The Weekly Rap! Government Rhetoric, the Economy and other stuff. 5/6/16

The National Debt is currently: $19,268,001,132,587.00  is Higher by another 8 BILLION in the last week.  The interest pay-out alone on the debt is 233 Billion per year!  I post this so we will be aware of what we are leaving to our children.

The Dow industrials and S&P 500 fell for the second week in a row, the first back-to-back declines since the market hit a low in February.  Stocks have struggled to gain traction after a multi-month rally, dragged down by downbeat economic readings, swings in oil prices and declining corporate earnings not to mention a weaker-than-expected reading on the U.S. labor market.  The Dow actually closed higher by 79 points at 17,773.  The stock market’s gains marked a reversal from earlier in the day, when the Dow fell as much as 80 points and the S&P briefly turned negative for the year. The S&P 500 closed at 2,057.  Gold is trading at $1,289 an ounce, while oil futures at $44.599 a barrel.  Gas prices, (Regular in El Dorado Hills, Costco, AM/PM), are at $2.33/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 102.78.  Our current trading range is about 102.00 to about 103.00.  Each .50 change in the price of the security translates to about 0.125 in rate.  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.  

Is anyone else frustrated up to here with American companies outsourcing their tech/customer support to India/Pakistan or some other country that barely speaks English and can only help if it’s “in their book”? I use Act by Swiftpage as my client/personal database and pay extra each year (Gold Support) to speak to someone here in the USA, (Scottsdale AZ) when I have an issue. Apparently their systems aren’t recognizing the Gold status and I’ve been transferred to India 3 times. I’m sorry but I can barely understand them, and they do not understand my issue. They just keep repeating “I can help you with that”. Is it really that much cheaper to outsource these calls? Why could Americans not do this? Imagine how many Americans we could employ if customer service were provided here in our own country. I am more likely to support companies that keep jobs here in the USA. We should have a list of companies that do. I welcome your thoughts.

On the Real Estate front:  Does ‘staging’ a home lure buyers into paying more?  Plastic surgery might improve one’s looks. But so might a little makeup. When it comes to making your house more attractive to prospective buyers, home staging is definitely in the makeup category.  What is home staging?  Just like makeup, it’s an on-the-surface solution. Staging can help your place look its best during the sales period without the cost or expense of a renovation. Then again, if you’ve repaired a motorcycle on the living-room carpet, all the staging in the world isn’t going to help.  For a small sum, the home you’re about to put on the market can be filled with great-looking furniture, well-considered accessories and tasteful art.  Here is a good guide to staging a home.  There are some very interesting stats in this guide. 

In economic news this week; Companies scaled back hiring in April, adding just 160,000 new jobs, in a sign the U.S. economy is still suffering from an early-year chill.  The good but not great April employment report coming on the heels of the soft gross domestic product report likely rules out a quarter-point rate increase in June. U.S. GDP slowed to a 0.5% annual rate in the first three months of 2016.

Economic woes from weak commodity prices are spreading in the oil sector from energy firms to other businesses and consumers, according to a Federal Reserve survey of senior bank loan officers released on Monday.  Bank officers reported that credit quality deteriorated in the first quarter on loans to businesses and consumers in energy dependent areas of the country, the Fed said.  In particular, credit quality on auto loans had suffered, with 23% of banks reporting a deterioration, according to the survey of 70 domestic and 22 branches of foreign banks operating in the U.S.

The U.S. trade deficit shrank in March by almost 14% to $40.4 billion, the lowest level in more than a year, but the plunge reflected a tough climate for American exporters and more caution on the part of consumers.  U.S. exports fell 0.9% to $176.6 billion in March and remained near the lowest level in several years, the government reported Wednesday.  Exports of food and industrial supplies dropped to the lowest level since 2010.  Imports fell an even steeper 3.6% to $217.1 billion and touched a five-year low. Although cheaper oil contributed to the drop, the U.S. also imported fewer autos, clothes, computers, consumer goods, wine and beer.  The decline in imports offers more evidence that consumers grew cautious after a rocky start to 2016, when stock markets tanked briefly on worries about a worsening global economy.  The U.S. trade gap declined from a slightly revised $47 billion in February, the Bureau of Economic Analysis said.

Borrowing by consumers ballooned in March at the fastest pace in more than a decade.  Outstanding consumer credit, a measure of non-real estate debt, rose by a seasonally adjusted $29.67 billion in March from the prior month, the Fed reported this morning. The 10.0% seasonally adjusted annual growth rate was the fastest growth pace since November 2001. The sharp increase in consumer borrowing follows months of modest economic growth. While the economy has been producing jobs at a healthy pace, overall economic activity has slowed.

Measures of consumer confidence have reflected uncertainty in recent weeks. The University of Michigan final consumer-sentiment index declined in April to its lowest level in seven months. The closely watched gauge of consumer sentiment, released last week, was 89.0, down from March’s final reading of 91.0 and the lowest level since September.

A separate gauge of U.S. household attitudes, the Conference Board’s consumer-confidence index, dipped in April to 94.2 from 96.1 in March, the group said last week. That report showed slightly fewer people saying that they planned to take a vacation or buy a car, home or major household appliance within the next six months.

On the Employment front:  The number of Americans collecting unemployment benefits fell in late April to a nearly 16-year bottom, largely reflecting the low rate of layoffs taking place across the economy.  Some 2.12 million people collected weekly unemployment benefits, known as continuing claims, in the seven days stretching from April 17 to April 23, the Labor Department said Thursday.

Companies scaled back hiring in April, adding just 160,000 new jobs, in a sign the U.S. economy is still suffering from an early-year chill.  The disappointing employment report, (Wall Street had expected a 203,000 gain) is likely to keep the Fed from raising interest rates anytime soon.  Hiring has tapered off in 2016 in tandem with a broader economic slowdown, while falling corporate profits has sparked worries about whether companies will take down their “help wanted” signs.

The increase in hiring was the smallest since September. Job creation has slowed to an average of 200,000 in the last three months from a five-year high of 282,000 a month in the fourth quarter.  The unemployment rate remained flat at 5%, but more people dropped out of the labor force and the so-called participation rate fell for the first time in seven months. That could mean people find it a bit harder to get a job.

In a bit of good news, average wages rose again to $25.53 an hour.  Hourly pay has increased 2.5% in the past 12 months, up from 2.3%, reflecting a tighter labor market in which more firms say they have trouble finding suitably skilled workers.  Still, the Fed will likely wait for more evidence that the economy is on the mend after a weak first quarter. 

Prior to the release of the governments’ jobs data, it was reported Wednesday that private-sector employment gains slowed markedly in April as well.  Employers added 156,000 jobs in April, according to Automatic Data Processing Inc.  This is the weakest estimate since February 2014. ADP lowered March’s gains to 194,000 from the prior estimate of 200,000.

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!

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