The times they are a changin' - Movement Mortgage Blog

Can you believe it’s already October? We’ll be at the end of the year before you know it.

As we change seasons and move into the fourth quarter of 2016, I think it’s appropriate to take note of the changing colors of the U.S. economy. I received a great research piece this week from analysts at Northwestern Mutual that nicely makes the case that markets are moving into a new season, too.

“The end of the third quarter not only marked the transition from summer to fall, but also a potential shift in economic variables,” the analysts wrote in their note to clients. “We believe the third quarter of 2016 may indeed mark the beginning of an economic and investment trend change.”

How so? Let’s take a look at some of the shifting winds.

  • Did you know the price of crude oil is back in positive territory? It’s true. For the first time since June 2014, the year-over-year price of crude is positive. I don’t expect oil to shoot up quickly. But positive price momentum will help push inflationary pressure.
  • Consumer debt has finally moved beyond 2008 levels, but savings rates remain elevated. You may remember consumers leveraged themselves to record highs leading up to the Great Recession. Then, after the 2008 crash, we saw a years-long period of deleveraging. Well, consumer debt levels have finally climbed back up to pre-recession levels this fall, with U.S. consumers now holding more than $14 trillion in debt. The good news is savings remain high. So the overall debt-to-asset ratio is as low as it was in the early 1990s.
  • Government spending. For those of you who heard my presentation at the Communities Summit this week, you know I’m not bullish on any major housing policy changes, regardless of who wins the White House. But Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton do share one (maybe only one) stance. Both seem poised to call for increased government spending. There’s a good chance as we elect a new leader this fall, we could see the austerity measures of the last four years rolled back.
  • In the equities markets, global weakness has been the story for years. That, plus accommodative monetary policies, have pushed U.S. stocks to new highs. But some signs of stability and rising prices may begin to help foreign markets recover. Did you know international and emerging markets equities outperformed large-cap equities in the U.S. during the third quarter? We may be seeing a change of season in equities, too.

What’s the takeaway for us? There’s a good chance with rising oil, a deleveraged consumer and increased government spending that we could see the U.S. economy continue to firm up in the year ahead. Stronger global equities markets will also remove some of the pressures that have kept U.S. interest rates so low.

As rates begin to rise, that will undercut much of the refinance business in our industry, driving some competitors away. It will also be a signal of improved overall economic health. Plus, I tend to believe forecasts that call for the home purchase market to grow in the year or two ahead. Altogether, that’s more homes purchased, slightly higher rates, and a firm U.S. economy. That would be a good harvest season for us.