A strong jobs report Friday morning offset last week’s low economic growth numbers to suggest the U.S. economy is sturdy, even if growth is slower than many would like to see.
What does that mean for the mortgage business? The Federal Reserve will be forced to weigh solid jobs numbers against weak growth figures as it debates whether or not to raise interest rates this year.
On Friday morning, nonfarm payroll data was released, showing the U.S. economy added 255,000 jobs in July, which exceeded expectations of 180,000 new jobs. In June, the economy created 287,000 new jobs, which also beat expectations. Wall Street rallied on the news.
The jobs number is in contrast to last Friday’s weak report on second-quarter gross domestic product (GDP) — a meager 1.2 percent. Taken together, the numbers show America’s economy, while growing, is still not rapidly expanding or in danger of becoming overheated.
Central bankers are likely to continue moving with caution when they convene in September to ponder interest rates. They’ll likely be influenced by the Bank of England this week voting to cut interest rates to 0.25 percent from 0.50 percent. The United Kingdom’s central bank said it would likely cut rates to near zero late this year as the UK tries to stave off a recession after this summer’s surprising Brexit vote to leave the European Union.
What does it all mean?
There remains an opportunity for borrowers to save money. Economic data and global political uncertainty is likely to keep fueling demand for 10-Year Treasurys, which will result in low yields and low corresponding interest rates. And central bankers are showing little signs of reversing their low-rate course.
A fascinating research report from Black Knight Financial Services this week highlights the opportunity that exists. Take a look:
- Broad-based refinance criteria indicates a large number of borrowers with fixed rates above 4.24 percent would be “in the money” (see chart) by refinancing now.
- Post-Brexit mortgage interest rates have only declined by about 15 basis points (bps), but this has been enough to increase the number of refinance candidates in the market by 1.3 million borrowers (see chart).
- 8.7 million refinance candidates exist in the market today, the largest such population since late 2012.
- Nearly all of the post-Brexit growth stems from borrowers who didn’t have incentive to refinance last spring, resulting in a nearly 50 percent increase in borrowers with newfound incentive to refinance (see chart). This may be creating a more pronounced effect on refinance applications and originations as these borrowers rush to take advantage.
What about the purchase market?
Some good news here, too.
It’s no secret that affordability is a challenge for many buyers. Post-Brexit low rates are helping offset the rising price environment, Black Knight says. Home values are appreciating at a 5.4 percent annual rate, according to the most recent Black Knight Home Price Index. But thanks to Brexit and low rates, the monthly mortgage payment on the average priced home should be approximately $63 less per month than it was at the end of 2015 if all things were equal.
So, while it might not feel like affordability is improving, low rates have definitely helped keep the issue in check.
Something to watch
Keep an eye on what will happen if interest rates do go up — especially if sustained low rates continue to fuel home price appreciation.
Black Knight says today’s homeowners on average have a 21 percent mortgage payment-to-income ratio. If rates go up just one percentage point and prices remained flat, that ratio would jump to 24 percent — and even higher if rates and prices kept climbing.