WASHINGTON (3/6/14)--The economy continues to grow at a "modest to moderate" with improved conditions in eight of the 12 Federal Reserve Districts, according to the Fed's Beige Book commentary released Wednesday.
From January to early February, severe winter weather slowed activity in the Northeast districts of New York and Philadelphia. Auto, retail and manufacturing sales were particularly hard hit.
Richmond, Va.; Chicago and Minneapolis did report positive sales in weather-related goods, however.
The district reports were mixed on loan demand and volume. Analysts at Moody's noted, "Falling mortgage and refinancing applications were among the few areas of weakness reported across districts" (
Credit quality is improving as delinquency rates tick downward or remain stable.
The slower pace in residential housing markets was attributed to the unusually severe winter. Home inventories were low in most districts, and housing prices continue to appreciate.
Commercial real estate conditions continue to improve from the previous report, according to seven of 12 districts.
Weather continues to hamper economic forecasts, but the report reinforces the bias that the economic slowdown is short lived, according to Eric Green of TD Securities (
The anecdotal report was released two weeks before the Federal Open Market Committee's March policy meeting.
WASHINGTON (3/6/14)--Weekly mortgage applications rose 9.4% on a seasonally adjusted basis for the week ending Feb. 28, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association's weekly survey.
On an unadjusted basis, the market composite index, which measures mortgage loan application volume, increased 11% compared with the previous week.
The refinance index posted a 10% gain from the previous week. On a four-week moving average basis, however, refinance activity dropped by 2.5% over the past month. At 9.6%, refinance activity is 63% lower than the same period one year ago.
Many homeowners have already refinanced, and with rates eclipsing 5%, the forecast for refinance originations "appears gloomy," said analysts from Moody's (
Purchase applications have dropped by 11.8% over the past month and are 15.7% below their year-ago level. Demand is essentially unchanged from three years ago, said Moody's.
Rates for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages fell by 6 basis points to 4.47%--unchanged from four weeks ago and 77 basis points higher than February 2013. Thirty-year fixed-rate jumbo mortgages decreased by 10 basis points to 4.37%.
The five-year adjustable-rate mortgage rate moved 8 basis points lower, ending the week at 3.09%. The interest rate is 54 basis points higher compared with a year earlier.