Trending Thursday is a roundup of the stories shaping the week and what’s yet to come through the weekend. Think of it as a midweek Monday Morning Cup of Coffee, but with extra caffeine.
This afternoon, rates talk will dominate the conversation. Want some quick background on what will happen if the Federal Reserve raises rates, or when they will if they don’t today? Ask and ye shall receive, dear reader.
And just for one more voice, here’s what Lindsey Piegza, chief economist at Stifel Fixed Income, has to say about it the Fed.
“Analysts are still saying it is too close to call today's rate announcement, a clear lack of direction which supports our notion the Fed should continue to exercise patience,” she says. “After all, if the decision is so controversial or too close to call, the U.S. economy is clearly not sending strong enough signals. To justify the first rate increase since 2006, it should be pretty darn clear to Fed officials and market participants alike that the U.S. economy can withstand a rising rate environment.”
You know who isn’t worried about an interest rate hike? American homebuyers apparently, at least according to Trulia’s newest survey.
Ahead of today’s announcement by the Fed, Trulia surveyed more than 2,000 U.S. adults earlier this week to get their take on rising mortgage rates.
Nearly 69% of Americans said $250,000 is the maximum price that they would be willing to pay to buy their first or next home. At this price point, an increase in rates would not turn people off from buying a home, but it may slightly lower the price range in which they are looking to buy.
“Interestingly, for Americans who are looking to purchase a home this year, mortgage rates are not the primary concern. Prospective homebuyers are most worried about being able to get a mortgage and if they could find a home that they would like,” says Selma Hepp, chief economist for Trulia.
Ahead of Monday’s release of existing home sales from the National Association of Realtors, Mark Fleming, chief economist for First American Financial (FAF), says the housing underperformance gap continues to improve.
First American’s Existing-Home Sales Capacity model for the month of August 2015 provides a gauge on whether existing-home sales are under capacity or over capacity based on current market fundamentals, and that metric rose by 0.4% compared to July and decreased by 1.1% compared to a year ago.
“The two-tenths of a percent drop in the unemployment rate and continued rise in disposable income were factors that helped push the market capacity for existing-home sales higher,” Fleming says. “Additionally, continued gains in house prices and the mortgage rate falling below 4% again were also factors that contributed.”
Market capacity for existing-home sales has remained close to 6 million sales on an annualized basis for more than a year, while actual sales activity has increased and significantly closed the gap between market capacity and actual existing-home sales.
This year, through July, actual existing-home sales have increased by almost 800,000 sales.
“The primary reason for the improvement in the underperformance gap between market capacity and actual existing-home sales is the release of pent-up housing supply triggered by existing homeowners with improving equity positions due to robust house price appreciation putting their homes on the market,” said Fleming.
“In addition to more sellers also becoming buyers, household formation is gaining strength and will become a source of first-time homebuyer demand," Fleming continued. "Millennials and boomerang buyers – those who were foreclosed on during the crisis but have since repaired their credit – will be an increasing source of demand for existing-home sales.”
Never mind interest rates for just a moment, one of the big things holding back housing sales is the stagnation of wages and the weak employment recovery. But good news! Real median household income is soaring, soaring! to …1996 levels.
Anthony Sanders, distinguished professor of finance at George Mason University, whose blog should be required reading, has the breakdown.
Last night was the second GOP debate where housing got exactly zero mentions, but it is a reminder that Congress is back in session. Contentious issues are on the table and there’s always the risk of a government shutdown between the two intransigent sides over political issues as well as the issue of the debt ceiling.
Political implications aside, it does have an effect on investors and investment.
Isaac Boltansky at Compass Point Research & Trading says he doesn’t foresee a high risk for a shutdown.
“The legislatively-focused meetings reinforced our view that the forthcoming fiscal fights will present political risk but that lawmakers are likely to reach agreements on both government funding and the debt ceiling,” Boltansky says in a client note. “Our view remains that the likeliest outcome at this point is a ~6 week agreement funding the government into winter which would allow for a broader deal funding the government, addressing the debt ceiling, and slightly softening spending caps.”
With finalization of the new Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data collection rules expected soon, Wolters Kluwer Financial Services Amy Downey, product manager and regulatory expert for the company’s Consumer Compliance business, will offer her insights on preparing for the new regulations at the Community Bank Innovations Breakfast presentation during the Community Banker Association of Illinois’ 41st Annual Convention and Expo on Saturday, Sept. 19, at the Omni Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee.
The proposed changes include required collection by lenders of over 30 new data points, half of which are mandated by the Dodd-Frank Act. The extent and breadth of these proposed fields will be considerable, and it is anticipated that they will impose additional regulatory compliance and information technology challenges on lenders.
“Although the rules have not been finalized, we expect that the additional fields ultimately adopted will bring significant regulatory challenges for lenders,” said Downey. “This presentation will help lenders understand the scope of potential changes, the possible implications for their businesses, and what kinds of meaningful, proactive steps they can take now to prepare for those required changes.”
The acceleration in the reporting of suspicious banking activity warrants another look, say Aaron Klein and Kristofer Readling at the Bipartisan Policy Center. Take a look.
Housing starts looked weak this morning but that doesn’t worry Matthew Pointon, property economist at Capital Economics. The optimistic economists says it’s a temporary disruption.
“Looking through this disruption, the outlook for starts is positive. Admittedly, mortgage applications for house purchase have been disappointing in recent months, as have new home sales,” Poiton says in a client note. “Both have made little progress since the spring, and that could cause homebuilders to rein in their plans if they feel the demand for their product is not as strong as they had expected. Builders are also facing labor and material constraints.
“Therefore, the drop in starts seen over the past couple of months is almost certainly just a blip, and we expect they will resume their upwards trend in the near future,” Pointon says. “We are still confident that starts can end the year at around 1.25m annualized.”