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The Constraints on Housing Growth

tariffMore rate cuts are on the horizon. At least that's what Fannie Mae's Economic and Strategic Research Group has projected in its latest report on economic and housing trends.

The report projected two more rate cuts by the Fed—one in September and one in December. It also indicated that a stronger than expected first half had pushed the GDP growth forecast for 2019 to 2.2%, despite "escalating trade conflict and the associated risks of financial market volatility, labor market weakness, and loss of consumer resiliency."

Despite the strong signs of consumer demand, the report revealed that "residential fixed investment dragged for the sixth consecutive quarter." Business investment also "turned negative in the face of increasing trade and geopolitical uncertainty."

“Though the current expansion recently became the longest on record, reverberating trade tensions and general economic uncertainty continue to weigh on growth,” said Doug Duncan, SVP and Chief Economist at Fannie Mae. “The persistent trade tensions between the U.S. and China threaten to further reduce business investment, disrupt equity markets, degrade household wealth, and diminish consumer spending, the country’s primary economic engine of late.”

While the demand for housing remains strong, The ESR Group found that limited inventory, especially for affordable housing, continued to remain a challenge for homebuyers. This, despite Fannie Mae's latest Home Purchase Sentiment Index suggesting strong homebuyer interest after recording a new survey high in July.

The report also suggested an uptick in refinance activity as mortgage rates nearing new lows. The report indicated that the share of refinancing activity had risen from 29% in 2018 to 35% in 2019.

“Mortgage rates are approaching the lowest level in recent decades, and as they have moved lower more and more homeowners are finding incentive to refinance,” Duncan said. “We estimate that 35% of outstanding mortgages are now ‘in the money,’ meaning borrowers may realize significant cost savings by refinancing; as such, we expect the share of refinance originations to grow through the remainder of the year.”

However, he added that these benefits were mostly being enjoyed by existing homeowners. “Many would-be homeowners, and the purchase mortgage market generally, remain unable to capitalize on the favorable rate environment due to the chronically limited supply of homes available for sale,” Duncan said.

About Author: Radhika Ojha

Radhika Ojha is an independent writer and editor. A former Online Editor and currently a reporter for MReport, she is a graduate of the University of Pune, India, where she received her B.A. in Commerce with a concentration in Accounting and Marketing and an M.A. in Mass Communication. Upon completion of her master’s degree, Ojha worked at a national English daily publication in India (The Indian Express) where she was a staff writer in the cultural and arts features section. Ojha also worked as Principal Correspondent at HT Media Ltd and at Honeywell as an executive in corporate communications. She and her husband currently reside in Houston, Texas.
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