The Fed Minutes were the big story last week, raising expectations that the Fed will provide additional monetary stimulus soon. Mixed US economic data and minor news out of Europe had little impact. As a result, mortgage rates ended the week lower.
Released on Wednesday, the detailed Minutes from the August 1 Fed meeting stated that “many” members judged that further monetary easing would be called for in the near future unless economic growth shows a “substantial and sustainable” increase. In short, the Fed wants to see quicker improvement in the labor market and is prepared to act to help achieve this. Following the news, investors raised their expectations that the Fed will announce a third round of quantitative easing (QE3) soon, which would likely involve Fed purchases of mortgage-backed securities (MBS). As a result, demand for MBS increased, causing mortgage rates to improve.
One relatively bright spot for the economy this year has been improving housing market data, which was encouraging again last week. July Existing Home Sales rose 2% from June, while July New Home Sales increased 4% from June. Both measures were significantly higher than one year ago. With mortgage rates still at very low levels and home affordability very high, any pickup in the labor market could lead to increased activity in the housing market.
This week will be packed with economic news. Revisions to second quarter GDP, Pending Home Sales, and the Fed’s Beige Book will come out on Wednesday. Core PCE inflation and Personal Income will be released on Thursday. Chicago PMI Manufacturing and Factory Orders will come out on Friday. In addition, Fed Chief Bernanke will be speaking from Jackson Hole on Friday, and it’s possible that he will announce new Fed actions. EU officials will be meeting with Greek leaders to discuss the terms of the bailout package. There will be Treasury auctions on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.
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