MortgageMortgage Rates

Job gains feed the housing recovery

Mortgage rates rise as economy exhibits signs of growth

Fixed-mortgage rates rose this past week as positive news surfaced on the jobs and housing front, planting a sense of optimism about the ongoing economic recovery.

"Mortgage rates edged up this week on signs of a stronger economic recovery," confirmed Freddie Mac vice president and chief economist Frank Nothaft.

In fact, the 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage came in at 4.57%, up from 4.51% last week, and up from 3.55% last year, Freddie Mac said in its Primary Mortgage Market Survey.

The 15-year, FRM increased to 3.59%, up from 3.54% last week, and a steep rebound from 2.86% last year.

Meanwhile, the 5-year Treasury-index adjustable-rate mortgage averaged 3.28%, up from 3.24% last week, and an increase from 2.75% a year ago.

Additionally, the 1-year Treasury-index ARM rose to 2.71%, up from 2.64%, and an increase from 2.61% a year earlier.

But if mortgage rates are rising on news of a stable economic recovery, what is stimulating this sense of optimism? Economists point to several data points released within the last few weeks, stretching from gross domestic product growth to jobs numbers.

Nothaft explained that, "Real GDP was revised upwards to 2.5% growth in the second quarter of this year. In addition, residential construction spending rose for a ninth consecutive month in July. Lastly, the manufacturing industry expanded by the fastest pace in August since June 2011."

And businesses continue to add jobs at a modest pace in August, while the number of workers applying for jobless benefits fell last week, indicating the labor market is starting to improve. Trends like this are necessary to ensure the economic recovery remains viable. The same is true for housing.

"There is no housing recovery without a growth in jobs," said Mortgage Bankers Association chief economist and senior vice president of research and education Jay Brinkmann.

He added, "The recovery we’ve seen has been related to the fact that the economy is creating jobs at a steady rate and those jobs do translate into paychecks, some of those paychecks go to pay rentals and others go toward mortgages. You don’t pay a mortgage with a percentage change in GDP, you pay it with a paycheck."

Private-sector jobs increased by 176,000 in August, according to the latest national employment report by Automatic Data Processing.

First-time benefit claims decreased by 9,000 to a seasonally adjusted 323,000 unemployment filings in the week ending Aug. 31, according to the Labor Department.

Both reports point to an improving labor market ahead of the Federal Reserve’s policy meeting in mid-September.

These job indicators as well as rising rates are big benchmarks for Fed officials who are looking for steady improvement in the labor market before tapering bond-buying efforts.

"The ADP payroll survey suggests that U.S. private sector employment increased by 176,000 in August, down slightly from the estimated 198,000 gain in July, but enough to reinforce expectations that the Fed will begin to taper its asset purchases, albeit cautiously, later this month," explained Capital Economics chief U.S. economist Paul Ashworth.

He added, "Admittedly, the ADP survey suggests a slowdown in employment growth between July and August, but that survey also turned out to be overly optimistic in July, with the official increase a more modest 162,000. In theory, Fed officials will base their decision at the mid-September FOMC meeting on the cumulative progress made in the labor market since the introduction of QE3 a year ago, treating whatever the gain in August is as just one data point."

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