If consumer spending is a keystone element in the U.S. economic recovery, a full-on rebound is likely underway.
Tuesday, the Census Bureau released its national January Retail Sales figures and, for the seventh straight month, the data surpassed expectations. Last month’s retail figures climbed 0.3 percent as total sales receipts reached an all-time high.
It’s good news for the economy which is scratching back after a prolonged recession, but decidedly bad news for people in want of a mortgage across the state of Virginia. This includes home buyers and would-be refinancers alike.
Because consumer spending accounts for the majority of the U.S. economy, Retail Sales growth means more economic growth and that draws Wall Street’s dollars toward riskier investments, including equities, at the expense of safer investments such as mortgage-backed bonds.
On the heels of the Retail Sales report’s release, bond prices are falling this morning. As a consequence, mortgage rates are rising. It’s the same pattern we’ve seen since mid-November — “good news” about the economy sparks a stock market frenzy, casuing mortgage bonds to rise.
A sampling of other recent good-for-the-economy stories include:
- Corporate earnings are rising quickly (Marketwatch)
- Existing Home Sales up 12% month-over-month (CNN Money)
- The Fed says the economy looks “brighter” (Bloomberg)
The days of 4 percent, 30-year fixed rate mortgages are over. 5 percent is the new market benchmark. Unless the economy keeps showing strength. Then, that number may rise to six percent.
If you’re thinking of buying or refinancing a home, consider how rising rates will hit your budget. You may want to take that next step sooner than you had planned — if only to protect your monthly payments.
Consumers keep spending, the economy keeps growing.
Mortgage rates are easing lower this morning on just-released, slightly worse-than-expected Retail Sales data from December 2010.
Excluding motor vehicles and auto parts, December’s sales receipts were $1.5 billion higher from November. Analysts had expected a number north of $2 billion.
Despite falling short of estimates, however, December’s reading is the highest in Retail Sales history, surpassing the previous record set in July 2008, set during the recession. In addition, December’s strong numbers helped 2010′s year-over-year numbers go positive for the first time in 3 years.
Although the data is a mixed bag for Wall Street, home affordability in Chesterfield is improving today.
The link between Retail Sales and home affordability may not be up-front obvious, but in a post-recession economy like ours, it’s often tight. Retail Sales is another name for “consumer spending” and consumer spending makes up more that 70% of the U.S. economy.
As spending grows, the economy tends to, too.
Investors recognize this and start chasing “risk”. It becomes a boost for the stock market, but those gains are made at the expense of “safe” asset classes which include mortgage-backed bonds. Mortgage-backed bonds are the basis for conforming and FHA mortgage rates so, as bond markets sell off, asset prices fall and rates move up.
Thankfully, rate shoppers will avoid that scenario today — at least for today. December’s Retail Sales results are a factor in the bond market’s early-day improvement. Conforming and FHA mortgage rates across the state of Virginia should be lower today.
Despite the good news, if you’re shopping for a mortgage, consider locking your rate as soon as possible. Mortgage rates are coming off a 2-week rally and look poised to reverse appear — especially with a full docket of data due for next week. As mortgage rates rise, purchasing power falls.
If consumer spending is a key to economic recovery, the nation is on its way.
Monday, the Census Bureau released national Retail Sales figures for October and, for the second straight month, the data surged past expectation. Last month’s retail figures jumped 1.2 percent — the largest monthly jump since March — as total sales receipts climbed to a 2-year high.
Consumer confidence is rising, too. Though still below the long-term trend, confidence in the future up-ticked in October.
The current confidence reading is now double the low-point from February 2009.
It’s no surprise that both Retail Sales and Consumer Confidence are higher. They correlate in a common-sense-type manner. When consumers are more confident in the economy, they’re more likely to spend their money. This, in turn, leads to more purchases and rising retail receipts.
Unfortunately, for home buyers and rate shoppers in Chester , it also leads to rising mortgage rates.
Because consumer spending accounts for two-thirds of the economy, spending growth leads to economic growth. But it’s been a lack of growth that’s kept mortgage rates this low.
When the growth starts, the low rates end. It’s why mortgage rates have added as much as 1/2 percent over the past 10 days. Consider the recent “good news”:
- Retail Sales made a 2-year high in October
- Existing and New Home Sales showed big improvement in September
- Jobs growth returned in October
The days of 4 percent, 30-year fixed rate mortgages may be nearing its end. If you’re still floating a mortgage rate or thinking of buying or refinancing, consider the impact of rising rates on your budget.
The time to act may be sooner than you had planned.
The recent rise in mortgage rates was slowed this week after the government released its Retail Sales report for August.
Prior to Tuesday, mortgage rates had been spiking across Virginia on the resurgent hope for U.S. economic recovery. The sentiment shift was rooted in reports including the Pending Home Sales Index and Initial Jobless Claims, both of which showed surprising strength last week.
August’s Retail Sales, though, after removing motor vehicles, auto parts and gasoline sales, failed to maintain the momentum. Its figures were actually in-line with expectations — it’s just that expectations weren’t all that high.
Wall Street now wonders whether the weak Back-to-School shopping season will trend forward into the holidays.
The doubt spells good news for mortgage rates and home affordability.
Because Retail Sales is tied to consumer spending and consumer spending accounts for two-thirds of the economy, a weak reading tends to drag down stock markets and pump up bonds, and when bonds are in demand, mortgage rates fall.
This is exactly what happened Tuesday. The soft Retail Sales data eased stock markets down, and generated new demand for mortgage bonds. This demand caused bond prices to rise, which, in turn, caused mortgage rates to fall.
Mortgage rates did not cut new lows this week, but they’re very, very close.
With mortgage rates at historical lows, it’s an excellent time to look at a refinance, or gauge what financing a new home would cost. Low rates like this can’t last forever.