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.”