Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Mortgage Market Guide Vol. 10 Issue 12

Last Week in Review: It was a tough week for Bonds and home loan rates. Find out why

Don't fight the Fed. The markets certainly felt the truth of that sentiment last week, after the Fed released its Policy Statement from their regularly scheduled meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee. Read on to learn how this and all the news of the week impacted Bonds and home loan rates.

Last week's Fed Statement was not a glowing endorsement of the economy, but they did admit that things are improving in most areas except housing, which remains "depressed." While improvement in our economy is good, should this trend continue home loan rates could edge higher. Why? Because Stocks often benefit in strong economic times at the expense of Bonds (including Mortgage Bonds, which home loan rates are based on).

The Fed did acknowledge that inflation could increase in the near-term due to higher energy prices - and higher inflation is never good news for Bonds as inflation hurts the return of a fixed investment. And we did see a hint of this last week as the Consumer Price Index rose a bit in February (though the wholesale-measuring Producer Price Index was tame). If hints of inflation pick up in the weeks or months ahead, this could hurt Bonds and home loan rates.

But there was more salt in the wound from the Fed's Statement for Bonds and home loan rates. Not only did the Fed fail to mention anything about another round of Bond buying (called Quantitative Easing or QE3), but there was word that out of 19 banks, all but four passed an important stress test. While that's good news for the financial system and the economy, it did help Stocks at the expense of Bonds.

Another important point to note: Things have been quiet in Europe and this has lifted the safe haven trade, thereby further applying selling pressure on Bonds. That's not to say that Bonds and home loan rates won't be seen as a safe haven for trading in the future, as the uncertainty in Europe is far from over. In addition, the issues with Israel and Iran aren't going to just disappear, and those issues may lead investors back into the safety of Bonds in the near future.

The bottom line is that even though Bonds and home loan rates worsened last week, rates still 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: Housing data dominates the headlines, with news on Existing and New Home Sales, Housing Starts, and Building Permits.

As you can see in the chart below, Bonds and home loan rates worsened due to the upbeat Fed Statement and the improvement in Stocks. I'll be watching the markets closely this week to see what happens.

Chart: Fannie Mae 3.5% Mortgage Bond (Friday Mar 16, 2012)

The economic release calendar is light this week, and housing data dominates the headlines.
  • Housing Starts will be delivered on Tuesday along with its cousin Building Permits.
  • On Wednesday, Existing Home Sales will be delivered, followed by New Home Sales on Friday.
  • Initial Weekly Jobless Claims will be released on Thursday. Jobless claims continue to hover near the 350,000 level as the labor sector rebounds.
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.

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.

Economic Calendar for the Week of March 19 - March 23

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