Significant Rise In Mortgage Applications For The First Time In Six Weeks 

Fannie Mae unveiled its February Home Purchase Sentiment Index (HPSI) This Week in Real Estate indicating sustained growth for the third consecutive month, reaching its highest level since March 2022. The HPSI has surged 14.8 points compared to the same time last year. Concurrently, mortgage interest rates contracted after a four-week period of increases, prompting a significant rise in mortgage applications for the first time in six weeks. According to the Mortgage Bankers Association, mortgage applications increased nearly 10% from the previous week, with a notable 11% increase in purchase applications and an 8% climb in refinance activity. Job creation surpassed expectations in February, yet the unemployment rate increased, with steep downward revisions for January and December, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Below are a few newsworthy events from the first week of March that influence our business:
HOME-SELLING SENTIMENT MOVES HIGHER AHEAD OF SPRING HOMEBUYING SEASON. The Fannie Mae Home Purchase Sentiment Index (HPSI) increased in February, inching higher for the third consecutive month, due primarily to increased optimism around home-selling conditions. In February, 65% of consumers said it’s a good time to sell a home, up from 60% last month. Overall, the full index is up 14.8 points year over year. “Consumer sentiment toward housing now rests firmly above where it was this time last year,” said Doug Duncan, Fannie Mae Senior Vice President and Chief Economist. “Consumer attitudes toward home-selling conditions increased markedly in February, with current homeowners, in particular, expressing greater optimism that it’s a ‘good time to sell,’ a development that may foreshadow an upcoming increase in existing home listings. Additionally, despite the recent uptick in rates, consumers remain relatively optimistic that mortgage rates will decrease over the next 12 months. If their expectations come true and rates move closer to the 6-percent mark by the end of 2024, as we currently expect, then it’s likely that consumer sentiment on both sides of the transaction will improve, perhaps leading to a further thawing of the housing market. A decline in mortgage rates – and the resulting uptick in sentiment – would obviously bode well for the upcoming spring homebuying season, although affordability will likely remain a significant challenge for buyers, at least until there’s a meaningful addition to net supply.” Read the full story here.
MORTGAGE RATE DIP LEADS TO JUMP IN ACTIVITY. The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage fell slightly this week from 6.94% to 6.88%, according to the latest survey from Freddie Mac. It’s the first drop in a month, prompting a 9.7% rise in mortgage applications, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. This week’s bump in mortgage applications came largely from purchase applications, particularly for FHA loans, said Mike Fratantoni, MBA’s chief economist. In a statement to policymakers on March 6, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell reiterated his stance that the board is not ready to start cutting rates, as it wants to “gain greater confidence” that inflation is moving closer toward the 2% range before it acts. For now, the economic data continues to point toward a hot economy, leaving many to speculate that rate cuts won’t start until this summer at the earliest. Powell says he does still expect to implement cuts later this year.  Read the full story here.
STRONG JOBS REPORT SUGGESTS RATE CUTS WON’T COME ‘TIL SUMMER. Though all signs point to a cooling labor market overall, the economy picked up another 275,000 jobs in February. The jobs report on Friday is unlikely to convince the Fed that rate cuts are necessary when the Federal Open Markets Committee meets later this month, economists said. Jobs increased by 275,000 in February, up from a revised rate of 229,000 in January, according to data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Friday. February’s reading exceeded the average monthly gain of 230,000 over the prior 12 months. The national unemployment rate ticked up for the first time in four months to 3.9%, its highest level since January 2022, but still below the full employment rate of 4%. During his semiannual monetary policy testimony on Wednesday and Thursday, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell reiterated that the Fed sees no urgency to cut rates just yet. Powell stressed that the Fed needs more assurance that inflation is on a sustainable path toward its target before making any moves. Read the full story here.

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