Mortgage rates moved even lower this week, helped by economic weakness and recent actions by the Fed and the Treasury. Conforming fixed-rate mortgage rates dropped to levels last seen in 2003. According to Freddie Mac, the weekly decline in rates was the largest since 1981, over its Wednesday to Wednesday measurement period.
The Fed and the Treasury are looking at additional programs to boost the economy. On Wednesday, the Treasury confirmed that it is considering a plan which would offer below-market mortgage rates for select loans used to purchase homes. The lower rates would not be available for refinancing loans. At this point, it’s not certain if, when, or in what form this latest idea will be acted upon. As we have seen recently, most notably with the $700 billion TARP rescue plan, government programs often change significantly before their implementation.
On the economic front, the November Employment data was even worse than expected. The economy suffer! ed the largest monthly loss of jobs since 1974. In addition, the figures from October and September were revised sharply lower. The Unemployment Rate rose from 6.5% to 6.7%, the highest level since October 1993. The manufacturing and construction sectors continued to shed jobs, and the service sector was hit hard as well. The weak report makes additional fiscal stimulus programs more likely.
During the first half of next week, Pending Home Sales on Tuesday will be the only economic data. Import Prices and the Trade Balance will come out on Thursday. Friday will be the big day with the PPI inflation data, Retail Sales, and Consumer Sentiment. The Producer Price Index (PPI) focuses on the increase in prices of “intermediate” goods used by companies to produce finished products. The Retail Sales report is a major indicator of spending levels by consumers, who account for about 70% of economic activity. Treasury auctions and Fed speakers may also have an impact next week! .
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