The Weekly Rap! Friday April 3rd 2015

It’s Good Friday folks and even if you don’t celebrate Easter I wish you a Great Friday and happy weekend!

If you like this commentary please visit and “Like” my Facebook page. 

The National Debt is currently: $18,172,439,132,587.00  is Higher by another 15 BILLION.  The interest pay-out alone on the debt is 240 Billion per year!  I post this so we will be aware of what we are leaving to our children.

Trading in the bond market was thinner than usual with yields (rates) dropping closing at 9:00 AM PST this morning, and the Stock market is closed for Good Friday. The Dow last traded at 17,763 about the same as where it was last Friday.  The S&P 500 is trading at 2,066.  Gold is trading at $1,202 an ounce, while oil futures at $49.55 a barrel.  Gas prices, (Regular in El Dorado Hills, Costco, AM/PM), are at $2.77/Gal.   

The FNMA 30-year fixed 3.0% coupon (interest rates at which banks sell their loans into Fannie Mae), containing 3.25% – 3.625% mortgage rates, the benchmark or how rate sheets are priced these days is currently trading at 101.84 better by .45% over where we were last week.  Our current trading is about 101.50 to about 102.50.  I would expect the market to trade higher when it re-opens on Monday (Lower Rates).  Basically the change in the price of the security translates to the price (or points paid or credited) of the mortgage rate.  The higher the number (price), the lower the rate.     

In economic news this week; the reader’s digest version is the economy is trudging along but seems to be slowing in the first part of the new year.  The disappointing employment report this morning makes it more likely the Fed Gods will at least wait until the end of summer before raising rates for the first time since 2006.  It’s also sure to stoke debate over whether it’s the start of a less favorable trend or just a passing phase triggered by harsh winter weather, and other temporary factors.

Forget about a strong start for our economy in 2015: Consumer spending barely rose in February after a decline in January, pointing to much slower growth in the first quarter.  Consumer spending rose a scant 0.1% last month, the Commerce Department reported. The small increase in spending in February and outright decline in January suggest the economy failed in early 2015 to match the pace of growth at the end of last year.  GDP (Gross Domestic Product) is forecast to expand just 1.4% in the first quarter, down from 2.2% in the fourth quarter and 5% in the third quarter.

The consumer confidence index climbed to 101.3% in March from an upwardly revised 98.8 in February, the Conference Board reported. Apparently Americans think the economy will get better over the next six months, though they are a bit less sure about right now. The present situation index, a measure of current conditions, actually fell to 109.1 from 112.1. Yet the future expectations index increased to 96.0 from 90. “This month’s increase was driven by an improved short-term outlook for both employment and income prospects; consumers were less upbeat about business conditions,” said Lynn Franco, director of economic indicators at board.

On the Real Estate front: According to the National Association of Realtors, “pending” home sales in February reached their highest level since June 2013 rising 3.1% to 106.9 after a downward revision to January’s numbers.  The index is up 12% from February 2012 levels.  In Sacramento County Pending sales are higher by 24.8% from January.  El Dorado County was higher by 15.2%.  Total existing-homes sales in 2015 are forecast to be around 5.25 million, an increase of 6.4%, and the national median existing-home price is expected to increase around 5.6%.

The combination of low interest rates and strong consumer confidence along with solid job growth, cheap oil and low inflation continue to support further increases in home prices.  Home prices were steady in January, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller 20-city composite released Tuesday, with Charlotte, Miami and San Diego all seeing gains of 0.7% while San Francisco prices fell 0.9%.  Compared to Jan. 2014, prices were up 4.6%. 

On the Employment front:  Private-sector employment gains continued in March but at a slower pace than in the prior month.  Employers added 189,000 jobs last month, Automatic Data Processing Inc. reported Wednesday. This is the lowest increase in the monthly ADP since January 2014.  Analysts use ADP’s data to get a feeling for the Labor Department’s employment report, which covers government jobs in addition to the private sector. The ADP survey has sharply underperformed payroll data over the past several months.

In keeping with the ADP report, the U.S. created the fewest total new jobs in March in 15 months, a steep downshift in hiring that raises questions about whether the economy is suffering from a temporary malaise or if a broader slowdown in underway.  The economy generated just 126,000 new jobs last month, breaking a streak of 12 straight 200,000-plus gains and marking the smallest increase since the end of 2013.  The unemployment rate was unchanged at 5.5%, the Labor Department reported this morning.

What’s more, employment gains for February and January were reduced by a combined 69,000, taking a bit of shine off the labor market’s performance in the first two months of the year.  The result: The increase in hiring in the first three months of 2015 has slowed dramatically to an average of 197,000. While the pace of hiring this year is still fairly decent, it doesn’t come close to matching average job gains of 289,000 in the fourth quarter.

About the only good news in the March jobs report was an increase in worker pay. Average hourly wages rose a solid 0.3% in March, though how much employees get paid hasn’t shown much change despite the biggest increase in hiring in 2014 in 15 years. The increase in wages over the past 12 months was 2.1%.

 

Fun for the day: 

Part 2 of 5 of “Where to move”…for all of those who are contemplating retirement locations.

You can retire to California where…  

1. You make over $450,000 and you still can’t afford to buy a house. 

2. The fastest part of your commute is going down your driveway. 

3. You know how to eat an artichoke. 

4. You drive your rented Mercedes to your neighborhood block party. 

5. When someone asks you how far something is, you tell them how long it will take to get there rather than how many miles away it is. 

6. The 4 seasons are: Fire, Flood, Mud, and Drought. 

OR 

You can retire to New York City where…  

1. You say “the city” and expect everyone to know you mean Manhattan. 

2. You can get into a four-hour argument about how to get from Columbus Circle to Battery Park, but can’t find Wisconsin on a map. 

3. You think Central Park is “nature.” 

4. You believe that being able to swear at people in their own language makes you multi-lingual. 

5. You’ve worn out a car horn. (IF you have a car). 

6. You think eye contact is an act of aggression. 

 

You can visit my corporate website at: http://bill.bartok.stanfordloans.com

                                                       
Sincerely,

Bill Bartok

Mortgage Advisor MLO# 445991

The nicest compliment I can receive is the referral of your family, friends and co-workers.

Thank you!

The Weekly Rap! Friday March 27th 2015

If you like this commentary please visit and “Like” my Facebook pageAs rates drop more prospective buyers will qualify and competition will arise for the properties for sale.  I put all of my prospective buyers through underwriting so that when they place their offer, it is as close to “cash” as you can get.  So to get your clients “underwriter approved”, please contact me and get your offer accepted!

The National Debt is currently: $18,157,222,132,587.00  is Higher by another 5 BILLION.  The interest pay-out alone on the debt is 240 Billion per year!  I post this so we will be aware of what we are leaving to our children.

Stocks edged higher this morning, putting major benchmarks on track to snap a streak of four days of losses.  The Dow last traded at 17,690 about 500 pts lower than where it was last Friday.  The S&P 500 is trading at 2,058.  Gold is trading at $1,200 an ounce, while oil futures at $49.87 a barrel.  Gas prices, (Regular in El Dorado Hills, Costco, AM/PM), are at $2.87/Gal.   

The FNMA 30-year fixed 3.0% coupon (interest rates at which banks sell their loans into Fannie Mae), containing 3.25% – 3.625% mortgage rates, the benchmark or how rate sheets are priced these days is currently trading at 101.84 worse by .125% over where we were last week.  Our current trading is about 101.00 to about 102.25.  We broke above the range last Friday and traded to 102.52 but have retraced to 101.84 currently.  We were just at 103.35 on Feb 1.  Basically the change in the price of the security translates to the price (or points paid or credited) of the mortgage rate.  The higher the number (price), the lower the rate.     

In economic news this week; the reader’s digest version is the economy is still trudging along.  The first quarter is showing signs of slowing as The U.S. Dollar continues to gain strength and oil remains at 25 year lows.  Earlier in the week the ECB’s (European Central Bank) commitment to flood the Eurozone with more than €1 trillion ($1.16 trillion) in newly created money, sparking a rally in stock and bond markets and sending the euro plunging.

Profits at U.S. corporations in late 2014 posted their largest drop in four years, a reflection of an economy weighed down by a strong dollar and weak global demand.  The Commerce Department’s third estimate of fourth-quarter gross domestic product (GDP) also showed that the economy slowed in the final months of 2014, putting the growth trajectory on a lower path ahead of an apparent slowdown early this year.

GDP, the broadest measure of goods and services produced across the economy, expanded at an annual rate of 2.2% in the fourth quarter.  That was unchanged from its previous estimate last month.  Corporate profits fell at a 3% pace from the third quarter. That was the largest quarterly drop in profits since the first quarter of 2011.  On a year-over-year basis, the report pegged corporate profit growth at 2.9%, slowing from 5.1% annual growth in the third quarter.  As a share of the total economy, corporate profits were just a hair below the record high of 10.5% set in 2013. The expectation is for the current quarter to remain sluggish. First-quarter GDP estimates have been trimmed earlier this week following a disappointing report on business spending and investment.

The great deflation of 2014 caused by the plunge in oil may have run its course: Consumer prices rose 0.2% in February, the first rise in four months.  Gasoline prices have rebounded in early 2015, with the cost of oil stabilizing at around $50 a barrel after selling for more than $100 last summer.  Higher costs for food, housing and new cars also contributed to the increase in consumer prices in February.  Still, there’s been zero overall inflation in the last 12 months, the offshoot of the biggest drop in gasoline prices since the Great Recession.  The annualized rate of consumer inflation had even turned negative in January for the first time since 2009. 

If food and energy are excluded, so-called “core” consumer inflation has risen at a 1.7% rate over the past 12 months.  Although the Fed uses a different index as its preferred price gauge, they view a 2% inflation as healthier for the economy. The Fed is more likely to raise interest rates if inflation starts to move steadily higher.

While Businesses are hiring at the fastest pace in 15 years, they sure aren’t investing like good times are here to stay.  Orders for long-lasting or durable goods such as cars, appliances and computers fell 1.4% in February to mark the third decline in four months. The increase in orders for January was lowered, making the decline last month look even worse. Businesses started cutting investment at the end of the summer and that contributed in part to slower growth during the last months of 2015 after a very strong third quarter.  

Companies are actually investing less now compared to a year earlier in unadjusted terms. A soft global economy and soaring dollar that’s made it harder to sell U.S. exports are among the headwinds that are constraining American businesses. The steep plunge in oil price has also curtailed investment in what was a booming domestic energy sector.

On the Real Estate front: The price of buying and renting a home are rising, squeezing consumers and dampening the housing market.  The median sales price of used homes hit $202,600 in February, up 7.5% from the year-earlier period. This is the largest increase in a year and is “unhealthy” said Lawrence Yun, chief economist of the National Association of Realtors.  While higher prices are good for homeowners, “for people who want to buy a home it is becoming more difficult,” Yun said.  Wages are only rising 2%, he noted.  Potential first time buyers on the sidelines, and renters are also being squeezed as rents are rising at a 3.5% rate, Yun noted.  Given the rise in rents, these buyers are unable to save for down payments, Yun noted.  The share of first-time home buyers rose marginally to 29% from 28% in February, well below the 40% level that the Economites say is normal.  

After falling to a nine-month low in January, overall sales of existing homes rebounded partially, rising 1.2% in February.  Existing home sales remain soft, having been stuck around the 5 million unit rate for two-and-a-half years. One reason prices are rising is that inventory remains low, Yun said.  February’s inventory was 1.89 million existing homes for sale, a 4.6-month supply at the current sales pace. This was down 0.5% from the year-earlier period.  The investor share fell to 14% from 17% also due to the higher prices, Yun said.  The all-cash share of purchases slipped to 26% from 27%.

Sales of new homes in the U.S. surged in February, and home buying in the first two months of 2015 rose to the highest level in seven years despite heavy snow and bouts of extreme cold in some parts of the nation.  The pace of new home sales climbed 7.8% last month to an annual rate of 539,000 from an upwardly revised 500,000 in January, the government reported. That’s how many new homes would be sold if the rate of sales for the whole year were the same as it was in February.  Sales were unusually strong in the Northeast, where demand had fallen off sharply in January. Sales also climbed 10% in the South, the region in which more than half of all new single-family homes are built.

On the Employment front:  The U.S. economy may have slowed sharply in the first quarter, but companies aren’t showing much concern: Layoffs remain near a 15-year low.  The number of people who filed new applications for benefits at their state unemployment offices, known as initial claims, fell by 9,000 to 282,000 last week.  New claims have tracked below 300,000 for three straight weeks after a weather-induced spike in February that pushed them to the highest level since last spring. And they are running about 9% lower now compared to one year ago.

Fun for the day: 

Part 1 of 5 of “Where to move”…for all of those who are contemplating retirement locations.

You can retire to Phoenix, Arizona where…  

1. You are willing to park 3 blocks away from your house because you found shade. 

2. You’ve experienced condensation on your rump from the hot water in the toilet bowl. 

3. You can drive for 4 hours in one direction and never leave town. 

4. You have over 100 recipes for Mexican food. 

5. You know that “dry heat” is comparable to what hits you in the face when you open your oven door. 

6. The 4 seasons are: tolerable, hot, really hot, and ARE YOU KIDDING ME?? 

You can visit my corporate website at: http://bill.bartok.stanfordloans.com

Sincerely,

Bill Bartok

Mortgage Advisor MLO# 445991

The nicest compliment I can receive is the referral of your family, friends and co-workers.

Thank you!

K-Cups are bad for the environment!

I’m sure that many of you have used the single serving K-Cup brewers.  While I love the concept, I have a couple issues with the Keurig Company.  The inventor of K-Cups now actually regrets that he ever invented them.  “I feel bad sometimes that I ever did it,” John Sylvan.  Why? Because the K-Cups are bad for the environment.  They are disposable and not recyclable or biodegradable. That means more and more K-Cups are being used — and thrown in the trash.  In 2014, enough K-Cups were sold that if placed end-to-end, they would circle the globe 10.5 times.  So If you ever find yourself throwing out a K-Cup, and then you remember that 13 billion went into landfills last year, do you feel okay contributing to that? 

I have two of them in my home.  Recently I purchased the new Keurig 2.0 which is supposed to brew a pot of coffee as well as the single cup.  Boy was I surprised when I set it up and none of the K-cups that I had would work.  You see Keurig mandates that its licensed K-cups come equipped with specific color frequencies on their rims. Without the correct signal, Keurig 2.0 machines won’t brew coffee.  It’s digital rights management, the coffee equivalent of Steve Jobs’ attempt to fill iPods only with music sold through iTunes.  In other words you have to purchase only licensed K-Cups from them.  By the way, K-cup coffee costs upwards of $50 a pound.  Personally I want to brew my own coffee Costco $9.99/lb).  But there is a solution…

A video posted to KeurigHack.com shows that placing the lid of a licensed K-Cup on top of the lid of an unlicensed cup will fool a Keurig 2.0 machine into brewing your off-brand coffee.  If you’re looking for a permanent fix, the hacker shows how you can tape a portion of a licensed lid to the machine’s reader. With that crafty maneuver, you can make your Keurig 2.0 brew any K-cup every time you use it.  I’ve done this and it works.  I now brew my own coffee in the machine with a reusable cup.  I throw nothing away as I compost the used grounds. “What you need to hack the 2.0 brewer = one piece of tape + not much aim,” the website says. The video plays the Death Star theme song from Star Wars, calling Keurig Green Mountain the “empire.”

The Weekly Rap! Friday Feb 27th 2015

The National Debt is currently: $18,138,885,132,587.00  is Higher by another 6 BILLION.  The interest pay-out alone on the debt is 268 Billion per year!  I post this so we will be aware of what we are leaving to our children.

Stocks traded slightly lower this morning, but are still on track to post their biggest monthly percentage gains since 2011.  The Nasdaq is within striking distance of hitting 5000, a level last touched nearly 15 years ago. The Dow last traded at 18,155 about the same compared with where it was last Friday.  The S&P 500 is trading at 2,105.  Gold is trading at $1,213 an ounce, while oil futures at $49.51 a barrel.  Gas prices, (Regular in El Dorado Hills, Costco, AM/PM), are at $2.73/Gal.  That’s 0.62 cents higher a gallon in just 27 days!  See below.

The FNMA 30-year fixed 3.0% coupon (interest rates at which banks sell their loans into Fannie Mae), containing 3.25% – 3.625% mortgage rates, the benchmark or how rate sheets are priced these days is currently trading at 101.81 better by 0.75 over where we were last week.  Our current trading is about 101 to about 102.00.  We were just at 103.35 on Feb 1.  Basically the change in the price of the security translates to the price (or points paid or credited) of the mortgage rate.  The higher the number (price), the lower the rate.     

If you like this commentary please visit and “Like” my Facebook pageAs rates drop more prospective buyers will qualify and competition will arise for the properties for sale.  I put all of my prospective buyers through underwriting so that when they place their offer it is as close to “cash” as you can get.  So to get your clients underwriter approved, please contact me and get your offer accepted!

In economic news this week; the reader’s digest version is the economy is still trudging along.  Inflationary pressures remain tame, with spring bringing a boost to the real estate market. 

The thieves are at it again!  Gasoline is 0.62 cents higher per gallon over a 27 day period while oil prices have risen just $2.20 in the same period. The seasonal lift in gasoline prices remains well underway across the country, with the West Coast seeing the most excruciating rate of price increases. 

Here are a few of the “excuses” I’m hearing regarding the dramatic rise.  An explosion at an Exxon Mobil oil refinery in Torrance last week, California companies begin scaling back production to convert to the mandated and more expensive summer blend of fuel, California’s carbon-emissions mandate for transportation fuels has added more than a dime in costs to a gallon, and demand is starting to rise with fuel consumption reaching its highest levels since Obama entered the White House in 2008. The summerlike weather California and parts of the West have enjoyed this winter also puts more people on the road, burning more gas. So basically it’s because they can!

According to the Chicago Fed’s national activity index, the economy resumed above-trend growth in January.   The indicator, a weighted index of 85 different economic reports, rose to positive 0.13 in January from negative 0.07 in December. The three-month moving average meanwhile slowed to 0.33 in January from 0.34 in December.

Consumers expressed less confidence in the economy in February, worrying a bit more about the availability of jobs and outlook for business in the months ahead.  The consumer confidence index fell to 96.4 this month from 103.8 in January, the nonprofit Conference Board reported.  The index topped the 100 mark in January for the first time since an economic recovery began in mid-2009, setting a seven-and-a-half-year high in the process. Consumer confidence has been climbing in fits and starts since the end of 2011, helped by a sharp pickup in hiring and, more recently, a plunge in gasoline prices.

Consumer prices fell again in January and inflation turned negative compared to 12 months ago, a reversal fueled by sharply lower oil prices that’s offered financial relief to workers and households.  The consumer price index dropped 0.7% last month, marking the third decline in a row, the Labor Department reported. Over the past year prices have actually declined by 0.1%, the first time consumer inflation has been negative since the fall of 2009.  

Energy prices dropped 9.7%, as the cost of most fuels including gas decreased.  Food prices were unchanged. Excluding food and energy, so-called “core” consumer prices rose 0.2% in January. Core prices are also up 1.6% in the past year, mainly reflecting rising prices for housing, the single biggest expense for consumers. Real hourly wages, meanwhile, rose 1.2% in January, a combination of higher pay and lower inflation. Real hourly wages have climbed 2.4% in the past 12 months.

Orders for durable goods rose 2.8% in January.  Orders minus transportation edged up 0.3%, the Commerce Department reported. Orders for core capital goods – a proxy for business investment – rose 0.6%. Shipments of core capital goods, a category used to help determine quarterly economic growth, fell 0.3% in January. Orders for all durable goods fell 3.7% in December, newly revised data show.

Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen on Tuesday took another step closer to the first rate hike since 2006.  In testimony to the Senate, Yellen signaled to financial markets the Fed would soon drop the word “patient” from its forward guidance.  She softened the blow with several dovish comments that suggest no hurry about actually moving.  Markets have expected that when the Fed dropped “patient” from its policy statement that it would mean that a rate hike would follow in the next couple of meetings. That interpretation came from signals Yellen sent in December.

Now, however, Yellen stressed that the Fed wasn’t on automatic pilot and only wanted the flexibility to move “on a meeting-by-meeting basis.”  Several analysts said a June rate hike remains on the table if the Fed decides to drop the word “patient” from its policy statement on March 17-18. Yellen’s summation of the current economic environment suggests she is in no hurry to raise rates. “Too many Americans remain unemployed or underemployed, wage growth is still sluggish, and inflation remains well below our longer-run objective,” despite the falling unemployment rate, she said.

On the Real Estate front:  Existing-home sales in January fell 4.9% in January, a larger than forecast decline, the National Association of Realtors reported.  In our local El Dorado County area existing sales were down by 43% from Dec to Jan.  Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the NAR, attributed the decline to a lack of housing supply and rising prices at the end of last year.  The median existing-home price was $199,600, which is 6.2% above January 2014 levels. Inventory edged up 0.5% to 1.87 million homes, or a 4.7 month supply at the current sales price. 

Other factoids from the January report:

• All-cash sales were 27% of all transactions, up from 26% in December but down from 33% in January 2014.

• Distressed sales were 11% of all sales, unchanged from December.

• Properties typically stayed on the market slightly longer in January (69 days) than December (66 days) and a year ago (67 days).

• The share of first-time buyers declined to 28% in January, the lowest since June.

Sales of “new” homes avoided a winter dip in January, with prospects growing for a surge in demand as spring approaches.  New homes sold at annual rate of 481,000 last month, essentially unchanged from December, the Commerce Department reported.  Sales were 5.3% higher in January compared to a year earlier, another signal the housing market is continuing its long, slow recovery from its worst bust ever.  One worrisome sign: The median price for a new home was up 9% from a year ago, and a steady rise in prices could act as a potential drag on sales.  Mortgage rates, on the other hand, have fallen back near record lows (October 2012) and lenders appear to have loosened very strict requirements on how to qualify for a loan. That could make it easier for buyers to get a mortgage and afford a home.

The housing market seems to be getting off to a great start in 2015 though with “Pending” home sales rising in January to the highest level since Aug. 2013, the National Association of Realtors reported. Its pending home sales index rose 1.7% from an upwardly revised December level, and sales were up 8.4% from Jan. 2014 levels.  In our local El Dorado County area pending sales were higher by 65% from Dec to Jan. The NAR forecasts a 6.4% gain in existing home sales this year and a nearly 5% rise in median prices.

On the Employment front: The number of people who applied for U.S. unemployment benefits jumped by 31,000 to 313,000 in the seven days from Feb. 15 to Feb. 21, continuing a recent pattern of sharp up-and-down movements.

You can visit my corporate website at: http://bill.bartok.stanfordloans.com

Sincerely,

Bill Bartok

Mortgage Advisor MLO# 445991

The nicest compliment I can receive is the referral of your family, friends and co-workers.

Thank you!

The Weekly Rap! Friday Feb 20th 2015

The National Debt is currently: $18,132,885,132,587.00  is Higher by another 12 BILLION.  The interest pay-out alone on the debt is 268 Billion per year!  I post this so we will be aware of what we are leaving to our children.

Stocks rose to fresh all-time highs today as the Eurozone approved a four-month extension on Greece’s bailout.  The Dow last traded at 18,140 about 200 pts higher than where it was last Friday.  The S&P 500 is trading at 2,110.  Gold is trading at $1,200 an ounce, while oil futures at $49.91 a barrel.  Gas prices, (Regular in El Dorado Hills, Costco, AM/PM), are at $2.55/Gal. 

The FNMA 30-year fixed 3.0% coupon (interest rates at which banks sell their loans into Fannie Mae), containing 3.25% – 3.625% mortgage rates, the benchmark or how rate sheets are priced these days is currently trading at 101.09 worse by 0.75 over where we were last week.  Our recent trading was 102.25 to about 103.50 and we’ve broken through the low end (Support) of it meaning higher rates.  We’re now looking to see if we’ve started a new range or will go back.  Basically the change in the price of the security translates to the price (or points paid or credited) of the mortgage rate.  The higher the number (price), the lower the rate.     

If you like this commentary please visit and “Like” my Facebook page.  As rates drop more prospective buyers will qualify and competition will arise for the properties for sale.  I put all of my prospective buyers through underwriting so that when they place their offer it is as close to “cash” as you can get.  So to get your clients underwriter approved, please contact me and get your offer accepted!

In economic news this week; the reader’s digest version is the economy is still trudging along.  Inflationary pressures remain tame, with many areas pulling back a bit.

The survey of manufacturers by the New York Fed called the “Empire State manufacturing index” moved slightly lower but remained in positive territory in February, falling to 7.8 from 10.0 in January.  Any reading above zero indicates improving conditions.

Inflationary pressures remained tightly under wraps in the first month of 2015, a residue of the big slump in oil prices since last summer.  The producer price index, an indication of wholesale costs, fell a record 0.8% in January, the Labor Department reported. It was the third decline in a row and the fifth in the past six months. Once again, the story is all energy. The plunge in crude oil prices to just a little over $50 a barrel from more than $100 last July has offered widespread relief to most businesses outside the energy sector.

Overall energy prices tumbled 10.3% in January, spearheaded by a 24% plunge in the price of gasoline. That’s the biggest drop in gas since 2008.  The result: The producer price index has shown zero change in the past 12 months. Just a month earlier, producer prices had been rising at 1.1% annual pace. Even if energy is excluded, wholesale costs remain largely tame, a sign there’s little inflationary pressure building. So-called core producer prices that strip out the volatile food, energy and trade categories fell a smaller 0.3% last month. Core prices have risen a scant 0.9% in the past year.

The LEI (Leading Economic Indicators) a weighted gauge of 10 indicators designed to signal business-cycle peaks and valleys, edged up 0.2% in January but the index pointed to some moderation in growth, according to the Conference Board. “While the LEI suggests a positive short-term outlook in 2015, the lack of strong momentum in residential construction, along with a weak outlook for new orders in manufacturing, poses a downside risk for the economy,” said Ataman Ozyildirim, economist at the nonprofit organization that produces the report.

More of the Fed Gods were leaning toward keeping rates at zero “for a longer time,” than wanted an earlier move, according to minutes from the January meeting released Wednesday that suggested the majority is in no real hurry to hike interest rates. More of them said a premature rate hike would harm the recovery, while only a few thought a later move would risk high inflation.  The minutes show deep concern among Fed officials about dropping the guidance that it can be “patient” in hiking rates. Many Fed officials worried that when the word “patient” is dropped, markets will think the Fed is poised to move on “an unduly narrow range of dates,” the minutes said. This could create “undesirably tight” financial conditions. There was some discussion about possible changes to the guidance that might keep markets from overreacting, but no details were provided. The minutes show Fed officials had different ideas about the economic conditions that would be appropriate for the first rate hike.

On the Real Estate front:  A gauge of confidence among home builders fell in February to a four-month low but continues to point to a higher level of construction in the months ahead. The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo housing-market index slipped 2 points to 55 in February from 57 in the first month of the year.  It’s the lowest level since October. Still, readings above 50 signal that builders are generally optimistic.

Construction on new homes dropped 2% in January to an annual rate of 1.07 million units, as heavy snowfall hindered builders in some regions such as the Midwest and Northeast.  Permits also declined slightly but indicated that the pace of construction is likely to remain at or near current levels heading into the spring, according to Commerce Department.  

On the Employment front: The number of people who applied for unemployment benefits sank by 21,000 to 283,000 last week, signaling that layoffs remain low and the pace of the hiring in the U.S. is still strong.

Fun for the day: 

A word to the wise ain’t necessary – it’s the stupid ones that need the advice!

Please check out my Blog site: BartoksBlog “Food, Wine and Finance; Recipes for success” at http://www.bartoksblog.com 

You can visit my corporate website at: http://bill.bartok.stanfordloans.com

                                                       
Sincerely,

Bill Bartok

Mortgage Advisor MLO# 445991

The nicest compliment I can receive is the referral of your family, friends and co-workers.

Thank you!

The Weekly Rap! Friday Feb 13th 2015

Friday the 13th comes three times this year, and this is one of them.

The National Debt is currently: $18,120,885,132,587.00  is Higher by another 12 BILLION.  The interest pay-out alone on the debt is 268 Billion per year!  I post this so we will be aware of what we are leaving to our children.

Stocks are retreating after earlier reaching above 18,000 for the first time in 2015.  The Dow last traded at 17,932 about 150 pts higher than where it was last Friday.  The S&P 500 is trading at 2,090.  Gold is trading at $1,228 an ounce, while oil futures at $52.60 a barrel.  Gas prices, (Regular in El Dorado Hills, Costco, AM/PM), are at $2.39/Gal. 

The FNMA 30-year fixed 3.0% coupon (interest rates at which banks sell their loans into Fannie Mae), containing 3.25% – 3.625% mortgage rates, the benchmark or how rate sheets are priced these days is currently trading at 101.84 worse by 0.50 over where we were last week.  Our recent trading was 102.25 to about 103.50 and we’ve broken through the low end (Support) of it meaning higher rates.  Basically the change in the price of the security translates to the price (or points paid or credited) of the mortgage rate.  The higher the number (price), the lower the rate.     

If you like this commentary please visit and “Like” my Facebook page.  With FHA reducing the monthly mortgage insurance rate from 1.35% down to 0.85% and a rate of 3.25% for a 30yr fixed mortgage, even those with low credit scores and foreclosures, bankruptcies, and short sales can qualify.  As rates drop more prospective buyers will qualify and competition will arise for the properties for sale.  I put all of my prospective buyers through underwriting so that when they place their offer it is as close to “cash” as you can get.  So to get your clients underwriter approved, please contact me and get your offer accepted!

In economic news this week; the reader’s digest version is the economy is gaining strength but at a moderate pace with small business sentiment slipping a bit, Retail Sales pulling back a bit, and inflation correcting higher.  Improvement in the jobs market continues but at a slower pace than last month.

Small-business sentiment slipped 2.5 points in January with seven out of 10 components declining on a decline in optimism over sales growth and business conditions, according to the National Federation of Independent Business’s small-business optimism index.  He report said January’s decline was mostly due to owners being less optimistic about sales growth and business conditions, not spending and hiring plans.  Ahead of the Labor Department’s job-openings data, the index measuring whether job openings were hard to fill rose 1 percentage point to 26%.

The Federal government ran a budget deficit of $18 billion in January, the Treasury Department reported. The monthly deficit compares to the $10 billion shortfall the government ran in January 2014, and brings the deficit for the fiscal year to date to $194 billion.  

Retail sales fell in January for the second month in a row as consumers appeared to pocket most of the savings from sharply lower gasoline prices.  Retail sales declined by 0.8% last month after a 0.9% drop in December. The slow start to sales this year suggests the economy is likely to grow more slowly in the first quarter after a 2.6% gain in the final three months of 2014.

Inflation expectations rebounded in February, which the Fed may view as a positive development given fears surrounding deflation after the slide in oil prices.  The University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment poll put one-year inflation expectations at 2.8% in February after falling to 2.5% in January.  Consumer prices have fallen sharply as gasoline prices have tanked. The Cleveland Fed’s “nowcast” expects a monthly drop of 0.7% for January, after the Labor Department reported a 0.4% decline for December.  Consumer sentiment slipped in February to a three-month low of 93.6 from 98.1 in January, which had been an 11-year peak.

Consumer sentiment 2-13-15                                Job openings since 2001

On the Employment front: Improvement in the jobs market continued in January, but at a slower pace falling to 4.9 from 7.3 in December, according to the Fed’s labor market conditions index which weighs 19 different economic indicators.  This is the lowest reading since September. The Fed doesn’t offer commentary on monthly moves in the series. In a separate reading, the Conference Board said its employment trend index basically remained the same at 127.9 in January, up from 127.2 in December, a 7.6% gain from the same month one year ago.  

Job openings in rose in December to the highest amount since 2001 and the pace of hiring returned to prerecession levels, but companies are still taking their time before adding new workers.  Job openings in the final month of the year rose 3.7% from November to 5.03 million, the Labor Department reported. New job postings surged 28.5% for all of last year, as faster economic growth spurred companies to add workers to keep up with rising demand for their goods and services.  At the same time, the number of people hired climbed 1.9% in December to 5.05 million, according to the report, known as the Job Openings and Labor Turnover report.  The last time that many people found jobs was just a few months before the Great Recession started in December 2007.

Fun for the day:  In honor of Valentine’s Day

Love is Blind?

Phil, a smart and handsome young man, dressed in the latest fashion, walked into this local pub. He noticed a woman gazing at him without blinking her big eyes. Phil felt flattered so he walked up to the woman and said in his deepest voice, ‘I’ll do anything you wish, beautiful lady, for just $10 but on one condition.’

The woman appeared to be trapped in the moment and asked as if in a trance, ‘What’s your condition?’

Phil answered, ‘Tell me your wish in just three words.’

There was a long pause, the woman opened her purse, counted out the money and handed it to the man along with her address.  She then looked deeply into his eyes and whispered, ‘Clean my house.’

You can visit my corporate website at: http://bill.bartok.stanfordloans.com

Sincerely,

Bill Bartok

Mortgage Advisor MLO# 445991

The nicest compliment I can receive is the referral of your family, friends and co-workers.

Thank you!

The Weekly Rap! Friday Jan 23rd , 2015

The National Debt is currently: $18,096,830,132,587.00  is Higher by another 7 BILLION.  The interest pay-out alone on the debt is 268 Billion per year!  I post this so we will be aware of what we are leaving to our children.

If you like this commentary please visit and “Like” my Facebook page.

Stocks are lower today, giving up some ground after four sessions of gains that lifted the S&P 500 to its highest close of the year.  The Dow last traded at 17,775 about 375 pts higher than where it was last Friday.  The S&P 500 is trading at 2,060.  Gold is trading at $1,292 an ounce, while oil futures at $45.51 a barrel.  Gas prices, (Regular in El Dorado Hills, Costco, AM/PM), are at $2.15/Gal. 

Mortgage Backed Securities or “MBS” yields are interest rates at which banks sell their loans into Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac bond programs. The FNMA 30-year fixed 3.5% coupon, containing 3.75% – 4.125% mortgage rates, pretty much the benchmark or how rate sheets are priced these days  is currently trading at 105.19 better by 0.15 over where we were last week.  Our current trading is 104.00 to about 105.50.  Basically each percent change in the price of the security translates to the price (or points paid or credited) of the mortgage rate.  The higher the number (price), the better the rate.     

In economic news this week; the reader’s digest version is the economy continues to improve at a “modest to moderate” pace according the Fed.  Home prices and new construction have picked up.  Existing home sale have dropped on a national level but I expect that to change drastically in the coming months.  If you remember just about two years ago when each sale was met with multiple offers, well its likely to happen again this spring.  When interest rates get this low, 3.75% for a 30yr fixed, everyone qualifies for a mortgage.  Couple that with FHA reducing the monthly mortgage insurance rate from 1.35% down to 0.85% and a rate of 3.25% for a 30yr fixed mortgage and even those with low credit scores and foreclosures, bankruptcies, and short sales can qualify.

In things to note, in Davos, Switzerland, where the famous finance folks are, 1,700 private jets were counted. Among other things, the owners were there to discuss global warming.

The leading economic index rose 0.5% in December, pointing to steady growth in early 2015. The increase last month suggests “the short-term outlook is getting brighter and the economy continues to build momentum,” said Ataman Ozyildirim, an economist at the Conference Board, producer of the report. The coincident index, which measures current conditions, edged up 0.2% in December. The lagging index increased 0.3%. The LEI is a weighted gauge of 10 indicators designed to signal business-cycle peaks and valleys.

On the Real Estate front: A gauge of confidence among home builders fell slightly this month, but still showed optimism about single-family-home sales, staying close to the highest level since late 2005.  The gauge from the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo declined one point to 57, marking the seventh consecutive month of above-50 readings. Readings above 50 signal that builders, generally, are optimistic about sales trends.

As to the actual building of new homes, the pace of construction started rose last month to cap the strongest year in seven.  Housing starts rose 4.4% in December to an annual rate of 1.09 million, the U.S. Commerce Department reported.  Starts of single-family homes hit the highest level since early 2008.  For all of 2014, there were 1.01 million total housing starts, the highest annual total since 2007 and up almost 9% from 2013. Despite 2014’s progress, total housing starts remain far below an average pace of about 1.5 million over the 20 years leading up to the housing bubble’s 2006 peak. A particularly harsh winter hit construction starts in early 2014, and quickly rising mortgage rates and prices, weighed on demand. Last month the Fed Gods noted that the housing sector’s recovery “remains slow.”

Home prices picked up a bit in November, a sign that costs continue to rise even if not at the rapid rate they were seeing last year.  Home prices rose 0.8% in November, the Federal Housing Finance Agency said. The year-on-year change accelerated to 5.3% from 4.4% in October. Annual gains have been in the 4%-to-5% range since May.  A separate measure from CoreLogic shows a 5.5% year-on-year increase, and the latest Case-Shiller 20-city composite, through October, shows a 4.5% gain.

Existing home sales dipped in 2014, the first decline since 2010, despite low mortgage rates and other factors that should have helped the market.  For all of 2014, existing home sales dipped to 4.93 million sales, a 3.1% decline from 2013, the National Association of Realtors reported.  Some of the factors that should have pushed home sales higher include a strengthening labor market, higher consumer confidence, and mortgage rates that refuse to go up.

On the Employment front: The number of people who sought new unemployment benefits in mid-January fell by 10,000, but the level of applicants remained above 300,000 for the third straight week for the first time since July in what’s likely a reflection of post-holiday layoffs.  Initial jobless claims declined to 307,000 last week from a revised 317,000, the Labor Department reported. Two weeks ago, claims hit their highest level since June.  Also, the government said continuing claims increased by 15,000 to 2.44 million last week. Continuing claims reflect the number of people already receiving benefits.

I’ll just call this “Then and Now, Issues in High School”

Issue:  Jeffrey will not sit still in class, he disrupts other students.

1957 – Jeffrey sent to the Principal’s office and given a good paddling by the Principal. He then returns to class, sits still and does not disrupt class again.

2014 – Jeffrey is given huge doses of Ritalin. He becomes a zombie. He is then tested for ADD. The family gets extra money (SSI) from the government because Jeffrey has a disability.

You can visit my corporate website at: http://bill.bartok.stanfordloans.com

                                                       
Sincerely,

Bill Bartok

Mortgage Advisor MLO# 445991

The nicest compliment I can receive is the referral of your family, friends and co-workers.

Thank you!