Monday, August 31, 2015

Photo Flip: 77 Front Doors to Welcome You Home

It’s probably the last thing we touch when we leave the house, and it’s probably the first thing we encounter on our way in. No matter where we live, we all have and frequently use a front door. This collection of front doors and entryways shows us 77 different ways to celebrate those daily run-ins; some are bursting with color, and others showcase subtle but intricate details. Click the first photo to get started, and tell us which door you’d like to walk through every day. 

Welcome Home!










Monday, August 10, 2015

Monday Market Report || Interest Rates?


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During the past week, comments from a Fed official increased investor expectations for a Fed rate hike this year, causing mortgage rates to move a little higher. The week's economic data was mostly right on target and had little net effect.

On Tuesday, Fed member Dennis Lockhart gave investors the impression that the first federal funds rate hike is likely to take place soon. In essence, he said that he believes that a rate hike will be appropriate in September unless the economy significantly underperforms expectations. While other Fed officials may feel differently, investors took this as a warning to be prepared for a rate hike at the next Fed meeting on September 17.

The major economic reports released since Lockhart's comments showed that the economy remains on track to meet his requirements for a rate hike. Wednesday's ISM Services data revealed an unexpectedly large increase to the highest level since 2005. Friday's Employment data, the biggest report of the month, matched the consensus forecast across the board. The economy continued its pace of strong job gains above 200K with the addition of 215K jobs in July. The Unemployment Rate remained at 5.3%. Average Hourly Earnings, an indicator of wage growth, were 2.2% higher than a year ago.

Looking ahead, we will get more labor market data on Tuesday with the JOLTS report, which measures job openings and labor turnover rates. After that, Retail Sales will be released on Thursday. Since retail sales account for roughly 70% of economic activity, this is one of the biggest reports of the month. Industrial Production, another important indicator of economic activity, will come out on Friday. In addition, there will be Treasury auctions on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. 


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Monday, July 27, 2015

Monday Market Watch || Greece?


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After many weeks with higher than usual volatility due to the Greek debt issues, the past week was a very quiet one for mortgage rates. Greece was no longer a market moving factor, and the economic calendar was very light. Mortgage rates ended a little lower.

The recently released housing data contained mixed news. June existing home sales increased 3% from May to the highest level since February 2007, and they were 10% higher than a year ago. Strong demand and limited inventory continued to push prices higher, and the median existing home price reached an all-time high. By contrast, June new home sales declined 6% from May to the lowest level since November, falling well short of expectations.

Although both reports cover activity in June, existing home sales counts closings, while new home sales measure signed contracts. As a result, the latter report reflects more current activity. However, new home sales make up just 10% of single-family home purchases, a small data set, while existing home sales account for 90%. As a result, readings for new home sales are very volatile month to month.

Over the past week, investors grew more concerned about the pace of global economic growth. There have been several indications that growth is slowing in China and Latin America. In particular, a number of large U.S. companies with global sales pointed to these two regions as the cause of weaker than expected earnings. While this was bad news for stocks, it was positive for mortgage rates, since slower growth reduces inflationary pressures.

Looking ahead, the main focus will be Wednesday's Fed meeting. Investors will be looking for guidance about the timing of the first federal funds rate hike. Before that, Durable Orders, an important indicator of economic activity, will be released on Monday. Pending Home Sales will come out on Wednesday. Second quarter GDP, the broadest measure of economic activity, will be released on Thursday.








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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

US home sales surged in June to fastest pace in 8-plus years

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- Americans bought homes in June at the fastest rate in over eight years, pushing prices to record highs as buyer demand has eclipsed the availability of houses on the market.


The National Association of Realtors said Wednesday that sales of existing homes climbed 3.2 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.49 million, the highest rate since February 2007. Sales have jumped 9.6 percent over the past 12 months, while the number of listings has risen just 0.4 percent.

The median home price has climbed 6.5 percent over the past 12 months to $236,400, the highest level - unadjusted for inflation - reported by the Realtors.
Home-buying has recently surged as more buyers have flooded into the real estate market. Robust hiring over the past 21 months and an economic recovery now in its sixth year have enabled more Americans to set aside money for a down payment. But the rising demand has failed to draw more sellers into the market, limiting the availability of homes and sparking higher prices that could cap sales growth in the coming months.

"The recent pace can't be sustained, but it points clearly to upside potential," said Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics.

Nationally, a mere five months' supply of homes was on the market in June, compared with 5.5 months a year ago and an average of six months in a healthy market.

Some markets are barely adding any listings. The condominium market in Massachusetts contains just 1.8 months' supply, according to a Federal Reserve report this month. The majority of real estate agents in the Atlanta Fed region - which ranges from Alabama to Florida - said that inventories were flat or falling over the past year.

Some of the recent sales burst appears to come from the prospect of low mortgage rates beginning to rise as Fed officials consider raising a key interest rate from its near-zero level later this year. Past efforts by the Fed officials to reduce their stimulus efforts have led to higher mortgage rates, creating expectations that homebuyers will face increased borrowing costs later this year.

That possibility is prompting some buyers to finalize sales before higher rates make borrowing costs prohibitively expensive, noted Daren Blomquist, a vice president at RealtyTrac, a housing analytics firm.
The premiums that the Federal Housing Administration charges borrowers to insure mortgages are also lower this year, further fueling buying activity, Blomquist said.

It's also possible that more homebuyers are aggressively checking the market for listings, enabling them to act fast with offers despite the lack of new inventory.

"Buyers can more quickly be alerted of new listings and also more conveniently access real estate data to help them pre-search a potential purchase before they even step foot in the property," said Blomquist, adding that this could help to explain why sales growth have dramatically outpaced new listings so far this year.

Properties typically sold last month in 34 days, the shortest time since the Realtors began tracking the figure in May 2011. There were fewer all-cash, individual investor and distressed home sales in the market, as more traditional buyers have returned.

Sales improved last month in all four regions: Northeast, Midwest, South and West.
Still, the limited supplies could prove to be a drag on sales growth in the coming months.
Ever rising home values are stretching the budgets of first-time buyers and owners looking to upgrade. As homes become less affordable, demand will likely taper off.

Home prices have increased at more than three times the pace of wages. The average hourly wage has risen just 2 percent over the past 12 months to $24.95 an hour, according to the Labor Department.
Some would-be buyers are also spurning their limited options on the market. Tony Smith, a real estate broker in Charlotte, North Carolina, said some renters shopping for homes are now choosing instead to re-sign their leases and wait until a broader and better selection of properties comes onto the market.

Construction has yet to satisfy rising demand, as builders are increasingly focused on the growing rental market.

Approved building permits rose increased 7.4 percent to an annual rate of 1.34 million in June, the highest level since July 2007, the Commerce Department said last week. Almost all the gains came for apartment complexes, while permits for houses last month rose only 0.9 percent.
The share of Americans owning homes has fallen this year to a seasonally adjusted 63.8 percent, the lowest level since 1989.

Real estate had until recently lagged behind much of the six-year rebound from the recession, hobbled by the wave of foreclosures that came after the housing bubble began to burst roughly eight years ago.

But the job market found new traction in early 2014. Employers added 3.1 million jobs last year and are on pace to add 2.5 million jobs this year. As millions more Americans have found work, their new paychecks are increasingly going to housing, both in terms of renting and owning.
Low mortgage rates have also helped, although rates are now starting to climb to levels that could slow buying activity.

The average 30-year fixed rate was 4.09 percent last week, according to the mortgage giant Freddie Mac. The average has risen from a 52-week low of 3.59 percent.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Monday Market Watch







Monday Market Watch

The economic news this week contained few surprises. The major data, the US Retail Sales report and third quarter Eurozone Gross Domestic Product (GDP), came in very close to expectations. As a result, mortgage rates ended the week with little change.

One other US report released this week has been gaining in prominence since Fed Chair Yellen said that she watches it closely as a labor market indicator. This report, called JOLTS, measures job openings and labor turnover rates. The data showed that job openings in September remained near the 13-year high reached in August.

Another component of the report measures the rate at which employees voluntarily leave their jobs, and this "quit rate" rose from 1.8% to 2.0%, which was the highest level since April 2008. A higher quit rate is viewed as a sign of a stronger labor market, since employees generally are less likely to quit a job if they are not reasonably confident that they can get a new job. Taken together, the strong readings for job openings and quit rates point to continued improvement in the labor market.

The situation in Ukraine has faded from the headlines in recent weeks, but attention returned to the area this week. Officials from Ukraine claimed that Russia has been sending an increasing number of tanks and other military supplies into Ukraine, contributing to greater violence in the regions controlled by the rebels. Russian officials have continued to deny doing this. As outside observers seek to discover more information, this latest news has had little lasting influence on mortgage markets so far, but it serves as a reminder that geopolitical concerns could become a factor at any time. If the conflict in Ukraine escalates, it could cause investors to shift to safer assets, which would be favorable for bonds and interest rates. Conversely, an easing of tensions would have the opposite effect.

Next week, the most highly anticipated economic release will be the FOMC Minutes from the October 29 Fed meeting. These detailed Minutes provide additional insight into the debate between Fed officials. In addition, the Producer Price Index (PPI), which focuses on the increase in prices of "intermediate" goods used by companies to produce finished products, will come out on Tuesday. The Consumer Price Index (CPI), the most closely watched monthly inflation report, will come out on Thursday. CPI looks at the price change for finished goods which are sold to consumers. The NAHB Housing index, Housing Starts, and Existing Home Sales also are on the schedule for next week.



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Monday, November 10, 2014

Monday Market Watch





   Market Recacp
 
The main story this week was the important monthly Employment report, which showed that wage inflation remains low. The European Central Bank (ECB) made no change in policy and had little impact on US markets. After a quiet four days, Friday's Employment data caused mortgage rates to improve and end the week a little lower.

Against a consensus forecast of 235K, the economy added 214K jobs in October. Revisions to prior months added 31K jobs. The economy has added an average of about 220K jobs per month so far this year, which is the fastest pace in over ten years. The Unemployment Rate declined to 5.8%, the lowest level since July 2008. Average Hourly Earnings, an indication of wage increases, were just 2.0% higher than one year ago. Bottom line, the job gains were roughly in line with expectations, but the low level of wage inflation was favorable for mortgage rates.

The results of this week's elections were largely as expected with the Republicans gaining control of the Senate and adding to their majority in the House. There was little immediate market reaction. So, will a Congress lead by the GOP mean that changes are coming for the mortgage market? The general belief is that there will be no significant changes any time soon, and probably not before the next Presidential election. The continuing conservatorship of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac is the biggest industry issue Congress needs to address, but the complexity of any substantive reform and the significance of Fannie and Freddie to the housing market make this a very difficult issue.

Next week will be a light one for economic events. The JOLTS report, measuring job openings and labor turnover rates, will come out on Thursday. Retail Sales, which account for roughly 70% of economic activity, will be released on Friday. There will be Treasury auctions on Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Mortgage markets will 

be closed on Tuesday in observance of Veterans Day.






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