The stock market is up. The stock market is down. The U.S. credit rating gets downgraded. The national jobs market improves a bit.
Despite forecasts of growth in the economy just a few months ago, the headlines show it’s anything but predictable right now.
“The reality is no one knows for certain how this will unfold,” Sandy Lincoln, chief market strategist for BMO Asset Management, told the Tribune this week. M&I’s Arizona branches are now part of the BMO financial group.
So what’s the bottom line for consumers? It’s a mixed bag, experts say.
Dennis Hoffman, an economics professor at ASU’s W.P. Carey School of Business, said in June forecasters were predicting economic growth for the latter part of 2011. But in the last two weeks, more are revising those forecasts downward. Part of it is the reaction to news from around the globe, part is reaction to news about the dollar.
“The markets are digesting all of this information. It will leave prospective homebuyers and homeowners with two cost currents. The cost of borrowing for those people who can acquire a mortgage will be at historical lows for the foreseeable future. That I would submit is partially a good news story,” he said. “But the negative news on the economy works against the housing market for a number of reasons. First, is overall confidence in housing rebounding is probably eroded even further and people at some point will start worrying about the security of their employment going forward.”
In fact, with the roller coaster, consumer confidence is also down — to a 30-year low, according to a report this week from Reuters and the University of Michigan.
But for those who feel more surefooted, there is one positive area: interest rates. Rather than rates going up, they will likely remain at the historic lows now available, and may even drop a bit, Lincoln said.
The Federal Reserve base rate for borrowing money dropped from 2.8 percent last week to 2.1 percent on Wednesday.
“The initial reaction is that instead of getting more expensive (to borrow money) with the downgrade, money has become less expensive,” Lincoln said. “Your base rate from which a lot of other things have been priced has been lowered and the (Federal Reserve) has made it clear they intend to keep rates very low until mid 2013.”
P.J. Saturno, regional manager for Taylor Morrison Home Funding, said rates have been sticking around 4 percent and 4.5 percent for a 30-year-fixed mortgage.
“The market has obviously been volatile, but the rates have been at that range for some time now,” Saturno said.
A person buying a $200,000 home with a conventional loan — and a 20 percent down payment — will see a monthly principal, interest and taxes payment just under $1,200, Saturno said.
What has become a little more cumbersome is the amount of paperwork required to get that loan, Saturno said.
“For the people who don’t have previous homes, who don’t have bankruptcies, it’s just a matter of providing more documentation than we have in recent years. We’ve gone back to the old days of 10 to 15 years ago where you have to document everything,” he said. “You have to be prepared to give us every piece of paper.”
That’s starting to become apparent, said Pierrette Tierney, vice president of marketing and sales for Taylor Morrison, which has two fairly new developments in the East Valley: Adobe Trails in Gilbert and Trovita Estates in Mesa.
“It’s the time of year in Phoenix when the sales typically slow down but we continue to have pretty strong sales throughout the summer despite historical seasonal standards,” she said Friday. “I think all our buyers believe it is an unprecedented time to buy with the affordability of Phoenix, the purchase prices of new homes and the nearly free money when you’re talking about 4 percent interest rates on long-term financing.”
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