Feb 132018
 

For more information, please contact me at (512) 261-1542 or steve@LoneStarLending.com.

By G. Steven Bray

After rising to the highest levels in over 4 years, interest rates are catching their breath, but I think it’s temporary. As we’ve discussed, the rapid rise seems to be predicated to a large extent on fears that inflation finally will come out of hibernation. Remember that inflation erodes the value of a currency. Thus, investors insist upon higher yields when they anticipate it.

I don’t think the fears are wholly irrational for reasons we’ve discussed, but the reality is we’ve seen very few signs of inflation so far. That could change tomorrow with the release of the Consumer Price Index. This isn’t the Fed’s preferred inflation metric, but being the granddaddy of inflation reports, it’s probably the one markets watch most keenly.

Unfortunately, I’m afraid the downside risk for this report is greater than the upside gain. By that, I mean if the reported value shows even a tenth of a percent increase, rates could quickly rise another 1/8%. If the reading is level or even slightly lower than last month, it should be positive for rates, but I don’t think they’re likely to fall very quickly. Markets seem convinced that inflation is out there hiding somewhere. I think it would take a few more months of continued tame inflation readings before markets will believe again that inflation is not a concern.

So, if you haven’t locked your interest rate, floating through tomorrow carries an outsized risk. If your outlook is a couple months into the future, there’s still hope. The longer inflation doesn’t materialize to validate market fears, the better the chances rates will find a ceiling and provide us with a bounce lower.

Feb 072018
 

For more information, please contact me at (512) 261-1542 or steve@LoneStarLending.com.

By G. Steven Bray

The stock market whipsaw has given mortgage rates a respite from their recent, dramatic rise, but I’m afraid the pause may be all too brief.

Interest rates have been on a tear of late rising a half percent in the last two months. Talking heads, who mostly ignored this until very recently, have been crawling all over each other trying to explain it. Their conclusion – it’s inflation. The only problem is economic reports still show inflation trending below the Fed’s target.

So, maybe it’s the expectations for future inflation. The problem with that is measures of inflation expectations have been rooted. The inflation component of inflation-adjusted Treasury rates rose a bit last fall (when we first started talking about inflation), but it really hasn’t changed in the last month.

So, maybe it’s just silly season stuff. If that’s true, then it’s quite possible the inflation hysteria will fade away over time, allowing rates to slowly trend back down.

So, how should you play this? If you need to close soon, I would favor locking your rate. This just doesn’t feel like the “big correction,” and I think rates still could go higher.

If your time horizon is a few months out, here’s what I would watch.

– The jobs report last Fri showed the highest wage growth since 2009. That’s great news, but the growth rate, 2.9%, matched expectations. Markets already should have accounted for it. However, watch this rate going forward. If it keeps rising, it could foretell rising inflation.

– The Fed has said it will raise short term rates 3 times this year. If the Fed signals a change of heart, it will affect interest rates.

– The Atlanta Fed shows 1st quarter GDP up over 5%. If this number holds, it could put pressure on the big Fed to change its rate hike plans.

– Finally, the Fed is buying fewer bonds, meaning other buyers will have to pick up the slack. So far, this seems to be affecting sentiment more than market demand. However, as the Fed continues to taper its buying, at some point it could put pressure on rates. Additionally, traders are convinced that central bankers worldwide are ready to follow the Fed’s lead. So far, bankers are denying it, but the eventual end of easy money will affect rates.

Feb 052018
 

For more information, please contact me at (512) 261-1542 or steve@LoneStarLending.com.

By G. Steven Bray

With rising home prices, you may be eyeing your increasing home equity with plans for remodeling or some other important need. However, before you do, take a few minutes to consider how the changes to the mortgage interest deduction might affect your tax bill.

It’s been well-reported that the new tax law reduces the max mortgage that qualifies for the mortgage interest deduction from $1m to $750k. For most of us, that’s not a big deal. The bigger deal is that starting this year, interest paid on a home equity line of credit (HELOC) no longer will be eligible for the deduction.

When you take cash out of your home, you have a couple options if you have an existing first mortgage. You can refinance the first mortgage adding to the balance the amount of cash you want, a so-called cash-out refinance, or you can use a HELOC, which typically is a 2nd lien on your home that leaves the existing first mortgage in place. Many folks prefer a HELOC because they have a really low rate for their existing first mortgage.

With the new tax law, the interest paid on a cash-out refinance is still eligible for the mortgage interest deduction. The interest paid on a HELOC is not.

So, before you decide which option to use, consider whether getting a new first mortgage would allow you to itemize your deductions. If it does, then you may find it’s a better financial decision to cash-out refinance your existing mortgage even though you may end up with a slightly higher interest rate.