The Real Estate News Brief: Monetary Policy Tightens, Inflation Hits New High, Mortgage Rates Increase


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In this Real Estate News Brief for the week ending January 14th, 2022... what the Fed is saying about tighter monetary policy, the latest rise in consumer prices, and where mortgage rates are right now.

Hi, I'm Kathy Fettke and this is Real Estate News for Investors. If you like our podcast, please subscribe and leave us a review.

Economic News

We begin with economic news from this past week, and confirmation hearings for Fed Chief Jerome Powell. President Biden nominated him to continue in his role as the central bank’s Chairman. Powell told the Senate Banking Committee that super low interest rates are no longer needed to prop up the economy, and that short-term rates should go higher to control inflation.

The Fed has penciled in three rate hikes this year, but Powell says the central bank is prepared to do more, if necessary. It’s a balancing act because hiking rates too much and too fast, could lead us into a recession, and job losses. But Powell believes that rates can go higher without hurting the job market. MarketWatch described his characterization of the process as a “soft landing” for the economy, and not a recession.

Powell says that “if things develop as expected, we’ll be normalizing policy, meaning we’re going to end our asset purchases in March, meaning we’ll be raising rates over the course of the year.” (1) (2)

As it stands, consumer prices rose again in December. The government says they were up .5% in December to a 40-year high of almost 7%. When you strip out food and energy, the inflation rate was up .6% in December to 5.5%. As reported by MarketWatch, that figure is a 31-year high. (3)

Those high prices contributed to a drop in consumer spending, along with the spread of the Omicron variant and the supply chain disruptions that are leaving some store shelves bare. The government says that retail sales figures were down 1.9% in December. Internet retailers, like Amazon, experienced the biggest declines. Those figures were down almost 9%. Sales fell about 7% for department stores, 5.5% at furniture stores, and almost 3% at places that sell electronics, like Best Buy. (4)

The unemployment report surprised economists with an increase in initial state claims. They were up 23,000 to a total of 230,000. Continuing claims dropped significantly however. Almost 200,000 people stopped collecting checks last week, leaving just 1.56 million people on the unemployment list. (5)

Consumers are feeling more pessimistic about the economy because of inflation and Covid. The University of Michigan reports that its consumer sentiment index fell a few points in January, to 68.8. That’s the second-lowest reading in a decade. The lowest was a few months ago when it dropped to 67.4 in November. (6)

Mortgage Rates

Mortgage rates rose by almost a quarter point last week. Freddie Mac says the average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage was up 23 basis points to 3.45%. The 15-year was up 19 points to 2.62%. Freddie Mac says the rate increase was “driven by the prospect of a faster than expected tightening of monetary policy” by the Federal Reserve in response to inflation, supply chain disruptions, and labor shortages. (7)

In other news making headlines…

Mortgage Delinquency Rates

The mortgage delinquency rate has returned to pre-pandemic levels. CoreLogic’s Loan Performance Report shows that 3.8% of mortgages were delinquent by at least 30 days in October. That’s only one-tenth of a percent higher than October of 2019. And the trend is expected to continue. (8)

The report shows CoreLogic’s chief economist, Frank Nothaft, says that loan modifications have helped lower the number of loans that are seriously delinquent. But he says they were still half a million higher in October than they were at the start of the pandemic in March.

The drop in mortgage delinquencies has lowered the foreclosure inventory rate to its lowest level since 1999. CoreLogic says foreclosures are down in all 50 states, and expects them to drop further throughout the course of this year.

Second-Home Demand

Demand for vacation homes continues to rise. Redfin says it was 77% higher in December than it was before the pandemic due to new work flexibility and low mortgage rates. The second-home market is expected to remain strong, although higher interest rates could impact demand along with new second-home fees from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Those will take effect on April 1st. (9)

That’s it for today. Check the show notes for links. And please remember to hit the subscribe button, and leave a review!

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Thanks for listening. I'm Kathy Fettke.


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340 episodes