Friday, March 27, 2009

This week's highlights...

  1. From Table 10 in today's BEA report on Personal Income, real disposable income increased 2.2% in February, compared to February last year. This is the 5th consecutive month of positive growth in real personal income compared to the same month in the previous year, following negative growth in August and September of last year. The 2.2% increase in real disposable income is just slightly below the 2.3% average over the last four years.

  2. Rates on 30-year mortgages plunged this week to the lowest level on record after the Federal Reserve launched a new effort to assist the staggering U.S. housing market. Mortgage finance giant Freddie Mac said Thursday that average rates on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages dropped to 4.85% this week, from 4.98% last week. It was the lowest in the history of Freddie Mac's survey, which dates back to 1971. FYI -- in the 1981-1982 recession, mortgage rates peaked at about 18.5% in October 1981. The difference in monthly payments on a $100,000 mortgage at 18.5% ($1548) and a mortgage at today's 4.85% ($528) is more than $1,000 per month!

  3. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) released its latest Housing Affordability Index (HAI) today, showing that housing affordability reached an all-time, historic record high of 173.5 in February. A HAI of 173.5 would mean that the typical household earning the median family annual income of $59,726 in February would have 173.5% of the qualifying income to purchase a median-priced existing single-family house ($164,600) with a 20% down payment, which would be the highest level of housing affordability since the NAR started reporting housing affordability in 1971.

  4. This week we are seeing some further positive notes in form of better-than-expected new and existing homes sales and durable goods orders for the month of February. These, and other positive, or even “less bad”, signs are a welcome change of tune.

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