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Monday, January 9, 2012

It Is All About Employment

Last week we talked about the many varied predictions regarding the economy for 2012. It makes sense that the next question will then be--what factor will be most important with regard to which prediction turns out to be correct? We can answer that question in one word--employment. There are many factors helping the economy right now. Companies are sitting on cash, debt levels of consumers have lessened in the past several years and consumer confidence is rising. There are factors holding the economy back right now as well. These include the debt crisis in Europe and the shadow inventory hanging over the housing market. However, the one overriding factor that could override these other factors is employment. Employment is improving, but the unemployment rate remained a stubbornly high as we closed out 2011.
The economy added 200,000 jobs in December and 1.6 million jobs for all of 2011. Definitely this represents a much better performance than the 940,000 jobs added in 2010 and the improvement needs to continue in order to for the unemployment rate to continue to fall from its current level of 8.5%. When you look at the fact that the weekly first time claims for unemployment have dropped from an average of approximately 650,000 per week in 2009 to under 375,000 at the end of December, this is an indication that there could be more good news on the horizon. When people have jobs, they purchase homes and other big ticket items such as cars. We must continue to build consumer confidence and a better job market is the key to sustainable confidence. Companies have cash, but they will not hire unless they know consumers will stay confident. Any significant decrease in unemployment in 2012 will go a long way toward supporting a stronger economic recovery than most have predicted this year.

The Markets. Fixed rate loans dropped back to match record lows during the first week of the year. Freddie Mac announced that for the week ending January 5, 30-year fixed rates averaged 3.91%, down from 3.95% the previous week. The average for 15-year loans fell slightly to 3.23%. Adjustable rates were mixed, with the average for one-year adjustables increasing slightly to 2.80% and five-year adjustables decreasing slightly to 2.86%. A year ago 30-year fixed rates were at 4.77%, still almost a full percent higher from this week. Attributed to Frank Nothaft, Vice President and Chief Economist, Freddie Mac, "Fixed rates on home loans started the year a little lower this week just as recent data reports indicate the housing market and manufacturing industry are showing signs of improvement. Pending existing home sales in November jumped 7.3 percent, nearly five times greater than the market consensus forecast, to its strongest pace since April 2010. In addition, construction spending rose 1.2 percent in November, supported by the residential sector which exhibited its fourth consecutive monthly increase. Similarly, manufacturing expanded in December at the fastest pace in six months." Rates indicated do not include fees and points and are provided for evidence of trends only. They should not be used for comparison purposes.

Current Indices For Adjustable Rate Mortgages
Updated January 6, 2012


Daily Value
Monthly Value


Jan 5
December

6-month Treasury Security
0.07%
 0.05%

1-year Treasury Security
0.11%
 0.12%

3-year Treasury Security
0.40%
 0.39%

5-year Treasury Security
0.88%
 0.89%

10-year Treasury Security
2.02%
 1.98%

12-month LIBOR

 1.099% (Dec)

12-month MTA

 0.182% (Dec)

11th District Cost of Funds

 1.201% (Nov)

Prime Rate

 3.25%

 Flippers, the real estate investors who buy homes on the cheap and quickly resell them at a profit, just got a reprieve from the Federal Housing Administration. In an effort to help stabilize housing prices and unload some of the foreclosures that are flooding low-income communities, the government insurer extended a waiver of its anti-flipping regulations through 2012. The waiver, which was initially issued in 2010 and set to expire this month, suspends regulations that prohibit the agency from insuring home loans used to purchase homes that are bought and resold in less than 90 days. "This extension is intended to accelerate the resale of foreclosed properties in neighborhoods struggling to overcome the possible effects of abandonment and blight," said Acting Federal Housing Administration Commissioner Carol Galante. The FHA, which does not issue home loans but insures them, is a primary player when it comes to lending in low-income communities. Many loans in these communities could not be issued without FHA backing. The ban against flipping was initially put in place to prevent predatory flipping, in which homes are quickly resold at inflated prices to unsuspecting borrowers. Source: CNN/Money Are you an investor or real estate agent who is marketing lower-priced properties? We can help by offering FHA financing to eligible borrowers.
An improving job picture and prices stabilizing for non-distressed homes are all signs that point to a housing recovery taking shape, Barclays Capital analyst Stephen Kim told HousingWire. "In the absence of a government home buyer incentives, prices for non-distressed home sales have stabilized for almost a year," Kim said. "This is the most important trend in the housing industry right now, and we are amazed at how little attention it has been getting from the media and the street. This stability on the part of nondistressed prices has occurred despite a very high share of distressed activity and continued declines in overall prices." The key to when the housing recovery will largely take off “depends primarily on when these first-time buyers decide it is safe to buy a house," Kim told HousingWire. Source: HousingWire
The multifamily market continues to post gains. "Rents are rising, vacancies are falling, household formations are growing and rental supply is limited," according to a recent report, “2012: The Year of the Landlord,” issued by Morgan Stanley. "We believe the demand for rental properties will continue to grow." Vacancies of rental properties dropped to 9.8 percent in the third quarter of this year compared to 10.3 percent earlier this year. Led by strong gains in multifamily housing, groundbreaking for new-housing market soared 9.3 percent in November. Construction of multifamily homes of at least two units increased 25.3 percent in November, the Commerce Department reported last week. Starts for structures with five or more units have increased more than 30 percent from October and is nearly double year-over-year levels, Reuters reports. Rental costs are also on their way up, increasing 2.4 percent over last year compared with an increase of 0.6 percent in 2010, Reuters reports. Source: Associated Press