QUOTE OF THE WEEK… “If you paint in your mind a picture of bright and happy expectations, you put yourself into a condition conducive to your goal.”–Norman Vincent Peale, minister and author of The Power of Positive Thinking
INFO THAT HITS US WHERE WE LIVE… Americans currently have bright and happy expectations about housing, according to Fannie Mae’s latest National Housing Survey. Their chief economist commented, “Despite fiscal headwinds and political uncertainty,consumer sentiment toward housing is robust and continues to gather strength.” Specifically, 48% of survey respondents believe home prices will go up in the next 12 months, a high for the survey begun in June 2010. Only 10% of respondents believe home prices will go down, a survey low.
The desire to buy has grown, as 67% of respondents said that if they were moving, they would rather buy than rent. One in four say now is a good time to sell a house, the highest level in two and a half years. People will probably act sooner rather than later, as 45% of those surveyed think mortgage rates will go up, while only 7% expect them to go down. Sadly, few are thrilled about the overall economy. Only 38% said the economy is on the right track and only 41% expect their financial situation to improve in the next 12 months.
BUSINESS TIP OF THE WEEK… Three time savers: 1) use a kitchen timer to set task deadlines; 2) eliminate smartphone interruptions by turning off text and email alerts; 3) schedule 30 minutes a day for social media.
>> Review of Last Week
HOT, THEN NOT… Optimism continued to drive investors last week. By Thursday, the Dow had stayed hot posting gains 10 days in a row, while the S&P 500 moved to within three points of an all-time record close. Things simmered down on Friday when Michigan Consumer Sentiment came in well below the prior month. A possible explanation for that was more sobering data: higher than expected overall CPI consumer inflation, although Core CPI inflation, excluding food and energy, was only mildly up.
Nonetheless, much of this week’s economic data came in better than estimates.Consumers continue to contribute to the economic recovery, with February Retail Sales UP 1.1%, versus a 0.5% estimate, and UP 4.6% over a year ago. Initial Weekly Jobless Claims were down to 332,000, and NY Empire Manufacturing gave a stronger than expected 9.2 growth reading for that region. Nationally, manufacturing continues to improve, with a nice gain in Industrial Production for February, and factories operating at near 80% capacity.
The week ended with the Dow up 0.8%, to 14514; the S&P 500 up 0.6%, to 1561; and the Nasdaq up 0.1%, to 3249.
Bonds rallied even as stocks advanced and economic data improved. The FNMA 3.5% bond we watch ended the week up .78, at $105.09. Average fixed mortgage rates were up slightly last week in Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey, but they remain well below levels of a year ago. The Mortgage Bankers Association reported applications for purchase loans down slightly for the week, but still up a healthy 9% versus a year ago.
DID YOU KNOW?… Ben Bernanke was appointed Chairman of the Federal Reserve by President George W. Bush on February 1, 2006. He was re-nominated by President Barack Obama and confirmed for a second term on January 28, 2010.
>> This Week’s Forecast
HOME BUILDING AND SALES GO UP, THE FED RATE STAYS DOWN… Scoping out the housing recovery, we’ll have February Housing Starts, predicted to continue their rise. February Existing Home Sales are also expected up, hitting the 5 million a year threshold.