Market Update – Housing Is The Key

We’ve been very busy over the last couple weeks.  Many of our clients are taking advantage of the incredible prices and low interest rates. Here’s a great market update provided by Austin Andruss, a mortgage broker partner of ours.

Market Recap:

Good earnings reports from financial companies continued last week as Bank of America reported earnings that were much better than expectations. The company also said it earned more in the first quarter of 2009 than through all of 2008, largely a result of enormous refinancing activity. In addition, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner said that most banks are well capitalized, and there are signs that credit market conditions are improving, which is definitely something to be optimistic about. However, as earnings season marched on, there were also some weak reports, including clinkers from The Bank of New York, Caterpillar, Dupont, Coca-Cola, Merck and United Technologies.
On the housing front, New Home Sales came out slightly better than expected, and it was especially good to see that the inventory number continues to fall – now at a 10.7 month supply, compared with February’s 11.2 months. Existing Home Sales came in slightly below market estimates – and while the report showed that Existing Home inventory in March fell by a modest 1.6%, at the current sales pace it would take an estimated 9.8 months to sell that inventory of properties, slightly longer than February’s 9.7 month reading. The path back to economic recovery will go through housing, and these reports will be important to watch in the months ahead.

In other news, Initial Jobless Claims were reported in-line with expectations. Initial Jobless Claims are a leading indicator and last week’s number does not yet suggest that the employment market is starting to improve. And March’s Durable Goods Orders marked the 7th negative reading in the last 8 months, as tighter credit and lack of business investment is continuing to fuel these negative numbers. However, it will be interesting to see how these numbers change with lending abilities now freed up following the recent relaxation of mark-to-market accounting rules, which will in turn make it easier for businesses and consumers to buy and spend.

There are several important reports and events to look for this week, and whether they will lean towards optimism or pessimism remains to be seen. On Tuesday the Consumer Confidence Report will show us if consumers are feeling their own glass is half full or half empty, while on Wednesday we will get a read on the economy with the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) Report, which is the broadest measure of economic activity. Also this week, we have the Fed’s next regularly scheduled Federal Open Market Committee meeting, followed by their Policy Statement and Interest Rate Decision coming on Wednesday afternoon. It will be important to see if the Fed has a positive or negative read on the economy, and if they comment on any of the recent whispers of inflation. And speaking of the Fed and inflation, the Fed’s favorite gauge of inflation, the Core Personal Consumption Expenditure (PCE) index found within the Personal Income Report, will be released on Thursday.

Change in Mark-To-Market Accounting Is Good News!

Here is a Market Update provided by Austin Andruss, a mortgage broker from RPM mortgage. He can be reached at 415-869-6135.

Last Thursday the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) issued a favorable vote to relax mark-to-market accounting, which many believe will help to unlock the continuing freeze in the credit markets. The significant changes in the accounting rules will allow financial companies to use alternate models, like cash flow analysis, in valuing their assets. This appears to be great news for the financial markets and our economy at large, as this will help money and credit flow more normally. Since the March 12th Congressional hearing on mark-to-market, Stocks have risen 23% just on the speculation a change could be coming. And just one short day after the FASB mark-to-market ruling, there were stories of banks already saying they may not need to sell assets to raise capital, as they will no longer have to take massive paper losses by pricing their assets to the “fire-sale” comps that were created in some of the illiquid markets. Capital ratios are now more in line for many institutions, which will also help their ability to lend – in turn helping consumers and businesses alike.

According to Friday’s Jobs Report the economy lost 663,000 jobs in March and 5.1 million jobs since the recession began in December of 2007. However, for the first time in a very long while, there were no downward revisions to a prior month’s reading, as February’s number came back with no change. This, as well the actual job losses for this month being improved from January’s levels, and not much worse than expectations, could mean there is some level of stabilization at hand for the labor market. Something else worth smiling over on the job front was Wednesday’s news that Challenger, Gray & Christmas, an executive outplacement company, found that planned layoffs at US firms fell in March to their lowest levels in six months.

While Stocks were buoyed by the Mark-to-Market announcement and optimism that the G20 meeting in London will lead to an agreement on ways to pull global economies out of the current recession, Bonds were unable to hold onto recent gains. As a result, rates ended the week .125-.25 percent worse than where they began.

There are few scheduled economic reports to talk about this week, but don’t expect the rest of the news to be quiet. First quarter earnings season begins, and while the change to mark-to-market take effect for the second quarter, it can be applied to first quarter earnings. In fact, rumors are already swirling that the change in mark-to-market will boost earnings of banks by 20% or more for the first quarter. In addition, the US is prepared to sell an estimated $59 Billion in notes and inflation-indexed securities this week, and it will be important to see what impact that supply has on Bonds and home loan rates. And as we continue to watch the labor market, it will also be important to keep an eye on Thursday’s Initial Jobless Claims report to see if the news is good, bad, or ugly. But remember: Strong economic news will likely cause Stocks to move higher, and Bonds and home loan rates may worsen in response as we saw last week.

Valley Sees 70% Jump In Home Sales!

This morning’s Desert Sun article talks about the increase in sales volume over this past year. The lower end of the market is on fire and, although there have been many foreclosures in this price range, they are getting purchased almost as quickly as they’re coming on the market (often, with mutliple offers).  We just won a bidding war in North Indio, by adjusting our terms, and not the price.

Read the full article here.

National Association of Realtors Economic Forecast

We had an opportunity to hear Dr. Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist & Senior Vice President of the National Association of REALTORS® address the California Desert Association of REALTORS® and Dr. Yun spoke about the “stimulus” package and what is being done about the current malaise in the housing sector.

The problem, as identified by Dr. Yun, is that Wall Street created the investment vehicle called “Mortgage backed Securities” compromised of the infamous “sub-prime mortgages” and then marketed them not only to American investors but also to worldwide investors and the collapse of those securities took the whole world with them. Because this is a global problem it is extremely crucial that whatever the government does to jump-start our economy work.

While Dr. Yun made several comments about the different approaches to solving the current fiscal melt down, here are a few points regarding housing that I found particularly encouraging.

The Government is proposing a $15,000 tax credit to any homebuyer who purchases a home in the next few years.

Nationally, home prices have declined to about 1999 levels, which makes them quite affordable at this time. In the Coachella Valley, they have declined to about 2004 levels.

Mortgage rates are at a 50-year low and probably won’t go much lower.

The bottom line is that we have an attractive tax credit for purchasing well priced homes at record low interest rates and if the TARP funds and the stimulus package do anything to loosen up tight credit we should see a marked and welcome improvement in the local real estate market. Dr. Yun expects that each quarter of 2009 will improve over the same quarter of 2008 and that the rebound is under way.

There are incredible buying opportunities available right now. If you are interested in buying or selling property in the desert, please give us a call.

Click here to see Dr. Yun’s PowerPoint charts.