2018 Year End Economic Update

New York Stock Exchange
New York Stock Exchange
New York Stock Exchange

2.6 million new jobs were added in 2018 as unemployment dropped to a 40-year low – The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that U.S. employers added 312,000 new
jobs in December. This shocked analysts that had forecasted 178,000 new jobs. 
There were 2.6 million jobs added in 2018, up from 2.2 million new jobs in 2017. The unemployment rate rose to 3.9% from 3.7% in November, a 40-year low, as 419,000 new workers entered the workforce. Optimism about finding an acceptable job and
higher wages were credited with expanding the workforce. Wages rose 3.2% from
one year earlier, matching October’s year over wage gains which marked the largest
year over year wage gain since April 2009. 

Stock markets ended the year lower in 2018 – After hitting all-time highs in
September, which marked the longest bull market in history, stocks took a downturn in the last quarter of the year. December marked the worst December drop since the Great Depression as fears of a trade war, political uncertainty, slowing economic activity overseas, and higher interest rates made investors more cautious. The Dow Jones Industrial Average ended 2018 at 23,327.46, down from 24,719.22 at the close of 2017.The S&P 500 closed the year at 2,506.85, down from 2,673.51 at the end of 2017. The NASDAQ closed at 6,635.28, down from 6,903.39 on December 31, 2017. 

U.S. Treasury Bond Yields higher in 2018 – The 10-year U.S. treasury bond closed the year at a 2.69% yield, up from 2.40% on December 31, 2017. The 30-year treasury yield ended the year at 3.02%, up from 2.74% on December 31, 2017.Mortgage Rates higher in 2018 – The December 28, 2017 Freddie Mac Primary Mortgage Survey  reported that the 30 year fixed mortgage rate average was 4.55%, up from 3.99% on December 29, 2017. The 30-year fixed rate was over 5% in October before
declining in November and December. The 15-year fixed was 4.01%, up from 3.44% . last December. The 5-year ARM was 4.00%, up from 3.55% at the close of 2017. Fortunately, rates dropped in the final quarter. The 30-year hit 5% in September. 

Year over year price gains moderated in 2018 after 7 years of price gains. For the first 7 months of the year we saw the same month year over year price increases of
6-8%, but by years end those prices were just 1.5% above the same month one year earlier – The California Association of Realtors reported that existing home sales 
totaled 372,260 in December on a seasonally adjusted annualized basis. That was 
down 11.6% from last December. It marked the fewest sales in a month since January 2015. The statewide median price was $557,600, up 1.4% from December 2017.
On a regional basis Los Angeles County’s median-price of $588,140 was up 1.8% 
from last December. Orange County had a median price of $785,000, down 0.1%
from December 2017. Ventura County’s median price of $640,000 was down 0.8% from last December. Inventory levels also continued to rise. Active listings have
increased 30% from 2017. The unsold inventory index hit record lows before moving up steadily in the last 9 months of 2018. There was a3.5-month supply of homes
listed in California, up from a 2.5-month supply in December 2017. It should be noted that a “normal market” has a six-month supply of homes listed, so inventory levels
which are well above the all-time lows of 2017 are still at low historical levels.
 Los Angeles County had a 3.5-month supply, up from a 2.4-month supply last
December. Orange County had a 4-month supply, down from 2.6 months last
December. Ventura County had a 5.5-month supply, up from a 4-month supply in
December 2017.

New Year’s Resolutions for your Home

1: Streamline the stuff

One of the best and least expensive ways to feel better about your home is to clear it of clutter.

Each year most of us acquire a mountain of stuff. Without some regular purging, cabinets and drawers get jam-packed and it becomes hard to find the things you use and enjoy the most. (All that clutter also makes your house look dated and dirty, designers say.)

This year resolve to go room-by-room periodically clearing anything that you don’t use, wear or love and donate it to charity. After that, think twice about what you bring in, says Antoinette Nue, an Atlanta consultant who specializes in helping people simplify and go green.

“Fill your home with the things that raise your energy level and make you feel good, and get rid of the things that drain your energy or are broken,” she says.

Stash useful (but not beautiful) items such as DVDs, remotes and those kicked-off shoes in simple woven baskets. Group similar items together on sleek trays, says Stuart McCormick, a designer with Liz Levin Interiors in Washington D.C.

Clear your counters of everything you don’t use on a daily basis. And get ready to breathe a little easier in your own home. 

2: Make it safe and sound

Your home may be beautiful, but is it safe?

First, check your house for radon. This colorless, odorless gas causes about 21,000 lung cancer deaths each year from the radioactive particles it traps in your lungs as you breathe, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. One in every fifteen homes has elevated levels. And with test kits costing as little as $20 at your local hardware store, there’s no reason not to get right on that.

While we’re on the subject of deadly gas, make sure you install a carbon monoxide detector on every bedroom floor in addition to fire detectors. If a chimney flue or furnace vent gets blocked or leaks, carbon monoxide could back up in your house and kill you. Like a radon test, this is a small investment — $40 or more — for such an important safeguard.

Watch out for dryer lint. We know you clean the little trap inside the door, but most people neglect to clean the vents and ducts behind the dryer. Lint may seem innocent, but it’s highly combustible, according to the U.S. Fire Administration, accounting for more than 15,000 building fires a year.

Make sure your house can breathe. Many people’s bathrooms and attics aren’t vented to the outside (or the vents are covered over with shingles.) This makes you a prime candidate for mold.

And if you’re considering a remodel — and your home was last built or remodeled before 1978 — consider testing for lead paint and asbestos flooring. It will have to handled properly during removal, or particles can be released into the air for you to ingest.

3: Shrink your bills (and your carbon footprint in the process)

When people think of going green, they often think it takes solar panels to make a difference.

Not so, says Bob Schildgen, who wrote the “Hey Mr. Green” column for Sierra magazine. It just takes a little old-fashioned common sense.

The best place to start is by cutting your energy usage in your home:

– Remember your mom’s advice and switch off the lights when you leave a room.

– Turn off your air conditioner when you leave the house and dial your heater down to 55 degrees at night.

– Install LED bulbs and low-flow showerheads.

– Turn off your power strips and/or set your home computer to revert to sleep mode when not in use.

– Water your yard less. Put in drought-tolerant landscaping if necessary.

– Give composting a try. Your garden will thank you.

4: Work out a weekly system for keeping your house clean

Here are a few tips for keeping the mess under control from Jeff Campbell. He is the author of the book Speed Cleaning and owner of the Clean Team housekeeping service in San Francisco.

Daily: Dishes go in the dishwasher every night – no excuses! Dirty clothes go in the hamper and jackets or clean clothes are hung in the closet. Bring everything back to its assigned place.

Weekly: Clean your entire house, using these tips:

– Keep all of your cleaners in a portable carryall that moves with you from room to room.

– Focus on one type of cleaning at a time. It’s faster, Campbell says. Wipe down fingerprints on all of the cabinets, for instance, before moving on to spraying and wiping counters. Then move on to windows and mirrors and appliances. Once that’s done move on to sweeping and then mopping floors.

– For optimum efficiency, enlist the help of your family. If you can, divide the jobs among at least three parties. One of you can do the dusting/vacuuming and changing beds. The other can do the bathroom cleanup, leaving only the kitchen and trash emptying for you to handle. The upside? You can get the whole house done in 45 minutes, Campbell says. Leaving more time on the weekends for the park or the movies.

5: Get your place ready for entertaining

Each year most of us vow to spend more time with family and friends. To make you feel like inviting people in, why not give the areas you entertain in a little update?

You don’t have go for broke here and invest in a new kitchen remodel. All it takes to get a fresh new look is a little bit of rearranging and a few updates, says designer McCormick.

One easy update that makes your home seem more “finished” is the addition of plants, she says.

“They bring in new energy and help clean the air,” she says. “And it’s a great way to decorate if you’re on a budget.”

Pulling out a new accent color from your existing decor can make the whole room seem fresh. Pick an underused color in the room and add more of it in the form of a new pillow or throw to update your look, McCormick advises. A colorful rug or runner can also help anchor your space.

Lastly, take some time to rearrange your furniture so it is oriented in conversation groups and not just facing the television. That just might up for chances for real conversation and connection in the New Year.

Courtesy of HGTV

Economic update for the month ending October 31, 2018

U.S. Employers added 250,000 new jobs in October:

Wages grow at fastest pace in almost 10 years – Unemployment remains at lowest rate since 1969 – The Department of Labor Statistics reported Friday that 250,000 new jobs were added in October. That eclipsed the 190,000 new jobs analysts had expected. Job growth has now hit a record of 97 straight months. The unemployment rate was unchanged at 3.7%, the lowest national unemployment rate in 49 years. Average hourly wages were up 3.1% in October from last October. That was the largest year over gain in almost 10 years. 

California employers added 13,200 new jobs in September :

The California Employment Development Department reported that 13,200 new jobs were added in September. California has now added an average of 29,400 new jobs a month for 103 consecutive months. The state’s unemployment rate dropped to 4.1%, the lowest rate on record. 

U.S. stocks saw their largest monthly loss in 10 years in October:

 Although most companies reported quarterly profits that beat or were in line with expectations, the few like Amazon, Square, Hasbro, Domingo’s  and others  that reported disappointing results scared investors. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed the month at 25,115.76, down from 26,458.31. last month. The S&P 500 closed the month at 2,711.74, down from 2,913.98 on September 30The NASDAQ closed the month at 7,305.90, down from 8,046.35 last month.   

Treasury Bond Yields rise:

The 10-year treasury bond closed the month yielding 3.05%, up from 2.86% on August 31, 2018. The 30-year treasury bond yield ended the month at 3.19%, up from 3.02% at the end of August. 

Mortgage rates higher in October:

 The November 1, 2018 Freddie Mac Primary Mortgage Survey reported that the 30-year fixed mortgage rate average was 4.83%, up from 4.72% on September 27, 2018The 15-year fixed was 4.23%, up  from 4.16% on September 27.  The 5-year ARM was 4.04%, up from 3.97% at the end of September. 

GDP up 3.5% in third quarter:

The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis announced that the first reading of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP) rose by 3.5% in the third quarter of 2018.   That beat expectations of a 3.4% rise, but was well below the 4.2% increase registered in the second quarter of 2018. The report also said that The PCE price index, a key indicator of inflation, rose at a 1.6% annual rate in the quarter. That was well below the 2.2% annual increase analysts forecasted. Consumer spending, which accounts for about two thirds of the U.S. economy grew by 4% in the third quarter. That marked the largest increase since the fourth quarter of 2014. 

September Nationwide Existing Home Sales:

 Data released this week from The National Association of Realtors showed that total existing home sales fell again in September. The number of existing homes sold in September fell 3.4% from August, and are down  4.1%  from one year ago. The median price paid for a home in The U.S. was up 4.2% from last September. That marked the 79th straight month of year over increases. The unsold inventory index is at a 4.4 month supply, up slightly form a 4.2 month supply one year ago. 

September California Existing Home Sales:

The California Association of Realtors reported that existing single family home sales totaled 382,550 in September on a seasonally adjusted annualized rate. That was down 4.3% from August and down a staggering 12.4% from last September, when sales totaled 436,920 on a seasonally adjusted annualized rate. The median price paid for a home in California was $587,850, up 4.2% from September 2017.On a more regional level the median price increased 4.7% in Los Angeles County10.6% in Ventura County, and 3.3% in Orange County from one year ago. Inventory levels continued to rise after hitting historic lows in 2017. The unsold inventory index in California stood at a 4.2 month supply in September, up from a 3.3 month supply in September 2017. Inventory levels have now increased for 6 straight months and are up 20.4% from one year ago. Listings are at the highest level in 31 monthsLos Angeles County has a 4.4 month supply, up from a 3.1 month supply last September. Orange County has a 4.3 month supply,  up  from 3.1 months last September. Ventura County had a 6.3 month supply of homes, up from a 4.7 month supply one year ago. 

Syd Leibovitch 
Rodeo Realty Inc.
9171 Wilshire Blvd. Suite 321
Beverly Hills, California 90210
CA DRE # 00858724

Economic Update For The Week Ending November 22, 2014

Economic update for the week ending November 22, 2014



Another record-breaking week for US stocks  – The US stock markets posted their fifth straight week of gains with new highs, buoyed by positive economic news from Europe and China, and positive job gains at home. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed the week at 17,810.06, up from last weeks closes of 17,634.74. The S&P 500 closed Friday at 2063.50, up from last Friday’s close of 2039.82. The NASDAQ closed at 4712.97; above last weeks close of 4688.54. The People’s Bank of China made a surprise interest rate cut on Friday, its first cut in 2 years. Mario Draghi, the president of the European Central bank said that the central bank is prepared to step up efforts to give the Eurozone a much-needed boost. Both of these announcements led to gains in worldwide markets.


Consumer Price Index- The Bureau of Labor Statics reported that prices remained flat in October. The year over year CPI increase showed the inflation rate at 1.7%, well below the Federal Reserve’s target rate for a healthy economy. The Fed released its minutes on November 19 from its October meeting. In the minutes it cautioned of “evidence of a possible downward shift in long-term inflation expectations.”


Treasury Bond Rates – Yield Curve Flattens to a 2 year low – The 10 year Treasury bond closed the week at 2.31% almost unchanged from last Friday’s close of 2.32%. The 30 year treasury yield (rate) was 3.02%, down slightly from last week’s 3.04%. The yield curve between the 2 year treasury and the 30 year treasury, which is the difference between the rates (spread), reached a 2 year low with a spread of 2.51%. It was 3.639% on November 20, 2013. This is due to inflation being below the Federal Reserve’s target rate. Expectations of inflation push up long-term rates, low inflation pulls them down. US bond yields are lower than many foreign countries making them very enticing to foreign investors. For example our 10 bond year yields 1.54% more than German 10 year bonds.


Mortgage Rates – The Freddie Mac Primary Mortgage Survey reported that the 30 year fixed mortgage rate average for the week was 3.99% down from 4.01% last week. The 15 year fixed was also down at 3.17% from 3.2% last week.


California gains 41,500 non-farm jobs – The California Employment Development Department reported that non-farm payrolls increased in October by 41,500 jobs. This figure eclipsed the September gain of 14,200 jobs and was way above expectations, yet the California unemployment rate remained unchanged at 7.3%.  California recorded the highest monthly job gains in the country in October. The total job gains, according to the EDD, since the recovery began in February 2010 has been 1,446,600. The year over year increase was 319,500 jobs, a 2.1% increase. Of that increase Professional and business services posted the largest numerical increase adding 106,000 jobs, up 4.5%. Construction posted the largest percentage increase of 5.3% for the year, adding 34,000 jobs. Financial activities were the only sector to lose jobs and showed 4,700 fewer jobs than one year ago, a 0.6% decrease.


California Association of Realtors – CAR released its October sales figures last week. They stated that despite the lowest mortgage rates in 18 months sales in October remained unchanged from September. October sales were down 1.9% from the number of sales in October 2013 marking one full year in which the number of sales was below 400,000 units. The Median price decreased by 2.3% in October to $450,620 from September’s $461,370. The median price is the point in which half the homes sell for more and half the homes sell for less. They also reported that the higher priced markets remained stronger than other markets.  Inventory levels slipped to a 3.8 month supply from a 4.2 month supply in September. There was a 3.3 month supply in October 2013. It must be noted that CAR figures do not include sales that were not reported to a MLS system.


Lower rates have led to more buyer demand. It seems like the number of multiple offer situations have increased. I would not be surprised to see month over month prices to show an increase after being flat the past few months. It takes a while for escrow to close so I am looking for this increase to be reported in the December and January closings. We will wait and see!


Have a great weekend!


Economic Update For The Week Ending May 17th, 2014 By Syd Leibovitch

week ending 5/17Home mortgage rates dropped this week to the lowest levels of the year! This was due to a combination of some lower than expected profits on Wall Street, worries that the stock market may be topping out, and an influx of foreign money looking for safety. Money moving to treasury bonds rather than stocks drives rates down.
California reported that the economy added 56,100 jobs in April. This far exceeded the 14,600 added in March! The state unemployment rate dropped to 7.8%, a 6 year low!
In a positive sign for the economy, the number of Americans filing first-time jobless benefits fell last week to a seven-year low. Initial claims for unemployment benefits fell by 24,000 to a seasonally adjusted 297,000 in the week ended May 10, making this the lowest reading since May 2007. The number of continuing unemployment benefits also hit a new low, it fell by 9,000 to 2,667,000 in the week ending May 3 which marked the lowest level since December 2007.
However, a preliminary gauge of U.S. consumer sentiment showed a loss. The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan’s preliminary May reading on the overall index on consumer sentiment came in at 81.8, down from 84.1 in the previous month and below expectations of economists who predicted an 84.5 reading. 58% of consumers did say the economy had improved, up from 49% in April.
The Freddie Mac Weekly Primary Mortgage Market Survey showed that the 30-year-fixed rate hit a new low for the year, falling to 4.20% from 4.21%  last week. The 15-year-fixed fell to 3.29% from last week’s 3.32%. A year ago the 30-year fixed was at 3.51% and the 15-year was at 2.69%. Loans over $417,000 are a little higher: 4.5% for 30 year fixed and 3.6% for 15 year fixed
The 10 year Treasury bond yield ended the week at 2.52%.  It was 2.61% last Friday and 1.87% a year ago. Last May and June is when we saw a spike in interest rates last year, so the year over year increase will be gone by June. We will even see a year over year drop if rates stay stable or even rise slightly!
After a volatile week of ups and downs, the closing numbers on Friday showed little change. The Dow closed at 16,491.31 down –0.55% from last week’s close of 16,583.34. The Nasdaq closed at 4,090.59 up .46% from last week’s close of 4,071.87. The S&P 500 ended the week at 1,877.86, down –0.03% from last week’s 1,878.48.
DataQuick reported that the median sales price in the six-county Southland region rose 1% from March to $404,000 and up 13.2% from $357,000 in April 2013. The median price has risen on a year-over-year basis for 25 consecutive months. A total of 20,008 new and resale houses and condos sold in the Southland, up 13.4% from 17,638 sales in March but down -6.6% from 21,415 sales in April of last year. On average sales generally increased 1.4% between March and April since 1988 when DataQuick started counting these statistics. Southland sales have fallen on a year-over-year basis for seven consecutive months but last month’s was the smallest decline since last October and although April 2014 sales were lower than April 2013 sales they were higher than the amount of homes sold in both April 2012 and April 2011. In Los Angeles County alone, sales were down -7.0% year over year from 7,140 to 6,642 while the median price rose 11.6% from $395,000 to $441,000.
Respondents to Fannie Mae’s April 2014 National Housing Survey continued to express positive feelings about the real estate market. The amount of respondents who believe it is a good time to sell a house rose to an all-time high of 42%. The percentage of respondents who say it is a good time to buy a home held steady at 69%. Consumers are less optimistic about their ability to get a mortgage, 45% of respondents said it would be easy to get a mortgage today, down -7% from last month. Those who believe prices will rise was up to 50% from 48% and the expected price increase rose from 2.7% to 2.9%,  Also, 52% expect mortgage rates will continue their rise, while only 7% believe mortgage rates will go down. Consumers who feel that the economy is on the right track was also up by 3% to 35%.
Data released by the National Association of Realtors® showed that the median price for an existing single-family home was up 8.6% year over year in the first quarter to a median price of $191,600.This was down from a 10.1% year-over-year increase in the fourth quarter. The median rose annually in 74% of the metropolitan areas tracked by the NAR and 22% saw double-digit price jumps. In the first quarter of 2013, 89% of all the tracked metros saw year-over-year price gains. For the first quarter of 2014 monthly inventory was at 1.99 million homes, a five-month supply and 3.1% higher than the first quarter of 2013. Existing-home sales fell -6.6% year over year  for the quarter to a seasonally adjusted 4.6 million. The West saw a drop of -12.4% year over year in existing home sales and had the highest regional price increase, up 14% for the quarter to $282,100. The Los Angeles-Long-Beach-Santa-Ana region saw a median price increase year over year of 17.6% to $406,200.
 The CoreLogic Case-Shiller indexes show that home prices rose 11.3% in the fourth quarter of 2013 compared to the same time period a year ago. Overall home prices were up 20% over the low point reached in the fourth quarter of 2011 but were still -21% below the peak reached in the first quarter of 2006. It is predicted that price appreciation will slow to 5.3% annually for 2014 which is above the long-term annual average of 4.5% recorded since 1975. (I am not buying this! Even though its a national number.) For Los Angeles the fourth quarter change was 20.3% higher than the previous year and a 5.2% ( we have already far exceeded this, so I’m not buying it either!) overall price increase is predicted for the year. CoreLogic a source used to track foreclosure properties, which are no longer prevalent in the marketplace. They didn’t predict that too well either, as we never say the flood of shadow inventory they predicted. Nor did we see the years and years of foreclosures they predicted. Nor did the “new normal” where prices don’t rise come to fruition. I don’t know how long I am going to include them in my report!
U.S. homebuilders are less confident in the short term this month. The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index was down to 45 from the revised reading of 46 in April. This is the lowest level in 12 months and indicates more builders view conditions as poor rather than favorable. Builders are optimistic about prospects for the next six months, that index rose 1 point to 57.
The National Association of Realtors® delivered its predictions for 2014 during the Realtor Party Convention & Trade Expo. Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist said existing home sales will probably be around -3% less than last year to just over 4.9 million but should rise to over 5.2 million in 2014.
The California Association of Realtors® reported that the statewide median price reached its highest level since December 2007. It was $449,360, up 3.2% from the March figure and up 11.6%over last April’s $402,830. The statewide median price has increased year over year for the past 26 months.
Closed sales of existing, single-family detached homes in California totaled a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 394,070 units in April, up 7.4% from 367,020  in March but down -7% from a revised 423,690 in April 2013.This was the ninth straight decline on a year-over-year basis.
 Inventory was down to 3.5 months from March’s 4 months but still up from 2.8 months in April 2013. The median number of days it took to sell a single-family home fell to 33.8 days in April, down from 35 days in March but up from 27.9 days in April 2013. We really need to reach a 6 month supply to be in a normal market where prices stabilize.
For Los Angeles County the median sold price in April 2014 was $406,750, up 2.8% from March’s $395,660 and up 12.5% from April 2013’s $361,630. Sales were up 23.3% from March but down-6.3% compared to April 2013. The average amount of inventory was 3.5 months, down from 3.9 months in March but up from 2.6 months in April 2013. The median days on market was 39.5 days, up from March’s 39 days and from April 2013’s 29.2 days.
The Commerce Department reported that U.S. housing starts rose strongly in April and building permits hit their highest point in nearly six years. Starts rose 13.2% month over month to a seasonally adjusted annual pace of 1.07 million units which is the highest level since November 2013 and up26.4% over last April. Starts for single-family homes rose 0.8% but the real movement was in multi-family homes which rose 39.6% to a 423,000 unit rate. Groundbreaking for buildings with more than five units hit the highest level since January 2006. Permits to build homes rose 8% month over month and 3.8% year over year to a 1.08 million unit pace which is the highest since June 2008. Permits for single-family homes were up 0.3% while permits for multi-family homes rose 19.5%. Permits for buildings were up 21.8%.
We are still seeing rapid gains in prices in our marketplace. It’s hard to predict when these gains will begin to taper off. Many areas have exceeded their 2007 highs. Keep in mind that adjusted for inflation the same price in 2007 is about 19% lower today! We still have room to run! Eventually prices will need to stabilize. I would think we will begin seeing the gains start to taper in a way that appreciation is more in line with inflation in 2015 or 2016! Until then we are still going to have an inventory problem in which demand exceeds supply and drives prices up. Although we are off our lows in inventory, anyone on the street knows that there is a lot of homes that are severely overpriced. These people that would not waste their time in previous markets have an “who knows, I’ll sell if I get stupid money” attitude. Well priced homes are going quickly. Many with multiple offers! We will know that price gains are tapering when the multiple offers are less common, and well priced homes begin to take a little time to sell.

Economic Update For The Week Ending April 11, 2014 with Syd Leibovitch

economic update 411This week marked good news on the jobs front. The Labor Department reported that U.S. job openings in February reached their highest level in six years, increasing 299,000 to a seasonally adjusted 4.17 million. The report is one of the indicators being watched by the Fed as they continue to assess the health of the U.S. economy. Another indicator is that the number of people quitting their jobs also rose for the first time in months. This generally indicates confidence in the fact that jobs are more plentiful.

Early consumer sentiment indicators for April are strong. The consumer sentiment gauge from the University of Michigan and Thomson Reuters rose to a preliminary April reading of 82.6 — the highest reading since July — from a final March level of 80.

The Labor Department reported that U.S. wholesale prices rose a seasonally adjusted 0.5% in March. The price of wholesale services jumped 0.7% last month, while the cost of goods were flat. Personal consumption rose 0.6% in March.

It was a rough week in the stock market as numbers continued to fall and many of the once high-flying stocks such as Tesla and Facebook have taken big hits. These stocks, it should be noted, have seen tremendous run ups, and have been trading at outrageous price to earnings ratios. They are” sexy stocks” which often sell at numbers that don’t make financial sense. U.S. stock numbers have also led to a greater instability in markets overseas. The Wall Street Journal reported that hedge funds have also been cutting their overall exposure to stocks in recent weeks. The Dow fell this week to 16,026.75 down  -2.54% from last week’s close of 16,412.71. The Nasdaq closed below 4,000. It dropped to 3,999.73 down -3.1% from last week’s close of 4,127.73 led by a plunge in biotech and high-growth stocks. This was the biggest weekly percentage drop in the Nasdaq since June 2012 and Thursday saw the biggest percentage point drop since August 2011.  The S&P 500 also was lower, ending the week at 1,815.69, down  -2.65% from last week’s 1,865.09.

The Freddie Mac Weekly Primary Mortgage Market Survey showed that the 30-year-fixed rate was back down again to 4.34%, the rate was 4.41% last week.  High balance and jumbo 30 year loans are more like 4.625%.  The 15-year-fixed also dropped to 3.38% from last week’s 3.47%. The jumbo 15 year is about 3.625%.  This represents about a 1/8% drop in rate from last week. A year ago the 30-year fixed was at 3.43% and the 15-year was at 2.65%.

On a very positive note we are seeing an easing in qualifying standards by lenders. When the Qualified Residential Mortgage standards came into effect under the Dodd Frank Financial Reform at the beginning of the year many people feared that loans would be harder to obtain. Today just 4 months later many lenders have made their guidelines more lenient than we have seen since the collapse of sub prime. Some examples are: More lenders offering stated income. Jumbo loans up to $4,000,000 with only 20% down! Some lenders are offering back end ratios of up to 49% on jumbo loans. People with short sales are able to obtain loans after 2 years with some lenders rater than 4 years.This is all good news after 6 years of very stringent lending standards!

The 10 year treasury bond yield ended the week at 2.63% responding to this week’s down stock market. It was 2.80% last Friday and 1.82% a year ago.

The latest National Housing Survey from Fannie Mae shows positive movement. The March survey showed that despite some recent volatility, consumers are feeling positive about the housing market. The share of the March survey respondents who say it is a good time to sell a home jumped four percentage points from February’s level to 38%, up from 26% in March 2013.  Those who thought it was a good time to buy increased one point to 68, two points below responses one year earlier. Although most respondents (54%) felt mortgage rates would increase over the next year, those respondents (52%) felt they could easily get a mortgage.  Those who expect prices to continue to increase over the next 12 months went from 52% in February to 48% while the amount of those expecting prices to stay the same increased by four points to 42%. Survey respondents generally seemed more positive about their financial situation. The amount of those who expect their financial situation to worse dropped to 12% from 21% a year ago and those who say their personal financial situation has improved over the past year is 40%, an all-time survey high. However 58% of respondents feel that the economy is on the wrong track, the same number that felt that way one year ago. Overall 68% of participants said they would buy if they were going to move.

An index from FNC forecasts a 3.7% rise in home prices between March and August for Los Angeles and Orange Counties this year. The home price index is based on non-distressed sales. The index in February was 17.4% higher than last year in Los Angeles and Orange Counties.  FNC forecasts that the index will keep rising throughout the summer at roughly half the pace that it did last year.  According to the director of research at FNC, this is a sign that the market is healthy but not overheating. Homes on average sold in March went for just a little below their list price and the average seller sold their house for 4.5% more than they paid for it.

The only drags on the economy this week were that property tax taxes were due yesterday, and income taxes are due Tuesday. Income tax rates are higher this year as the Bush Tax Cuts have expired for taxpayers with family incomes over  $400,000. Special accelerated depreciation amounts have also expired from the Obama Stimulus Package, and the payroll tax “holiday”  also expired this year. This has left everyone with higher tax rates. Fortunately, the economy is expanding. Consumer confidence is up, as are incomes!

All in all we are very fortunate to be in such a vibrant Real Estate Market! Financing is getting easier to obtain, prices are rising, buyers are motivated to buy, and the number of homes sold is increasing!