Monday, May 28, 2012

How to Protect Your Identity If You Lose Your Phone


How to Protect Your Identity, Finances If You Lose Your Phone

It’s a gold mine for ID thieves. Take steps to protect your information. 

By Lisa Gerstner, Kiplinger.com

Lose your smart phone and you could have more to contend with than missed calls and text messages, a lost contact list, and Angry Birds withdrawal. Anyone who finds it will have an opportunity to empty your bank account, steal your identity or both.

Think of your smart phone as part wallet, part computer. If someone were to access your online-banking or eBay application, for instance, the funds in your checking account could be gone in minutes. Thieves could also get information from your e-mail messages -- as well as reset passwords for your online accounts and retrieve them from your e-mail account. Or they could use your contacts for phishing schemes.

Preventive measures. Start by using your phone’s security settings to lock your screen with a password. Only 38% of smart-phone owners take that simple, effective step, according to Javelin Strategy & Research. And don’t use an obvious PIN (such as your birth year) or a simple pattern to unlock your screen. Hide the phone as you enter the code if strangers are nearby.

When you finish using your applications, log out. At the very least, sign out of your banking and payment apps (and any others that could allow someone to go on a spending spree). And don’t store your log-in information in an app’s data-entry fields for easy access. Even apps that seem harmless could be a treasure trove for a crook, says Eduard Goodman, chief privacy officer for Identity Theft 911. The list of connections on your Facebook account may reveal your mother’s maiden name, for example.

If your phone disappears. You can install a location-tracking app on most smart phones. Apple’s iPhone has the Find My iPhone app built in, but you need to activate it; apps such as “Where’s My Droid” are available for Android devices. The feature is a big help if, say, you can’t remember where you left your phone. And if it has been stolen, police may be able to use the app to help track down the thief.

Also, set up your phone so that you can remotely erase its data. Your wireless carrier may offer this service, and many security apps include the feature. But keep in mind that a sophisticated thief may be able to restore the information, says Kevin Johnson, senior security consultant for Secure Ideas. Your data won’t be lost if it’s saved automatically to your Google or iCloud account, and you can regularly perform backups by plugging your phone into your computer.

Malware and more. Losing your phone isn’t the only potential danger. Hackers can collect sensitive information through malware. Android phones are particularly susceptible because developers can more easily submit virus-laden apps. (Google has an open-source market, while Apple has a rigorous screening process for apps.) Research an app’s developer and read reviews of the app before you download it. If you receive suspicious-looking text messages, don’t reply or click on links.

Some of the big names in antivirus protection offer malware protection for phones (Symantec’s Norton Mobile Security is $30). But you may want to wait until such mobile software improves, says Johnson. The programs may slow down your phone and offer little protection.

Using unsecured Wi-Fi and leaving your Bluetooth connection open are other actions that could leave your phone vulnerable to hackers. Goodman suggests turning your cell phone off at night to avoid stealth attacks while you sleep.

Reprinted with permission. All Contents ©2012 The Kiplinger Washington Editors. Kiplinger.com 

Mortgage Market Guide Vol. 10 Issue 22


I sincerely hope you have been enjoying your complimentary subscription to the MORTGAGE MARKET GUIDE WEEKLY. As the Memorial Day holiday is being observed, the next full issue will arrive on Monday, June 4th. I wish you and your family a peaceful Memorial Day holiday, as we remember the sacrifices of all of our Armed Forces servicemen and women, past and present, who have worked so hard to protect our great country. And please share the important article below with your clients, friends, and family members so they can keep their personal information safe — beyond this holiday weekend.

The Mortgage Market Guide Weekly is the industry's leading publication of this type, and I'm pleased to provide this valuable resource to you. If you feel that any of your clients, friends, family members or associates would benefit from keeping up-to-date on market and economic trends with this easy-to-read format, please let me know, and I will be happy to add them free of charge. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Beware of Smart Phone Text Scams


Don't Click That Link!
Beware of Smart Phone SMS(Text) Scams

Smart phones can make life – not to mention business – much easier. You can send and receive text messages in a flash to clients and colleagues. You can even text links to important web pages that can be opened right on a smart phone.

Of course, those same benefits make scams much easier for criminals. Take for instance the latest craze: smishing.

What Is Smishing?

Smishing uses SMS technology to deliver fake (and criminal) messages. In fact, the name actually comes from combining the acronym SMS with the word phishing (that is: SMs + phISHING = SMISHING).

How Does It Work?

It works much like a phishing email, except you receive it on your smart phone as a text message. It starts with a text message to your phone, often stating that you've won a prize or that your account requires some kind of update.

Two recent smishing scams consist of text messages that appear to be sent by Best Buy or Wal-Mart, stating that you've been randomly selected for a $1,000 gift card. The text message includes a link to a web page that looks professional and official. But it's not. It's really just a clever way for criminals to collect your personal data.

What Should You (NOT) Do?

If you receive any message that seems out of the ordinary or too good to be true, take the following precautions:
  • Don't open: If you didn't register for a prize, you probably didn't win one. So always be skeptical about emails or text messages that are unsolicited or offer free prizes that you didn't register for yourself. If you see one that looks suspicious, don't open it.
  • Don't click: If you do open the message before you realize it's suspicious, don't click the link.
  • Don't reply: Sometimes, people try to reply STOP in an effort to avoid receiving future text messages. But what they don't realize is that there isn't a list in most cases. Instead, criminals program their computers to randomly dial/text different phone number combinations. So, by replying to the message, you may actually be informing the criminals that you have an active number that received the message.
  • Don't call: Some smishing text messages will direct you to call a phone number rather than click a link. That may lower your guard, but the toll-free number is just part of the plan. Once you dial it, you'll hear an automated voice that will collect your personal data for use by the criminals. If you do decide that you want to check if the message is real, don't dial the number in the text or email. Instead, look the number up in the phone book or on a reputable site.
Here are just a few options that you should do if you receive a suspicious message:
  • Delete: One of the best options is to simply delete the suspicious text or email.
  • Report: You can also report the scam by filing a complaint on the FBI's Internet crime website at http://www.ic3.gov.
  • Stay up to date: You can stay up to date on the latest scams by following websites that track these issues. One option is the website ScamBook.com, which relies on user submissions to track everything from smishing to false advertising.
The bottom line is that no reputable company would text you to ask for your information. Keep your guard up and be suspicious of anything that seems odd or too good to be true. And remember to pass these tips on to your friends, family members and clients.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Mortgage Market Guide Vol. 10 Issue 21

Last Week in Review: There was more drama out of Europe, plus some important inflation news.

It's all Greek to me. And last week, news out of Europe dominated the headlines...impacting our markets and home loan rates. Read on for details.


Last week there was news that the European Central Bank (ECB) stopped providing funding to some Greek banks, adding to the drama in the region. ECB President Mario Draghi backed the move saying that the ECB will not compromise "the integrity of our balance sheet" to bail out Greek banks and the recapitalization effort must come from the Greek government themselves.


What will be made of Greece? Will there be a "Grexit," with the country exiting the Euro? What's more, Spain looks like it will be in a recession throughout 2013 and that country is drowning in debt with Bond yields now approaching very lofty levels. When there is this much risk out in the market, Traders seek a safe haven like the US Dollar and US Bonds...and the drama and risk in Europe benefitted our Bonds (including Mortgage Bonds, to which home loan rates are tied) last week.


Here at home, inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI) came in at 2.3% year-over-year. Remember, inflation hurts the value of fixed investments like Bonds (thus, hurting home loan rates)...so inflation staying in check is crucial when it comes to home loan rates remaining near record best levels. And while the year-over-year CPI reading was the lowest since February 2011, it's important to realize that there is a negative correlation between inflation and what Treasuries are yielding...and this negative correlation can't last forever. Investors will not continue to "lose" money to inflation by holding Treasuries. Either inflation has to moderate a lot OR the Bond Market has to adjust for inflation with prices moving lower. This will result in home loan rates moving higher. 


The bottom line is that home loan rates remain near historic lows and now continues to be a great time to purchase or refinance a home. Let me know if I can answer any questions at all for you or your clients.


Forecast for the Week: Several important reports are ahead of the holiday weekend, with news on the housing market, durable goods, and consumer sentiment.

As you can see in the chart below, the drama in Europe helped Bonds and home loan rates reach record best levels. I'll be watching closely to see what happens this week.

Remember: Weak economic news normally causes money to flow out of Stocks and into Bonds, helping Bonds and home loan rates improve, while strong economic news normally has the opposite result. The chart below shows Mortgage Backed Securities (MBS), which are the type of Bond that home loan rates are based on
 Chart: Fannie Mae 3.5% Mortgage Bond (Friday May 18, 2012)













To go one step further – a red "candle" means that MBS worsened during the day, while a green "candle" means MBS improved during the day. Depending on how dramatic the changes were on any given day, this can cause rate changes throughout the day, as well as on the rate sheets we start with each morning.

This week's economic calendar is light, but there are still some important reports to watch:

  • Existing Home Sales and New Home Sales will be released on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively. The data comes after last week's positive Housing Starts report.
  • Weekly Initial Jobless Claims will be released on Thursday as usual.
  • Also on Thursday we'll see the Durable Goods Report for April. This report measures orders for big ticket items that last for an extended time.
  • Consumer Sentiment rounds out the week and will be delivered on Friday.
In addition to those reports, the markets may be impacted by the upcoming holiday weekend. That's because the week leading up to Memorial Day weekend usually sees low trading volumes – and by Friday afternoon, trading desks have pretty much cleared out. When volumes are low, markets can easily see some big swings

When you see these Bond prices moving higher, it means home loan rates are improving – and when they are moving lower, home loan rates are getting worse.



Wednesday, May 16, 2012

It Pays to Have a Good Memory



It Pays to Have a Good Memory

In today’s housing market, it can pay (quite literally) to have a good memory. That’s because a good memory can help you stand out from the competition — especially when you’re networking and trying to remember names.

Unfortunately, many of us have trouble remembering the name of someone two minutes after we shake her hand. If that sounds like you, don’t worry… you’re not alone. It's actually an extremely common occurrence for many people. The good news is there are a number of simple, practical steps you can take to improve your memory now and long into the future. Here are just two of the great tips for proactively strengthening your memory.

Tip #1: Neurobic Exercise

You know all about the wonderful effects aerobic exercise has on the heart, but have you heard of neurobic exercise for the brain?

According to Lawrence Katz, co-author of Keep Your Brain Alive: 83 Neurobic Exercises, the best exercise for the brain is to force it to form "new patterns of association" or new pathways. In other words, challenge your brain every day. Take it off autopilot and make it relearn or create new associations with the most routine activities of your day.

Katz's book offers numerous examples of small changes you can make to activate your brain, including: brushing your teeth with the other hand; taking an alternative route to work; moving your wastebasket to the other side of your desk; closing your eyes while putting your key in and unlocking the front door; and changing where you and your family members sit at the dinner table.

So if you feel like your memory might be starting to slip a bit, try some of these simple neurobic exercises today!

Tip #2: Mnemonic Drilling

There are actually three steps or stages of memorization: acquisition, consolidation, and retrieval. That means, once we acquire new information, like someone's name for instance, the way in which we consolidate that data will directly affect how well we're able to retrieve it from memory.

Whether you're a visual or auditory type of learner, there are many mnemonic devices that can help you to better organize or consolidate the new information that you need to recall.

Here's an example of simple steps that might help:

First, associate the data you want to remember with common images. For instance, let's say you meet someone named Jennifer Green. Imagine Jennifer playing golf, or picture her wearing all green clothes, or imagine her face painted completely green.

Second, think of associations you can use to help you remember this person. For instance, link Jennifer to the quality that best fits her personality (use alliteration and rhymes whenever possible): Jolly Jennifer Green.

Finally, connect sound to your memory by saying the name aloud.

Do this regularly and, before you know it, you'll never forget anyone's name again! And that can give you a nice advantage in networking and communicating with clients! 

Monday, May 14, 2012

Mortgage Market Guide Vol. 10 Issue 20

Last Week in Review: Bonds and home loan rates improved to record levels — find out why.

Survey says? Last week’s economic report calendar may have been light, but some important surveys revealed key data to note. Read on for the details...and how home loan rates fared.

As you can see in the chart, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) said that of the 146 Metro cities surveyed, home prices rose in 74 of them in Q1 2012. This is up from 29 cities that saw an increase in home prices in Q4 2011. In addition, the NAR also said that inventories for existing homes fell 22% since this time last year and are down 41% since the peak in mid-2007. While the housing market has a long way to go, this report was a nice step in the right direction.

There was also news from the National Federation of Independent Business, which said that its small business optimism index gained 2% in April as the survey revealed that companies have increased plans for hiring and investing in the future. While companies added new employees at a slower pace in April than in March, the index rose to 94.5 — the highest level since February of 2011. Overall, though, the report showed that our economy is improving but is still fragile. The state of our economy is part of the reason for the improvement in Bonds (and home loan rates, which are tied to Mortgage Bonds) of late.

Another big reason that Bonds and home loan rates have been improving is the fresh round of uncertainty out of Europe. France elected a new president, and this change of the guard represents the ninth EuroZone leader swap since the financial crisis began. Greece is also back in the news and their citizens are not taking to the austerity measures either. The New Democracy government, a pro-bailout party, is having trouble gathering the support to rule the government. This has sparked some safe haven trading into our Bonds, as investors see our Bonds as a safe place for their money.

The bottom line is that now continues to be a great time to purchase or refinance a home, as home loan rates remain near historic lows. Let me know if I can answer any questions at all for you or your clients.

Forecast for the Week: A full slate of economic reports is ahead, with news on inflation, the housing market, manufacturing and more.

As you can see in the chart below, Bonds and home loan rates reached record best levels last week. I’ll be monitoring the markets closely this week to see what happens next.

Chart: Fannie Mae 3.5% Mortgage Bond (Friday May 11, 2012)


With earnings season behind us, investors will be deluged with a slew of economic reports that will touch on many segments of the U.S. economy: 
  • Retail Sales will be released on Tuesday. This report gives the markets some insight to how consumer spending is holding up.
  • Also on Tuesday, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) will report on inflation at the consumer level. Last week’s Producer Price Index showed that inflation at the wholesale level has moderated, thanks to lower energy prices. Will CPI follow suit?
  • Manufacturing from the New York Empire and Philadelphia Fed Index will also be released Tuesday and Thursday, respectively.
  • Housing Starts and Building Permits data will be delivered on Wednesday.
  • Last — but not least — will be the Weekly Initial Jobless Claims numbers on Thursday. Last week's data was the lowest in a month.
In addition to those reports, European headlines will continue to dominate the news as the debt woes in that region plague the global economies. Also, the minutes from the Fed's April meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee will be released and this could move the markets. 

Remember: Weak economic news normally causes money to flow out of Stocks and into Bonds, helping Bonds and home loan rates improve, while strong economic news normally has the opposite result. The chart above shows Mortgage Backed Securities (MBS), which are the type of Bond that home loan rates are based on.


When you see these Bond prices moving higher, it means home loan rates are improving — and when they are moving lower, home loan rates are getting worse.


To go one step further — a red “candle” means that MBS worsened during the day, while a green “candle” means MBS improved during the day. Depending on how dramatic the changes were on any given day, this can cause rate changes throughout the day, as well as on the rate sheets we start with each morning. 


View: Did you know that bad news can be good for home loan rates? Be sure to read the article below.

Why Bad News Can Be Good for Home Loan Rates


It may seem odd that negative economic news can actually be good for home loan rates, but there's a pretty simple explanation for this phenomenon. Here’s a concise explanation you can share with your clients or you can use to gain a better understanding yourself.


First, we need to remember that big money managers who are in search of higher returns avoid holding onto cash by investing in both Stocks and Bonds.


Second, we need to dispel the myth about how home loan rates are determined. Despite what it may sound like in news stories covering the Federal Reserve’s meeting, home loan rates are based on the performance of mortgage-backed securities — which are a type of Bond.


When we put those two points together, we see that whenever the economy is on fire and there are good economic news reports, investors tend to put more money into Stocks. That’s because Stocks offer higher returns, even though they are generally more risky. To put money into Stocks, however, investors must remove some of their money from less-risky Bonds. The result is a decreased demand in Bonds that causes Bond prices to worsen, which causes home loan rates to go higher.


Inversely, when the economy is sluggish and economic reports are negative, money managers tend to take money out of higher-risk Stocks to put it into less-risky Bonds. As demand for Bonds increase, Bond pricing improves and home loan rates go down.


So while it may seem odd that home loan rates improve when economic news is sluggish, it actually makes sense when you look at the big picture.


If you have any questions about how the economic news is impacting home loan rates, please just call or email. I’m always happy to chat about what’s happening in the markets and what it means to home loan rates. 
 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Mortgage Market Guide Vol. 10 Issue 19

Last Week in Review: The Jobs Report for April is in, but what did the news reveal about our economy?

Take this job and love it. And the Labor Department’s Jobs Report for April showed that fewer than expected people are able to do this, as fewer than expected jobs were created. Read on for details and what they mean for home loan rates.

The Jobs Report showed that 115,000 jobs were created in April, with 130,000 private sector jobs offsetting government job losses. This number was a disappointment and below expectations. The only silver lining in the report were upward revisions to the previous month's readings which added 53,000 more jobs than what was previously reported.

The unemployment rate dropped a tick to 8.1% — the lowest since January 2009. However, the decline was mainly due to the labor force shrinking by 300,000, rather than by robust job growth. And as expected, we are starting to hear more and more about the Labor Force Participation Rate (LFPR). The LFPR dropped to 63.6, the lowest ratio since December 1981. Why is this important? The LFPR gives us a clear read of who is working and who is not.  And if someone is not participating, then they are probably receiving some sort of social security or unemployment insurance. The bottom line is that it is tough to pay down debt when there are not enough people participating in the labor force. 

Overall the Jobs Report was underwhelming and, unfortunately, further accommodative monetary policy or even more Bond buying (known as Quantitative Easing or QE3) will have a very limited effect on job growth. What’s more, the debt drama in Europe continues to escalate, as both Italy and Germany reported higher than expected unemployment rates, while Spain has slipped into its second recession since the financial crisis.

The events in Europe and potential softening of our economy have resulted in home loan rates remaining near historic lows. That means now continues to be a great time to purchase or refinance a home. Let me know if I can answer any questions at all for you or your clients. 

Forecast for the Week: A quiet week is ahead, but an important inflation report will be released.

 As you can see in the chart below, Bonds and home loan rates reached record best levels after last week’s Jobs Report. I’ll be monitoring the markets closely this week to see what happens next.

Chart: Fannie Mae 3.5% Mortgage Bond (Friday May 04, 2012)



















After two weeks featuring a slew of economic reports, this week's calendar is light. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be a battle for investing dollars in the Stock and Bond markets!
  • The first report won't be released until Thursday with the weekly Initial Jobless Claims report. Last week, claims fell by 27,000, which was the largest weekly decline since May 2011.  
  • On Friday, inflation at the wholesale level will be released in the form of the Producer Price Index (PPI). Last week it was reported that the year-over-year Core Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE) rose to 2%, the high end of the Fed's range.
  • The last report on Friday will be the first reading on Consumer Sentiment for May.
With so few economic reports this week, market players will be focusing in on the ongoing debt crisis in Europe, earnings reports and how the $66 Billion in Treasury Notes and Bonds will be received. All three of those news items could move Bonds and home loan rates this week.


Remember: Weak economic news normally causes money to flow out of Stocks and into Bonds, helping Bonds and home loan rates improve, while strong economic news normally has the opposite result. The chart above shows Mortgage Backed Securities (MBS), which are the type of Bond that home loan rates are based on. 


When you see these Bond prices moving higher, it means home loan rates are improving — and when they are moving lower, home loan rates are getting worse.
To go one step further — a red “candle” means that MBS worsened during the day, while a green “candle” means MBS improved during the day. Depending on how dramatic the changes were on any given day, this can cause rate changes throughout the day, as well as on the rate sheets we start with each morning. 
 








Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Cinco de Mayo: The Story You May Not Know


Cinco de Mayo: The Story You May Not Know

In a few days, we’ll mark the celebration known as Cinco de Mayo. Although many people have heard of this celebration, most people don’t realize that the event being commemorated may have actually played an important role in shaping the United States that we know today.

Feel free to share the interesting facts below with clients and friends in the coming days! You may surprise them with what you’re about to read.

What Does Cinco de Mayo Commemorate?

Many people believe that Cinco de Mayo is the day that recognizes Mexico's independence from Spain. To set the record straight, that conquest happened on September 15th, 1810. Cinco de Mayo, on the other hand, celebrates an event that took place over 50 years later.

On May 5, 1862, the Mexican cavalry, under the command of Texas-born General Zaragosa, defeated the French at the battle at Puebla, a city 100 miles east of Mexico City.

The French army, having not suffered a defeat in nearly 50 years, landed in the port of Vera Cruz and headed toward the capital city with a specific mission. Fearless of any opponent, the French sought to overthrow the capitol and gain control of Mexico, even bringing along a Hapsburg prince to oversee the would-be empire.

Cinco de Mayo’s Connection to the United States

The goal of France's leader, Emperor Napoleon III, was to gain proximity to the US in hopes of supplying the Confederate Army in their fight against the North. He had a vested interest in sustaining the division within America.

To America's benefit, the undersized Mexican cavalry used their knowledge of the terrain to defeat the powerful French army. This victory enabled the northern states to build the greatest army in the world at that time.

Fourteen months later, the North soundly defeated the Confederate Army in the battle at Gettysburg, thus ending the civil war. Union troops were subsequently rushed to the Texas/Mexican border to help expel the French from Mexico.

For this reason, Cinco de Mayo is celebrated in both countries. More importantly, it's a great occasion to honor freedom and liberty.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Mortgage Market Guide Vol. 10 Issue 18

Last Week In Review: The Fed met, but was there mention of more Bond buying?

"I’m still standing – yeah, yeah, yeah." Elton John. And after last week’s Fed meeting, Bonds and home loan rates are still standing near record best levels. Read on for details.
After last week’s regularly scheduled meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC), Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke acknowledged that conditions in our economy are improving modestly, but he noted that the housing market remains depressed. One example of this is New Home Sales, which fell 7.1% in March to 328K units on an annual rate.



Bernanke also noted that inflation is higher in the short-run due to higher energy costs, but that the Fed expects prices to moderate and remain in check longer-term. Remember, inflation hurts the value of fixed investments like Bonds (including Mortgage Bonds, to which home loan rates are tied)...so inflation staying in check is crucial when it comes to home loan rates remaining near record best levels.


One important subject the Fed didn’t mention in their Policy Statement was another round of Bond buying to stimulate our economy (known as Quantitative Easing or QE3). This wasn’t much of a surprise because — after several moves to prop up the economy — the Fed must see where upcoming economic reports go before venturing to underwrite the economy further. If the housing market remains depressed and the economy doesn't pick up steam, QE3 could be a very real possibility.


And there was a bit of a sluggish read on our economy last Friday, after the Fed’s mid-week meeting. The advanced (first of three readings) of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the 1st Quarter of 2012 came in at 2.2%, well below expectations. This was also well below the 3% final 4th Quarter 2011 GDP reading. Within the report it showed that the personal consumption expenditure inflation reading rose at the fastest pace since the 2nd Quarter of 2011. This is definitely something the Fed is watching closely. 
As 2012 continues to unfold, inflation, the housing market, our sluggish economy, and our ever-growing debt are important issues that the Fed and our government need to address. Seeing the debt crisis in Europe escalate must put a sense of urgency on our government to reign in our annual budget deficit and overall debt. This mix of factors will continue to impact the direction in which Bonds and home loan rates move in the weeks ahead.


The good news is that now continues to be a great time to purchase or refinance a home, as home loan rates remain near historic lows. Let me know if I can answer any questions at all for you or your clients.


Forecast For The Week: A full slate of economic reports ahead, with news of inflation, manufacturing, and the job market.

As you can see in the chart below, Bonds and home loan rates continue to hover near record best levels. I’ll stay on top of this week’s news to monitor how Bonds and home loan rates are impacted.

Chart: Fannie Mae 3.5% Mortgage Bond (Friday Apr 27, 2012)


















A slew of economic reports are set for release this week, and investors and traders will be watching the data closely for any signs of an economic slowdown:
  • Right off the bat on Monday the Personal Income and Spending data will be released along with the closely watched Core Personal Consumption Expenditure (PCE) report. The Core PCE is the Fed's favorite gauge of inflation and comes after Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said last week that inflation in the short-term has been pressured higher by rising energy costs.      
  • In the manufacturing sector, the Chicago PMI will be released on Monday with the national ISM Index delivered on Tuesday. 
  • On Wednesday, the ADP Employment Report will be released ahead of the government's monthly Non-farm Payrolls and the Unemployment Rate on Friday.         
  • Initial Weekly Jobless Claims will be released on Thursday. The recent couple weeks of elevated Jobless Claims is disturbing…and if it continues, rest assured QE3 chatter will re-emerge.
Remember: Weak economic news normally causes money to flow out of Stocks and into Bonds, helping Bonds and home loan rates improve, while strong economic news normally has the opposite result. The chart above shows Mortgage Backed Securities (MBS), which are the type of Bond that home loan rates are based on. 


When you see these Bond prices moving higher, it means home loan rates are improving — and when they are moving lower, home loan rates are getting worse.


To go one step further — a red “candle” means that MBS worsened during the day, while a green “candle” means MBS improved during the day. Depending on how dramatic the changes were on any given day, this can cause rate changes throughout the day, as well as on the rate sheets we start with each morning.  

Monday, April 30, 2012

Fun Housing Facts


Fun Housing Facts

The United States Census Bureau recently released some fun facts related to housing across the country, based on data for 2010. Here are just a few highlights from the release that you may find interesting…and may want to pass on to others.

Heating Our Homes
  • 57 million = Number of houses heated by utility gas.
  • 2.2 million = Number of houses heated by wood.
  • 38,010 = Number of houses heated by solar energy.
From Home to Work
  • 25.3 minutes = Average time workers across the country spent getting from home to work.
  • 31.8 minutes = Longest commute time in the nation, which belonged to Maryland residents.
  • 16.1 minutes = Shortest commute time in the nation, which belonged to North Dakota residents.
Home Sweet Home
  • 2,392 square feet = Average size of a single-family house built in 2010. That number was down a little from 2,438 square feet in 2009.
  • 131.7 million = Number of housing units counted in the 2010 Census. Compare that to 37.2 million in the first housing census, which was conducted in 1940!
Bonus Fact!

The first housing census in 1940 featured 31 housing questions - including some we may find odd today, such as whether the house had a radio…toilets or an outhouse…electric lighting…and running water.

Conversely, the 2010 census only included two housing questions: (1) whether the home was owned or rented and (2) whether the respondent sometimes lived or stayed somewhere else. The number of housing questions in the census has dropped because we now ask a number of housing questions in the American Community Survey, which is sent to about 3 million households nationwide every year.

Over the years, housing has really changed. But regardless of the time or location, one thing remains the same…there's no place like home!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Mortgage Market Guide Vol. 10 Issue 17

Last Week In Review: There was a mix of good, bad, and downright ugly news. Find out how new home loans responded.


On the good side, Retail Sales in March rose by a nice 0.8%, as consumers bought all kinds of products across the board. And when stripping out autos, sales still grew. This adds to the increasing trend seen in January and February and is a good sign for our economy, as consumers don't spend when they aren't feeling optimistic about their financial situation.
"Bad news goes about in clogs, good news in stockinged feet." Welsh Proverb. And we certainly saw both good and bad news in the economic reports released last week. Here are the details...and what they mean for home loan rates.

But over in the manufacturing sector it was not as pretty a picture, as both the Empire State Manufacturing Index and the Philly Fed Index came in below expectations. This is largely being attributed to a global slowdown, and experts say that the outlook for our manufacturing remains positive…but just not accelerating at the present time. Things weren't as pretty in the housing sector either, as both Existing Home Sales and Housing Starts fell in March.

And things in the labor market were verging on ugly, as Initial Jobless Claims spiked sharply higher. The Labor Department reported 386,000 fresh Claims in the latest week, above the 375,000 that was expected...and well above the 350,000 range seen in recent weeks.

Also verging on ugly was news out of Europe. There is growing and very justified concern about Spain's ability to pay down debt, meet new budget deficit targets, and avoid a bailout or debt restructuring. The Spanish situation has prompted the G-20 (Finance Ministers and Central Bankers of the 20 largest economies) to urge the European Central Bank to do more to contain their debt crisis as it threatens global growth. And let's not forget that besides Spain, we still have France, Portugal, Ireland and Greece to deal with in future months and years.

So what does all of this mean for Bonds and home loan rates? There will likely be more safe haven trading into the relative safety of the US Dollar and US Bonds (which will benefit Mortgage Bonds, to which home loan rates are tied) as the uncertainty out of Europe escalates. And more bad economic reports here in the United States could add to this safe haven trading into our Bonds, just as more good economic news here would likely benefit Stocks at the expense of our Bonds and home loan rates.

This mix of factors will continue to impact the direction in which Bonds and home loan rates move in the weeks ahead. The takeaway is that home loan rates remain near historic lows and now continues to be a great time to purchase or refinance a home. Let me know if I can answer any questions at all for you or your clients.

Forecast For The Week: The Fed meets, plus there's news on consumer confidence, housing, the state of the economy and more.

As you can see in the chart below, the mix of news last week benefitted Bonds and home loan rates. I'll be watching closely to see what happens this week.
Chart: Fannie Mae 3.5% Mortgage Bond (Friday Apr 20, 2012)



The economic calendar this week will give the investor a broad view of the U.S. economy…but the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting will be front and center in the minds of investors. Here's a break down of what to watch:

  • Consumer Confidence will be released on Tuesday…with Consumer Sentiment set to be delivered on Friday.
  • Also on Tuesday, New Home Sales for March will be released, followed by Pending Home Sales for March on Thursday.
  • On Wednesday, Durable Orders - which are products that are supposed to last at least three years - will be released.
  • Initial Weekly Jobless Claims will be released on Thursday. The number of new claims has been steadily rising in the past month, which is not a good sign for the labor markets. So all eyes will once again be on this report.
  • On Friday, the first reading on Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the first quarter of 2012 will be announced.
Also on Friday, we'll see the Employment Cost Index, which measures the costs of hiring and paying the American workforce. Higher costs could lead to inflation pressures, which could push Bond prices lower and home loan rates higher.

In addition to those reports, this week's FOMC meeting will be closely watched by both the Bond and Stock markets for any clues on how the U.S. economy is holding up.

Remember: Weak economic news normally causes money to flow out of Stocks and into Bonds, helping Bonds and home loan rates improve, while strong economic news normally has the opposite result. The chart above shows Mortgage Backed Securities (MBS), which are the type of Bond that home loan rates are based on.

When you see these Bond prices moving higher, it means home loan rates are improving - and when they are moving lower, home loan rates are getting worse.

To go one step further - a red "candle" means that MBS worsened during the day, while a green "candle" means MBS improved during the day. Depending on how dramatic the changes were on any given day, this can cause rate changes throughout the day, as well as on the rate sheets we start with each morning.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Mortgage Market Guide Vol. 10 Issue 16

Last Week in Review: Inflation news was released...and home loan rates responded.

 "Wild thing! You make my heart sing!" The Troggs. And that song lyric is certainly an apt description for the volatility in the markets these days, as the ups and downs have given people things to both sing and scream about. Here's what happened last week...and how home loan rates were impacted.
Inflation news hit the wires, with reports on both the wholesale and consumer levels. The wholesale-measuring Producer Price Index (PPI) showed that prices remained mostly unchanged during March. Remember, inflation hurts the value of fixed investments like Bonds (including Mortgage Bonds, to which home loan rates are tied)...so the lack of inflation on the wholesale side was good news for Bonds and home loan rates. 

Also helping Bonds and home loan rates last week was the tame inflation data from the Consumer Price Index (CPI). The headline reading for March was right in line with estimates. When stripping out volatile food and energy, the Core CPI was also inline with estimates...but the year-over-year number was 2.3%, just slightly higher than the previous reading of 2.2%.  While this raises eyebrows a bit, the Fed is still reiterating that inflation remains subdued. That being said, if the Core CPI continues to rise...which is indicative of inflation and as you can see in the chart…Bonds and home loan rates will have a tough time improving much further, regardless of other factors.

One key factor to keep an eye on is the labor market, as Initial Jobless Claims increased 13,000 to 380,000 for the week ending April 7. This marks the highest level since January, and the second highest reading for 2012. The Fed has acknowledged that job creations are short of their goals. In fact, last week Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Janet Yellen said that weakness in housing, the European debt crisis, and government spending cuts are likely to slow the pace of recovery and expansion. She did state that the Fed has plenty of stimulus tools to use, if economic conditions warrant another round of quantitative easing.

The bottom line is that many factors will impact the direction in which Bonds and home loan rates move in the weeks ahead. The good news is that home loan rates remain near historic lows and now continues to be a great time to purchase or refinance a home. Let me know if I can answer any questions at all for you or your clients.

Forecast for the Week: Earnings season continues, plus look for reports on retail sales, manufacturing, housing and more.

 As you can see in the chart below, it's been a wild, volatile few weeks in the markets. I'll be monitoring all the news closely to see how the markets and home loan rates respond next.

Chart: Fannie Mae 3.5% Mortgage Bond (Friday Apr 13, 2012)


The calendar heats up this week with reports on sales, housing, jobless claims and manufacturing:
  • Right off the bat, Retail Sales will be reported on Monday - and investors will be able to gauge how consumer spending is holding up.
  • In manufacturing news, the Empire State Index out of New York and the Philadelphia Fed Index will be released on Monday and Thursday, respectively.
  • Housing will be in the news this week with Housing Starts and Building Permits for March being reported on Tuesday. Those reports will be followed by the Existing Home Sales report for March, which will be released on Thursday. 
  • The weekly Initial Jobless Claims report will be released on Thursday. The report released last week showed that jobless claims rose to their highest level since the week ending January 28. So the markets will be watching this week's release!
In addition to those reports, Corporate Earnings reports may influence the Stock markets - and as we know, the Bond markets usually move in the opposite direction.

Remember: Weak economic news normally causes money to flow out of Stocks and into Bonds, helping Bonds and home loan rates improve, while strong economic news normally has the opposite result. The chart above shows Mortgage Backed Securities (MBS), which are the type of Bond that home loan rates are based on.

When you see these Bond prices moving higher, it means home loan rates are improving - and when they are moving lower, home loan rates are getting worse.

To go one step further - a red "candle" means that MBS worsened during the day, while a green "candle" means MBS improved during the day. Depending on how dramatic the changes were on any given day, this can cause rate changes throughout the day, as well as on the rate sheets we start with each morning.

View: Have you ever needed to read an important text for work while you were driving? Now there’s an app for that.

No More Texting and Driving…There's an App for That!

A study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that distracted driving was the leading cause in nearly 450,000 accidents and more than 5,000 highway deaths.

Unfortunately, one of the most distracting elements for drivers today is text-messaging technology. The good news is that technology can also help solve this problem. Services - like Drivesafe.ly - have sprung up that eliminate the need to read text messages AND eliminate the need to respond. That's good news regardless of whether you're receiving personal or business text messages.

Here's how it works...You download an application to your phone. Then, before you get in your car to drive, you simply turn the application on. When you receive a text message, the application actually reads it to you…automatically…and out loud. So there's no need to take your eyes off the road.

Better still... the application automatically sends a reply message stating that you are driving and will respond as soon as you reach a destination that allows you to safely reply.

The application can be used on a variety of phones and there are even different plans - including a free version of DriveSafe.ly as well as family and business plans.

If you receive a lot of text messages while driving, this could be one of the most important safety steps you do this year. Take a few minutes to check it out.

After all, this simple application could save your life or the life of someone you know. 

Economic Calendar for the Week of April 16 - April 20












As your mortgage professional, I am sending you the MMG WEEKLY because I am committed to keeping you updated on the economic events that impact interest rates and how they may affect you.