Friday, August 8, 2014

More Good News on the Employment Front August 6, 2014

More Good News on the Employment Front
Six in a row, which is the number of months payrolls have increased 200,000-or-more per month.
The latest employment data show 209,000 jobs were created in July. At the same time, the unemployment rate inched up to 6.2% from 6.1%. More jobs and more unemployment? This phenomenon is the result of a higher labor participation rate. As more jobs become available, more people are compelled to enter the labor force.
At the beginning of the year, we mentioned that job creation running at 200,000+ per month was key to sustaining the economy and housing. The good news is the economy is meeting our expectations for job growth. In time, we expect to see a spillover effect: Housing sales, construction, and investment will rise as people become more settled in their new jobs.
Interestingly, strong job growth is holding little sway over interest rates. When job growth picks up, interest rates usually pick up with it. That hasn't been the case. Mortgage rates continue to hold near 2014 lows.'s latest survey has the national average on the 30-year, fixed-rate loan at 4.29%; Freddie Mac's survey has it at 4.14%

To understand why mortgage rates remain low look no further than the yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note. Its yield is down to 2.4%. This bellwether security yields 60 fewer basis points than it did at the beginning of the year.
Interest rates remain low because consumer-price inflation remains low. A rush to quality is another factor. Quality interest-paying investments (like bonds and notes) have gained additional support in recent months due to turmoil surrounding the Ukraine and Russia, and, separately, the Middle East. Investors have flocked to haven investments – like the 10-year Treasury note – to wait out the turmoil. Their demand, in turn, has helped keep interest rates in general, and mortgage rates in particular, low.
Low rates are certainly good news for anyone seeking a mortgage these days. The fact that lending standards continue to ease is more good news. A recent survey of lenders by the Federal Reserve shows that lenders have indeed made credit available to more people. Then again, we've known this for some time. The MBA's Mortgage Credit Availability Index (MCAI) has risen substantially over the past nine months, and has trended higher over the past two years.
Expect this important trend to continue because of falling mortgage delinquencies. The delinquency rate has dropped five-consecutive quarters and is at the lowest level since the fourth quarter of 2007, according to the MBA's National Delinquency Survey .
An expanding economy, job growth, low interest rates, and available credit: This is the perfect storm for anyone considering a housing change. We suggest anyone interested in a home to take advantage of today's opportunities before the storm passes – and it will pass one day.


Date and Time
Mortgage Applications
Wed., Aug. 13,
7:00 am, ET
Important. Purchase activity remains frustratingly low, which means the housing market has yet to normalize.
Retail Sales
Wed., Aug. 13,
8:30 am, ET
0.2% (Increase)
Moderately Important. Rising sales are reflective of an improving economy.
Import Prices
Thurs., Aug. 14,
8:30 am, ET
0.1% (Increase)
Moderately Important. Import prices remain subdued and non-inflationary.
Producer Price Index
Fri., Aug. 15,
8:30 am, ET
0.3% (Increase)
Moderately Important. Producer prices have increased in recent months, but the increase is due largely to volatile energy prices.


Why We Long for Normalization
The Phoenix housing market provides an insightful, if not cautionary, tale.
If you enjoy roller-coaster rides, then Phoenix is your kind of housing market. Over the past 10 years, Phoenix has seen a bubble followed by a bust followed by a strong upswing. According to data from Case-Shiller, Phoenix house prices bottomed in August 2011, traded flat for the remainder of the year, and then increased 23% in 2012 and 15% in 2013.
Now it appears Phoenix has crested and could be headed down again. Overall housing sales dropped 17% year over year in July, according to the Arizona Regional Multiple Listing Service . Investors, who have driven Phoenix's market over the past couple years, appear to be loosing interest: Cash sales dropped to 25% of total sales in July compared to 43% a year ago.
We imagine most people don't like roller-coaster rides in real estate. The whipsawing is much more painful when your wallet is involved. Volatility also tends to repel both buyers and sellers on the margin. Volatility raises uncertainty, and people don't want to feel uncertain when contemplating a big purchase like a house.
Of course, we wish the best for Phoenix. But the key to Phoenix, and every other volatile housing market, is a return to single-digit annual price appreciation and a market driven by mortgage-financed owner-occupiers. Slow and steady always wins the race over the long haul, and always will in housing.

Article Courtesy of Patti Wilson, American Momentum Bank.

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