Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Chicago's Mortgage Choice - July 18, 2017 Real Estate Report - The Brexit Adjustment

Sometimes it is hard to explain why certain things happen in the markets. Much of the time the markets seem to have a mind of their own, and market analysts are reaching for explanations as to what happened after the markets moved in one direction or another. Of course, usually there are several factors affecting the markets at once and it is typically impossible to determine which is the dominant factor. For example, let's discuss the recent movement in interest rates. The Federal Reserve Board has raised rates three times in the past six months or so. To the public, this would indicate higher rates to borrow money to purchase homes or cars. But as we have indicated previously, the Fed controls short-term rates and they have an indirect influence on long-term rates. Indeed, the Fed has raised short-term rates by 1.0% overall, but as of a few weeks ago, long-term rates for home loans had barely moved half of that amount. One reason long-term rates have not moved is the fact that the economy is not overheating and there is no sign of inflation. Job growth continues to be solid, but the economy grew by less than 2.0% in the first quarter. Then why did long-term rates start rising more recently? Remember Brexit and how the markets were worried that slow growth in Europe would affect our economy? Well, apparently Europe has shaken off the Brexit worries and growth is stronger than expected overseas. Like here, there are no signs of the European economies overheating. Thus, while rates remain low, the fact that Europe appears to be awakening from their slumber has put some pressure on the bond markets, and thus our long-term rates. Keith Stewart 773-529-7000

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Chicago's Mortgage Choice - July 11, 2017 Real Estate Report - Jobs and The Cost of Housing

Last week we counted our blessings with regard to the shape of the economy. This week we will talk about the release of the June jobs numbers which give us another reading regarding the health of the economy. Overall this reading was stronger than forecasts. Thus far this year, job growth has been solid, with just over one million jobs created in the first half of the year. This compares to 2.2 million jobs created in 2016, which puts the economy on track to match last year's numbers. Despite strong jobs growth for the month, the unemployment rate rose to 4.4% last month, but that is not necessarily a bad thing, as it typically means that more long-term unemployed are re-entering the workforce. Just as important as the jobs created, wages increased by 0.2% last month and 2.5% over the last year, which was slightly lower than economists expected. Higher wages are important, because they positively influence consumer spending for big ticket items. For example, if wages do not go up as fast as the cost of housing, this provides a burden on renters and discourages home buying as well. Recently, home price data for April, as measured by the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller National Home Price Index, showed another record high -- the fifth consecutive month of new peaks. Does that mean that housing will become unaffordable? We caution you against reaching that conclusion. The First American Real Home Price Index currently shows that housing prices are still around 33% below their peak. To calculate the "real" cost of housing under the Real Home Price Index, incomes and mortgage rates are used to inflate or deflate house prices which are unadjusted for inflation in order to better reflect consumers' purchasing power and capture the true cost of housing. It should be noted that lower interest rates do not directly benefit renters. The message? As long as rates stay low, housing is still more affordable today than it was when peak prices were achieved a decade ago. Keith Stewart 773-529-7000