This week we cover increasing interest rates, declining foreclosures, and get an update on mortgage applications. We’ll also look ahead to next week’s busy week of housing data.
Rate Creep is Back
Thankfully for the housing market, rates have been relatively stable lately, rising only nominally. However this week’s drift up in rates marks the 4th consecutive rise in interest rates. Freddie Mac reported the 30-year fixed increased to 4.91% from 4.87% the prior week. One month ago it stood at 4.76%. The 15-year fixed moved up to 4.13% from 4.10% the prior week and is up from 3.97% one month ago. Much of this week’s increase can be attributed to positive retail sales and consumer spending.
With a slowly improving economy, we can expect rates to rise. Also inflation worries continue as 5 states now report $4 gasoline. The Fed has already said we can expect rate hikes this year. Many other countries are already increasing rates to keep inflation down.
Foreclosures Decline 15%!
This week RealtyTrac reported a big decline in foreclosures for the first quarter of 2011. Foreclosure filings were down quarter-over-quarter 15% and down 35% year-over-year. For the month March was up 7% over February. There were 681,153 foreclosure filings in the first quarter of the year. California led the way with 168,543 foreclosure filings, counting for 25% of the nation’s filings. Florida, Arizona, Georgia, and Michigan rounded out the top 5.
Foreclosures are in decline foreshadowing the end of the housing crisis. This end is still years out but these are good signs that inventory fundamentals are improving. Financing still is the biggest hindrance in a broader market recovery and we’ll likely see supply and demand fall be the reason the housing market recovers.
Mortgage Purchase Applications Drop
The Mortgage Bankers Association reported a broad drop in mortgage application activity for the week ending April 8, 2011. The Market Composite Index dropped by 6.7% from the prior week, led by a decline in refinance activity (down 7.7%) and followed by purchase activity (down 4.7%). The 4-week moving average for refinances is down 5.3% and up 0.7% for purchases. Refinances dropped to a 60.3% share of the market. At peak refinances were well over 80% of all mortgage applications.
Though we haven’t seen much in the way of significant improvement here, one would expect refinances to drop with rate increases. I’m glad we’re seeing purchases make up more of the market here and ideally would like to see purchases over 50% of the market. We should see more purchase activity as we get into prime home buying season.
After a relatively quiet week in the housing market, we’ll look forward to the upcoming week for a sea of data. We’ll see the FHFA Housing Price Index, builder confidence, housings starts, existing home sales from NAR, an interest rate update, and mortgage applications. This will be a busy week of housing data and we’ll get some idea if March was any better than the dismal start to the year (especially on the construction side). We should see better existing home sales in the least.