Economic Update for the Week Ending March 13, 2020


Stock Markets Entered Bear Market Territory

Its difficult to imagine that all major stock market indexes closed at all time highs on February 19, 2020. In less than a month the longest bull market in history has ended because of a virus that has caused a global pandemic. Investors have concluded that the cruise industry will be decimated. It’s probable that the airline industry will need a bail out. Retail, sports, entertainment, restaurants, private schools, and other business sectors will also suffer devastating losses. Demand for oil with cruise ships halted, flights cancelled, people staying home and not driving has caused a surplus in the supply of oil. OPEC had called for cutting production to keep an already over supply of inventory from increasing and stabilizing prices, but Russia refused, and oil prices saw their largest one day decline since 1991. By weeks end the Fed had announced how they would add liquidity to support the financial system, and help business lending. The House also passed an emergency package. The Fed action, and the prospect of congressional stimulus sparked a 2,000 point rally on Friday to end the week with less devastation to stocks by making up much of Thursday’s losses which was the largest one day percentage drop in the DOW, eclipsing Black Monday’s drop in 1987. To be fair, on the positive side major stock market indexes are still above their levels at the beginning of 2019. We have lost about one year of gains. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed the week at 23,185.62, down 10.4% from 25,864.78 last week. It’s down 18.8% year to date. The S&P 500 closed the week at 2,711.02, down 8.8% from 2,972.37 last week. It’s down 16.1% year to date. The NASDAQ closed the week at 7,874.88, down 8.2% from 8,575.62 last week. It’s down 12.2% year to date.

U.S. Treasury Bond Yields

As stock markets continued to plummet investors moved money from stocks to the safety of bonds. The 10-year treasury bond yield closed the week slightly above last week, but still at their lowest level in 100 years, Monday’s yields dropped to the lowest in the history in America, but worked their way up in the end of the week. The 10-year treasury bond closed the week yielding 0.94%, up from 0.74% last week. The 30-year treasury bond yield ended the week at 1.56%, up from 1.25%, last week. We watch treasury bond yields because mortgage rates often follow bond yields.

Mortgage Rates at 40-Year Lows 

The Freddie Mac Primary Mortgage Survey released on March 12, 2020 reported mortgage rates for the most popular loan products as follows: The 30-year fixed mortgage rate average was 3.36% up from 3.29% last week. The 15-year fixed was 2.77% unchanged from 2.79% last week. The 5-year ARM was 3.01%, down from 3.18% last week. Usually, mortgage rates follow bond yields, but lenders have not lowered rates to the extent that bond yields have dropped. This week lenders actually raised rates because they did not have the staff to handle the volume of all the loans in process, as sales have been brisk, and refinancing has surged.