Despite a lot of day-to-day fluctuation, last week saw relatively little net movement in mortgage rates, which continued to linger just above record lows (according to Freddie Mac, the average rate on a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was 3.32% last week). This week features quite a bit of domestic economic data, but unless any of is exceptionally above or below expectations, the markets are going to continue to be fixated on fiscal cliff headlines. Given that most of what we are hearing about the negotiations is bound to be political posturing, I’m not sure there can be any real intelligent analysis of the situation. Nevertheless, inherently unpredictable headlines will drive this week’s volatility. I don’t think we will see mortgage rates deviate significantly from their current range this week.
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Right now it looks like fiscal cliff negotiations have stalled, but it really depends upon which headlines you choose to believe. A Reuters article this morning said that a deal appears “uncertain but not out of the question.” I have said all along that a deal will get done at the last minute, but even if it doesn’t, it’s always possible to retroactively pass tax cuts. Allowing the deadline to pass without a deal will roil the markets, but is ultimately not the huge deal that it would be made out to be. In any case, the spotlight will be on the fiscal cliff this week, and I expect not one iota of useful information to emerge.
Today’s economic data was mixed. The ISM Manufacturing Index, which monitors manufacturing conditions across the country, fell sharply from 51.7% in October to 49.5% in November (numbers greater than 50 show growth while numbers under 50 show contraction). This is the lowest level since July 2009. This is far below expectations. In particular, the employment and new orders components of the report showed the most precipitous drop. As with all recent economic data, it’s tough to tell how much the hurricane had to do with the slowdown. Normally we would expect a report this negative to put downward pressure on rates.
In contrast, construction spending was up in October, rising 1.4% from September. This is a lot better than expectations of a 0.4% increase, and probably reflects the slowly improving housing market, particularly the uptick in new construction.
While I don’t see any reason for mortgage rates to move significantly before the end of the year, I am still recommending that anyone that is looking for a mortgage lock in a rate sooner rather than later. When rates rise, they have a tendency to spike, and timing the market is nearly impossible.
Business Insider: The Infamous Chart of Corporate Profits vs. Total Wages. Yeah, that’s pretty stark.
Reuters: In U.S. ‘Fiscal Cliff’ Manuevers It’s All About the Holiday. This whole thing, the deadline and all, is totally and utterly contrived.
Barry Ritholtz: How Important is the Fiscal Cliff for Investors? Hint: Not Very.
Felix Salmon: The Problem With the Return of Manufacturing. The jobs don’t pay.
Yves Smith: Is There a Case For Optimism About the Eurozone?
Matt Taibbi: The ‘I Don’t Remember’ Files, Part II: Hedge Fund Chief Stevie Cohen.
NYT: In an FHA Checkup, a Startling Number.
New Orleans Times-Picayune: Jindal Voucher Overhaul Unconstitutionally Diverts Public Funds to Private Schools, Judge Rules. Bobby Jindal is a loon.
Guardian: Tim Geithner’s Fiscal Plan Leaves Boehner ‘Flabbergasted.‘ The fun part is where noted economist Sen. Lindsay Graham compares us to Greece at the end.
Bloomberg: Dream Insider Informant Led FBI From Galleon to SAC.
Guardian: Angel Merkel Hints at Future Writedown of Greek Debt. The next German election occurs in Sept-Oct, and I’m sure it will play into the whole Eurozone crisis.
WSJ: Tax Hit Looms on Mortgage Relief.
Washington Post: ‘Romney is Wall Street’s Worst Bet Since the Bet on Subprime.‘ I would agree, a stunning miscalculation.
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