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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – June 23, 2014

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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week June 23 2014Last week’s scheduled economic news included the National Association of Home Builders /Wells Fargo Housing Market Index, Housing Starts and Building Permits. The Fed’s Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) issued its usual statement at the conclusion of its meeting, and Fed Chair Janet Yellen also gave a press conference.

Home Builder Confidence Improves, But Housing Starts Slow

NAHB released its Housing Market Index report, which reached its highest reading in five months. The index moved up from 45 to 49; a reading of 50 indicates that more builders are confident about housing market conditions than those who are not. David Crowe, NAHB chief economist, said that builder confidence is in line with consumer confidence; he noted that consumers are waiting for a stronger economic recovery before buying homes and that builders didn’t want to build more homes than markets would bear.

According to the latest figures from the Department of Commerce, May housing starts fell to 1.00 million from April’s reading of 1.07 million on a seasonally adjusted annual basis, and missed the consensus reading of 1.02 million. Building permits issued in May fell by 6.40 percent to 991,000 permits issued for single and multi-family construction. In recent months, permits for single family homes have fallen, while permits for multi-family units are increasing. This concerns economists as single-family homes generate sales of retail goods including furniture and home improvement supplies, while multi-family housing is often occupied by renters and yields fewer home related purchases.

Warmer weather was expected to add to the pace of housing starts, but this did not occur during May.

Fed Reduces Asset Purchases, Mortgage Rates 

FOMC members reduced the Fed’s monthly asset purchases by $10 billion, for a monthly volume of $35 billion in Treasury securities and MBS. The meeting minutes noted FOMC concerns that inflation has not yet reached the committee’s benchmark of 2.00 percent inflation as a benchmark of economic recovery.

The minutes reflected FOMC’s position that it will maintain the target federal funds rate at between 0.00 and 0.25 percent for a considerable period after the asset purchases under the current quantitative easing program have ended. While analysts previously associated “considerable period” with a time frame of six months, Fed Chair Yellen stated during her press conference that there was no formula for determining the Fed’s actions; she emphasized that the Fed and FOMC would monitor a wide range of economic indicators, economic reports and developments in support of any decisions to change current monetary policy. 

In response to a question about tight credit, Chair Yellen cited banks’ reluctance to lend to all but those with “pristine” credit scores as a factor contributing to slower recovery in the housing sector.

Mortgage Rates, Jobless Claims

Freddie Mac reported lower mortgage rates on Thursday. The reading for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was 4.17 percent, a decline of three basis points. Discount points were also lower at 0.50 percent. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage was lower by one basis point at 3.30 percent; discount points were unchanged at 0.50 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage fell to 3.00 percent from last week’s reading of 3.05 percent. Discount points were unchanged at 0.40 percent.

New jobless claims were higher than expected at 312,000; analysts had predicted a reading of 310,000 against the prior week’s reading of 318,000 new jobless claims.

No economic reports were released Friday.

What’s Ahead

This week’s economic calendar includes several housing-related reports. Existing home sales, the Case-Shiller Housing Market Index and New Home Sales will be released along with multiple consumer-related reports and weekly updates for mortgage rates and new jobless claims.

FOMC Statement: Quantitative Easing Tapered by $10 Billion

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FOMC Statement Quantitative Easing Tapered by 10 BillionThe Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) determined that current economic conditions warranted another $10 billion reduction in the Fed’s asset purchases.

Citing improvements in economic indicators including labor markets and national unemployment, committee members said that further tapering of its quantitative easing (QE) asset purchases was warranted. The Fed will now purchase a total of $35 billion monthly in treasury securities and mortgage-backed securities.

While continued reductions in the Fed’s asset purchases could contribute to rising mortgage rates, the FOMC statement said that the Fed’s “sizeable and still increasing” holdings of long-term securities is expected to hold down long term interest rates including mortgage rates.

The FOMC statement included its standard caveat that reductions to QE purchases are not on a preset course and that committee members will continue close analysis of financial and economic news and conditions as part of decisions to change the volume of QE asset purchases.

Committee Monitoring Unemployment, Inflation

Unemployment remains “elevated” according to the FOMC statement. Committee members said that they will continue to monitor unemployment readings, but committee members expect that overall improvement in economic conditions will continue to justify the current target rate for federal funds at between 0.00 and 0.25 percent.

The FOMC statement notes that this “highly accommodative” policy will likely remain in effect for a considerable period after the QE asset purchases conclude.

Committee members continue to monitor the inflation rate, which remains below the FOMC target rate of 2.00 percent. Noting that inflation persistently below the Fed’s target rate could hamper economic growth, the FOMC said that it expects inflation to move toward its target rate within the medium term.

FOMC Releases Forecasts for Key Indicators

FOMC released a table of its forecasts for certain economic sectors. Highlights include a projected reading of 6.00 to 6.10 percent for national unemployment for 2014, and the rate of inflation for personal consumer expenses at between 1.50 and 1.70 percent for 2014. According to its projections, the Fed’s target inflation rate of 2.00 percent is likely to be reached in 2015 or 2016.

Fed Chair Yellen Gives Press Conference

A major theme of Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s press conference was that there is no set formula for Fed decisions concerning interest rates, inflation and tapering its volume of asset purchases. She cited geopolitical risks including conflicts in Europe and developing civil crisis in Iraq as examples of influences on U.S. financial markets, energy supplies and prices.

Ms. Yellen said that while consumer spending has increased, the Fed wants to see wage growth exceed inflation so that consumers would see an actual increase in their incomes. She also cited the Fed’s target inflation rate of 2.00 percent as important to continued economic recovery.

A wide range of opinions among FOMC members about federal interest rates was mentioned by Ms. Yellen as an example of overall uncertainty about the economy and developing economic trends. She cautioned investors to be mindful of this uncertainty.

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