Mortgage Rates at multi-month lows but expected to rise during 2019

Happy New Year!  77% of US citizens set financial goals for their new year’s resolutions.  Did you?  Unfortunately only 1 in 5 are able to see their resolutions through February.

I hope 2019 brings you good health and prosperity!

Mortgage Rates

Interest rates start off the new year at the best levels since the spring of 2018.  Weakness in the stock market helped mortgage rates improve during the final two months of 2018.

Trend line

A look at the chart of the US 10-year treasury note, which mortgage rates tend to follow, shows that yields fell from 3.22% at the beginning of November to 2.55% on January 2nd.  During that time home loan rates improved by .50%.

Currently the US 10-year treasury note is at 2.70% which is right up against the two month trend line.

Near-term Outlook

Should yields bounce lower off this trend line then mortgage rates are likely to improve by another .125%-.25%.  However, if the yield closes above 2.70% then I expect rates to move higher.

Longer-term Outlook

Most Wall Street Analysts believe that yields will increase by .50%-1.00% during 2019.  Therefore, I think the best buying opportunities will exist in the initial three to four months of the New Year!

 Current Outlook: locking bias

As 2018 draws to an end home loan rates benefit from stock market weakness

Happy holidays from all of us at Swanson Home Loans!  This will be the last ‘rate update’ post of 2018 as the next two Tuesdays fall on a holiday.  The next ‘rate update’ will be posted on January 8th!  Have a safe and joyous season!

Stock Market

Home loan rates continue to benefit from weakness in the stock market.  The S&P 500 index is off 13% from the highs reached back in early October.

If you are a consistent reader of this post then you know we started expressing concerns over stock valuations all the way back in the beginning of the year so we are not surprised to see this correction.

The Fed

The Federal Reserve Open Market Committee begins its regularly scheduled two-day monetary policy meeting today.  Tomorrow they will announce their latest monetary policy decision.

According to CME Group there is currently a 73% probability that they will hike by another .25% tomorrow.  The Fed does not directly control mortgage rates so we’ll have to see how they react.

Should the Fed defy the odds and not hike I expect the stock market to rally which would likely hurt home loan rates.

Yield Curve

Should the Fed hike the Federal Funds rate tomorrow by .25%, as expected, it will be interesting to see how the yield curve responds.  The 2-year treasury note is currently yielding 2.66% and the 10-year treasury note is yielding 2.83% a difference of only .17%.

If the 2-year yield surpasses the yield on the 10-year treasury note it will be the first time that the yield curve has inverted since 2005-2007.  Every time in recent history the US yield curve has inverted an economic recession has followed.

Outlook

Unfortunately many analysts are growing pessimistic on their economic outlook which is partially why we’ve seen home loan rates improve in the past month.  As long as this viewpoint holds I will recommend floating.

Current Outlook: floating

Mortgage rates hold steady, might the Fed help home loan rates improve?

Jenny Don’t Change Your Number!”- Today is National One-Hit-Wonder Day.  What is your favorite hit?

 Mortgage Rates

After consecutive weeks of moving higher the good news is that mortgage rates did not change last week.  Home loan rates continue to hover around the highest levels of the past seven years.

The Fed

As I noted in last week’s update the Fed is meeting today and tomorrow and is expected to announce a +.25% hike to the Federal Funds rate.  Although many media outlets will use the announcement to forecast higher mortgage rates readers of this blog know that the Fed does not directly influence home loan rates (don’t believe me?  See HERE).  

In fact, I can see a scenario where tomorrow’s announcement could be a catalyst for mortgage rates to reverse lower.

Inflation Medicine

We know that inflationary pressure is the primary nemesis of mortgage rates.  This is because when lenders believe the purchasing power of money lent will decline, via inflation, they will charge higher rates of interest to compensate.  

The reason the Fed hikes rates is to curb inflationary pressure.  Therefore, I will be listening to the comments which accompany the rate hike announcement on Wednesday to hear if they feel like inflationary pressure is building or expected to ease (hopefully the latter).

The Week Ahead

On Thursday we’ll see fresh reports on pending home sales and durable goods orders.  On Friday the Fed’s favorite gauge of inflation will be released (personal consumption expenditure price index).

I am shifting to a floating bias.

Current Outlook: floating bias

Home Loan Rates modestly worse, Portland home prices entering “Goldilocks” range

A recent survey by the national maritime association revealed that 3.14% of sailors are pi-rates.  Why do I share this important statistic with you? Just because yesterday was national Just Because Day.   

Mortgage Rates

Although mortgage note rates are unchanged from last week the accompanying closing costs are modestly worse.

US 10-year Treasury

As I highlighted in last week’s ‘rate update’ the US 10-year treasury note had hit a multi-month low at 2.81%.  Although we were hopeful the yield may dip below this level and drag home loan rates lower it didn’t happen.

The US 10-year treasury yield responded the same way it has since the beginning of June which is higher.  As a result mortgage rates are priced modestly worse than last week.

US Stocks

The equity markets are responding warmly to news that the Trump Administration is close to revised trade agreements with Mexico and Canada.  Good news for stocks is often bad news for US interest rates.

Housing

The latest Case-Shiller Home Price Index report was released earlier today.  According to the data in the report home prices in Portland increased by 5.8% year-over-year ending in June.  

It’s important that consumers understand that the pace of home price gains is declining but home prices are still increasing.  I would argue we’re entering “Goldilocks” territory where the market is not too hot or too cold.  

Technical Trading Patterns

Given that rates are trending modestly higher I think it makes sense to lock now instead of waiting.  

Current Outlook: locking

Mortgage rates at best level since April, time to lock

On this day in 1846 the United States captured a small settlement called Yerba Buena located in a bay.  This site is now home to one of the most expensive housing markets in the world. SEE HERE for a parody on some of the rental offerings in this city which was later named San Francisco.  

Home Loan Rates

Mortgage note rates remained unchanged last week although the underlying closing costs improved modestly.  Pricing on mortgage rates are at the best levels since April.

Jobs

Last Friday’s all-important jobs report is being referred to as “goldilocks”, not too hot and not too cold.  It showed 213,000 new jobs created during the month of June and the US unemployment rate at 4.0%.  Wages increased moderately.

Overall, it was a healthy report but not too healthy to stoke inflation fears and push mortgage rates higher. 

 

The Week Ahead

There are not a lot of economic releases scheduled for this week but there will be some key events.  On Wednesday we’ll get the Producer Price Index, which reports on prices at the wholesale level of our economy, and on Thursday we’ll get the Consumer Price Index, which reports on prices at the retail level.  

Inflation is the primary driver of long-term interest rates including mortgages.  Inflation has been ticking higher but not enough to pressure rates too badly.  Any signal that inflation is accelerating would be bad for home loan rates.

The US Treasury is set to deliver $69 billion in fresh debt supply this week.  This is 23% more than was offered last year at this time.  The extra debt is being issued to fund the federal income tax cuts.  The additional debt supply will make it harder for mortgage rates to improve.  

After improving over the past couple weeks I think interest rates are ripe for reversal.  I am going to recommend a locking position.

Current Outlook: locking

Fed flattens yield curve

On this day in 2006 the Oregon State Beavers baseball team lost its opening game in the College World Series.  They would come back to win five of its next six games to claim the national championship. We’ll see if the 2018 team can follow the same pattern!  

Mortgage rates improved modestly last week.

The Fed

As expected the Fed did hike short-term interest rates on Wednesday of last week.  As a reminder the Fed does not directly set mortgage rates.  They also set the expectation that they would hike two more times in 2018 and two to three more times in 2019.  

Yield Curve

The yield curve has flattened over the past three years with rates at the short-end of the curve increasing by ~1.5% while rates at the long-end have increased less.  

Some economists believe that a flat yield curve is an indicator for a recession.  This coupled with low unemployment (see HERE) have me feeling more and more like we will see an economic slowdown in the next 12-24 months.

US Stocks

The US stock market was trading lower on Monday in response to tariff threats between the US and China.  Late last week President Trump approved 25% tariffs on approximately $50 billion of Chinese exports.  China countered over the weekend with penalties on US products sold in China. Although tariffs will help some industries most economists agree it will not be favorable for the economy as a whole.

Bad news for the economy tends to be good news for home loan rates.

The Week Ahead

This week’s economic calendar is relatively light.  There are significant housing related reports such as housing starts & building permits (Tuesday), existing home sales (Wednesday), and leading economic indicators (Thursday).  

Current Outlook: cautiously floating

Might low unemployment signal a recession near?

On this day in 1896 the chief engineer of Edison Illuminating Company first test drove the “Quadricycle” he had developed.  That engineer’s name was Henry Ford and the “quadricycle” would eventually be commonly known as a car.  

The next stage of automobile evolution is expected to be the driverless car.  CLICK HERE to learn how they may impact real estate values.  

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

Friday’s all-important employment report showed continued strength in the Labor Market.  According to the release the US economy added 223,000 new jobs, average hourly wages rose, and the unemployment rate decreased to 3.8%.  

Seemingly a healthy jobs market is a great indicator for the housing market.  However, there are two concerns that arise from the report.

#1: Inflation & Home Loan Rates

Job growth coupled with a low unemployment rate means employers will have to pay higher wages to attract workers.  This is great for employees but also can lead to wage-based inflation where producers are forced to charge higher prices.  

Since inflation is the primary driver of mortgage rates strong job growth becomes a double edged sword for housing demand.

#2: Recession near?

The US economy has been growing for more than eight years now making it one of the longest expansions in recent history.  Dating back to World War II recessions have always followed cyclical low points in the unemployment rate as the chart above shows (grey shadowing signals recessions).  

I subscribe to the belief that we are 12-24 months away from a recession.  Mortgage rates tend to drop during recessions so it might make sense for homebuyers to consider 5/1 & 7/1 ARM’s at this time.

The Week Ahead

This week’s economic calendar is relatively light.  The US Treasury will auction 10-year notes and 30-year bonds this Thursday.  The additional supply of longer-duration securities will make it difficult for rates to improve.  Furthermore, the political drama in Italy seems to be quieting down.  I will recommend a locking bias.  

Current Outlook: locking

US 10-year below 3.00%, might rates improve this week?

Monday mornings don’t seem like the ideal day for a bloody mary but I would be lying if I said the thought hadn’t crossed my mind.  Speaking of “Bloody Mary Mornings” today is Willie Nelson’s 85th birthday.  HERE IS A LINK to his famous song.

In an upward trending rate environment it feels like a win when I can report that mortgage rates did not increase last week.  They also didn’t go down.

10-year treasury below 3.00%

After spending most of last week above 3.00% the US 10-year treasury note is currently trading at 2.94%.  I am hopeful that the 3.00% level will act as a strong technical ceiling.  If so, we may see mortgage rates improve by .125% or so.

Inflation

Higher prices are the primary driver of mortgage rates.  That is because when inflation rises it reduces the purchasing power of dollars used to repay debt.  Therefore, when inflation rises lenders charge higher rates of interest to compensate.

Earlier today the Fed’s favorite gauge of inflation, called the Personal Consumption Expenditure price index (PCE), was released.  It showed that on a year-over-year basis prices rose by 2.00% which is the Fed’s target.  This was moderately below expectations.

However, if we strip out volatile food and energy prices the “core” PCE increased by 1.9% which is an increase from last month when prices rose by 1.6%.  The large increase is alarming and may be a signal of higher inflation in the future (and thereby higher home loan rates).

The Week Ahead

On Tuesday the latest version of the Case-Shiller Home Price Index will be released.  We’ll also see new home sales and consumer confidence data.

On Friday we’ll get the all-important jobs report and gross domestic product.  That will be a big day for interest rates.

I am cautiously optimistic that rates could improve assuming the yield on the US 10-year treasury note remains below 3.00%.

Current Outlook: cautiously floating.

Rates end Q1 on a positive note but higher rates likely later in the year

At the end of her life my wife has already decided to be buried at the golf course so that I visit her multiple times per week.  It’s’ Masters week which means my productivity at work will decline significantly starting Thursday.

Quarterly Report

Interest rates had a tough start to the year increasing by approximately .50% during the first seven weeks.  Peaking on February 21st mortgage rates have since flattened and even improved modestly.

For the quarter mortgage rates increased by about .375%.

Yield Curve

The yield curve is at the flattest point since 2007.  The yield curve measures interest rates over a variety of durations.  The chart below depicts the difference between the yield on the 2-year and 10-year treasury notes.  As the difference declines the yield curve gets flatter.

A flat yield curve is thought to forecast either an economic slowdown or higher long-term interest rates in the future.  Given that the economy appears to be stable I think we are in for higher mortgage rates later in the year.

US Stocks

Home loan rates are currently benefiting from volatility in the US stock market.  Equities are off ~2% again today as investors fret over the possibility of trade wars with China and regulatory backlash on tech companies.  When stocks do poorly interest rates tend to benefit.

The Week Ahead

It’s the first week of a new month so we’ll get the all-important jobs report this Friday.  Analysts are most interested in average hourly earnings which has remained sluggish despite low unemployment.  A higher reading for hourly earnings would be unfriendly to mortgage rates. The remainder of the economic calendar is light.

Mortgage rates are presently at the lower end of their recent range so I will recommend locking.

Current Outlook: locking

Advancement of tax plan expected to pressure mortgage rates higher

If you’re looking for something to celebrate this week look no further.  On December 5, 1933 the 21st Amendment to the US Constitution was ratified effectively ending prohibition.  Fast forward to 2017, Oregon’s brewing industry contributes $4.49 billion to the state economy and directly/ indirectly employs over 30,000 people.  I can toast to that.

Republicans are toasting their advancement of tax overhaul legislation.  The Senate narrowly passed their version of the tax bill which will now be reconciled with the House version.

The Tax Plan:

The new tax plan is bad for mortgage rates on a couple levels.

First, passage of the new tax laws is expected to add ~$1.4 trillion to the Federal debt over the next ten years.  In order to fund the deficit the US Treasury will have to issue an equal amount of debt which will crowd out other borrowers and push yields higher.

Second, the new tax cuts are expected to promote economic growth which is good news for stocks.  The Dow Jones Industrial Average has increased by over 1,000 points in the past week and is trading at all time highs.  When stocks rally it tends to push interest rates up.

Jobs Week:

It’s the first week of a new month which means we’ll get a fresh all-important jobs report this Friday.  The markets are currently expecting ~+190,000 new jobs created during the month of November.  A figure significantly better than that would put upward pressure on mortgage rates and vice versa.

The Fed:

The next monetary policy meeting is scheduled for next week with an announcement set for December 8th.  There is currently a 90% probability that the Fed will hike short-term interest rates by +.25%.

In other words, the home loan rates you see today already assume a rate hike.  Please help consumers understand that mortgage rates will not automatically increase next week on account of this action (they could move higher for other reasons).  The Fed does not directly set home loan rates but their comments and actions can cause volatility.

Given the momentum of the tax plan I recommend locking in.

Current Outlook: locking