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Opinion, commentary, and analysis on everything that makes the U.S. housing economy tick -- not to mention the ghosts in the machine, too. Written by HW's team of editors and reporters each business day.
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Monday Morning Cup of Coffee: Trump budget threatens housing?

Is the Fed ready for a March rate hike?

March 6, 2017

Monday Morning Cup of Coffee takes a look at news coming across HousingWire’s weekend desk, with more coverage to come on larger issues.

President Donald Trump and Congress are considering policies which would include a massive tax cut and increased military spending, a dozen congressional aides told Reuters according to an article by James Oliphant.

So where would more money come from, if taxes aren't being raised? 

According to the article, the new budget focus could put housing assistance provided by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development at risk.

From the article:

While the White House has not been specific about its plans for HUD — the budget process remains in flux — it has called for a $54 billion cut in non-military discretionary domestic programs in the next fiscal year, which likely will dramatically impact safety-net programs that are not entitlements such as Medicare and Social Security, budget experts said.

Altogether, housing advocates paint a bleak picture of the landscape for low-income housing under the Trump administration. They warn that deep cuts to housing funds would force some people out of their homes and hollow out grant programs meant to revitalize urban neighborhoods.

Due to the new HUD Secretary Ben Carson just getting started, it is not clear what his first steps will be for HUD programs, but he will begin his time as secretary by taking a tour of field offices across the country.

In what is possibly the new hotbed for housing in the U.S., Dallas, over 100 residents are now looking for new housing in a city with already escalating rent prices.

A fire stared on Friday night in a four-story apartment building where firefighters arrived at about 11:30 p.m., according to an article by Azia Branson for the Star Telegram.

Despite the efforts of more than 100 firefighters, all 60 unites burned to the ground, according to the article. Officials are still investigating what started the fire.

To see a video of the apartment fire, click here.

In brighter news, the nation's housing market is looking up with an annual increase of 17% in mortgage originations in 2016, according to the latest Mortgage Monitor Report, just released by Black Knight Financial Services.

In fact, purchase lending increased 13% to their highest level since 2006. However, it was still 28% below 2005’s peak level.

Black Knight’s report also confirmed other recent reports that refinance originations increased in the fourth quarter, which marked a 58% increased from the fourth quarter in 2015. For the whole year, refinance originations increased 22%.

But that high level of originations probably won’t continue into 2017.

“The refinance market topped $1 trillion in 2016 as well, driven by a year of historically low rates,” said Ben Graboske, Black Knight executive vice president. “However, as Black Knight reported in our First Look at January’s mortgage performance data, prepayment speeds – historically a good indicator of refinance activity – fell by 30% from December to January.

“When you couple this with the fact that there are 5.7 million, or nearly 70%, fewer refinance candidates in the market entering Q1 2017 than there were entering Q4 2016, it becomes very likely that we will see these numbers decline significantly in the first quarter,” Graboske said.

And speaking of a slow-down in refinances, the Federal Reserve may be gearing up for another rate hike at its March meeting.

Last week traders upped their expectations of a rate hike to 52%, however after Trump’s speech to Congress Tuesday night, the Dow Jones Industrial average spiked to over 21,000 Wednesday.

Now, Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen said Friday that another hike “would likely be appropriate,” in the March meeting, according to an article by Jim Puzzanghera for the Los Angeles Times.

This comes after what Greg Gutfeld of Fox News called Trump’s most presidential week yet.

However, there is still time for the Fed to change its mind as there remains a week and a half before the Federal Open Markets Committee begins. Monday, Trump is expected to sign yet another executive order banning travel from seven Muslim countries.

And later this week, women will show their opposition to Trump’s policies by striking against someone else entirely, their employers, on March 8 for a day without women.

So this week could shape up to be much less calm than the previous one.

Whatever happens, you’ll see it here first, so keep reading and have a great week!

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