Welcome to Connie Mahan Real Estate Group - your source for Sumter County real estate.
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Keeping you updated on the market!
For the week of
March 23, 2015
What The Latest Fed Statement Means To Us
Housing and mortgage markets are supposed to be the focus, but a lot of time is spent vetting the Federal Reserve. We have no choice. The Fed is the guiding light of all financial markets these days.
Look no further than Fed Chair Janet Yellen's comments on Wednesday. For most of the day, financial-market participants were on the edge of their seats, anticipating somewhat anxiously how she would guide: Is an interest rate hike imminent or not?
We mentioned last week the importance of the word “patient.” The Fed had used that word as a way of telegraphing that no rate increase was imminent. In the latest meeting minutes, “patient” was removed, but no need to fear. The lack of “patient” does not imply impatience.
Despite strong monthly job growth over the past year, the Fed is still unsatisfied with economic growth. In fact, the Fed lowered its 2015 and 2016 outlook for gross domestic product (GDP) growth. At the same time, inflation remains muted. In other words, the Fed has the leeway to remain patient when it comes to raising interest rates.
Markets were somewhat impatient in their reaction to the good news. The major stock market measures spiked higher. Conversely, bond yields spiked lower. The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note fell 10 basis points. The 10-year note now yields less than 2%.
As the yield on the 10-year note goes, so goes mortgage rates. Rates on both the 30-year and 15-year loans were significantly lower on Wednesday (though on Thursday they began to drift higher).
Now the question is, should we expect these lower rates to hold?
If you talk to mortgage-rate watchers, most still anticipate the Fed to raise the federal funds rate this year, possibly as soon as June. We are somewhat more circumspect. We would not be surprised to see a rate hike postponed until 2016. We say that because the U.S. dollar remains strong on the world market. An interest rate increase would make the dollar even stronger. (A strong dollar is a mixed blessing: imports are cheaper, but some exports are more expensive.)
Easy money everywhere also mitigates the odds of a rate increase. More than 20 central banks have implemented easy money policies since December. If the Fed moves to tighten its monetary policy – which an interest-rate hike would do – that ensures an even stronger dollar.
In short, there is no overwhelming reason for the Fed to begin raising interest rates. This tells us that sub-4% on the 30-year fixed-rated loan will be with us for a while.
Is Housing In Trouble?
Recent housing data also give the Federal Reserve reason to pause on raising interest rates.
The trend in negative equity appears to have turned and is on the rise. CoreLogic reports that negative equity increased to 10.8% of all mortgaged properties in the fourth quarter of 2014. In the third quarter, the percentage was 10.4%. Roughly 200,000 more homeowners find themselves in a negative-equity position.
Home builders are also growing more cautious. The NAHB sentiment inde x dropped two points to a 53 reading, an eight-month low. The traffic component of the index showed particular weakness, falling two points to 37, a nine-month low.
Lower builder optimism is reflected in fewer starts. Housing starts dropped to 897,000 annualized units in February. This is 17% below the revised January estimate of 1.081 million units and is 3.3% below the February 2014 rate of 928,000 units. Single-family housing starts were particularly disappointing, falling 14.9% to 593,000 annualized units.
Of course, one month doesn't make a trend and the national numbers can be meaningless to any local market. That said, the Federal Reserve does pay attention to national numbers. If housing slips into a funk on the national stage, you can be sure the word “patient” will reappear in Fed meeting minutes.
If you have any questions on the local market in your area or would like to discuss your next real estate step, don't hesitate to contact us.
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