We have just started a new year and that means just about every economist has made their predictions for the year. One consensus of predictions for 2014 has been for higher interest rates. It makes sense–as the economy recovers interest rates will continue rising from record lows. Keep in mind that even as rates rise they are still at bargain lows. However, when one looks at rates for the first month of the year, they are trending moderately lower. There are many reasons one can give for these lower rates, starting with the weak December jobs report released in early January. Today we will not assess the factors causing rates to ease. Today we will make a few points about the significance of these lower rates.
For one, it is just a reminder that no one can predict the future. As a matter of fact, when everyone seems to predict the same thing, often the opposite happens. Secondly, one month of lower rates does not mean that rates will be lower all ye ar and the original prediction is moot. What we have here is an opportunity for those who were thinking about purchasing or refinancing their homes. Rates do not go up in a straight line. There are always dips and these dips provide opportunities. Again, we can’t predict if the trend will continue. Which leaves us to one last question — What would make rates start heading back up?
Well, a good starting point would be the January jobs report which will be released on Friday. If the report reinforces the news from December, rates could stabilize at this level or go lower. Or if the report is strong, they could turn around in a blink of an eye. Typically the markets start speculating before the numbers are released so this week we could see volatility.
Last week the Federal Reserve Board’s Open Market Committee met and its decision to progress with its tapering of asset purchases seemed to be consistent with further optimism regarding the economy. Does that give us a hint? Unlike all these economists, we are not going to predict the future.