30 Second Update - October 29th, 2018

What’s Happening with Home Values?

The Federal Housing Finance Agency Home Price Index was just released showing that home prices increased the strongest in the Pacific region for the month of August, with an increase of 7.3%.  For the annualized number, or for the largest increase of year over year gains, we see that the Mountain region is the strongest with an increase of 8.4%.  Even though the mid-Atlantic region is showing the weakest increase in home prices amongst the other regions and a slight dip in August, the region is still up 4% year over year.  This report focuses on single family homes and uses data and information provided by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Another housing report, called the New Home Sales report, was also recently released.  This report measures the amount of newly constructed homes that have a contract for sale.  The September report noted that new home sales decreased by 5.5% to 553k homes.  When digging deeper into the report, we do see that builders have been busy because the new home supply has increased by 2.8% for September to 327k which is a year over year gain of 16.8%.  With this amount of supply, we may see home prices slow in their appreciation because demand needs to catch up.  This could be a great window of opportunity for home shoppers to make a move.


30- Second Update:  Jobless Claims near 50-year low      

For the week ending October 13th, Initial Jobless Claims, which is the number of Americans losing their job and applying for unemployment benefits, dropped 5,000 to a seasonally-adjusted 210,000, remaining near a 49-year low.  The report also showed the number of people receiving benefits after an initial week of aid fell 13,000 to 1.64 million for the week ending October 6th, the lowest level since 1973.  Furthermore, 5.78 million people were hired last month, balancing out the 5.71 million people who either lost or left their jobs, including 3.6 million who quit. 

Economic Influence:

  • In an effort to curb the risk of high inflation, the U.S. central bank raised rates in September for the third time this year.  Strong labor market conditions and a robust economy have analysts predicting the Federal Reserve will increase interest rates again in December.
  • The 3.6 million who quit their job represent the “quits rate”. The “quits rate” tends to rise when the economy is strong, and workers feel more comfortable leaving one job for another.  Julia Pollak, a labor-market economist at the online employment site ZipRecruiter strengthened that notion by saying, “the higher number of workers who are voluntarily quitting their jobs suggests that they are finding substantially better opportunities elsewhere in the economy.”
  • The demand for labor is pushing up the cost of worker compensation, which reflects higher wages and benefits for employed Americans.


What Is Inflation And Why Is It So Important To Understand?

Inflation is the rate at which the general level of prices for goods and services is rising, and purchasing power of currency is falling.  It is very important to understand and know where current levels of inflation are because it effects our everyday lives.  It impacts our purchasing power and our government’s policies. 

Some recent reports that breakdown levels of inflation are the Consumer Price Index (CPI), the Producer Price Index (PPI) and the Fed’s favorite gauge, the Personal Income and Outlays (PCE).

Last week’s CPI report showed that inflation ticked slightly lower from 2.7% to 2.3%, but its “core” read, which subtracts out food and energy costs, stayed unchanged at 2.2%.  These are tamer reads, but are still over the benchmark 2%, which are at levels that we want to keep our eye on.

The PPI came in at 2.6% which is a slight drop from its 2.8% prior read.  The portion of the report that extracts food and energy costs gave it a hot 2.9%.  This is a hotter number, but inflation at the Producer level isn’t seen as impactful because producers can alter their margins to make it less impactful. 

The PCE report came in at 2.2% which dropped 0.1% from its prior read. Its “core” rate, that removes food and energy costs (which are very volatile), came in at the Fed’s target of 2%.  Still a tame number, but something we need to be aware of.

When there are higher levels of inflation, traders and investors tend to invest less in Bonds and Treasuries because inflation erodes the amount of income made on that fixed investment.  Because of this lowered demand or appetite for these types of investments, Bond and Treasury prices tend to drop and in-turn, impact interest rates negatively or push them higher.  We all need to keep our fingers on the pulse and be aware of our changing environment.  If inflation rises and demand for Bonds continue to lessen, we might see this push interest rates higher.   If inflation weakens and demand for Bonds and Treasuries increases then we will see a push for lower interest rates.


Low Unemployment and Continuous Demand for Housing

Weekly Jobless Claims, which is a report that represents the number of American workers who filed for unemployment benefits the previous week, dropped another 8,000 to a strong 207,000.  Jobless claims are now nearing 49-year lows.  Low unemployment levels point to higher economic growth. 

Mortgage applications for home purchases increased slightly across the US by 0.1%.  Mortgage application volume is now 3% higher than this time last year!  This is a good sign of strong demand since there is increased mortgage applications on homes that have appreciated by about 5.5% on average across the country, since August 2017, based on CoreLogic reporting.  This also points to strong housing demand, because this is also occurring in a higher interest rate environment.

Joel Kan, Mortgage Bankers Association Economist said, "Short-term rates have been increasing, but long-term rates have held somewhat steady, which should not pose too much of a headwind to home purchase activity, especially given the potential demand”

Owning a home is still one of the best ways to generate personal wealth. 


Federal Reserve Raises Interest Rates: Consumer Impact


As expected, the Federal Reserve raised the benchmark interest rate a quarter point, marking the eighth increase since December 2015 and third this year.  The federal funds rate, which serves as the baseline for multiple forms of consumer debt, now stands at 2.25%, up from 2% previously.  In addition, the Federal Open Market Committee projects one more rate hike before the end of the year, and three more in 2019.  This quarter point hike, along with indication of future rate hikes, reflects a booming economy, highlighted by a strong labor market.


Consumer Impact Areas

Credit Card Rates:  When the federal funds rate changes, the prime rate does as well, and credit card rates follow suit.  If possible, apply for a 0% APR transfer credit card to allow you to pay down debt interest-free.

Home Equity Lines of Credit (HELOC):  HELOC’s are tied directly to the prime rate.  As the federal funds rate increases, the prime rate follows.  Since HELOC’s are a variable rate, it will increase with each rate hike.  If possible, speak with your lender to see if a fixed rate option on the remaining balance is available.

Mortgage Rates: Mortgage rates are tied more directly to market forces specifically to the needs of bond investors.  In past rate hikes, mortgage rates have at times moved up and at other times they have moved down.  Mortgage rates, however, have been on a steady climb since the beginning of 2018.

Consumer Prices: Prices you pay at retail stores, gas stations, and the supermarket are directly impacted by a raise in the federal funds rate.  As the federal funds rate increases, the cost and availability of money decreases.  This will lessen the demand for goods and services, resulting in lower prices.








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