Sunday, December 21, 2008

LOW rates!

Rates Hit the Lowest Point of My Lifetime

Friday, mortgage rates dropped to the low point of our generation with the 30 year fixed hitting 4.25% in the morning before rising by day's end back up to 4.625% where it stands today. Rates rose Friday afternoon out of sheer reaction to how many people locked in to rates in the morning. These dramatically low rates are the reaction of the following series of events that occurred earlier in the week:

1. Tuesday's very favorable CPI inflation report showed prices dropping sharply and, for now, inflation is not a concern for investors.

2. Tuesday's Housing Starts report showed a 19% decline to a record low of 625K annual units, far below the consensus forecast of 730K. Building Permits, a leading indicator, showed a similar decline. To give you a contrast, Housing Starts were running at a 2.2 million unit annual pace in early 2006. On a favorable note, the slowdown in the building of new homes will help reduce the inventory of unsold homes on the market.

3. Friday, the Fed cut the Fed Fund rate from 1.0% to nearly 0.0% and suggested that they might purchase large quantities of Mortgage Backed Securities and Treasuries (over and above the previously announced $500 billion plan) to help keep mortgage rates low. The Fed's statement confirmed that economic conditions have worsened recently and suggested that rates will remain at extremely low levels for an extended period of time.

Article Courtesy of James Williamson, Fairfield Mortgage

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Possible Rate Drop to 4.5%!!!

From the WSJ today:
WASHINGTON -- Financial industry lobbyists are urging the Treasury Department to take steps to lower mortgage rates and help stabilize the battered U.S. housing market.
Under one proposal, Treasury would seek to lower the rate on a 30-year mortgage to 4.5 percent by purchasing mortgage-backed securities from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Scott Talbott, chief lobbyist at the Financial Services Roundtable, said Wednesday.
If enacted, such a plan would be an unprecedented opportunity for anyone with good credit and a solid income who could qualify for a mortgage at the lowest rates on records dating to the early 1960s, said Keith Gumbinger, senior vice president at financial publisher HSH Associates.
"You would have the mother of all re-fi booms," said mortgage industry consultant Howard Glaser.
The goal of the industry's proposal would be to take advantage of the unusually large difference, or spread, between mortgage rates and yields on government debt. On Wednesday, the yield on the 10-year Treasury note yield sank as low as 2.65 percent, while the national average rate on a 30-year fixed rate mortgages was 5.75 percent, according to HSH Associates.
In recent years, there has been about a 1.8 percentage point difference between the yield on a 10-year Treasury note and a 30-year mortgage rate, but that spread currently hovers around 3 percentage points.
Analysts said that the government could use its ability to borrow money at low rates to in essence flood the market for mortgage-backed securities. This increased demand would tend to push down the yield on mortgage securities sold by Fannie and Freddie, which now average about 5.5 percent because of investor concerns about default risks. Once those yields fall, the theory goes, lower mortgage rates should follow.
That would have two benefits for the economy: Immediately adding money to the pocketbooks of homeowners who can refinance their mortgages and reduce their monthly payments, and eventually help arrest the slide in home prices since much lower mortgage rates would allow more potential buyers to qualify for loans.
"The goal is drive mortgage rates so low that home prices not only stop falling but begin to rebound," said Greg McBride, senior financial analyst at
If the government does buy up mortgage securities, it would be similar to the effort announced last week by the Federal Reserve to purchase up to $500 billion of mortgage-backed securities from Fannie and Freddie. The two mortgage giants, which were seized by federal regulators in September, own or guarantee about half of the $11.5 trillion in U.S. outstanding home loan debt.
The Fed, however, did not announce a specific target for mortgage rates, which plunged about a half percentage point after the announcement.
That caused new mortgage applications to more than double last week, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association's weekly survey released Wednesday. Refinance volume more than tripled, and made up for nearly 70 percent of all applications.
Still, the industry plan is not likely to help borrowers whose credit is so damaged that banks don't want to lend to them.
"It doesn't do anything to help all the borrowers facing foreclosures," said Guy Cecala, publisher of Inside Mortgage Finance, a trade publication. "It's going to benefit the people who have equity in their home, who have decent credit and can refinance."
Treasury is considering several options, and could announce a decision as early as next week, industry sources said.
Treasury spokeswoman Brookly McLaughlin said she would not comment on speculation about actions the department may take in the future.
The proposal was reported Wednesday afternoon on The Wall Street Journal's Web site.Treasury could make such a proposal as part of a request for the second $350 billion of the $700 billion financial rescue fund, industry sources said.
Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson has been criticized by members of Congress for using the bailout money to shore up Wall Street banks, while not doing enough to help homeowners facing foreclosure.
In recent weeks, a diverse set of industry groups from real estate agents to carpet makers have called on lawmakers and the incoming administration of President-elect Barack Obama to subsidize lower mortgage rates and beef up tax credits to help stimulate housing demand.
The National Association of Realtors has been pushing a plan under which the federal government would spend $50 billion to lower mortgage rates. It says doing so would yield about 500,000 more home sales.
Meanwhile, the National Association of Home Builders is leading a new "Fix Housing First" coalition to push for aid to the ailing housing sector, including a tax credit of up to $22,000 for anyone who buys a home before the end of 2009.

Monday, October 13, 2008

World Markets Soar After Last Week's Plunge

HONG KONG — Global stock markets rebounded strongly on Monday after last week's historic sell-off as governments from Europe to Australia and the U.S. intensified efforts to ease a financial crisis that threatened to the throw the world into recession.
Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index, which tumbled more than 7 percent Friday, soared 1,434.33 points, or 9.69 percent, to finish at 16,231.20.
Australian and Singapore indices jumped more than 5 percent, while South Korean and Chinese benchmarks added around 3.7 percent.
As markets opened in Europe, Britain's FTSE-100 shot up 5.6 percent, Germany's DAX climbed 6.4 percent and France's CAC-40 advanced 7 percent.
In Japan, where the Nikkei 225 tanked nearly 10 percent Friday to close out its worst week in history, trading was closed for a public holiday.
Markets around the world sprung to life as nations expanded their efforts to save a financial system, reeling from seizing credit markets and risky debt, that threatened to throw the global economy into recession.
On Monday five central banks — including the U.S. Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank — unveiled new measures to thaw frozen credit markets and bolster funding to banks. The Bank of England, the European Central Bank and the Swiss National Bank said they would provide unlimited U.S. dollar funds to financial institutions. The Bank of Japan said it was considering similar measures.

In Britain, three of the country's largest banks — Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC, Lloyds TSB Group PLC and HBOS PLC — announced plans to take up to 37 billion pounds (US$63 billion) of government money to boost their balance sheets.
Earlier in the day, Australia said it would guarantee bank and other lender deposits for three years.
The moves came after leaders of the 15 euro-zone countries said Sunday they would guarantee new bank debt until the end of 2009, allow governments to help banks by buying preferred shares, and vowed to rescue important failing banks through emergency recapitalizion.
The global effort brought a measure of relief after investor panic sent world equities markets spiraling last week in one of the steepest declines in decades.
"The government measures genuinely do help market confidence," said Daniel McCormack, a strategist for Macquarie Securities in Hong Kong. "We are reaching a point where policy could soon start to have an impact on the credit markets and once it does that will help the equity markets."
In the U.S., investors were waiting to see if the Treasury Department's newly announced plan buy equity in troubled banks would help stabilize the volatility on Wall Street. Lawmakers have urged quick action by President George W. Bush on the effort, to be funded by the US$700 billion bailout he signed Oct. 3.
Wall Street stock futures showed a rebound was in store for the major indexes ahead of the opening bell on Monday. Dow Jones industrials futures rose 331 points, or 3.9 percent, to 8,701. Nasdaq 100 futures rose 51.7, or 4 percent, to 1,334; and Standard & Poor's 500 futures added 43, or 4.8 percent, to 934.04.
In a volatile session Friday in New York, the Dow Jones industrial average fell 128, or 1.49 percent, to 8,451.49, gyrating within a 1,000 point range. The average had its worst week on record in both point and percentage terms.
Financials helped lead Monday's advance in Asia, with leading Chinese lender Industrial & Commercial Bank of China, or ICBC, soaring 13.6 percent. Leading Australian banks such as Commonwealth Bank of Australia and ANZ Banking Group Ltd were also up sharply. Commodity issues gained as well.
Elsewhere in the region, Indonesia's key index, down sharply in early trade, gained 0.9 percent after the lifting of a trading suspension, imposed last Wednesday amid a freefall in share prices. The upswing followed government measures to free up liquidity, including easing regulations for share buybacks and corporate financial reserve limits.
Taiwan's benchmark index closed down 2.15 percent after the market was shut Friday for a national holiday.
Oil prices recovered, with light, sweet crude for November delivery up US$3.33 at US$81.03. The contract fell Friday US$8.89 to US$77.70, the lowest price since Sept. 10, 2007.
In currencies, the greenback gained against the yen to 100.57. The 15-nation euro bought US$1.3532.
** Article posted on

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Senate Passes "Bail Out Bill"

The Senate passed the $700 billion economic-rescue package by a 74-25 margin on Wednesday night, just two days after the House had rejected a similar bill.
Legislators had spent a feverish two days putting together this revised package, hoping to appease both liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans, who had expressed major reservations about the legislation.
Congressional leaders, as well as President George W. Bush, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, had pressed over the past week for this package, which they said was necessary to stop a financial meltdown.
Paulson released a statement on Wednesday night saying, “I commend the Senate for tonight’s strong, bipartisan vote. This sends a positive signal that we stand ready to protect the U.S. economy by making sure that Americans have access to the credit that is needed to create jobs and keep businesses going. I urge the House to act promptly to pass this bill.”
Both major presidential candidates, Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama, voted in favor of the bill.
Click here to see how your state legislators voted
While the legislation is fairly complex, in basic form it offers a way for financial institutions to get some of their most-toxic securities off their books, with the federal government taking them over. This bill authorizes the Treasury Secretary to have up to $700 billion of securities “outstanding at any one time,” though the approval for the full $700 billion would come in stages.
The bill passed in the Senate differed from the rejected House legislation in a number of ways. Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. insurance will be raised temporarily to $250,000 from $100,000. In addition, there were changes to the Alternative Minimum Tax and incentives for small business, among other things.

Click Here to Read
Because the bill had to be one that was already under consideration, it was basically substituted in for a mental-health parity bill, a measure the Senate voted on before considering the legislation itself, and approved by a vote of 74-25. However, some mental-health parity provisions were included in the measure.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) had proposed an amendment that would create a surtax on those making over $500,000 a year, but it was defeated.
The bill will now journey to the House. A vote there is expected sometime on Friday, Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) told FOX Business. It’s still expected to have a much tougher run there. Every House seat is contested in the early-November election, which means the Representatives are more mindful than their Senate counterparts of the opposition from constituents.
That opposition is still strong. The Web site survey on, which is not a scientific poll, indicates that only 12% of respondents support passage of the rescue package, while 15% want a better explanation of what’s in it. A full 73% say they understand what’s in it and just don’t want it.
Part of the challenge for those in favor of the bill is that it’s meant to help the credit markets, which are less visible. The stock market, which suffered one of its worst days in history on the day the House rejected the bill, is suffering but still liquid.
Activity in the credit markets is extremely low, with banks hesitant to lend to each other, or to customers. The fear of market and economic experts is that such a lack of money flow will devastate an already weak economy.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Market Drop

Congress Debates Rescue Plan What a day it has been, again! On a historic day, the House unexpectedly failed to pass the $700 billion rescue plan, and investors embarked on a flight to safety. Money flowed out of the stock market in tidal wave fashion with the Dow losing over 750 points! The lack of a systemic action to help credit markets leaves a lot of questions. Until a solution is agreed upon, financial institutions will be even more reluctant to make loans. At the same time, confidence in the ability of lawmakers to fix the problem is dropping. Needless to say, investors will be waiting and watching closely to see if lawmakers come up with an alternative rescue plan in the days ahead. In the meantime today, as money flowed out of the stock market, a good bit of it flowed into the bond market, which helped drive mortgage rates lower. Oil prices also fell $11 to $96 per barrel. If we can get some gas into Atlanta, then maybe we'll see gas prices take a significant drop. And almost as a footnote with everything else going on today, Wachovia finally went under and was bought by Citigroup. Just two and a half years ago, Wachovia was an extremely healthy bank, that is until they got wrapped up in the sub-prime business through their $25 Billion acquisition of Golden West Financial. Talk about the kiss of death. And the Wachovia bank failure comes just two business days after the largest US bank failure ever as Washington Mutual collapsed, was seized by the FDIC, and then sold to JP Morgan Chase to prevent the FDIC from depleting its insurance fund. Citigroup and JP Morgan Chase now join Bank of America as the three largest banks in America. To Bail Out or Not to Bail Out? So, what’s the $700 Billion Bailout all about anyway? Make no mistake about it, the credit markets are dragging down the economy, and the basic problem is clear. Many financial institutions hold large quantities of complex mortgage securities which have declined in value. The precise value of these securities is difficult to determine, since there are few buyers and the market is not functioning efficiently. Amid the uncertainty, it's very difficult and costly to raise additional capital, so financial institutions are conserving their remaining capital. These institutions are very reluctant to make new loans of any kind. If businesses have no capital to grow and consumers have trouble purchasing homes and cars, the economy suffers and jobs are lost.

Fed Chief Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Paulson spent two long days last week presenting a $700 billion rescue plan to Congress. Much of the testimony noted that the rescue plan would be an acquisition of assets. Mortgages and mortgage backed securities will be purchased at a significant discount to the face amount of the underlying mortgages. Many of the mortgages will be performing, while some will not, and they will have houses as collateral. Ultimately, the orderly liquidation of the acquired assets could recover most, if not all, of the purchase price. The plan would provide much needed capital to institutions, which is expected to be used to make more loans. Hopefully, Congress can work out the details and pass something soon so we can begin moving in the right direction! In other news last week:
Bernanke called this the most significant financial crisis in the postwar period
Continuing Jobless Claims rose to the highest level since 2001

August Existing Home Sales fell a little from July, while inventories declined FHA Limits 'Buy and Bail' PurchasesFHA announced last week that home buyers who want to rent out their current home and use the rental income to offset their mortgage payment to enable them to qualify for a new home are going to be able to do so only if they have 25% equity in their current home or if they provide proof of a job relocation. Unless one of these conditions is met, buyers are going to be forced to sell their current home first or qualify for both mortgages at the same time. FHA hopes this new rule, which was implemented effective Sept 19, will prevent buyers from purchasing a less expensive home and then walking away from their current mortgage. This has become a major trend in certain parts of the country. Whatever the reason, there is no doubt that this is going to push even more people out of the home purchase market.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Update from James Williamson-

Relief Program Boosts Confidence
This has been quite the historic week in the financial markets. One major investment bank declared bankruptcy, another sold itself, and the world's largest insurance company needed a government bailout. Central banks around the world had to inject hundreds of billions of dollars into the banking system to calm the markets.
The government's primary response to the market turmoil was a broad relief program. The program includes major elements intended to stabilize credit markets and restore confidence. Directly affecting the mortgage market, a government entity will be established to acquire underperforming mortgage assets, manage the assets, and sell them in an orderly fashion. This will remove troubled assets from financial institutions and replace them with fresh capital, which will then be available for future lending opportunities. In addition, the Treasury doubled the amount of mortgage securities that it will buy in the open market for its own holdings. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will be allowed to increase their mortgage portfolios, as well. One result of these actions should be increased liquidity for future investment in mortgage assets.
A Fed meeting is usually the most significant event in a week, but last week it took a back seat to the other news. While many investors expected a rate cut on Tuesday to relieve credit markets, the Fed held the fed funds rate unchanged at 2.0% in a unanimous vote. According to its statement, the Fed expects inflation to moderate later this year, but they are concerned about the upside risks. The Fed also noted slower economic growth, partly due to tight credit, weakness in the housing market, and a slowdown in exports.
In other news last week:
Some good news as the August Consumer Price Index (CPI) showed a small decline from July
The government also announced that it will provide guarantees for the $2 trillion in assets in money market mutual funds
And, oil prices fell as low as $90 per barrel, down 40% from the high, before ending at $100 per barrel. Unfortunately, the prices are rising this week.
Update on Down Payment Assistance
Last week the House Financial Services Committee adopted H.R. 6694, which is designed to reauthorize and reform down payment assistance programs that the Housing Bill banned in July. A last-ditch effort to head off the Oct. 1 ban on the use of seller-funded down-payment assistance with FHA-backed loans is picking up steam as a compromise bill that would mend rather than end the practice of down payment assistance. HR 6694 would allow qualified borrowers with credit scores of 680 or above to use seller-funded down-payment assistance on FHA-backed loans. Borrowers with scores between 620-680 will be subject to risk-based pricing and higher insurance premium fees. We should find out this week if Congress and the President will also approve of this legislation. Rate Update With all of the volatility in the financial markets last week, mortgage rates remain very low but are as much as .5% higher than last Monday. Needless to say, expect more volatility in the days ahead.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Freddie and Fannie Taken Over

Government takes control of Fannie, Freddie
Move is intended to prevent major financial turmoil

MSNBC News Services
updated 54 minutes ago

WASHINGTON - The U.S. government announced on Sunday that it was taking control of troubled mortgage finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, effectively wiping out shareholders' interest in the publicly traded companies.
The regulator of the two companies, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) will manage the two companies on a temporary basis.
The takeover is the second rescue bid engineered by the U.S. Treasury Department in little more than six weeks. It came as confidence in the firms' ability to keep operating amid a deepening housing crisis continued to erode.
Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Housing Finance Agency Director James Lockhart, regulator for the so-called GSEs or government-sponsored enterprises, called a Sunday-morning news conference to spell out the latest rescue effort.
Officials said the executives of both institutions had been replaced. Herb Allison, a former vice chairman of Merrill Lynch, was selected to head Fannie Mae, and David Moffett, a former vice chairman of US Bancorp, was picked to head Freddie Mac.
Paulson said the actions were being taken because "Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are so large and so interwoven in our financial system that a failure of either of them would cause great turmoil in our financial markets here at home and around the globe."
"A failure would affect the ability of Americans to get home loans, auto loans and other consumer credit and business finance," Paulson said.
Both companies were placed into a government conservatorship that will be run by the Federal Housing Finance Agency, the new agency created by Congress this summer to regulate Fannie and Freddie.
The Federal Reserve and other federal banking regulators said in a joint statement Sunday that "a limited number of smaller institutions" have significant holdings of common or preferred stock shares in Fannie and Freddie, and that regulators were "prepared to work with these institutions to develop capital-restoration plans."
The two companies had nearly $36 billion in preferred shares outstanding as of June 30, according to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
The announcement followed an intense round of meetings on Friday and Saturday with directors and top leaders of the GSEs, who are expected to be dismissed after having come under stiff criticism for their high pay and management shortcomings.
The two mortgage companies are a vital cog in the United States housing industry because they own or guarantee almost half the nation's $12 trillion in outstanding home mortgage debt. The housing sector would have difficulty recovering from its deepest slump since the Great Depression unless Fannie or Freddie are stabilized and able to continue their role in buying mortgage loans and packaging them into securities sold around the world.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Thanks to Real Estate for the following information:

Existing Home Sales - August ReportLast Updated: 8/29/2008
Home Sales Report Summary
Sales of existing homes in the USA went down by 2.04% last month, to 4.86 million homes. That's well below last May (2007), by -15.48%.
Sales Pace by Region - Month to Month and Year to Year
For month-to-month comparisons, sales were down everywhere except in the West, which was up by .98%. The sales pace for resale homes was down by -3.14% in the South, -3.45% in the Midwest, and -6.50% in the Northeast.
That is month-to-month. Year-to-year presents a different picture. Nationwide, we have already talked about the sales pace (it was down -15.48%). In the South, sales were slower by -18.14%, -17.65% in the Midwest, -15.84% in the Northeast, and only down -6.36% in the West.
July sales pace figures released at the very end of August.
This measure tracks units - condominiums, co-ops, and single family home. What "sales pace" means is that the National Association of Realtors calculates how many homes were sold, makes adjustments for seasonal factors like weather, school, vacations, then calculates how many homes would sell in a year at that given pace. When we use raw data, we try to state that clearly.
Price Appreciation
Nationally, the median average sales price fell compared to last year, down by -6.07%, with the new median average sales price of a home was $215,000. The Midwest showed an actual increase of value, by 2.82%, followed by declines in all other regions: South by -2.37%, Northeast by -12.63% and the West by -17.22%.
Median Average
The median average is the "midpoint" sales price. Half the homes sold above that price and half below.
Inventory Rises
It would take 11.1 months to sell all the existing homes currently available on the market at the current sales pace, and there are more homes on the market than last month. There are 4.490 million homes listed for sale. We're selling less than five million a year.
We measure inventory in two ways. "How many homes are available for sale?" and "How many months would it take to sell the total number of homes available for sale right now, at the current sales pace?" When the sales pace declines, inventory measured in months will increase, even if the same number of homes is for sale.
Next Report
All figures in this report are for June 2008 closings. July 2008 data released at the very end of August.
Month-to-Month Appreciation Graphs, regional and nationwide - click here.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Changing Market?

When people realize I am a Realtor, I often get asked a lot of questions. In the past, those questions centered around how many homes were on the market at any given time, where the majority of my listings were located, and how quickly homes were moving. More recently, those questions have ranged from "How is your business right now?" to "When is this marketing going to correct?" Of course, I have no crystal ball, but I have been in real estate and lending long enough to offer some forecasts to the curious.
If you are currently considering selling your home, think price first. Homes that are within the range of "jumbo loans" are moving quite slowly right now. In Georgia, conforming limits are $417,000. This means that if you price your home under $417,000, the buyer will be able to apply for a conforming loan. However, if you list your home at $600,000 (or anything over $417,000), the buyer will have to apply for a jumbo loan, unless they plan to pay any amount over $417,000 in cash.
Jumbo loans are hard to obtain right now. Guidelines have tightened, and debt ratios have dropped. The buyer must have more "free money" now than in the last few years. If debt ratios are at 25%, then this means that the total of the buyer's mortgage, car payments, and any other monthly debt payments must only be equal to 25% of his monthly income. For many, this is not a possibility right now. Jumbo rates are also higher, and in recent weeks have ranged from 7.5% to high 8's! That makes for a large monthly note on an expensive home!
This being said, however, conforming loans and rates are still looking favorable. With decent credit, you can obtain a conforming loan in the mid-6% range. If you look at the trend of interest rates over the past 10 years, you will see that these rates are still historically low.
This being said, there are still some certainties in an ever changing market. I know, for instance, that as an American public, we are not a patient sort! I have heard people say, "I was going to wait until the market corrected itself before I moved, but I don't know when that will be, so I am going to go ahead and start looking." I have seen business pick up rapidly in the last couple of months, and for the most part, restlessness is to thank for that. As the feds work out interest rate kinks, we as Americans will continue to do our part for the economy... spend, spend, spend! And before we know it, the housing market will be right back where it was before.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Today in a Snapshot

Rates Increase Last Week: Mortgage investors focused on the Fed, inflation, and oil prices. The week started off on a positive note, and mortgage rates fell on Monday and Tuesday. Even higher than expected levels of core inflation in Tuesday's Producer Price Index had little impact. The atmosphere changed quickly on Wednesday, though, after the release of the FOMC minutes from the April 30 Fed meeting. In the minutes, the Fed lowered its forecast for economic growth in 2008, while raising the expected level of inflation. Also notable, Fed officials ruled out further rate cuts unless the outlook for the economy turns significantly worse. The Fed's heightened inflation projections were bad news for mortgage markets, and rates ended the week a little higher.
This Week: After yesterday's Memorial Day holiday, it will be a busy week. New Home Sales and Consumer Confidence will come out on Tuesday. Durable Orders, an important indicator of economic activity, will be released on Wednesday. Thursday will see the first revisions to first quarter Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the broadest measure of economic activity. A 5-year Treasury auction will also take place that day. The week will end with a big day on Friday. Core PCE, the Fed's preferred inflation indicator, will be released, along with Personal Income, Chicago PMI, and Consumer Sentiment.
Analysis: This week could result in market swings that are favorable or negative in nature. Considering the heightened possibility for mortgage interest rate volatility, a cautious approach to interest rate exposure is prudent.
-Provided by James A Williamson and Robbie Croier of Fairfield Mortgage

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Yahoo Finance Article

APFannie Mae scraps higher down-payment requirementsFriday May 16, 6:03 pm ET By Alan Zibel, AP Business Writer
Fannie Mae scraps increased minimum down-payment requirement for homes in flagging markets
WASHINGTON (AP) -- By relaxing down-payment requirements for borrowers in markets where home prices are falling, Fannie Mae aims to both resuscitate the flagging housing market and respond to pressure from industry groups, consumer advocates and lawmakers.

It's a balancing act that critics and investors worry exposes the company to more risk, as foreclosure rates spike and home prices keep falling.
Washington-based Fannie Mae said Friday it will require minimum down payments of 3 percent for loans made through its computerized underwriting system.
The new policy, effective June 1, replaces a December one that required a 5 percent down payment for home loans in areas with declining real estate prices. Fannie Mae predicts U.S. home prices will drop 7 percent to 9 percent on average this year.
A Freddie Mac spokesman said the McLean, Va.-based company earlier this month adjusted its policies to make 5 percent down payments available in declining markets.
The reversal on down payments come as fears heighten, especially among Republicans on Capitol Hill, that the government will end up bailing out Fannie and its government-sponsored sibling, Freddie Mac, whose share prices have been cut in half over the past year.
While the government is relying on the two mortgage finance titans to stabilize the battered mortgage market, the companies "need to be very careful to manage their risk...that's a a tight rope for them to walk," said mortgage industry consultant Howard Glaser.
Bert Ely, a banking industry consultant in Alexandria, Va. and a longtime critic of Fannie and Freddie, said they were likely under pressure from lawmakers to change their policy in areas with falling home prices. "They caught a lot of flack on this," he said.
Fannie's announcement that it was easing financial requirements for some homebuyers comes just as lawmakers are considering tougher ones for both it and Freddie. The Bush administration has long pushed for stricter regulation.
As senators try to put together a bipartisan housing package, they've proposed tapping a fund drawn from Fannie and Freddie's profits to pay for a new foreclosure-prevention program. Community groups want that money directed to a low-income housing fund.
Congress created Fannie and Freddie to pump money into the home-mortgage market by buying home loans from banks and other lenders and bundling them into securities for sale on Wall Street. Together they hold or guarantee about $5.3 trillion in home-mortgage debt.
Their formidable size helps them support the mortgage market in times of trouble. But critics fear that these troubled times are too much for the companies to handle the losses, making a federal bailout inevitable.
"These guys are real close to being part of the problem, rather than part of the solution," said Thomas Stanton, a fellow at Johns Hopkins University's Center for the Study of American Government.
While the Treasury Department isn't obligated to assist Fannie or Freddie in a financial emergency, there is a perception notion on Wall Street that the government would bail them out if there is a collapse. Critics say the government's implicit backing allows the companies to take on far more debt than a bank.
James Lockhart, director of the federal Office of Housing Enterprise Oversight, said in a speech Friday the companies' high level of debt relative to assets "could pose significant risk to taxpayers ... financial institutions and other investors."
More evidence of their increased vulnerability, Lockhart said, are three straight quarters of losses for both, totaling nearly $11 billion.
Fannie had been under intense pressure from real estate agents, homebuilders and consumer advocates to relax what they saw as rigid policies that shut out borrowers with good credit.
"From the time it was announced, we've been asking them to reconsider," said Jerry Howard, president of the National Association of Home Builders, said in an interview.
Mortgage brokers welcomed the news. Alan Rosenbaum, chief executive of mortgage banker and broker GuardHill Financial Corp. in New York, said the change "is probably the first step in turning things around" as the mortgage industry has tightened its lending practices too much, leaving many borrowers out in the cold.
While the change is positive, Karen Cooper, a mortgage broker and owner of Quality Home Loans in Ashland, Ore., said borrowers face numerous other obstacles,
For example, mortgage insurers, whose backing is required for borrowers who can't afford the traditional 20 percent down payment on a home, have already flagged ZIP codes around the country where they refuse to insure some home loans.
In working with first-time homebuyers, she said, "we just keep sorting through guidelines until we find what works,"
Fannie Mae shares fell 34 cents to close at $28.89, while shares of Freddie Mac fell 30 cents to close at $26.97.

Market Update

The Following Mortgage Update is Courtesy of James A. Williamson of Fairfield Mortgage
Sent 2/11/2008

More Good News / Bad News This Week For The Mortgage IndustryAs expected, Congress passed the economic stimulus bill, H.R. 5140 last week. Part of the bill allows for taxpayers to receive a "tax rebate" from the U.S. Treasury. Another part of the bill calls for an increase in the maximum loan amounts that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac can purchase from the current maximum level of $417,000. The good news is that this bill may help to jump-start the economy. The bad news is that Georgia is not one of the markets that will benefit from the higher loan limits. So far, it looks like most of the areas affected by the change are in the Northeast or on the West coast. I have cut and pasted an article at very bottom of this e-mail entitled "Raising conforming loan limit not a simple task" which is the best overview I have read yet of this subject. Check it out if you have a few extra minutes. Last week was a weird week for mortgage rates. Only two major reports came out and both showed the economy as weaker. This would normally lead to an improvement in rates, however, comments by several members of the Federal Reserve worked against mortgage rates. Philadelphia Fed President Plosser stated that "core inflation would remain elevated despite slower economic growth." And Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher, who was the only Fed member to vote against decreasing rates at the last Fed meeting, said in a speech in Mexico City that he thought that what the Fed had done so far in lowering rates should be given some time to work before lowering rates anymore, especially before inflation doesn't give more signs of letting up. So, the markets took this to mean that the Fed might be done lowering rates. These comments and market concerns about inflation offset the weak economic data, and the result was rates overall staying about the same with fixed-rates flat and the ARM's slightly lower. Despite the comments of Plosser and Fisher, the consensus estimate is that the Fed will lower rates again when they meet in March. This coming week, Ben Bernanke, the Chairman of the Fed, will be speaking before Congress. The markets will be listening closely for any signs from him that the Fed is or isn't done lowering rates. Expect market volatility. In addition, the mortgage rate market may take it's cue from the stock market - a huge jump in stock prices usually means an increase in mortgage rates as investors pull their money out of mortgage back bonds and go into the stock market. On the other hand, a large dip in the stock market usually signals lower mortgage rates, as investors pull their money out of stocks and put it into the safe haven of U.S. Treasury and mortgage backed bonds. It is unusual for the stock market to move more than 2% in any direction on any given day. In the previous three years, it has happened only once. So far this year, it has happened six times! When this does happen, it sometimes signals a "bottoming" out of stock prices. That could bode well for stock investments and 401(k)'s, but maybe not so much for mortgage rates. Finally, I have attached a great short article that I recently read that is worth the read. What is your "little red dot" in 2008? Below are rates as of this morning and when you think of financing, please think of Fairfield!
Conforming Non-Conforming FHA VA Loan Amount < $417,000 > $417,000 < $252,980 < $417,000 30 Year Fixed 5.625% 6.750% 6.000% 6.000% 15 Year Fixed 4.999% 5.875% 5.500% 5.500% 7 Year ARM 5.125% 6.000%5 Year ARM 5.000% 5.875% 3 Year ARM 4.750% 4.875% 4.875% The above rates are intended to give you an overall idea of how rates are changing from week to week. Other factors such as credit score, down payment, and number of days of rate lock all contribute to the exact rate which is subject to change at any time. The Conforming rates above apply to loan sizes $200,000 - $417,000 and carry zero discount points. Rates for lower loan amounts are slightly higher. Lower rates are also available for all programs with discount points. The interest-only feature is available on most of the Conforming and Non-Conforming programs as well but with a premium.
Market CommentThe retail sales data Wednesday will be the most important event this week. Trade data, industrial production, capacity use, and consumer sentiment data also have the real potential to cause mortgage interest rate volatility.
ReleaseDate & Time
Retail Sales
Wednesday, Feb. 13,8:30 am, et
Important. A measure of consumer demand. Weakness may lead to lower mortgage rates.
Business Inventories
Wednesday, Feb. 13,10:00 am, et
Up 0.4%
Low importance. An indication of stored-up capacity. A significantly larger increase may lead to lower rates.
Trade Data
Thursday, Feb. 14,8:30 am, et
$61 billion deficit
Important. Affects the value of the dollar. A falling deficit may strengthen the dollar and lead to lower rates.
Industrial Production
Friday, Feb. 15,9:15 am, et
Up 0.1%
Important. A measure of manufacturing sector strength. Weakness may lead to lower rates.
Capacity Utilization
Friday, Feb. 15,9:15 am, et
Important. A figure above 85% is viewed as inflationary. Weakness may lead to lower rates.
U of Michigan Consumer Sentiment
Friday, Feb. 15,10:00 am, et
Important. An indication of consumers’ willingness to spend. Weakness may lead to lower mortgage rates.
Retail Sales
Retail sales data is the first indication of weakness or strength in consumer spending released each month. The Bureau of the Census of the US Department of Commerce provides information on how much the consumer spends on the purchase of goods. This data provides the consumption part of the gross domestic product. Retail sales data represents merchandise sold for cash or credit by retailers. Durable goods, such as autos, make up 35% of the figure. The balance consists of non-durables such as gasoline, restaurants, and general merchandise.
There are several drawbacks to the report. The data covers purchases of goods only, not services. It is also not adjusted for inflation and is extremely volatile.
Economists are concerned that the current economic uncertainty will continue to curtail consumer spending habits. Consumers have generally been given credit for sustaining the economy despite rising energy prices and home price declines.
While Philadelphia Fed President Plosser cautioned last week about predicting the future of the economy based on one piece of data, the retail sales report is still likely to cause mortgage interest rate volatility. The data will be a vital component in determining future Fed actions. Plosser was clear that the Fed remains concerned about inflation despite the recent rate decreases. He warned that the Fed needs to be "particularly alert" about rising inflation expectations. Inflation, real or perceived, is bad for bonds. If the fear of inflation increases, mortgage interest rates could trend higher. Be cautious. Mortgage interest rates remain favorable but lower future rates are not a given.
Raising conforming loan limit not a simple task Fannie, Freddie may have to tiptoe into 'jumbo light' market Monday, February 11, 2008By Matt CarterInman News

While Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Housing Administration will soon be allowed to dive into what until now has been the jumbo loan market, it remains to be seen how many borrowers will benefit.
Congress and the Bush administration have agreed to raise the $417,000 conforming loan limit until the end of the year, under a provision of the $150 billion economic stimulus package approved by Congress last week (see Inman News story).
But the devil, as they say, will be in the details. The new formula for determining the conforming loan limit will allow Fannie, Freddie and FHA to guarantee loans of up to 125 percent of the median home price of an area.
While housing markets where the median home price exceeds $216,840 will benefit from higher limits for FHA loan guarantee programs, one analysis suggests Fannie and Freddie will be able to tiptoe into the jumbo loan business in only 19 metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs).
The first step to be taken to implement the changes will be determining median home prices. The Department of Housing and Urban Development has been given 30 days to publish median-home-price data once President Bush signs the stimulus package into law.
But where will HUD get the data? And with prices falling rapidly in many markets, will the data be updated monthly, quarterly or annually?
HUD spokesman Lemar Wooley said FHA will use a combination of existing government data sets and available commercial information to determine the median sales price. He said FHA loan limits are based on the county a property is located in, except when the county is part of a larger MSA, in which case the county with the highest loan limit determines the limit for the entire MSA.
Not only does HUD have to come up with median-home-price numbers for every housing market in America, but Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will have to come up with credit guidelines for a class of loans that, until now, has mostly been off-limits. The government-chartered mortgage financiers will have to decide what their standards will be for the loans they will purchase, or securitize and guarantee.
As they venture into the jumbo loan market, Fannie and Freddie will have to decide if they need to be more cautious about the minimum down payments they will accept, borrower's credit histories, and the fees they charge for taking on more risk. The task will be complicated by the fact that the maximum loan size will vary from market to market, instead of the uniform $417,000 limit in place today in 48 states other than Alaska and Hawaii.
In high-cost markets, the $417,000 conforming loan limit for loans eligible for purchase or guarantee by Fannie and Freddie will be raised to 125 percent of the median home price, with an upper cap of $729,750. That formula means that the $417,000 conforming loan limit will remain in place in markets where the median home price is $333,600 or less.
While there's no time limit for Fannie and Freddie to publish guidelines for the new class of loans, the companies have promised to work with regulators to expedite the process. James Lockhart, director of the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight, told members of the Senate Banking Committee Thursday that the process could take months.
The temporary increase in the conforming loan limit is likely to have a bigger impact on FHA loan guarantee programs, because the current limits for FHA are lower. In high-cost markets, the current ceiling for FHA loan programs is $372,790, and $200,160 in other markets.
The new ceiling for FHA loan programs in normal markets will be $271,050 -- meaning that even borrowers in housing markets where the median home price is below $216,840 may be eligible for FHA-backed purchase or refinance loans up to that amount. In areas where the median home price is above $216,840, the limit for FHA loan programs will be 125 percent of the median home price, all the way up to $729,750.
Fannie and Freddie will be allowed to buy and securitize jumbo loans originated any time between July 1, 2007 and Dec. 31, 2008. That means jumbo lenders may be able to sell some of the loans they've made in the last seven months to Fannie and Freddie, freeing them up to make more loans.
One reason Congress and the Bush administration agreed to raise the conforming limit, at least for now, is that Wall Street investors will no longer buy most mortgage-backed securities that don't carry the backing of Fannie, Freddie or FHA. That means borrowers are paying about 1 percent more for jumbo loans that exceed the $417,000 conforming loan limit.
But there's no guarantee investors will accept the jumbo loans backed by Fannie and Freddie -- which are private, publicly traded companies that face potentially billions of losses in the current mortgage morass -- as safe investments. They may also need some time to familiarize themselves with how FHA is handling the larger loans, said Jaret Seiberg, an analyst with Stanford Group Co. who follows the secondary mortgage market.
"Investors understand the risk characteristics of conforming mortgages that are securitized by Fannie and Freddie, and they understand FHA-backed loans securitized through Ginnie Mae," Seiberg said. "But they don't have experience with jumbo loans coming out of those channels. In a market with so much uncertainty, it's a real question whether investors are going to have an appetite for a new product."
If Wall Street investors don't snatch up the larger loans backed by Fannie, Freddie and FHA after they are securitized, that would limit the benefits to the secondary mortgage market and do less to ease the credit crunch than backers of the move have hoped.
As Fannie's and Freddie's losses mount and they bump up against minimum capital requirements, their capacity to purchase and guarantee loans is not unlimited. And as Lockhart noted, it takes three times as much capital to guarantee one $600,000 loan as it does one $200,000 loan.
While Seiberg is confident that HUD can implement higher loan limits for FHA programs, he said Fannie and Freddie have technological and capital issues to overcome before they become "meaningful players" in the "jumbo light" market.
As to which housing markets might benefit from higher conforming loan limits, Seiberg said Stanford Group used median-home-price data from the National Association of Realtors to analyze where Fannie and Freddie might be able to purchase or guarantee loans above the current $417,000 limit.
Stanford Group identified 19 markets -- more than a third of them in California -- where Fannie and Freddie could enter the jumbo light market.