Tumultuous times in housing

Interest rates are headed up, adding more pressure to a sector that is just starting to recover.

By Kim Peterson Apr 9, 2010 12:10PM
Save on home insurance © Creatas / AGE FotostockTwo key events took place this week in the housing sector. First, the 30-year fixed mortgage rate moved to 5.21% -- the highest level in eight months.

And that took its toll on homebuilder stocks, which had been on a roll in the last few months. The S&P 500 Homebuilder group broke below its 50-day moving average, the Bespoke Investment Group reported. You can see the ups and downs of the week on the SPDR S&P Homebuilders ETF (XHB).

The rising mortgage rates could crater the fragile recovery that we're just starting to see in the housing market.

It doesn't help that the Fed is putting less money into the market now, having ended a program that bought up about $1.25 trillion in securities backed by home mortgages, according to Bloomberg.

That all but guaranteed that mortgage rates were headed higher. And don't forget that the first time home buyer tax credit expires at the end of this month.

So the housing market -- and homebuyer stocks -- are going to get even more pressure. This threat has already been priced into the market, as has the possibility that 30-year mortgage rates might head higher, perhaps even to 6%.

Post continues after video:
Other real-estate sectors aren't out of the woods wither. Shopping malls are still trying to attract tenants, dropping lease rates 3% from a year ago to nearly $39 a square foot, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Vacancy rates are still increasing, hitting 8.9% in the largest U.S. cities. One researcher told the Journal that rent rates won't start growing until the middle of next year at the earliest.

But apartments, at least, seem to be faring better. Apartment rates went up in the first quarter -- the first increase in more than a year, the Journal reported. The apartment vacancy rate stayed at about 8% nationally.


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