Builder Confidence Post-Recession High by Ron Schulz

>> Market Update

QUOTATION OF THE WEEK…“Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac?” –George Carlin, American comedian, actor and author

INFO THAT HITS US WHERE WE LIVE… Coming off their best year in a decade, Housing Starts surprisingly rose 9.7% in January, as home building heated up to a 1.326 million annual rate. The future looks good too, with Building Permits up to a 1.396 million annual rate.

Small wonder the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) found builder confidence in future sales expectations is now at a post-recession high. The NAHB Chair put this to “the pro-business political climate that will strengthen the housing market.”

Finally, a recent study reports the median age at which consumers buy their first home is 29.1 years. Yet some three quarters of millennials are not currently homeowners. What an opportunity.

BUSINESS TIP OF THE WEEK… The goal is always to give clients an amazing experience. But make sure the prospects are worth that extra effort. If not, don’t take them on.

>> Review of Last Week

REBOUND… After falling sharply the prior two weeks, the stock market rebounded last week, recovering about half its losses, and the three major indexes are again ahead for the year. It now seems the big dip on Wall Street was just a correction.

That’s not to say we won’t have more volatility this year than last, when stocks gained more than 20% while never posting even a 3% loss. This year, investors worry about inflation driving the Fed to more rate hikes, and last week saw a hotter than expected Consumer Price Index (CPI).

But the economy doesn’t seem in danger of overheating. Its strength is growing, with corporate earnings up more than 15% and revenues up nearly 8% the past year, plus historically low unemployment. It’s no surprise Michigan Consumer Sentiment hit 99.9, its second highest print in 14 years.

The week ended with the Dow UP 4.3%, to 25219; the S&P 500 also UP 4.3%, to 2732; and the Nasdaq UP 5.3%, to 7239.

In the bond market, prices generally softened, as investors shifted money back into equities. The 30YR FNMA 4.0% bond we watch dipped .08, to $102.47. Freddie Mac’s latest Primary Mortgage Market Survey reported national average 30-year fixed mortgage rates continue to climb, reaching the level they posted in April 2014. Remember, mortgage rates can be extremely volatile, so check with your mortgage professional for up-to-the-minute information.

DID YOU KNOW?… Mortgage rates are expected to rise, but the market can take it. A recent survey of home buyers by a real estate database reports only 6% of respondents said they would cancel their purchase plans if mortgage rates exceeded 5%.

>> This Week’s Forecast

EXISTING HOME SALES STILL GROWING… Forecasters expect to see continued growth in Existing Home Sales in January, hitting an annual rate well above 5.5 million. Not much else gets reported during this four-day week, but we’ll keep an eye on Unemployment Claims, predicted to remain historically low.

The U.S. stock and bond markets were closed yesterday in observance of Presidents’ Day.

>> The Week’s Economic Indicator Calendar

Weaker than expected economic data tends to send bond prices up and interest rates down, while positive data points to lower bond prices and rising loan rates.

Economic Calendar for the Week of Feb 19 – Feb 23

W
Feb 21
10:00 Existing Home Sales Jan 5.62M 5.57M Moderate
Th
Feb 22
08:30 Initial Unemployment Claims 02/17 233K 230K Moderate
Th
Feb 22
08:30 Continuing Unemployment Claims 02/10 NA 1.942M Moderate
Th
Feb 22
10:00 Leading Economic Index (LEI) Jan 0.8% 0.6% Moderate
Th
Feb 22
11:00 Crude Inventories 02/17 NA 1.8M Moderate

>> Federal Reserve Watch

Forecasting Federal Reserve policy changes in coming months… The futures market sees an even higher probability the Fed will hike rates a month from now, leave things alone in May, but bump up again in June.  Note: In the lower chart, an 83% probability of change is an 83% certainty the rate will move higher.

Current Fed Funds Rate: 1.25%-1.50%

After FOMC meeting on: Consensus
Mar 21 1.50%-1.75%
May 2 1.50%-1.75%
Jun 13 1.75%-2.00%

Probability of change from current policy:

After FOMC meeting on: Consensus
Mar 21        83%
May 2        22%
Jun 13        69%
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