expanding moderately”. The Fed also added that domestic growth is occurring despite some “apparent slowing in global growth” — a nod to ongoing uncertainty within the Eurozone.

The Federal Reserve expects a moderate pace of growth over the next few quarters, and believes that the jobs market will continue to improve, but slowly.

Other potential soft spots within the economy include :  

  1. A slowdown in business investment
  2. A “depressed” housing market
  3. Strains in global financial markets

The Federal Reserve added no new policies at its December meeting, and made no changes to existing ones. It re-iterated its plan to leave the Fed Funds Rate within its current range of 0.000-0.250 percent “at least until mid-2013” and re-affirmed “Operation Twist” — the stimulus program through which the Fed sells Treasury securities with a maturity of 3 years or less, and uses the proceeds to buy mortgage bonds with maturity between 6 and 30 years.

Mortgage bonds are mostly unchanged since the Fed’s announcement, giving mortgage rates in Lansing little reason to rise or fall.

Mortgage rates remain near all-time lows and, for homeowners willing to pay points + closing costs, 30-year fixed rate mortgages can be locked at less than 4 percent. If you’re thinking of buying or refinancing a home, it’s a good time to lock a mortgage rate.

The FOMC’s next meeting will be its first scheduled meeting of the new year. The meeting is slated for January 24-25, 2012.

December 13, 2011 at 3:40 pm Leave a comment

Fed Minutes : A Fed Divided Reaches Comprise

Fed Minutes

Wednesday, the Federal Reserve released the minutes from its 2-day meeting September 20-21, 2011.

The release shows a divided Fed in disagreement about the current U.S. monetary policy. The group reached compromise for new economic stimulus, however, and maintained its commitment to accommodative interest rates.

Wall Street reacted tepidly to the minutes. Mortgage rates in East Lansing worsened slightly post-release.

The Fed Minutes gets less press than the FOMC’s post-meeting press release, but it’s every bit as important. Because it details the conversations that take place among voting and non-voting Fed members at FOMC meetings, the Fed Minutes is an inside-look at the debates and discussion that lead to new monetary policy.

As examples, here are some of the topics covered at the September FOMC meeting :

  • On growth : Economic growth was slow, but “did not suggest a contraction”
  • On housing : The market continues to be “depressed by weak demand”
  • On rates : The Fed Funds Rate will remain low until mid-2013

Then, with Fed members divided on whether the central bank should add new stimulus, it reached a compromise instead, launching the $400 billion “Operation Twist” program. Operation Twist is meant to lower longer-term interest rates, including mortgage rates.

Since Operation Twist began, mortgage rates are higher by nearly 0.375%.

Also noteworthy within the Fed Minutes was concern for an economic slowdown and how the Federal Reserve may react. According to the record, a slowdown may prompt the Fed to introduce its third round of qualitative easing, or QE3. An out-sized stimulus plan would likely lead rates higher.

Nothing will happen until the Fed’s next meeting, however. Chairman Ben Bernanke & Co meet next November 1-2 for a 2-day meeting..

October 14, 2011 at 8:49 am Leave a comment

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week : April 25, 2011

Federal Reserve 2-day meeting this weekMortgage markets improved slightly through last week’s holiday-shortened trading sessions. Better-than-expected housing data led mortgage rates higher Tuesday and Wednesday, but rates retreated Thursday morning in advance of Good Friday.

Markets were closed Thursday afternoon and Friday. They re-open this morning.

Conforming mortgage rates in Michigan ended last week unchanged overall. It’s a strange outcome considering that Standard & Poor’s issued a downgrade on U.S. debt Monday.

In most instances, a debt downgrade would lead investors away from a particular group of securities — in this case, a group that includes mortgage-backed bonds. However, Wall Street reacted in the opposite.

When S&P issued its opinion, however, mortgage bonds rallied.

Some say this is because the downgrade will force Congress to address a rising debt-load; others think a downgrade slows growth which, in turn, slows down inflation. Both scenarios are considered a positive for mortgage bonds. Hence, mortgage rates fell.

This week, momentum could reverse. In addition to a slew of housing and economic data including New Home Sales, Pending Home Sales, and Consumer Confidence data, the Federal Open Market Committee is meeting for the third time this year. And this month, the FOMC is meeting a little differently.

Usually, when the FOMC gets together, it adjourns and releases a press statement to the markets at 2:15 PM ET. This month, though, the FOMC will release its statement at 12:30 PM ET, and then Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke will hold a press briefing at 2:15 PM ET to address the aforementioned statement. He’s expected to add growth forecasts to the official FOMC release, among other items.

Whenever the FOMC meets, mortgage rates can be volatile. This week, with the new press briefing format, that volatility is even more likely.

If you’re floating a mortgage rate or wondering whether to lock, mortgage rates will be at their “calmest” levels of the week Monday and Tuesday. Once Wednesday hits, and the FOMC statements begin, expect for rates to change.

 

September 23, 2011 at 2:11 pm Leave a comment

Mortgage Rates — And Home Affordability — At The Whim Of The Federal Reserve

Fed Funds Rate and Mortgage Rates 1990-2011

The Federal Open Market Committee starts a two-day meeting today, the third of its 8 scheduled meetings this year.

The FOMC is a special, 12-person committee within the Federal Reserve. It’s led by Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and the group is responsible for voting on our nation’s monetary policy. This includes setting the Fed Funds Rate, the rate at which banks borrow money from each other overnight.

The general public tends to confuse the Fed Funds Rate for “mortgage rates” but, as shown in the chart at top, the two interest rates are very different. There is no direct correlation between the Fed Funds Rate and everyday mortgage rates in East Lansing.

Since 1990, the two benchmark rates have been separated by as much as 5.29 percent, and have been as close as 0.52 percent.

Today, the separation between the Fed Funds Rate and the national average for a standard, 30-year fixed rate mortgage is 4.625 percent. This spread will widen — or shrink — beginning 12:30 PM ET Wednesday. That’s when the FOMC adjourns and releases its public statement to the markets.

According to Wall Street, there’s a 100% chance that the FOMC leaves the Fed Funds Rate in its current “target range” of 0.000-0.250 percent, the same range in which it’s been since December 2008. Depending on the verbiage in the press release, plus the comments of Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke in his scheduled, 2:15 PM ET press briefing, mortgage rates aren’t expected to steady as well.

If the Fed projects higher growth in late-2011/early-2012, or hints at new market stimuli, expect mortgage rates to rise on concerns about inflation. Inflation is bad for mortgage rates, in general.

On the other hand, if the Fed indicates that the economy is slowing down, or that it plans to withdraw its existing, $600 billion bond market stimulus, look for mortgage rates to fall.

It’s hard to be a home buyer in the Michigan State University area when the Federal Open Market Committee meets. There’s just so much that can change mortgage rates and rising mortgage rates can affect purchasing power in a flash.

In the 6 months since November 2010, home affordability is off 9%.

So, if you’re shopping for mortgages, or just floating a rate, consider getting locked in before the FOMC issues its press release Wednesday. Once the statement hits, mortgage rates could soar.

September 23, 2011 at 2:11 pm Leave a comment

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Don Grimes

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