Fed Minutes Show An Improving U.S. Economy Threatened By The Eurozone

January 12, 2012 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Federal Reserve 

FOMC Minutes December 2011The Federal Reserve has released the minutes from its most recent Federal Open Market Committee meeting. The Fed Minutes are a detailed meeting recap; the companion piece to the more brief, more well-known press release.

As a comparison, the minutes of the last FOMC meeting contained 60 paragraphs and 7,027 words. The post-meeting press release was just 5 paragraphs and 382 words.

December’s Fed Minutes shows Fed members with a positive, cautious, take on the economy.

Recent data suggests that the U.S. economy is expanding, the Fed said, but “strains” in global financial markets pose “significant risks” to the downside. This tell us that the Fed believes its economy-stimulating programs are working, but that officials remained concerned by events in the Eurozone.

The U.S. economy could be impacted by fallout. 

Other meeting consensus included : 

  • On growth : The economy is expanding, despite slowing in “global economic growth”
  • On housing : Data suggests the “depressed” market “could be improving”
  • On inflation : Prices are stable, and remain within tolerance levels

The Fed’s analysis was of little surprise to Wall Street, and going forward, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke wants to keep it that way. The Fed Minutes contained a passage regarding market communication, and how the Fed will be more pro-active about it in the future. 

With the release of its minutes, in a section called “Market Policy Communications”, the Federal Reserve showed its plans to release 4 times annually its economic forecasts, and plans for the Fed Funds Rate. This signals in a shift in Federal Reserve transparency.

The Federal Reserve will begin including the forecast in its economic projections beginning after its next policy meeting, January 24-25, 2012.

Mortgage rates in Ohio were little changed after the release of the Fed Minutes.

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Home Affordability Set To Worsen On Thursday’s Retail Sales Data

January 11, 2012 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: The Economy 

Retail Sales Growth (2008-2011)

Consumer spending continues to rise nationwide, fueled by jobs growth and a rosier outlook for the U.S. economy. Unfortunately for mortgage rate shoppers |*STATE in % STATE**|, it may also lead to higher mortgage rates later this week.

Thursday morning, the Census Bureau will release its U.S. Retail Sales data for December. The report is expected to show an 18th consecutive monthly increase, with analysts projecting sales volume higher by 0.4 percent from November.

This would be double the increase from last month, which saw a 0.2 percent increase in Retail Sales.

The Retail Sales report tallies receipts collected by retail and food-service stores nationwide. When the sum of these receipts rise, it puts pressure on mortgage rates to do the same. The connection is straight-forward.

Retail Sales are the largest part of “consumer spending” and consumer spending accounts for the majority of the U.S. economy — up to 70 percent, by some estimates.

As the economy goes, so go mortgage rates.

Remember: today’s ultra-low mortgage rates have been partially fueled by weak economies — both domestic and abroad — going back 4 years. Stock markets have sold off as economies have faltered worldwide, leading investors to seek refuge in the relative safety of U.S.-backed mortgage bond market. The new-found demand for mortgage-backed bonds has helped drop mortgage rates to levels never seen in history.

When economic recovery is apparent, therefore, we should expect a mortgage rate reversal, and should expect for it to happen quickly. Stock markets should rise; bond markets should fall. Mortgage rates will climb. Rate shoppers will lose.

Last week’s strong jobs report sparked hope for the U.S. economy. If Thursday Retail Sales data reveals similar strength, the risk in “floating” your mortgage rate may be too great. The safer play is to lock your rate today.

The Retail Sales report will be released at 8:30 AM ET.

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Lock Your Mortgage Rate : New Loan Fees Expected Within Days

January 10, 2012 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: The Economy 

Payroll tax fees for new loansStarting soon, nearly all home buyers and refinancing households throughout Kentucky and nationwide will pay higher mortgage loan fees. Congress has made it law.

13 months ago, as part of the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010, Congress enacted a one-year cut to FICA payroll taxes.

FICA stands for Federal Insurance Contributions Act. Taxes collected under FICA fund such programs as Social Security and Medicare.

The stimulus plan temporarily lowered tax rates for salaried workers from 6.2% to 4.2%; and for self-employed persons from 12.4% to 10.4%. Effective January 1, 2012, “regular” tax rates were to return.

That is, until late-December 2011. In one of its last moves of the year, Congress passed a temporary, two-month extension to the payroll tax cut, extending it through February 29, 2012. The expected cost to the U.S. Treasury is $33 billion.

To recoup those costs, Congress has turned to Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the FHA.

Each entity has been ordered to collect news fees on each new mortgage is backs, and has been told to forward said fees to U.S. Treasury directly. There’s no “workaround” allowed or forgiveness applied — each new loan is subject to the payment. 

The rules are listed on page 17 of the law’s final draft, in a section unambiguously titled “Title IV — Mortgage Fees and Premiums”.

According to the law :

  • Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac must collect an average fee of no less than 10 basis points (0.1%) per new loan
  • The FHA must raise its monthly mortgage insurance premiums 10 basis points for all new loans

The expected cost to consumers is no less than $10 monthly per $100,000 borrowed. Some analysts, however, expect Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to collect more than is minimally required. This could add an additional $30-50 to your monthly mortgage payment per $100,000 borrowed.

Therefore, if you’ve been shopping for a home or for mortgage rates in Cincinnati , take advantage. Within days, lenders are expected to start collecting Payroll Tax Extension fees from mortgage applicants — a move that will cost you money.

Lock today to avoid the big fees. Save yourself money.

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How To Clean Your Microwave Without Harsh Chemicals

January 9, 2012 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Around The Home 

Clean microwaves, organicallyMicrowaves are often well-worn. Spills and splatters dot their ceilings; splattered food stuffs line their walls.

To clean your microwave, you can use the harsh chemicals on sale at supermarkets and hardware stores, or you can apply an all-natural approach which yields the same results, with only slightly more preparation time.

The extra time may be worth it, too, considering that the chemicals of an over-the-counter cleaner may seep into your foods over time.

To keep your microwave fresh and clean, using organic materials only, here’s what to do :

  1. Unplug your microwave from the wall for safety.
  2. Gather a microwave safe bowl; 1 1/4 cups of water; a lemon; baking soda; white vinegar; and cleaning cloths.
  3. Slice the lemon and place the slices into your bowl. Add the water.
  4. Heat the bowl in the microwave for 7 minutes. Leave the microwave door closed for an additional 5 minutes.
  5. Remove the bowl (CAUTION : Bowl will be hot).
  6. Remove the microwave’s glass cooking surface and wheel system. Hand wash and set aside to dry.
  7. Dip a clean cloth in the lemon water mixture. 
  8. Wipe down the microwave’s exterior and interior surfaces, remoistening the cloth as required.
  9. Moisten a clean cloth with vinegar. Wipe down the microwave door’s interior surface. 
  10. Replace glass and wheel system, and plug the microwave back in to the wall.

If you find lingering stains in your microwave, mix baking soda with water to form a thick paste. Dip a corner of your cleaning cloth into the paste and apply it to the stain directly, gently rubbing in a circular motion until the stain is gone.

Microwaves should be cleaned at least once weekly for optimal performance.

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Adjustable-Rate Mortgages Are A Relative Bargain Today

January 6, 2012 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Mortgage Rates 

Comparing 30-year fixed to 5-year ARMFor buyers and refinancing households throughout Kentucky , adjustable-rate mortgages are a relative bargain as compared to fixed-ones.

According to Freddie Mac’s weekly survey of more than 125 banks nationwide, Madeira mortgage applicants electing for a conventional ARM over a conventional fixed-rate mortgage will save 105 basis points on their next mortgage rate.

“Conventional” loans are loans backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.

Today’s average, conventional 30-year fixed rate mortgage rate is 3.91% plus points and closing costs. The average rate for a comparable 5-year ARM is 2.86%, plus points and closing costs.

In other words, for every $100,000 borrowed, a conventional 5-year adjustable-rate mortgage will save you $58.15 per month, or $698 per year.

That’s a 12 percent savings just for choosing an ARM.

12 percent is a big figure that adds up over 5 years — especially for households that plan to sell within those first 60 months anyway. There is little sense in paying the mortgage rate premium for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage when a 5-year ARM is perfectly suitable.

For the reason why adjustable-rate mortgages continue are so much lower than their fixed-rate counterparts, look no further than the U.S. economy. ARMs reflect Wall Street’s short-term economic expectations; whereas fixed-rate mortgages reflect medium- to long-term expectations.

In the short-term, analysts expect the U.S. economy to grow slowly, with low levels of inflation. This supports the U.S. dollar, the currency in which mortgage bonds are denominated. When the dollar is strong, demand for mortgage bonds tends to increase.

This supports lower interest rates.

Conversely, over the longer-term, inflation is expected to return, which devalues the dollar and everything paid in it (e.g.; mortgage-backed bonds). This is why inflation is linked to higher mortgage rates. When inflation is present in the economy, mortgage bonds lose value, driving mortgage rates up.

Adjustable-rate mortgages aren’t perfect for everyone, but in the right situation, they can be a big money-saver and a helpful tool for stretching a household budget. Given today’s rates, the money-saving potential is larger than usual.

Before you choose an ARM, discuss your options with your loan officer.

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Are You Locked ? Friday’s Job Report Will Make Mortgage Rates Move.

January 5, 2012 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: The Economy 

Unemployment RateIf you’re floating a mortgage rate, or have yet to lock one in, today may be a good day to call your loan officer. Friday morning, the government releases its Non-Farm Payrolls report at 8:30 AM ET.

The Non-Farm Payrolls report is more commonly called the “jobs report” and, lately, it’s been Wall Street’s domestic economic metric of choice. As jobs go, so go markets.

In the 12 months beginning November 2007, the economy shed 2.3 million on its way to losing more than 7 million jobs by the end of 2009.

It’s no coincidence that the stock market has been wayward. Jobs are a keystone in the U.S. economy and the connection between jobs and growth is straight-forward :

  1. Workers spend more than non-workers and consumer spending is the economy’s largest single component 
  2. Workers pay more taxes to governments and, when governments have money, they build and spend on projects 
  3. Additional consumer and government spending creates revenue for businesses which, in turn, hire more workers.

It’s a self-reinforcing cycle. More employees begets more employees.

As a rate shopper in Kentucky , this is an important understanding. Job loss was, in part, behind the big drop in mortgage rates since 2007. A weak economy drives investors away from equities and into safer securities such as mortgage bonds (which are backed by the U.S. government).

The excess demand causes mortgage rates to drop and that’s exactly what we’ve seen. Since late-2007, mortgage rates have been in decline.

In the first 11 months of 2011, though, 1.5 million people went back to work; the economy showed signs of shoring up and economic optimism is returning. Mortgage markets have temporarily ceded to the Eurozone, but with one more strong jobs report to close out the year, momentum could tip and stock markets could roll.

If that happens, mortgage rates will rise. Maybe by a lot.

This is why Friday’s Non-Farm Payrolls data is so important. Economists expect that 150,000 new jobs were created in December. If the government’s actual number is larger than that, prepare for higher mortgage rates.

Conversely, if job creation falls short of 150,000, mortgage rates may fall.

If the prospect of rising mortgage rates makes you nervous, remove your nerves from the equation. Call your loan officer and lock your rate ahead of Friday’s Non-Farm Payrolls release.

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Housing And Mortgage : The Experts Make Their 2012 Predictions

January 4, 2012 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: The Economy 

What's next for housing in 2012As the new year begins, there are no shortage of stories telling us what to expect in 2012. Housing finished 2011 with momentum and mortgage rates closed at the lowest rates of all time.

Some expect those trends to continue through the first quarter and beyond. Others expect a rapid reversal.

Who’s right and who’s wrong? A quick look through the newspapers, websites and business television programs reveals “experts” with opposing, well-delivered arguments views. It’s tough to know who to believe.

For example, here are some “on-the-record” predictions for 2012 :

The issue for buyers, seller, and would-be refinancers in Mason and nationwide is that it can be a challenge to separate a “prediction” from fact at times. 

When an argument is made on the pages of a respected newspaper or website, or is presented on CNBC or Bloomberg by a well-dressed, well-spoken industry insider, we’re inclined to believe what we read and hear.

This is human nature.

However, we must force ourselves to remember that any analysis about the future — whether it’s housing-related, mortgage-related, or something else — are based on a combination of past events and personal opinion.

Predictions are guesses about what might come next — nothing more.

For example, at the start of 2009, few people expected the 30-year fixed rate mortgage to stay below 6 percent, but it did. Then, at the start of 2010, few people expected the 30-year fixed rate mortgage to stay below 5 percent, but it did.

All we can know for certain about today’s market is that both mortgage rates and home values are low, creating favorable home-buying conditions in and around Oakley and nationwide.

At that start of last year, few people expected mortgage rates to even reach 4 percent. Today, rates “with points” price in the 3s.

What 2012 has in store we just can’t know.

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How To Clean An Oriental Carpet

January 3, 2012 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Around The Home 

Clean an oriental rugIf you own oriental rugs, you’ll want to clean them at least once annually. But take special care — the process of cleaning an oriental rug is different from cleaning plain carpet.

Extreme caution is required.

To clean an Oriental rug, first vacuum the rug on both sides, then follow these cleaning instructions:

  1. Prepare a solution of cool water and gentle shampoo (i.e. shampoo without ammonia) 
  2. Test the solution on tiny corner of the rug to make sure that the rug’s colors won’t bleed
  3. Using a soft brush or dense sponge, brush the rug with the shampoo solution
  4. Use only light pressure and follow the “grain” of the rug
  5. Shampoo the rug’s fringe, then comb it gently with a large comb or brush
  6. Rinse the entire rug and press out as much water as possible
  7. Lay the rug flat and leave it to dry

After several hours, test the front of the rug for moisture. When it feels dry, flip the rug over to dry its back.

Note : Do not dry an oriental rug in the sun because the sun’s rays may cause it to fade.

Once both sides of the rug are totally dry, feel the top surface. If it feels stiff, crunchy or hard, take a dry brush and make gentle strokes. A light vacuuming will also do the job.

Oriental rugs that receive proper care can become family heirlooms, passed down from one generation to the next. Make sure you clean yours properly.

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