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National Mortgage Professional
Dec 03, 2004

The Mortgage Minute: A Cycle For All SeasonsMichael SimonHousing Market, Forecasts, Economy, Market Composite Index, Federal Reserve, Heading into November, it appeared as though the housing market was caught in a downdraft, perhaps finally becoming affected by the sluggish economy. Of course, September finished strong, and October began even stronger-so strong in fact that applications reached a record high for the week ending Oct. 4. But then, the Market Composite Index (a measure of mortgage loan applications for both purchases and refinances) began to dip-gradually at first, but eventually plummeting by more than 30 percent until a modest rebound late in the month. Then on Nov. 6, the Federal Reserve cut short-term interest rates by 0.5 percent for the first time in nearly a year, which had little or no effect on the housing market (mortgage applications actually decreased by four percent for the week ending Nov. 8). And, to cap autumn's fall, Alan Greenspan spoke on Nov. 13, this time saying, "Although economic growth was relatively well-maintained over the last year, several forces have continued to weight on the economy. Over the past few months, these forces have taken their toll on activity, and evidence has accumulated that the economy has hit a soft patch." By the day's end, stocks had risen and fallen, Saddam Hussein had accepted the United Nations' resolution, oil prices had dropped, the Roman Catholic Church's bishops had adopted strict revisions to their sex abuse policy, and everything was pretty much back the way it was when the opening bell rang. It's anyone's guess as to how refinancing, which has long been the housing market's primary fuel, will hold up, and whether records will continue to be broken as steadily as they have been. Will the housing market be able to maintain its super-human strength and keep the economy buoyant? Will consumer spending continue to surpass confidence as we enter the holiday shopping season? Will refinancing checks and Republican tax refunds continue to roll in? With a simple, anti-climactic, yet not-discouraging speech about soft spots, Greenspan has created a veritable interest void, as the world waits on the Iraq situation and Republicans revel into their congressional domination. Never has a 0.5-percent rate cut meant so little. My guess? Dust off your black book and start making phone calls.
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