Unemployment Rate

Tomorrow morning, at 8:30 AM ET, the Bureau of Labor Statistics releases its Non-Farm Payrolls report for May. If you’re floating a mortgage rate right now — or are in the process of shopping for a loan — consider locking your rate sooner rather than later.

The Non-Farm Payrolls report can be a major market mover, causing large fluctuations in both conforming and FHA mortgage rates in San Jose. It’s because of the report’s insight into the U.S. economy.

More commonly called “the jobs report”, Non-Farm Payrolls is issued monthly. Sector-by-sector, it details the U.S. workforce and unemployment rates. 

Jobs momentum has been strong. Through 7 consecutive months, the economy has added jobs, the government reports. Nearly 1 million new jobs have been created during that time. These are strong figures for a country that lost 7 million jobs in 2008 and 2009 combined.

However, Wednesday, a weaker-than-expected “preview” figure from payroll company ADP has Wall Street wondering whether this month is the month that the winning streak ends.

May’s ADP data fell so far short of expectations that investors have had to re-assess their job growth predictions. Earlier this week, the consensus was that 185,000 new jobs were created in May. Today, those estimates are much lower.

The change is leading mortgage rates lower, too.

The connection between jobs and mortgage rates is somewhat straight-forward. Job growth influences mortgage rates because jobs matter to the economy. As job growth slows, so does the economic growth, and that puts downward pressure on mortgage rates.

The opposite is true, too. Strong job growth tends to lead mortgage rates higher.

So, with job growth estimates revising lower, Wall Street has adjusted its “bets” and that’s benefiting rate shoppers across California. Should the actual jobs figures not be so bad, though, expect a quick and sharp reversal; and much higher mortgage rates for everyone.

The safe move is to lock your rate today.

Retail Sales May 2009-April 2011Another day, another piece of evidence that the U.S. economy is expanding.

Thursday, the Census Bureau released the April Retail Sales report. Excluding cars and auto parts, retail receipts rose for the 10th straight month and, at $321 billion, reached an all-time high.

Retail sales account for roughly half of consumer spending, and roughly one-third of the economy overall.

For home buyers and rate shoppers in San Jose , the sales figures have positive and negative implications.

On the positive side, more retail sales suggests more confidence in the U.S. economy. This can spark a growth cycle that benefits the country, on the whole.

  1. Consumers spend more money
  2. Businesses sell more product
  3. Businesses expand payroll to meet new product demand
  4. Governments collect more taxes; fund more projects
  5. Consumers gain more confidence and the cycle repeats

Furthermore, rising employment rates help to support higher levels of home sales which, in turn, can lead to higher home prices in California.

This is why Retail Sales data is so important to Wall Street and economists. It can hold clues to the future of the U.S. economy.

On the negative side, however, rising Retail Sales figures can harm home affordability. In addition to the aforementioned pressure on home prices, a strengthening economy can lead to higher mortgage rates. The weak economy of 2009-2010 is a major reason why mortgage rates were so low for so long.

As the economy improves, therefore, it follows that rates should reverse.

Each 1/8 percent increase to mortgage rates raises a mortgage payment $8 per $100,000 borrowed.

Retail Sales are up 7 percent from a year ago.

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Job Growth (2000-2011)

Be prepared for Friday morning. Mortgage rates and home affordability could worsen quickly. At 8:30 AM ET, the Bureau of Labor Statistics releases its April Non-Farm Payrolls report and momentum has been strong.

The monthly jobs report is a market-mover and analysts expect that 196,000 new jobs were added last month. If those expectations are exceeded — by even a little — Wall Street would take it mean “economic strength” and the stock market would be boosted.

Too bad for rate shoppers, though; a move like that would also lead to higher mortgage rates throughout California. This is because, coming out of a recession, reports of economic strength tend to push mortgage rates up. We’ve seen it happen multiple times in the last 8 months.

Since losing more than 7 million jobs between 2008 and 2009, employers have added 1.3 million jobs back to the economy. And we’re learning that there’s plans for fewer job cuts in the future. It’s clear that the jobs market is improving and this is why tomorrow’s Non-Farm Payrolls report is so important.

A “weak economy” helped keep mortgage rates low for a very long time. A strengthening economy will reverse that tide.

So, consider your personal risk tolerance today, in advance of tomorrow’s Non-Farm Payrolls report. If the thought of rising mortgage rates makes you nervous, call your loan officer and lock in a rate today. Once tomorrow’s data is released, after all, the market might look changed.

Consumer Price Index (March 2009 - February 2011)Inflation pressures are mounting in the United States. And, Friday, the Consumer Price Index should prove it.

More commonly called “The Cost of Living Index”, CPI measures cost changes in the typical items bought by American households. Among others, CPI measures goods and service in apparel and recreation; medical care and education; and housing and transportation.

The March CPI data is expected to show an increase in the cost of living for the 17th straight month — a reading that would take CPI to an all-time high.

If you’ve filled your gas tank, sent a child to school, or shopped for groceries, you’re likely not surprised. Household budgets have been squeezed from all angles lately. The dollar’s purchasing power is waning.

This is inflation, defined. And a weaker U.S. dollar is bad for mortgage rates. 

The connection between the U.S. dollar and mortgage rates is direct. When inflation pressures rise, mortgage rates in San Jose tend to rise, too, because mortgage rates are based on the price of mortgage-backed bonds — a security bought, sold and paid in U.S. dollars

Inflation, in other words, renders mortgage bonds less valuable to investors, all things equal, so investors sell them as inflation pressures grow. More sellers leads to lower prices which, in turn, causes mortgage rates to rise.

It’s why March’s Cost of Living data is so important to rate shoppers and home buyers in Cambrian. Higher levels of CPI can harm home affordability, and stretch your household budget uncomfortably.

As Memorial Day approaches, gas prices are projected to spike, offering little relief from the inflationary pressures in the economy. It’s one reason why mortgage rates should trend higher over the next few months.

If you’re wondering whether to lock or float your mortgage rate, consider locking in. At least today’s rates are a sure thing. Tomorrow’s rates could be much higher.

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Retail Sales Rising -- 8 Straight Months

Consumer spending is alive and well, it seems — unwelcome news for today’s home buyers. 

Wednesday, the Census Bureau will release its March Retail Sales figures and the report is expected to show higher sales receipts for the 9th straight month. A strong reading like that should spell higher mortgage rates in San Jose and nationwide.

The connection between Retail Sales and mortgage rates is fairly tight. Retail Sales are “consumer spending” and consumer spending accounts for the majority of the U.S. economy. The U.S. economy, of course, is a dominant force in setting the direction in which mortgage rates are headed.

For example, in 2010, it was a weak economy and murky outlook that helped drive mortgage rates to all-time lows. Since last year, however, the jobs market has started its recovery, monthly receipts have returned to all-time highs, and the Federal Reserve is revising growth estimates for 2011.

Not surprisingly, mortgage rates have reversed, too.

As compared to 6 months ago, conforming rates are higher by 0.750%. Home affordability across California is taking a hit. Plus, the stronger the economy appears to be, the more likely for mortgage rates to climb more.

It’s why tomorrow’s Retail Sales report is so important. 

If you’re under contract for a home, or even evaluating the merits of a refinance, there’s a lot of risk in “floating” your mortgage rate. The more prudent plan is to find a rate at which you’re comfortable with the payment, and lock it in.

And you may want to take that lock sooner than you had planned — if only to protect your monthly payments. Once tomorrow’s Retail Sales report hits, it may be too late. Especially if receipts rise for the 10th straight month.

The Retail Sales report is due for release at 8:30 AM ET.

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Net new jobs (2009-2011)Friday is a pivotal day for mortgage markets and conforming mortgage rates across California. At 8:30 AM ET, the government will release its March Non-Farm Payrolls report.

More commonly known as “the jobs report”, the monthly Non-Farm Payrolls is a market-mover and home buyers would do well to pay attention. Depending on the report’s strength, mortgage rates could rise, or fall, by a measurable amount tomorrow morning.

It’s because so much of the today’s mortgage market is tied to the economy, and economic growth is dependant on job growth.

With more job growth, there’s more consumer spending and consumer spending accounts for the majority of the U.S. economy. Additionally, it generates more payroll taxes to local, state and federal governments. This, too, puts the broader economy on more solid footing.

Between 2008 and 2009, the economy shed 7 million jobs. It has since recovered 1.5 million of them. Friday, analysts expect to count another 190,000 jobs created. If the actual figure falls short, expect mortgage rates to ease.

Otherwise, look for rates to rise. Probably by a lot.

If you’re shopping for a mortgage right now, consider your personal risk tolerance. Once the BLS releases its data, it will be too late to lock in at today’s interest rates. If the idea of rising mortgage rates makes you nervous, execute your rate lock today instead.

On a 30-year fixed rate loan, each 1/8 percent increase to rates adds roughly $7 per $100,000 borrowed.

Rent is risingHome sales data is easing so far in this calendar year. Home resales and new construction have dropped to multi-month lows and, in many cities, home supplies are rising. One housing sector that’s not slowing, however, is rentals.

The rental market is booming.

As reported by the Wall Street Journal, the average apartment vacancy rate is 6.6% nationwide, down from 8.0% last year. In addition, the number of occupied apartments rose by more during Q4 2010 than during any comparable period of the last 10 years.

It’s a major reason why rents are up 2.3%.

Some areas, however, fared worse than others. This study of rent increases as published on MSNBC, for example, lists the 10 U.S. cities in which rents increased the most last year. And they may not be the cities you’d expect.

In order:

  1. Greenville, SC (+11.2%; $669 average monthly rent)
  2. Chattanooga, TN (+10.4%; $726 average monthly rent)
  3. Savannah, GA (+8.4%; $866 average monthly rent)
  4. Portland, OR (+8.1%; $875 average monthly rent)
  5. San Jose, CA (+8.0%; $1,716 average monthly rent)
  6. Nashville, TN (+8.0%; $786 average monthly rent)
  7. Tacoma, WA (+8.0%; $900 average monthly rent)
  8. Denver, CO (+7.5%; $873 average monthly rent)
  9. Washington, DC (+7.4%; $1,473 average monthly rent)
  10. Raleigh, NC (+7.4%; $785 average monthly rent)

Big cities New York (#18), San Francisco (#19), and Chicago (#24) showed modest gains, by comparison.

Not everyone across California wants to be a homeowner, but renters are facing a squeeze. With mortgage rates historically low and home values slow to recover, in many cities, the cost-benefit analysis is shifting toward buying.

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