Do You Remember Inflation?

20140309-080351.jpgWhile some may consider this a sarcastic question…we have not had really high inflation in the United States for some time. For example, in the past twenty years the retail inflation rate has averaged approximately 2.25% with an even lower number for the past decade. Two points about this. First, even low inflation rates can cause increases in the cost of living. For example, a 2.25% inflation rate over 20 years will increase the cost of living over 50%. Secondly, though low inflation rates can create issues in the long run, those who are older remember a U.S. inflation rate of near 10% per year from the period of 1973 to 1982. That was real “old fashion” inflation.

So if raging inflation has not been a problem for ten years, why bring it up now? Because the real reason we have had really, really low interest rates for the past ten years is the lack of inflation we have experienced. And if we really want to know when rates are going to go up significantly, we need to watch the data on inflation more closely. The reason rates trend up when we get good economic news is the fact that the markets feel that the Federal Reserve Board will raise short-term rates in response to the threat of inflation.

There are actually two stages here. The Fed has kept short-term rates near zero in response to our deep financial crisis and lackluster recovery. So the first move is to move rates to a low inflation normal. The second move is the one we should worry about in the long-term. That is a move to head off inflationary expectations if the economy heats up. We expect the first move and should worry about the second move. For right now the sale on money to finance cars, houses and investments continues. If we keep creating jobs, we should keep a wary eye on the inflation number because we know the Fed is doing just that when they meet next week.

WEEKLY INTEREST RATE OVERVIEW

The Markets. Rates drifted down slightly across the board in the past week. Freddie Mac announced that for the week ending July 17, 30-year fixed rates decreased slightly to 4.13% from 4.15% the week before. The average for 15-year loans ticked down to 3.23%. Adjustables were also stable but lower in the past week with the average for one-year adjustables falling slightly to 2.39% and five-year adjustables decreasing marginally to 2.97%. A year ago 30-year fixed rates were at 4.37%. Attributed to Frank Nothaft, vice president and chief economist, Freddie Mac –“Rates were little changed amid a week of light economic reports. Of the few releases, industrial production rose by 0.2 percent in June, below the market consensus forecast. Also, the producer price index for final demand rose 0.4 percent in June, rebounding from a 0.2 percent decline the prior month.” Rates indicated do not include fees and points and are provided for evidence of trends only. They should not be used for comparison purposes.

Current Indices For Adjustable Rate Mortgages
Updated July 18, 2014

Daily Value Monthly Value
July 17 June
6-month Treasury Security 0.06%  0.06%
1-year Treasury Security 0.10%  0.10%
3-year Treasury Security 0.94%  0.90%
5-year Treasury Security 1.65%  1.68%
10-year Treasury Security 2.47%  2.60%
12-month LIBOR  0.542% (June)
12-month MTA  0.118% (June)
11th District Cost of Funds  0.667% (May)
Prime Rate  3.25%

REAL ESTATE NEWS
  While you may or may not be interested in refinancing or even entering home ownership, tips to improve one’s credit score are helpful across the board. An improved credit score does offer more leverage in any type of lending and is important for other aspects of living such as insurance, renting and even finding a job. But do not despair if your credit is low, there are ways to repair your credit and improve your score. Here are three very important ones…

  • Check Your Credit Report Annually. Your credit report contains the data used to calculate your score and it may contain errors. In particular, check to make sure that there are no late payments incorrectly listed for any of your accounts and that the amounts owed for each of your open accounts is correct. If there are errors, you can dispute them with the credit bureau.
  • Set up Payment Reminders. Making your credit payments on time is one of the biggest contributing factors to your credit score. If you don’t use an automated payment method, many banks offer payment reminders through their online banking portals that can send you an email or text message reminding you when a payment is due.
  • Reduce the Amount of Debt You Owe. This is easier said than done, but reducing the amount that you owe is going to be a far more satisfying achievement than improving your credit score. The first thing you need to do is stop using your credit cards. You’ll never qualify for a home loan if you can’t manage short term credit cards. Sources: HousingWire, Fair Isaac & Freddie Mac

The housing market is still far from bubble territory, according to a new report that finds home prices are still undervalued by 3 percent nationally. For the second quarter, Trulia’s Bubble Watch factors in home price values by comparing prices today with historical prices, incomes, and rents. In the first quarter of 2014, home prices were about 5 percent undervalued, and they were 8 percent undervalued about a year ago. At the current pace, home prices are expected to be in line with long-term fundamentals—neither over- nor undervalued—by the last quarter of 2014 or the first quarter of 2015, according to the study. Three-fourths of the 100 largest metros analyzed are still considered undervalued. Source: Forbes.com 

Good news for apartment renters: Rent hikes are finally starting to slow, a huge relief for those who have put up with annual increases over recent years. A big reason for the slowdown is the increased supply of new apartment units on the market, said Hans Nordby, managing director of CoStar Group, a provider of information and analytic services for the commercial real-estate industry. “The first quarter of this year, 54,000 new apartment homes were delivered to the market [nationally] and demand was about 27,000 apartments,” Nordby said. “That causes vacancies to pick up a bit.” Increased vacancies mean that landlords can’t be as aggressive in raising rents, if they want to keep their units filled. It’s important to remember that all markets are different. In some areas with short supply, rents could continue to rise sharply. There’s another factor playing into landlord decisions too. “Some rents have gotten so egregiously expensive, it puts an artificial ceiling on rent growth,” said Ryan Severino, senior economist and associate director of research for Reis, Inc., also a provider of commercial real-estate information. When rents are rising faster than incomes, at a certain point, tenants can’t stomach meaningful rent increases, Severino said. And when enough of them push back to their landlords, apartment companies may begin scaling back their rent hikes, he added. Make no mistake, most landlords are still hiking rents, Severino said. They just may not be able to increase them quite as steeply as they were able to previously, he added. Rising rents are also causing people to make different choices about the neighborhoods in which they’re willing to live. Instead of searching for a home exclusively in the city, young people are much more likely to consider rentals in suburban areas. Already, some suburban markets getting hotter. Source: Market Watch 

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