Mortgage Roundup (4/17/20) – Low Rates, Fewer Starts & Industry Aid

Good morning! Today is Friday, April 17. President Trump is deferring to governors to re-open the economy based on local coronavirus cases and conditions. The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits jumped by 5.25 million, with an estimated 13 percent of the workforce unemployed amid the coronavirus shutdown. Boeing shares soar after the aircraft maker moved to restart jet production in Seattle. 

And in mortgage and housing news …

RATES DIP: Mortgage rates fell slightly this week, continuing to hover near all-time lows for the third straight week, according to Freddie Mac. 

HOUSING STARTS: Single‐family housing starts in March were at a rate of 856,000 – 17.5 percent below February numbers, according to a monthly report released the U.S. Census Bureau and Department of Housing and Urban Development.

COMPANY AID: Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is under growing pressure from industry officials and members of Congress to help struggling mortgage companies as millions of borrowers skip their monthly payments amid the coronavirus outbreak.

SHAKY FINANCES: The coronavirus pandemic has shown how close to the edge many Americans were living, with pay and benefits eroding even as corporate profits surged.

SHRINKING GOVERNMENT ROLE: Trump’s libertarian housing regulator refuses to bail out mortgage firmswith public money.

TRUMP ADVISORS: In a bid to restart the economy, President Trump recruited prominent real estate executives from across industries to help advise him.

FED INTERVENTION: The Federal Reserve has temporarily soothed the mortgage market by purchasing mortgage-backed securities. The action appears to have had a calming effect on mortgage rates the past two weeks.

HOME EQUITY HALT: JP Morgan Chase has temporarily stopped offering home equity loans amid the economic devastation created by the coronavirus.  

INDUSTRY CALAMITY: Amid the chaos in the coronavirus economy, the U.S. housing industry should be a bulwark of support and stability. But a series of missteps and outright errors in judgment by federal regulators are turning a bad situation in housing into a calamity that may lead to a U.S. debt default. 

PODCAST BINGE: A roundup of the best real estate podcasts to download and listen to during the coronavirus shutdown.

VULNERABLE SERVICERS:  HUD Secretary Ben Carson is calling for funding set aside to help mortgage servicing companies at risk of failing, as more homeowners are unable to make mortgage payments.