Mortgage Market News

U.S. companies across the nation announced fewer planned layoffs in December than in November as the labor markets continue to improve. Outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas reported on Thursday that planned layoffs were down 9% from November, while planned cuts in 2014 were at the lowest levels since 1997. Challenger said, "This bodes well for job seekers, who will not only find more employment opportunities in 2015, but will enjoy increased job security once they are in those new positions."
Due to the recent rise in home prices, American households that were underwater in their mortgages in the third quarter of 2014 was 21% lower compared to the same period in 2013. CoreLogic reported on Thursday that there were 5.1 million mortgages underwater in the third quarter of 2014, well below the 6.5 million recorded in 2013. As home prices rise and the housing markets improve, home buyers will see it easier to sell their existing properties. In addition, rising home values make it easier to refinance current mortgages.
The Labor Department reported on Thursday that Americans filing for first time unemployment benefits fell by 4,000 in the latest week to 294,000, further evidence of an improving job market. The four-week moving average of claims, which irons out seasonal abnormalities, fell marginally to 290,500 last week. The latest figures are well below the near 700,000 seen in early 2009 at the height of the Great Recession.
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LOWER FHA MI

The White House announced Wednesday that the Federal Housing Administration will significantly lower the fees it charges borrowers, a move that could save home buyers hundreds of dollars annually and help jump-start the housing market.

The “annual premiums” on FHA loans, an especially popular source of financing for first-time home buyers, have increased five times since 2010. They jumped from .55 percent of a loan’s value to 1.35 percent today. Those fees, which are tacked onto the monthly mortgage payment, will drop to .85 percent at the end of the month.  The White House projects the lower fees will entice 250,000 buyers to take out FHA loans in the next three years, and that the new borrowers will save an average of $900 annually.

President Obama plans to outline this plan Thursday when he delivers a speech in Phoenix about the housing market, which has been struggling to fully recover in part because mortgage costs are high and access to credit remains tight for many Americans.http://members.platinumpromarketing.com/preview_web.php?area=build&action=view&printformat=pdf&username=sledesma2&previewid=251&categoryid=27&platinum=27&hideoptout=y&social=0&hideloaninfo=1
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Mortgage Market News

The jobs sector of the U.S. economy continued to deliver solid numbers as 2014 came to an end. Payroll processor ADP reported that private employers added 241,000 new workers in December, above the 230,000 expected, while the November numbers were revised higher to 227,000 from 208,000. The gains were led by professional and business services. The ADP report comes ahead of the government's labor report, which is due out Friday morning, where it is expected that private and public employers may have added 245,000 jobs last year.
In a disturbing survey put out by BankRate.com, many Americans are just one paycheck away from being out on the street. The survey showed that 62% of Americans have no emergency savings if a $500 car repair pops up or if they encounter a $1,000 emergency room visit. In addition, only 39% of respondents reported having a rainy day fund to cover three months of expenses. There was some positive feedback from the survey as it found that 82% of Americans keep a household budget, up from 60% in 2012.
Despite the low home loan interest rate environment, mortgage applications fell in the past two weeks, though the drop off is typical during the holiday season. The Mortgage Bankers Association reported that its Market Composite Index, a measure of total loan application volume, fell by 9.1% in the previous two weeks for the week ending January 2. The data also showed that the refinance index decreased 12% from two weeks ago, while the purchase index decreased 5% Mortgage rates continue to hover near historic lows aided in part by the stimulus programs enacted by the U.S. Federal Reserve.
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Mortgage Market News

Home price gains across the U.S. are well off the gains seen in early 2014 as prices come back down to more normal levels. CoreLogic reported that its Home Price Index, including distressed sales, rose by 5.5% in the year ended in November, just above the 5.4% annual gain recorded annually in October. After a near 12% annual increase back in January 2014, prices have been decelerating, but have stabilized to a more normal 5% - 6% growth rate for the last four months.
The service sector of the U.S. economy slowed a bit in December, falling to a six-month low due to weaker new orders and business activity. The Institute for Supply Management's Service Index fell to 56.2% last month, down from the 59.3% recorded in November and below the 58.5% expected. Readings above 50 signal expansion and the index has been above the expansion level for 59 consecutive months. The big decline came from business activity, which fell 7.2% to 57.2%. The Employment Index decreased modestly from the November reading and indicates growth for the tenth consecutive month. The service sector is made up of companies that primarily earn revenues through intangible products and services.
Severe and bitter cold weather is blasting the eastern half of the U.S. challenging to break records and to keep people indoors. Accu-weather has forecasted that its RealFeel temperatures will be 15-30 degrees lower than the actual temperatures at times. The temperatures dropped below freezing in New York on Monday and will most likely not get above the freezing mark until late this upcoming weekend. But it is January, so it is not a real big surprise. Let us know if it hits 30 degrees in July in New York. That will be news.
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Mortgage Market News

Oil prices continue to decline due to a glut of supply along with weakening demand from overseas. A barrel of oil has fallen to near $52, down from the 2014 high of near $107 hit back in July. The decline has led gas prices at the pump to 5-year lows. The national average price for a regular gallon of gasoline is at $2.23, down from $2.76 a month ago and down from the $3.32 recorded last year this time. AAA estimates that Americans saved about $14 billion in 2014 compared to 2013, based on monthly prices and consumption. In addition, U.S. households saved an average of about $115 on gasoline in 2014 compared to 2013 with most of the savings coming in the last few months of 2014.
The first economic report of 2015 came in below expectations. The December ISM Manufacturing Index fell to 55.5 last month, down from the 58.7 recorded in November and below the 57.5 expected. It was the fastest pace in six months led lower by declines in orders and production. Any reading above 50 signals expansion. The December reading of 55.5 was the lowest since June, but still close to the monthly average for 2014.
The price of beef will continue to increase in 2015 after the big price gains seen in 2014. The price for beef and veal rose by 11% to 12% last year and are expected to rise by another 5% in 2015, as beef becomes almost a luxury item for many Americans. Here's an astonishing point...beef prices will be 90% higher in 2015 than they were in 2009 as the days of going to the grocery store for a few steaks becomes few and far between.
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