U.S. mortgage rates jumped this week to the highest level in seven years, a trend that is pulling down home sales and slowing home price growth.
Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday that the average rate on a 30-year, fixed rate mortgage rose to 4.94 percent, from 4.83 percent last week. A year ago the rate was 3.9 percent.
The average rate on a 15-year, fixed rate loan increased to 4.33 percent, from 4.23 percent last week.
Higher rates have kept many would-be purchasers on the sidelines. Sales of existing homes have fallen for six straight months, and sales of newly-built homes have declined for four months.
Freddie Mac says home price increases are slowing as a result, particularly in higher-priced coastal cities.
Mortgage rates have risen along with the yield on the 10-year note, which has jumped in the past year on expectations of additional short-term rate increases by the Federal Reserve, faster economic growth and potentially higher inflation.
The yield on the 10-year reached 3.23 percent Thursday, up nearly a full percentage point from 2.33 percent a year ago.
To calculate average mortgage rates, Freddie Mac surveys lenders across the country between Monday and Wednesday each week.
The average doesn’t include extra fees, known as points, which most borrowers must pay to get the lowest rates.
The average fee on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages was unchanged from last week at 0.5 point. The fee on 15-year mortgages ticked up by one-tenth to 0.5 point.
The average rate for five-year adjustable-rate mortgages rose to 4.14 percent from 4.04 percent last week. The fee remained at 0.3 point
Health Insurers Riding Postelection Wave
Health insurers are extending their postelection streak before the opening bell thanks to several ballot initiatives and the increased chance that a divided Congress that may not repeal the Affordable Care Act.
Shares of Centene Corp., WellCare Health Plans Inc. and Humana Inc., up between 7 percent and 9 percent this week, all edged higher in premarket trading, defying the broader markets which are retreating Thursday. The hospital chain HCA Healthcare Inc., up 5 percent for the week, is rising again.
Industry analysts believe congressional gridlock reduces the risk of major changes for the companies to deal with.
Voters in Idaho, Nebraska and Utah passed ballot measures to expand the federally and state funded Medicaid program. Centene and WellCare both devote large parts of their business to running Medicaid coverage.
Pressures Rise for Homebuilders As Rates Hit 7-Year High
Homebuilders took a beating Thursday as rising interest rates and home prices discourage potential buyers.
Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday that the average rates on 30-year, fixed rate mortgages hit 4.94 percent, a 7-year high. The average rate a year ago was 3.9 percent.
Also Thursday, builder D.R. Horton said home deliveries in the first quarter will come in below what Wall Street was expecting. It cited home prices and mortgage rates.
The Texas homebuilder led all other major players downward, falling more than 5 percent in midday trading. Others fell around 2 percent to 4 percent.
Although U.S. home price gains slowed for the fifth straight month in August, they’ve been running ahead of wage gains for five years. Combined with the rapidly rising cost of borrowing money, many would-be buyers are being pushed out of the market.
The Commerce Department reported last month that sales of new U.S. homes plunged 5.5 percent in September, the fourth consecutive monthly drop. The annual rate of home sales has declined 15.3 percent since May.
Builders had assumed that a strong economy would help fuel home sales, but newly constructed homes are increasingly a tough sell. There is 7.1 months’ supply of new homes on the market, the highest level since March 2011.
Sales of existing homes haven’t fared any better, falling for six straight months.
The Federal Reserve has been raising short-term rates to cool U.S. economic expansion, and is expected to raise rates for a fourth time this year in December. Economists expect at least two further hikes next year.
Report: Google Planning Big New York City Expansion
The Wall Street Journal reports that Google is planning a major expansion in New York City.
The newspaper reported Wednesday that the company plans to add space for more than 12,000 additional New York workers. The Journal cited anonymous people familiar with the plans.
The paper said Google has New York real estate deals in the works that would give it room for nearly 20,000 workers. Those include buying or leasing a 1.3 million-square-foot building in the city’s West Village neighborhood due to be completed by 2022.
The company didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Seattle-based Amazon is reportedly considering dividing a new second headquarters between New York’s Long Island City and Crystal City in northern Virginia. That would potentially add 25,000 jobs to each place.
Monster Shares Fall as Coke Develops Its Own Energy Drinks
Shares of energy drink maker Monster Beverage Corp. tumbled after the company said its partner Coca-Cola Co. is developing energy drinks of its own.
Coke bought a stake in California-based Monster in 2014. At that time, Coke transferred its energy brands to Monster and agreed not to develop competing drinks.
But in a conference call with investors late Wednesday, Monster CEO Rodney Sacks said Coke is developing two energy drinks it believes are exceptions to the agreement.
Coke says Coca-Cola Energy and Coca-Cola Energy No Sugar wouldn’t violate the agreement, which allows Coke to market energy drinks under its own name. But Monster is fighting their release.
Both companies confirmed they have entered into arbitration.
Monster shares were down 8 percent to $51.20 in morning trading.
Nissan Sees Profit Dip as Sales Fall, Offsetting Cost Cuts
Japanese automaker Nissan is reporting an 8 percent fall in profit for the latest quarter as declining sales offset the benefits of cost cuts.
Nissan Motor Co. reported a July-September profit of 130.4 billion yen ($1.1 billion) Thursday, down from 141.6 billion yen the same period a year earlier.
Quarterly sales dipped nearly 3 percent to 2.82 trillion yen ($24.8 billion).
Nissan, which makes the March subcompact, Leaf electric car and Infiniti luxury models, stuck to its forecast for the fiscal year through March for a 500 billion yen ($4.4 billion) profit on 12 trillion yen ($106 billion) sales.
Chief Financial Officer Hiroshi Karube said Nissan’s quarterly vehicle sales fell in North America and Europe but rose in China, while they held relatively steady in Japan, compared to last year.
Poland Signs Deal for Long-Term Deliveries of US Gas
Poland’s main gas company has signed a long-term contract to receive deliveries of liquefied natural gas from the United States as part of a larger effort to reduce its energy dependence on Russia.
The state company PGNiG signed the 24-year deal with American supplier Cheniere Thursday in Warsaw, in the presence of U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry and Polish President Andrzej Duda.
The value of the deal was not released, in line with secrecy of such sensitive energy deals.
However, Piotr Wozniak, the president of PGNiG’s management board, said the price is 20-30 percent lower than what Poland pays its current supplier “in the East,” a reference to Russia.
Polish ruling party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski said he was “happy that the deal will increase Poland’s energy security.”
Siemens Profit Falls on Severance, Tax Costs; Dividend Up
Industrial equipment and technology company Siemens AG says net profit fell 46 percent in the most recent quarter as the company had expenses for severance and higher tax costs.
Net profit fell to 681 million euros ($777 million) from 1.25 billion in the year-earlier quarter. Revenue rose 2 percent to 22.6 billion euros.
The Munich-based company said Thursday it met its financial targets for the year at the end of the quarter, the company’s fiscal fourth. It proposed to raise its dividend by 10 cents to 3.80 per share and announced a new 3.0 billion-euro share buyback program to run through 2021.
The company saw 301 million euros in severance costs at its power and gas unit and higher tax costs at its train-building unit.
Woman Who Spent $21M at Harrods Bailed, Fights Extradition
A woman from Azerbaijan whose fortune has been targeted by British authorities under anti-corruption laws was freed on bail Thursday while she battles extradition to her homeland over embezzlement allegations.
Zamira Hajiyeva is the first person to be subject to an Unexplained Wealth Order, a measure introduced this year in a bid to curb London’s status as a haven for ill-gotten gains. The orders allow authorities to seize assets from people suspected of corruption or links to organized crime until the owners account for how they were acquired.
Hajiyeva’s husband, former International Bank of Azerbaijan Chairman Jahangir Hajiyev, was sentenced to 15 years in jail in his home country in 2016 for fraud and embezzlement.
British authorities want to know where Hajiyeva got the funds to spend 16 million pounds ($21 million) on jewelry, wine and other goods at luxury London department store Harrods and to buy properties worth 22 million pounds ($29 million).
Hajiyeva, 55, was arrested last week by British police at Azeri request over alleged embezzlement.
A High Court judge ruled Thursday that there were no “substantial grounds” to refuse her bail.
CommScope, Getting Ready for 5G, Spends $5.7B for Arris
Telecommunications equipment maker CommScope is paying $5.7 billion for Arris International as it prepares for the entrance of faster 5G service to the wireless market.
Arris makes modems and boxes for the wireless industry, including cable operators. Equipment makers and telecommunications companies like Verizon are all gearing up for 5G, which is expected to allow for higher and faster data rates and better connections between multiple devices.
Under the deal announced Thursday, CommScope Holding Co. will pay $31.75 per share for Arris International Plc. and assume the company’s debt, bringing the total buyout price to about $7.4 billion. Also, asset manager The Carlyle Group is helping to finance the deal with a $1 billion investment in CommScope.
Gannett Co.: 3Q Earnings Snapshot
Gannett Co. (GCI) on Thursday reported third-quarter net income of $13.4 million.
The McLean, Virginia-based company said it had profit of 11 cents per share. Earnings, adjusted for non-recurring costs, were 20 cents per share.
The newspaper publisher posted revenue of $711.7 million in the period, falling short of Street forecasts. Three analysts surveyed by Zacks expected $724.4 million.
Gannett Co. expects full-year revenue in the range of $2.9 billion to $2.94 billion.
Gannett Co. shares have decreased 11 percent since the beginning of the year, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 index has climbed 5 percent.
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