Net new jobs, rolling average

The U.S. economy is no longer adding new jobs.

Last Friday, in its monthly Non-Farm Payrolls report, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the U.S. economy added exactly zero new jobs in August as the national Unemployment Rate held steady at 9.1 percent.

Despite the “zero” reading, the jobs figures were in the red. This is because the BLS issued revisions to its June and July figures that adjusted the two months of data down by 58,000 jobs.

Economists had expected a monthly reading of +75,000. Their estimates missed.

The weaker-than-expected jobs data fueled a stock market sell-off that pushed stocks down 2.5% and spurred a bond market rally. 

Mortgage bonds — the securities on which mortgage rates in San Jose are based — improved Friday ahead of Labor Day Weekend, and carried that momentum into Monday. While the U.S. markets were closed, global investors snapped up “safe” assets in fear of a second wave of financial crises. Already this year, markets have grappled with sovereign debt concerns in Greece and Portugal.

Now, Italy is facing similar international scrutiny, forcing markets to question the health of the Eurozone.

Concerns like these tend to benefit home buyers and mortgage rate shoppers and that’s exactly what we’re seeing.

Mortgage rates are falling this week. Rates may reverse quickly, however.

Later this month, the Federal Reserve and White House are each expected to add stimulus to the U.S. economy. If they do, it may push investors back into risky assets including equities at the expense of safe securities. This would spark a bond market sell-off and send rates higher.

Possibly by a lot.

Therefore, if you’re currently looking for home or comparing rates between lenders, consider executing sooner rather than later. Mortgage rates are low today, but low rates may not last. And when rates reverse higher, it will likely happen fast.

Non-Farm Payrolls (Sep 2009 - est. Aug 2011)

If you’re shopping for a mortgage rate, today may be a good day to lock one down. That’s because Friday morning, the Bureau of Labor Statistics will release its Non-Farm Payrolls report for August 2011.

The “jobs report” tends to have a big influence on mortgage bonds and mortgage rates in San Jose.

The jobs report is a monthly issuance, providing sector-by-sector analysis of the U.S. workforce. It also report the national Unemployment Rate.

Wall Street expects the August Non-Farm Payrolls data to show 75,000 jobs created in August, down from 117,000 in July; and it expects that the Unemployment Rate will remain unchanged at 9.1%.

The jobs report’s connection to mortgage markets is straight-forward — as jobs go, so goes the economy. This is because when the number of working Americans rises :

  1. Consumer spending gets a boost
  2. Government tax collection gets a boost
  3. Household savings gets a boost

These are each good turns in a recovering economy.

For today’s rate shoppers and home buyers, though, it won’t be the actual number of jobs created that matter as much as how close that jobs figure is to Wall Street’s expectations. If the number of jobs created exceeds the 75,000 estimate, look for mortgage rates to rise.

Conversely, if job creation falls short of 75,000 in August, mortgage rates are expected to rise.

Home affordability remains at all-time lows and mortgage rates do, too. If you’ve been wondering whether now is the right time to lock a rate, you can remove some risk by locking ahead of Friday’s Non-Farm Payrolls release.

The report will be released at 8:30 AM ET.

Non-Farm Payrolls Aug 2009-July 2011More Americans are getting back to work.

The latest Non-Farm Payrolls survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that 117,000 net new jobs were created in July, thumping analyst estimates and surprising Wall Street investors.

In addition, May and June’s originally-reported figures were both revised higher:

  • May 2011 was revised higher by 28,000 jobs
  • June 2011 was revised higher by 28,000 jobs

The national Unemployment Rate slipped to 9.1 percent.

The jobs report’s strong readings would typically be a boon to stock market and a threat to mortgage rates. This is because more employed Americans means more disposable income spent on products and services; and more taxes paid to governments at the federal, state and local level.

This combination fuels consumer spending and supports new job growth, a self-reinforcing cycle that spurs economic growth and often to draw investors into equities.

This month, however, the market reaction has been decidedly different.

Since the Friday release of the July Non-Farm Payrolls report, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has lost close to 6 percent of its value. Furthermore, mortgage bonds — which typically sink on a strong jobs figure — have thrived.

High demand for mortgage-backed bonds have pushed mortgage rates below their all-time lows set last November; the biggest cause of which is Standard & Poor’s credit downgrade of U.S. government-issued debt.

Ironically, the credit rating downgrade sparked a surge of safe haven bidding that has been tremendous to rate shoppers and home buyers in San Jose and nationwide. Bond buyers are flocking to the U.S.

If you’ve been shopping for a mortgage, therefore, or recently bought a home, use this week’s action to your advantage. Call your lender and ask about rates. You may be surprised at what you find.

Mortgage rates are runningMortgage rates continue drifting downward, despite — or because of — a ratings downgrade on long-term U.S. government debt. Standard & Poors issued a single-notch downgrade after Friday’s market close, from AAA to AA+.

Of the roughly $9.4 billion in publicly-held U.S. debt, 72 percent is long-term (i.e. with duration of 2 years or longer).

U.S. short-term debt was not downgraded.

When an entity — government, business, or other — is cited for a credit downgrade, it means that the risk of lending money to that entity has increased. In theory, higher risk should lead to higher borrowing costs and higher consumer rates.

Except in today’s U.S. Treasury and mortgage bond markets, the opposite is occurring. U.S.-backed bonds are in demand, leading rates lower. It’s an unexpected response to the S&P downgrade.

There are 3 main reasons why mortgage rates aren’t rising.

First, Wall Street is “brushing off” S&P’s downgrade, citing the rating agency’s opinion as flawed. This is, in part, the result of a supposed “math error” in the S&P findings, as caught by the U.S. Treasury.

Second, global finance leaders have made public statements since the Friday downgrade re-asserting their faith in the U.S. government’s ability to repay its debts. This is helped stabilize bonds as well.

And, third, of the three major rating agencies, only Standard & Poor’s downgraded long-term U.S. debt. Competitors Moody’s and Fitch instead chose to re-affirm the top-status rating for U.S. government-issued debt after last week’s debt ceiling accord.

The likely cause for falling rates today is that the global economy is showing signs of a slowdown and the U.S. Treasury market remains the largest and most liquid bond market in the world. Ergo, they’re relatively safe — despite the credit rating of the nation backing them.

Net new jobs, 3-month rolling average 2000-2011

At 8:30 AM ET Friday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics will release the July 2011 Non-Farm Payrolls report. Mark it in your calendar. If you’ve been watching mortgage rates fall to new all-time lows this week and fear a mortgage rate reversal, Friday could be the day.

The monthly Non-Farm Payrolls data can swing a big stick in mortgage markets.

More commonly called “the jobs report“, Non-Farm Payrolls details the U.S. workforce, providing sector-by-sector analysis of workforce, as well as the national Unemployment Rate. 

The jobs report affects mortgage rates because of how important jobs are to the U.S. economy.

When there are more working Americans:

  1. There’s more consumer spending, a boost to businesses
  2. There’s more tax collection, a boost to governments
  3. There’s more personal savings, a boost to households

In July, analysts anticipate 85,000 new jobs created. This would be a 4-fold increase from June’s 18,000 figure.

The Unemployment Rate is expected to remain unchanged at 9.2%.

For rate shoppers and home buyers in California , these Wall Street expectations can be as important as the actual data itself. Right now, traders placing bets, expecting 85,000 new jobs in July. If the final tally is more than 85,000, traders will load up on equities at the expense of bonds. This is because job growth is good for the economy.

When bonds sell off, rates rise.

Conversely, if jobs growth is less than 85,000, mortgage rates should drop.

Mortgage rates are near all-time lows this morning. By Friday, they could rise. The safe move is to lock your rate today. Rates may fall when the jobs report is released, but there’s much more room for rates to rise.

Debt ceiling debate resolutionThe United States is projected to reach its legal $14.294 trillion debt limit today. The limit was set by Congress February 12, 2010. The U.S. Treasury may not issue new debt beyond the debt ceiling.

Since April 2011, Congress has debated ways to remain below the nation’s $14.292 trillion borrowing limit. The debate commenced with the passage of the 2011 U.S. Federal Budget which featured a $1.645 trillion deficit.

This multi-trillion dollar deficit ensured that the debt ceiling would be touched at some point during the current fiscal year.

That date was May 16. It took an intervention from the Treasury Secretary to temporarily extend the limits; an “extraordinary measure” meant to keep the U.S. government from defaulting on its debt.

With additional room to borrow, then, the U.S. Treasury’s new debt ceiling date was moved to August 2. Congress has been debating the federal budget since mid-May with the dual-goal of (1) Remaining below the federal debt limit, and (2) Creating a budgetary surplus for the future.

An agreement is expected today.

For home buyers and rate shoppers in San Jose , this is an important development. The debt ceiling agreement will influence mortgage markets and, as a result, require amendments to home affordability calculations. As mortgage rates change, your purchasing power does, too.

Unfortunately, we don’t know in which direction mortgage rates will go.

Since the prospect of a deal was first hinted Friday, mortgage rates have been improving. Conforming, 30-year fixed rates are down nearly 0.250 percent, lowering a $150,000 mortgage payment by $22 per month.

The final deal terms of a deal, however, could lead rates higher.

As always, the safest play is to lock your mortgage rate if you are comfortable with its proposed payment. Yes, mortgage rates may move lower in the future but, then again, maybe they’ll move higher.

Retail Sales 2010-2011The American Consumer will not be deterred.

Despite worsening jobless figures and an increase in the Cost of Living, Retail Sales are climbing. In June, for the 12th straight month, retail receipts rose, excluding cars and auto parts.

Analysts expected no change from May. Instead, receipts topped $321 billion — an all-time record.

For home buyers and would-be refinancers in San Jose , this is a bit of unwelcome news. Mortgage rates are rising in the wake of the Retail Sales data release.

This is because Retail Sales account for roughly half of consumer spending, and nearly one-third of the economy overall. A rise in Retail Sales, therefore, suggests stronger growth ahead.

Here’s how it happens.

As consumers spend more money, businesses sell more product. So, to accommodate burgeoning demand, business hire additional employees, and are forced to make additional capital expenditures as well. 

This rise in spending prompts other businesses to hire and spend; to meet their own respective demand surges. There’s a chain reaction-like effect.

Then, with businesses carrying larger payrolls and bigger staffs, federal, state and local governments realize bigger tax bases and can fund new and existing projects. 

This, too, leads to hiring and the cycle repeats.

A weak economic outlook dragged down mortgage rates last week. This week’s Retail Sales data reversed that flow. Mortgage rates are higher by 1/8 percent — roughly $8 per $100,000 borrowed.

Retail Sales are up 8 percent from a year ago.

Predictions are risky businessThe year is half-over. It’s an opportune time to take stock of analyst predictions made at the start of the year, and to recognize that the “experts” can be wrong as often as they are right.

For as much experience and authority an expert brings to the conversation, though, nobody can accurately predict the future.

As such, there’s often disagreement.

Looking back to December, some housing analysts called for a market rebound this year; while others called for a fall. With respect to mortgages, some said rates had nowhere to go but up; while others expected more dips.

As a layperson, how do you know who will be right?

In short, you can’t.

Predictions are a tricky business because they’re guesses about the future based on the world as it exists today. When the predictions listed earlier were made, the world was a different place.   

A lot has changed since January:

  • Slowing job growth has suggested to slower U.S. economic growth
  • Food and energy costs have spiked, adding inflationary pressures to the economy
  • Eurozone debt issues have grown, punctuated by a near-Greek default
  • Tsunamis have caused widespread damage in Japan
  • Earthquakes, floods and volcanoes have harmed economic output

None of these events had occurred as of December, when the original predictions were made. Yet, each of these developments has made a deep impact on housing, and on the economy.  

So, what’s a San Jose homeowner to do? Think of the present instead.

First, mortgage rates are low today — extremely low by historical standards. Second, home values have been slow to rebound through most U.S. markets. Combined, these factors have made homes more affordable than it any time in recorded history. It’s not only cheap to buy a home right now, it’s cheap to refinance one, too.

Analysts are saying the home prices will rise this year, and mortgage rates will, too. Those predictions may ultimately be proven true. Until the future arrives, though, those predictions are just guesses.

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U.S. job growth since 2000

Friday morning, at 8:30 AM ET, the Bureau of Labor Statistics releases its June Non-Farm Payrolls report. If you’re currently shopping for a mortgage, or floating a mortgage rate, be prepared. Mortgage rates can change following the monthly report’s release.

Often, by a lot.

More commonly called “the jobs report“, Non-Farm Payrolls reports on the U.S. workforce by sector, summarizing its findings in terms of total workforce size, and as a national Unemployment Rate. Jobs are considered a keystone in the continuing U.S. economic recovery. 

More working Americans means:

  1. More consumer spending, a boost to businesses
  2. More tax collection, a boost to governments
  3. More personal savings, a boost to households

For June, analysts expect the government to report 80,000 net new jobs created, and no change in the 9.1% Unemployment Rate.

Although these figures are slightly below than what can be considered “strong growth”, that’s not what should concern San Jose rate shoppers. Mortgage markets react to a deviation from estimates more than to the actual results themselves.

This is because Wall Street placed bets in advance of the jobs report’s release. If jobs growth tallies more than 80,000, therefore, it signals better news for the economy than what was expected. This will push banks and investors towards equities, and away from bonds — including the mortgage-backed kind.

With less demand for mortgage bonds, mortgage rates will rise.

Conversely, if jobs growth is less than 80,000, mortgage rates should fall.

Mortgage rates remain near their lows for the year, but if the June Non-Farm Payrolls report beats estimates of 80,000 jobs made in June, look for mortgage rates to spike. The safe move is to lock today.

Retail Sales historyThe jobs market is recovering slower than expected, and so is housing. But neither condition has slowed U.S. consumers.

According to the Census Bureau, Retail Sales rose for the 11th straight month in May. Excluding cars and auto parts, sales receipts climbed to $322 billion last month. It’s an all-time high and another example of the U.S. economy’s resiliency.

Wall Street didn’t expect such results. As a result, mortgage rates worsened Tuesday.

By a lot.

The connection between Retail Sales and mortgage rates can be fairly tight in a recovering economy. Retail Sales accounts for almost half of all U.S. consumer spending, and nearly one-third of the economy overall. The May report, therefore, showed the economy may be on more solid footing than economists expect.

Plus, lately, as the economy goes, so go mortgage rates in San Jose and nationwide. 

When the economy has shown signs of life, mortgage rates have increased. When the economy has shown signs of a slowdown, mortgage rates have dropped.

It’s why mortgage markets reacted the way they did Tuesday; May’s Retail Sales data was strong. The resultant surge in conforming mortgage rates — from market open to market close — turned into one of the year’s fiercest, raising average mortgage rates well off their 7-month lows established earlier this week.

At today’s rates, each 0.125 percent change in rates yields a payment difference of $7.50 per $100,000 borrowed. Yesterday, some product rates rose by as much as 0.250 percent. It put a dent in home affordability and household budgets.

With Retail Sales are up 8 percent from last year, therefore, and showing few signs of a slowdown, today may be a prudent date to lock a rate with your lender. As the economy continues to grow, rates are expected to rise.