Results from a Federal Reserve survey of senior bank loan officers indicated that lenders have held the line on prime lending standards and have raised standards for sub-prime and non-traditional home loans.
Survey respondents represented 74 U.S. banks and 23 foreign banks. Survey respondents also said that demand for mortgage loans was lower; this could be an unintentional result of tight credit standards for mortgage loans.
Analysts said that tight credit requirements and less demand for home loans could mean more trouble for the housing industry.
Home Prices Rise In March, But At Slower Rate
The annual rate of increase for national home prices was 11.10 percent as compared to February's 11.80 percent year-over-year rate of increase.
February's reading was the fastest pace of home price growth in eight years, but March's slower level of home price appreciation was the lowest month-to-month reading in three years. Fewer affordable homes were cited as a reason for slower growth in housing markets.
CoreLogic reported that home prices rose by 1.40 percent in March, and that Arkansas was the only state that posted a drop in home prices. Several states, including North Dakota and Texas, achieved new peaks in home prices due to strong job growth.
The slow-down in home price growth isn't necessarily all bad news; analysts said that home prices could not continue to climb when household incomes aren't keeping up.
Many first-time buyers have been sidelined with a combination of slow job growth, higher home prices and tight mortgage credit. CoreLogic reported that these factors contributed to their forecast for home prices to grow by about 6.70 percent in 2015.
Mortgage Rates Fall, Fed Chair Speaks
Freddie Mac reported lower average mortgage rates on Thursday. The rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was 4.21 percent as compared to last week's reading of 4.29 percent. Discount points dropped from 0.70 to 0.50 percent. The average rate for a 15-year mortgage was 3.32 percent and six basis points lower than the prior rate of 3.38 percent.
Discount points were unchanged at 0.60 percent. The rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was unchanged at 3.05 percent, but discount points dropped from 0.50 to 0.40 percent.
Janet Yellin, chair of the Federal Reserve, spoke before the Senate Budget Committee on Thursday and said that the Fed can shrink its current balance sheet of $4.3 trillion by not reinvesting proceeds from its portfolio of maturing bonds.
This is directly connected to the Fed's tapering of its quantitative easing (QE) program, which is currently at a level of $45 billion per month in mortgage backed securities (MBS) and treasury securities.
Some analysts believe that members of the Fed's FOMC meeting discussed the end of QE in their last meeting, but this cannot be verified until the minutes of the meeting are released May 21.
The end of QE could cause higher mortgage rates as the program's purpose is to hold down long-term interest rates.
Weekly Jobless claims fell to a new low of 319,000 against predictions for 325,000 new jobless claims and 345,000 new claims for the prior week. Seasonal anomalies caused by the Easter holiday and spring break schedules were cited as causes for ups and downs in new jobless claims in recent weeks.
This week's scheduled economic news includes several consumer-related reports including Retail sales, Consumer Price Index, core CPI, Homebuilder's Index, and Housing Starts.