Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Chicago's Mortgage Choice - June 21, 2016 Real Estate Report - Economic Headwinds

The Federal Reserve Board's decision not to raise interest rates last week was not a surprise by any means. After the weak jobs report for May, the decision was a no-brainer. Thus, the words of the Fed were more important than the decision to stand pat. In their statement, the Fed cut its forecast for U.S. economic growth in 2016 to 2%, down from 2.2% earlier. Chairperson Yellen pointed to "headwinds blowing on the economy" as a factor in this reduced outlook. In addition, the statement indicated that they "expect economic conditions will evolve in a manner that will warrant only gradual increases in the federal funds rate." This means no increase now and less of a chance of an increase in July and possibly for September. One factor the markets will be watching very closely will be any signs of the kindling of inflation. The Fed continues to have leeway, as long as there is no inflationary pressure. For the past year, we have had one important deflationary factor -- plunging oil prices. Now that oil prices seem to have stabilized close to $50 per barrel, it is time to keep our eyes out for other evidence of rising prices. For example, while the retail sales report released last week was as expected, the news that import and export prices rose more than expected is important in this regard. Producer prices came in higher than expected last week as well. Another factor affecting the markets is the referendum on Britain's proposed exit from the European Union. Most economists have forecasted that such a move could throw the UK into recession. Though we will know the results of the referendum this week, any terms of a separation would still have to be negotiated. We do know that the markets do not like uncertainty and a vote to leave will leave the western world with plenty of uncertainty -- another factor that could tie the hands of the Fed. Keith Stewart - 773-529-7000

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Chicago's Mortgage Choice - June 7, 2016 Real Estate Report - Jobs and Yellen

The Chairperson of the Federal Reserve Board spoke at an event at Harvard University on the last Friday of May. The probability for a June or July rate hike increased because of her statement that a rate hike is "probably" appropriate in the near term, given an improvement in economic data. "As I have said in the past, it's appropriate I think for the Fed to gradually and cautiously increase our overnight interest rate over time and probably, in the coming months, such a move would be appropriate," she said. A very important slate of this data was released this week, headlined by the May jobs numbers released one week after Yellen's talk. The job numbers were very weak with only 38,000 jobs added, while the unemployment rate fell from 4.9% to 4.7%. These numbers could be seen as contradictory, but the fact that more people dropped out of the job force, lowering the labor force participation rate, shed doubt about the lower unemployment rate. All in all, it will be seen by the Fed as a sign that the economy is not improving as much as we would like. Other numbers released recently have been mixed, with positive numbers from the real estate sector and consumer outlays, but lower construction spending and slightly lower readings for consumer confidence. What does this mean? The jobs numbers are the most important, and this means that the chances for an immediate rate hike by the Fed have decreased significantly. We won't have to wait long to find out about a rate hike in June as the Fed's Open Market Committee meets next week. Keith Stewart 773-529-7000