Retail Sales Rise For 7th Straight Month; Mortgage Rates Worsen

Feb 15, 2011

Retail Sales (Feb 2009 - Jan 2011)

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 California. 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.

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