The Weekly Rap! Friday June 20th, 2014

The National Debt is currently: $17,538,072,962,587.00 is Higher by about 6 BILLION.  The interest pay-out alone on the debt is 246 Billion per year!  I post this so we will be aware of what we are leaving to our children.

The Dow last traded at 16,947 about 200pts higher than where it was a week ago.  The S&P 500 is trading at 1,962.  Gold is trading at $1,314 an ounce, while oil futures at $106.62 a barrel.  Gas prices, (Regular in El Dorado Hills, Costco, AM/PM), are at $3.79/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 4.0% coupon, containing 4.25% – 4.625% mortgages, pretty much the benchmark or how rate sheets are priced these days  is currently trading at 105.50 about .30 better than where we were last week.  We’ve broken out of the past trading range and rates are still trending lower at this point.  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 inflation is higher, layoffs are lower, manufacturing is steady, and there were no surprises of major changes from the Fed at their regular meeting.

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York reported this week that Manufacturing activity in their “Empire State” general business conditions index basically held steady in June after hitting an almost four-year high in May. The Philadelphia Fed’s manufacturing index jumped to a reading of 17.8 in June from 15.4 in May. This is the highest reading of activity since last September.

Industrial production bounced back in May, according to Federal Reserve which also showed that April output wasn’t as bad as initially estimated. Production climbed 0.6% in May, after falling 0.3% in April and rising 0.8% in March.

Signaling that economic growth could pick up in coming months, the leading economic index for the U.S. rose 0.5% in May to 101.7, the Conference Board reported. “Recent data suggest the economy is finally moving up from a 2% growth trend to a more robust expansion,” said Ken Goldstein, economist at the Conference Board, in a statement.  I want to be an economist when I grow up.  They get paid to guess and whether they’re right or wrong, kind of like the weather man.

Consumer prices, CPI, rose sharply in May for the second straight month and the rate of inflation over the past year reached its highest level since late 2012, an upward trend that could worry the Fed Gods unless it pulls back soon.  The consumer price index jumped 0.4% last month following a 0.3% gain in April, the Labor Department said Tuesday.  Annualized over the past 12 months, consumer inflation is at 2.1%.  Just eight months ago, inflation was running at just a 1% pace.  

The Fed has been aiming to boost inflation to around 2% or so from what it considered an economically damaging low level, but the sudden surge could set off alarm bells. While I doubt that it will, this could cause “market” concern that the Fed might be forced to raise interest rates earlier than it planned.  Excessive inflation appears unlikely in the absence of stronger growth, further tightening in labor market conditions, and greater pressure on wages.  Historically speaking, on an annual basis inflation is still very low. Once annual inflation gets above 5% it becomes extremely troublesome for the economy. But with inflation so low in spite of the Fed’s efforts to print money some are saying that Deflationary forces are stronger than the Fed.  Long term average inflation is about 3.2.  The core CPI, which excludes volatile food and energy costs, rose by 0.3%, the biggest gain since August 2011. The cost of housing, new cars, airline tickets, medical care and prescription drugs all increased.

inflation_by_decade_sm   Housing starts May 2014

On the Real Estate front:  Home builders’ confidence rose four points to 49 in June, the highest level in five months, but respondents were still a bit pessimistic, according to the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo housing-market index released Monday.  The index has been below 50 since February, indicating that builders, generally, are pessimistic about sales trends. “Consumers are still hesitant, and are waiting for clear signals of full-fledged economic recovery before making a home purchase. Builders are reacting accordingly, and are moving cautiously in adding inventory,” said David Crowe, NAHB’s chief economist. Construction on new homes fell by 6.5% in May and builders trimmed plans for future projects in another sign that a hoped-for spring revival in the housing market remains elusive.

On the Employment front:  With layoffs at very low levels and more jobs available, the number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits continues to hover near a post-recession bottom.  Initial jobless claims declined by 6,000 to 312,000 in the week ended June 14.   Yet despite the decline in jobless claims, millions of Americans still cannot find work and the number of long-term unemployed remains higher now than at any time before the 2007-2009 recession struck.  The unfinished recovery in the labor market is the chief reason why the Fed plans to keep interest rates low for the foreseeable future, a point reiterated by Chairman Janet Yellen on Wednesday after the bank’s latest gathering in Washington.

The economy has now recovered all the jobs it lost from the Great Recession. It’s only taken seven years.  Industrial production is now higher.  But consumer confidence is, depending on your measure, somewhere between 10% to 25% below its 2007 peak.  It turns out; Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen feels pretty much the same way as other Americans. For example, this is what the world’s most powerful central banker had to say Wednesday when asked if, finally, she’s confident the economy is running above its long-run potential.  “When you say confident, I suppose the answer is no, because there is uncertainty,” she said. Yes, she continued, there’s accommodative policy from her Fed, there’s diminished fiscal drag, easing credit conditions, improving household debt finances, rising home prices, rising equity prices. But she returned to the word “uncertainty,” and it didn’t seem like just obligatory caution.

In the Fed’s statement following their meeting on Wednesday, Yellen was more kitten than lion, sticking to her guns that the central bank can hold short-term interest rates steady until the middle of next year and then raise them gradually, and downplaying recent strong inflation readings.  As expected, the central bank trimmed bond purchases by another $10 billion, staying on track to end its long-running stimulus program before the end of the year. This is the fifth straight meeting with a $10 billion cut in the asset purchases. The Fed will now buy $35 billion a month in Treasuries and mortgage-related assets, starting in July.  At the same time, the Fed lowered its forecast for “longer run” interest rates to 3.75% from closer to 4%. The last change is important because it signals the central bank won’t push up interest rates all that high during this recovery phase.

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

Sincerely,

Bill Bartok

Mortgage AdvisorMLO# 445991

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

Thank you!

Bill Bartok ESIG 9-25-13

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