Pending Home Sales Rise

The National Association of Realtors reported on Monday that the September Pending Home Sales Index jumped 6.1% t0 110.1 after a 6.4% rise in August. The big rise far surpassed analysts’ expectations who anticipated a more modest rise of 1.2%. Most economists contributed the large increase to the estimated 200,000 to 400,000 first-time homebuyers rushing to take advantage of the $8,000 tax credit set to expire on November 30th. To that end, many analysts are anticipating a drop in pending home sales after November 30th. The NAR report helped offset a Commerce Department report last Thursday that showed new home sales fell unexpectedly on September after rising for five straight months. Commerce said new home sales fell 3.6% in September to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 402,000. It was the first decline since March. Ironically, the drop was also attributed in part to the expiring first-time buyer credit. Go figure.

Mortgage rates for thirty year conventional loans have remained defiantly in the 5.125% to 5.25% range for several weeks now despite increased volatility in the bond and stock markets. Bond traders are betting that rates will remain low for some time to come while stock traders are increasingly unsure about the sustainability of the 2009 rally. Mixed economic reports coupled with the possibility of a jobless recovery have helped keep investor optimism in check to an extent. We could get some direction on interest rates this week when the Federal Reserve’s Open Market Committee concludes their two day meeting on monetary policy. Most expect the Fed will leave rates unchanged but they could signal future increases in their adjournment remarks on Wednesday.

The Federal Reserve is now nearing the end of its $1.25 trillion buyback of mortgage-backed securities having already purchased $977 billion since the program began earlier this year. As I have stated in past articles, this program has been largely responsible for keeping mortgage rates so low for so long. With only twenty two weeks and $273 billion to go, we may begin to see long term rates begin to edge up in the coming months as the huge demand created by the program tapers off. Stay tuned.

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