Interest rate tick higher, mortgage forbearance causes credit squeeze

Please click below to watch this week’s update which includes information on current interest rates and an update on the mortgage forbearance relief law:

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Current Outlook: neutral

Mortgage rates level out but credit requirements tighten

Please click below to watch this week’s update which includes information on current interest rates, volatility, changes to Jumbo loan programs, and the employment picture:

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Current Outlook: floating

Mortgage rates back down to all-time lows

After increasing to multi-year highs at the tail end of last week home loan rates have started the week back down to all-time lows.  Watch this weeks video which includes an update on mortgage rates, my outlook on housing prices, and some initiatives that Fannie Mae is taking to help support homeowners and the housing industry:

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Mortgage rates at all time lows. Might they go even lower?

Home Loan Rates

Mortgage rates are presently at all-time lows which were originally established in 2012 and again in 2016.  Could home loan rates go even lower?

The Coronavirus

Although new cases of the Coronavirus are slowing in China the number of people infected in other countries is growing.  Furthermore, there is fear that some countries are underreporting the true number of citizens infected with the virus.

Fear over the spread of the illness is now having a significant impact on financial markets around the globe.

Impact on Financial Markets

On Monday US & European stock markets fell by ~3% and today they are off over 1%.  Japan’s stock market fell 3.3% on Monday.

When stocks decline it tends to drive capital into the bond market which pushes interest rates lower.  The US 10-year treasury note is now trading at 1.322%, an all-time low) and the yield curve is now inverted.

An article published by Bloomberg reported that unless economic activity resumes 66% of small to medium sized businesses inside China are poised to run out of cash within two months.

Home Prices

According to the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller Home Price Index appreciation picked up nationwide at the end of 2019.  The report showed that homes increased by 3.8% during 2019.

With interest rates hitting all-time lows I expect home price appreciation will remain healthy for the foreseeable future.

The week ahead

There is plenty of significant economic data being reported this week.   Specifically, I will be paying attention to New Home Sales (Wednesday), Gross Domestic Product (Thursday), Pending Home Sales (Thursday), and Personal Income (Friday).

However, news regarding the Coronavirus is the primary driver of interest rates at this moment.  If it appears that the illness continues to spread then I expect stocks to continue to falter and mortgage rates to improve further.

Current Outlook: Floating

Mortgage rates shift and appear to be moving higher

Home Loan Rates

Despite the fact that the Coronavirus continues to spread mortgage rates appear to have hit an inflection point and are moving slightly higher.

Virus in China

According to reports there are now over 20,000 confirmed cases of the deadly Coronavirus (twice as many as this time last week).  The disease continues to pop up across the globe but is primarily concentrated in China.

Home Loan rates have touched multi-years lows as fear has spread into the financial markets encouraging investors to seek “safe-havens” including the US fixed income markets.  The additional demand has driven interest rates lower.

Stock Market

US stocks are rallying today as investors bet on the long-term resilience of the global economy.  The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up over 1.5% (430 points) in early trading.  When stocks rally it tends to put upward pressure on interest rates.

The Fed

As expected the Fed left rates unchanged when they met last week and their monetary policy comments were mostly unchanged from their previous meeting.  At this point, I do not expect the Fed to hike or cut interest rates in 2020.  Of course, this does not mean that mortgage rates will remain flat because the Federal Funds Rate does not directly impact home loan rates.

The week ahead

The economic calendar heats up this week.  The most important release will come Friday when we get the all-important jobs report.  Analysts are currently expecting 165,000 new jobs to be reported for January.  There are also a couple Fed officials giving speeches throughout the week.

From a technical perspective it appears that interest rates may have bottomed out on Friday of last week and will start trending higher.  I will shift to a locking bias but if the spread of the Coronavirus accelerates then rates will likely dip again.

Current Outlook: locking

Fear over Coronvirus drives home loan rates lower

Home Loan Rates

In the past 10 years there are only three times when mortgage rates have been lower than they are today.  Interest rates continue to benefit from a “flight-to-safety” in reaction to the Coronvirus outbreak.

Virus in China

Over 4,500 cases of the Coronvirus have been reported in mainland China.  There is still a lot of fear about the potential for the illness to spread and cause more severe health impacts around the globe.  Thus far there have been less than 100 known cases of Coronvirus outside of mainland China.

Should the outbreak become more severe then we  may see rates go even lower.  However, if the virus appears to be contained then I would expect mortgage rates to increase slightly.

Stock Market

US stocks are off about 2% of recent highs which has pushed capital into “safer” havens including for mortgage-backed bonds which has helped drive mortgage rates lower.

Housing News

Earlier today the Case Shiller Home Price Index was released.  The report showed that over the past 12 months home prices in the 20-city composite, of which Portland is included, increased by 2.6%.

Yesterday we got numbers for new home sales.  Although the number of new home sales declined in December from the prior month, they were still up 10% for 2019.  Given that there is still an acute shortage of housing in many of the major west coast metropolitan areas an increase in new home sales is welcome news.

The week ahead

It’s Fed week which means we’ll hear from the Chairman Powell on Wednesday.  The Fed is not expected to change its tune regarding monetary policy but we always need to stand guard for changes to their wording.

Current Outlook: floating


Can interest rates go even lower? A long-term view suggests they can…..

A long-term view of rates

If you took out a mortgage in the 1300s then it’s probably time to refinance.  A new working paper from the Bank of England looks at a trend in global interest rates over the past eight centuries.  

The findings show that interest rates have been trending lower over the past ~800 years.

Should the trend continue then our grandchildren receive interest (negative interest rates) when they borrow money.

Home Loan Rates

Looking at a much shorter-term…. Mortgage rates here in the US remain at very attractive levels despite an easing of geopolitical tensions between the US and Iran over the weekend.

Stocks and home loan rates

Corporate earnings season is upon us.  For the next couple weeks publicly traded companies will release their 4th quarter earnings reports.  

In aggregate, when earnings are stronger than expected it generally causes stocks to rise and hurts mortgage rates and vice versa.  

Jobs Week

Last week’s all-important jobs report came in slightly softer than expectations.  It showed 145,000 new jobs were created in December and the national unemployment rate of 3.5%.  All in all, the report signals continued strength in the economy.

However, looking back over the past few decades every recession has started while the unemployment rate is at cyclical lows.  

The week ahead

This week’s economic calendar is relatively light.  On Thursday we get retails sales and on Friday it will be housing starts and consumer sentiment.  

From a technical perspective mortgage rates are trading in a wide range.  I will be watching the stock market for direction.  If stocks rally then consumers should lock. If stocks trade sideways or decline then consumers can afford to float.

Current Outlook: neutral

Home loan rates slightly worse on “phase one” trade deal

Home Loan Rates

Mortgage rates are mostly unchanged to slightly worse compared to last week.  The catalyst which pushed rates higher last week was an announcement pertaining to US-China trade relations.

Phase One

On Thursday, it was announced that the US and China had agreed to a “phase one” trade agreement.  On the announcement the US stock market rallied and mortgage rates increased.  However, after analysts had a chance to read the details of the agreement stocks and rates recovered slightly because the initial plan is less substantial than the markets had thought.

The Fed

Last week the Federal Reserve Open Market Committee met and elected to make no changes to short-term interest rates.  Although the Fed does not directly control mortgage rates their comments can, at times, impact their direction.

The markets currently are not expecting any cuts or hikes to the Federal Funds rate in 2020.

Home Construction

Data released earlier today shows strength for home building in 2020.  According to the Commerce Department housing starts were up 8.5% in October compared to a year earlier.  Furthermore, building permits hit the highest level in over 12 years.

More housing supply should help soften home price appreciation in the near-term.

The week ahead

This week’s economic calendar is relatively light.  I will be watching for existing home sales (Thursday), leading economic indicators (Thursday), and the Personal Consumption Expenditure Price Index (Friday).

From a technical perspective there is more room for mortgage rates to worsen than there is for them to improve.  I will maintain a locking bias this week.

Current Outlook: Locking bias

Mortgage rates worsen slightly following a strong jobs report

Home Loan Rates

Mortgage rates have worsened modestly from last week’s ‘rate update’.

Jobs Report

Last Friday’s all-important jobs report showed that the US economy added 266,000 new jobs in November.  The national unemployment rate ticked down to 3.50%.  The results were stronger than analysts had anticipated, which is bad news for interest rates.

Here in Oregon job growth has slowed but fortunately layoffs remain low.  The main reasons for the slowdown in job growth is lower migration into the state and the aging of our population.

Trade Outlook

As I have written repeatedly over the past few weeks trade seems to be the main driver of interest rates as of late.  When it looks more likely that trade agreements will be reached it causes stocks to rise and pressures interest rates higher.

Earlier today it was announced that Democrats had reached a deal with the Trump administration to approve a new trade agreement with the US and Canada.  Should this get pushed through Congress it may cause mortgage rates to worsen.

There have not been any significant developments between the US & China.

The Technical Outlook

The US 10-year treasury note is currently yielding 1.83% which is slightly above multiple layers of support.  Furthermore, mortgage backed-bonds have drifted below several layers of resistance.  Combined, the technical outlook is not favorable for mortgage rates at the current moment.  There is more room for rates to move higher than there is for them to go lower.

The week ahead

This week’s economic calendar is busy.  Tomorrow the Fed will conclude a normally scheduled monetary policy meeting.  No changes to short-term rates are expected but the comments following their meeting can influence interest rates.

We’ll also get the latest reading on inflation (Consumer Price Index & Producer Price Index) and Retails Sales numbers.  Given the aforementioned technical outlook I recommend locking.

Current Outlook: Locking

The Fed cuts and mortgage rates don’t budge. Explain that one….

It’s counter-intuitive that when a person blushes, presumably because they are embarrassed, we tend to like them more.

Do you know what else is counter-intuitive?

Home Loan Rates & The Fed

It can be confusing for consumers when the Fed cuts interest rates and mortgage rates go up.

Since July the Fed has made three rate cuts totaling -.75%.  However, consumers should know that the Federal Funds Rate, which is what the Fed controls, has a very obscure purpose (see HERE).

Mortgage rates today are effectively the same as they were when the Fed started this campaign.

Mortgage rate forecast

Nobody has a crystal ball but it’s worth noting that Fannie Mae released its latest forecast for housing and interest rates.  They are predicting that mortgage rates will average 3.5%-3.6% in 2020.  Their forecast includes interest rates with discount points but nevertheless they believe rates will be the same and moderately lower next year.

Trade Talks

Sentiment over US-China trade talks have played a significant role in the direction of the stock market and interest rates recently.  Over the past two weeks the financial markets have been optimistic that the US and China will iron out a new trade deal which has hurt mortgage rates and pushed stocks to all-time highs.

However, last week President Trump disputed progress so it’s tough to know what is going on behind the scenes.  The President is scheduled to speak in New York City today to a group of economists so any news could drive sentiment and influence the direction of mortgage rates.

The week ahead

This week’s economic calendar features the Consumer Price Index on Wednesday, the Producer Price Index on Thursday, and Retail Sales on Friday.  In addition there are Fed officials scheduled to speak through the week.

I recommended locking last week but am going to switch to floating.

Current Outlook: floating