|For the week of Feb 15, 2010 — Vol. 8, Issue 7
Last Week in Review
|“IT AIN’T OVER TIL IT’S OVER.” Yogi Berra. And whether you find those words deeply wise or simply puzzling…The Fed has told us repeatedly that their massive purchasing program of Mortgage Backed Securities is just about over – and this translates to home loan rates rising in the near future.
As you can see in the chart below, the amounts of Mortgage Backed Securities the Fed is purchasing are slowly dwindling, as the program is set to wrap up by March 31st, and are clearly trying to ration out the remaining portion. Last week, the Fed purchased $11 Billion in Mortgage Backed Securities, which leaves them with $66 Billion to spend out of their original $1.25 Trillion allotment. So about 95% of the total has already been spent and has purchased about 3 out of every 4 home loans during the past year. When such a large buyer leaves the market, it is very likely that prices will worsen.
This is very important because as the Fed has less money to last through the remaining months of the program, their ability to keep home loan rates low via their purchasing power will wane. And those who can take advantage of currently low home loan rates do not wait, as the clock on these historically low rates is ticking.
Chart: The Fed’s Purchase of MBS (By Month)
Also last week, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke provided a speech on a number of topics, perhaps the most important of these being switching the Fed’s benchmark from the commonly watched and monitored Fed Funds Rate, to a new benchmark of “interest paid on excess reserves”. Banks are required to keep money on reserve with the Fed and may, from time to time, have an excess in those reserves, which the Fed can pay interest on.
Forecast for the Week
|The financial markets will be closed on Monday in observance of Presidents Day, and in terms of economic reports, there won’t be much action until midweek. On Wednesday, we’ll get a look at the health of the housing industry with reports on Housing Starts and Building Permits for January.
It will be interesting to watch the housing reports over the next several months, as many people are acting to take advantage of currently low home loan rates that may be on the rise soon, as well as the potential of a juicy tax credit. Remember – the Homebuyers Tax Credit is only available on homes purchased with a contract date before April 30th, and the transaction must settle by June 30th.
We’ll also get an update on inflation this Thursday, as the Producer Price Index will be released. This index measures price changes for wholesalers, and prefaces the more important Consumer Price Index coming on Friday, which measures changes in the price paid by consumers for goods and services. These reports are both particularly important, as the Fed will be watching very carefully for any signs of inflation. If inflation begins to rise, the Fed will have no choice but to begin to hike rates to fight off the dangers that inflation could pose to our economy.
In addition to those reports, we’ll get our weekly look at employment through the Initial Jobless Claims data. Last week’s report showed some encouraging signs, but there is still a long way to go before we’ll see stabilization in the Unemployment Rate and some meaningful job creation. At the moment, 6.3 Million people remain unemployed for over six months – an increase of 5 million since the start of the recession in December of 2007. To reach the White House’s projection of a 6% unemployment rate by 2015, the US would need to create 225,000 jobs per month, every month, for the next five years. But that kind of long term job growth has never been seen before. The year 2006, was the only year in US history that had job gains average over 225,000. But that was for just a single year – doing it for five years may be too much of a stretch.
Remember: Weak economic news normally causes money to flow out of Stocks and into Bonds, helping Bond prices and home loan rates improve, while strong economic news normally has the opposite result.
As you can see in the chart below, Bond prices fell early last week due to weak results from the Treasury auctions, but were able to rally towards the end of the week. When Bond prices are moving higher, home loan rates are improving – so I’ll be watching out to see if the current ground can be held. If you have any questions about how home loan rates move – and if an opportunity exists that would benefit you – please don’t hesitate to call or email me.
Chart: Fannie Mae 4.5% Mortgage Bond (Friday Feb 12, 2010)
The Mortgage Market View…
|Keeping Your Home Safe from Water Damage
Preventing water damage in your home is important at any time of year, but particularly in the winter when the cold weather can wreak havoc on plumbing. Here are some tips to make sure your water bill is as low as it should be…and that your home is as safe and dry as it needs to be:
Pay attention to your bill: Major fluctuations in water usage from one month to the next could mean that you have a problem. Taking just a few minutes to look at your bill each month could make a big difference in your wallet!
Inspect appliances: While much of your home’s plumbing can be hidden behind walls and cabinets, most of your appliances that use water can be easily inspected for potential leaks. Each month, take the time to inspect areas around your water heater, dishwasher, refrigerator, washing machine, sinks, and toilets. If any hoses or seals appear old or damaged, replace them. Also, inspect and repair obvious caulking and tile grout damage. It’s a small price to pay for what could be expensive repairs later.
Inspect the sewer line: Clear away build-up and roots from around your sewer line. Obstructions in this area could create major plumbing problems in the future.
Check your water pressure annually: This is easier than it sounds. Simply purchase a pressure gauge and attach it to the hose faucet. Normal results should range from 45 to 65 pounds per square inch (psi). A reading above 65 psi is considered high and could lead to problems down the line.
Find and fix leaks quickly: Make a habit of checking the main fixtures regularly so that when something out of the ordinary occurs you will notice it and take action immediately. Sometimes, however, slow water leaks aren’t very obvious. A great way to discover hidden leaks is to look for stains in areas where water is often used. For example, if you see even small stains on the cabinet floors beneath the sink in the kitchen or bathrooms, you could have a problem. Warm spots in the floor or tiles could also be an indication of hidden water damage.
Before a vacation: The worst thing to come home to after a great vacation is major water damage. Consider turning off your water while you’re gone. For many homeowners there is a separate shut-off valve for the home that doesn’t affect your irrigation system.
The bottom line is that a little time and effort can make a big difference when it comes to keeping your home safe and dry, and your expenses at a minimum!
The Week’s Economic Indicator Calendar
|Remember, as a general rule, weaker than expected economic data is good for rates, while positive data causes rates to rise.
Economic Calendar for the Week of February 15 – February 19
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