The major stock market indexes were overdue for a pause, and pause they did, by registering their largest weekly declines since 2016. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 4.1%, the NASDAQ dropped 3.5% and the S&P 500 lost 3.9%. Bonds did not fare much better with a sharp drop in prices sending the yield on the 10-year Treasury note to its highest level in almost four years.
Good economic news, including a rise in Pending Home Sales and a strong Employment Situation (Jobs) report for January, led to an increase in investor expectations for rising inflation. Although the Federal Reserve's Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) unanimously voted on Wednesday to leave the fed funds target range unchanged at 1.25%-1.50%, they changed their statement on inflation.
The FOMC admitted inflation expectations recently increased, and said it expected the rate of price changes "to move up this year" and stabilize around its 2% objective "over the medium term." Additionally, the 10-year inflation breakeven rate has risen to its highest level in over three years. According to the FOMC policy statement, the economy continues to strengthen and inflation is expected to move higher while the FOMC continues to anticipate further gradual increases in short-term rates.
The Fed Funds futures market continues to predict (with an implied probability of 77.5%) the most likely time for the next 25 basis point rate-hike announcement will take place at the next FOMC meeting on March 21, and suggests there will be an additional two hikes before the end of the year.
In housing news, Pending Home Sales increased 0.5% during December according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR). This was the highest reading since last March. Pending Home Sales were also 0.5% higher on a year-over-year basis. The NAR stated the December data suggests the housing market will start 2018 with "a small trace of momentum" but expect the recent tax-law changes to weigh on home sales in 2018.
The number of mortgage applications showed a decrease according to the latest data from the Mortgage Bankers Association's (MBA) weekly mortgage applications survey. The MBA reported their overall seasonally adjusted Market Composite Index (application volume) decreased by 2.6% during the week ended January 26, 2018. The seasonally adjusted Purchase Index decreased 3.0% from a week prior while the Refinance Index fell 3.0%.
Overall, the refinance portion of mortgage activity decreased to 47.8% of total applications from 49.4% in the prior week. The adjustable-rate mortgage share of activity increased to 5.7% of total applications from 5.2%. According to the MBA, the average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with a conforming loan balance increased to 4.41% from 4.36%, with points increasing to 0.56 from 0.54.
For the week, the FNMA 3.5% coupon bond lost 104.7 basis points to close at $100.234 while the 10-year Treasury yield increased 18.12 basis points to end at 2.8411%. The major stock indexes plunged during the week to record their largest weekly declines since 2016.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 1,095.75 points to close at 25,520.96. The NASDAQ Composite Index dropped 264.82 points to close at 7,240.95 and the S&P 500 Index lost 110.74 points to close at 2,762.13. Year to date on a total return basis, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has gained 3.24%, the NASDAQ Composite Index has advanced 4.89%, and the S&P 500 Index has added 3.31%.
This past week, the national average 30-year mortgage rate rose to 4.45% from 4.28%; the 15-year mortgage rate increased to 3.79% from 3.65%; the 5/1 ARM mortgage rate increased to 3.42% from 3.34% and the FHA 30-year rate climbed to 4.25% from 4.05%. Jumbo 30-year rates increased to 4.50% from 4.41%.
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