Archive for Mortgage

New Questions Emerge About the Strength of the Economy

The rise in stock prices since February has lifted valuations to their highest level since the financial crisis. It is now time for economic fundamentals to show that such optimism is justified. Such proof was expected to begin to emerge with last week’s second quarter GDP report. What we got instead was a surprisingly weak estimate that was less than half the pace expected. Thankfully, consumer spending held up well, since it received no help from the business sector, which continued to liquidate inventories and postpone capital investment. Government spending even declined.

Inventories are an important swing factor, and continued drawdowns can lay the foundation for renewed stockpiling ahead, but only if business has the confidence that demand will be firm. Consumer confidence has softened a touch recently, but has not cracked, and could get a boost from gasoline prices, which are the lowest since April according to AAA. But, rather than confirming a widely expected bounce from the anemic first quarter, the GDP report raised new questions about the strength of the economy.

Corporate Earnings Dependent on Economic Activity

The expectation that corporate earnings growth will turn positive in the second half rests mostly on forecasts of accelerating economic activity. The apparent absence of momentum at the start of the third quarter raises a new element of doubt about those conditions arising. Second quarter earnings season is rapidly fading into the past. Although, as is typical, it was slightly better than expected, it was nevertheless quite weak, representing the fifth consecutive quarterly decline according to Factset.

Once again the energy sector is responsible for much of the weakness with earnings expected to decline 85 percent according to Factset. But looking ahead, energy was expected to be a large contributor to the pivot to growth as the year-over-year decline in prices was removed from the calculation. Unfortunately, the price of oil is not cooperating. Since its recent peak of $52.31 a barrel in early June, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude is in a bear market, having closed last week at $41.60, with most of the decline coming in July at the start of the third quarter.

Earlier optimism regarding the long anticipated rebalancing of the market has been tempered by persistently high inventories and renewed worries about the pace of demand growth against a backdrop of lowered global growth forecasts. In the third quarter of last year WTI averaged $52.36 a barrel and $47.55 in the fourth quarter. What was thought to be fairly benign comparisons suddenly looks more challenging.

Global Central Banks are at a Crossroads

Monetary policy also appears to be at something of a crossroads globally. In the U.S., after the Fed only gently nudged markets a little closer to another rate hike last Wednesday. Friday’s GDP report quickly took the wind from the hawk’s sails. What had been slightly better than even odds of a rate hike next March were quickly pushed out to September. In Japan, the Bank of Japan offered far less additional stimulus than expected, no doubt chastened by the ineffectiveness of its earlier move to negative interest rates, in what may be a tacit acknowledgement of the limitations of monetary policy. In the UK, the Bank of England (BOE) is widely expected to lower interest rates in response to the Brexit vote.

…read more

Read more here: New Questions Emerge About the Strength of the Economy

3 steps to an excellent credit score

 

An excellent credit score can unlock low interest rates on mortgages, auto loans and credit cards. In many states, a good score is also the key to lower auto insurance premiums. Although there are hundreds of credit scores out there, FICO remains the industry standard and isn’t shy about telling people how to improve their scores. If you want to have an excellent score, you should follow these three steps.

Always Pay On Time

The single most important part of your credit score is making payments on time. Even a single missed payment that becomes thirty days late could take 90 points or more from your credit score. Banks use credit scores to predict whether or not you will make payments on time in the future. It should not be surprising that the most important part of a score is how often you have made payments on time in the past.

To make sure you never run the risk of missing a payment, sign up for automatic payments with your creditors. By automating your monthly payments, you can ensure that you avoid a big, unexpected hit to your score.

In addition, be particularly careful with your medical bills. If you don’t pay your doctor or hospital bill on time, it could quickly end up with a collection agency and on your credit report. Even a small medical bill can have a big negative impact on your score.

Keep Your Credit Card Balances Low

The second most important part of your credit score is the total amount of debt that you have. FICO tends to treat some debt as good debt, and other debt as bad debt. Mortgages, auto loans and student loans are considered good debt. Credit card debt is considered bad debt. In particular, you can lose a ton of points if you max out your credit cards.

FICO uses a measure called “utilization” to determine how risky you are. You calculate utilization by dividing your current statement balances on all of your credit cards by your credit limits. If you have $10,000 of credit limits and a $1,000 balance, your utilization would be 10%.

In general, people with the best credit scores have a utilization ratio of 10% of lower. To keep your utilization low, you should pay down credit card balances and avoid closing old credit card accounts. If you close an unused credit card, you will be reducing your credit limit and increasing your utilization.

Feed Your Score With “Good” Activity Every Month

Do you remember your days in elementary school, when you would get a “gold star” for a job well done? Your goal with your credit score is to accumulate as many “gold stars” as possible. And that means using a credit card each month responsibly. Ideally, you will use less than 10% of your available credit with transactions each month. You will then pay your statement balance on time and in full every month. By doing that, you are showing that you …read more

Read more here: 3 steps to an excellent credit score

Category: bonds, cloud, computers, data, dell, earnings, earnings season, healthcare, nasdaq, nyse, oil prices, stock market, stocks, utilities, wall street, csx, nj, jnj, tast, intc, jpm, fast, gs, bac, ge, lly, wfc, c, unh, emc, tri

5 ways to not blow your unused airline miles

The complex nature of airline loyalty programs has left many consumers who sign up for their co-branded credit cards wanting for more. Not only have airline miles becoming increasingly harder to use these last few years, but award availability can sometimes be scarce. To add insult to injury, new fees and fuel surcharges are heaped onto what used to be “free travel” all the time.

Still, the best airline credit cards continue to offer excellent value for those willing to jump through all of the additional hoops and hurdles. The key to getting the most out of them is understanding how to work the system, and of course, picking the right card to begin with.

If you’re tired of stressing over your unused airline miles, it might be time to try a different card – or simply find a better way to work with what you’ve got. Here are five tips to help you do just that:

Save your airline miles for off-peak travel.

If you feel like award redemptions are overpriced and scarce, take a look at off-peak pricing and you’ll likely change your mind. Where holiday breaks and summer often come with higher prices for flights – even when you’re paying with points – off-peak and off-season travel generally costs a lot less.

Take the American AAdantage program, for example. Where a round-trip MileSAAver flight to Europe from the contiguous United States costs 60,000 miles during summer, it costs just 45,000 miles during their off-peak season, which is October 15th – May 15th.

By saving your airline miles for off-peak travel, you can stretch them a whole lot further and perhaps enjoy better award availability, too.

Consider a flexible travel credit card.

If you’re tired of navigating a single airline loyalty program or want as many options as possible, a flexible travel card might provide the options you want. With a card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card, for example, you can earn points that are transferrable to several airlines including Southwest, United, and British Airways to name a few.

If you don’t wind up finding the availability you need or don’t feel like messing with airline programs at all, you can also use your points to book travel with any airline through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. Since the portal works a lot like Expedia.com, you just input your dates and choose the flight that works best for you with no regard for blackout dates or capacity controls.

Sign up for a card with no blackout dates or better availability from your home airport.

Speaking of blackout dates, some airline loyalty programs don’t have them. One that comes to mind specifically is the Southwest Rapid Rewards program.

If you have Southwest miles and find a seat on a plane, it’s yours. This is a huge perk if you need to book several seats on a single flight or don’t have a lot of flexibility in the time or date you fly.
Points earned from …read more

Read more here: 5 ways to not blow your unused airline miles

Category: bonds, cloud, computers, data, dell, earnings, earnings season, healthcare, nasdaq, nyse, oil prices, stock market, stocks, utilities, wall street, csx, nj, jnj, tast, intc, jpm, fast, gs, bac, ge, lly, wfc, c, unh, emc, tri

10 Work-From-Home Jobs That Pay 6 Figures

By Money Talks News...

You don’t have to sacrifice good pay to work from home.

FlexJobs, a subscription-based online service specializing in work-from-home and other flexible job postings, recently identified 10 positions that pay near or well over six figures.

“Sure, work-from-home jobs are available in lower pay grades, but it is clear that flexibility is not constrained by experience level or a high salary,” said Jessica Howington, Flexjobs content team lead.

The list comes as the number of people in work-from-home jobs continues to grow. About 3.7 million employees (2.8 percent of the workforce) work from home at least half the time, according to Global Workplace Analytics.

More than 8 in 10 people surveyed about telecommuting say working from home contributes to work-life balance. Some who seek telecommuting positions say they are more productive working from home rather than an office; others say dropping commute time adds to time spent exercising and other healthful habits.

The top-paying jobs and their job descriptions that FlexJobs found:

 

  • Supervisory attorney, $117,000 – $152,000: Oversees less-experienced attorneys, provides legal guidance and support, supervises other attorneys and their assigned cases and staff.
  • Senior software engineer, $100,000 – $200,000: Responsible for developing and running software programs, overseeing related projects, managing a team of software engineers, troubleshooting technical issues, and debugging software.
  • Senior medical writer, $110,000 – $115,000: Reviews medical information, writes documents, edits other medical writers’ submissions and works with senior management to keep projects on track at a variety of health care-related companies including medical publishers and pharmaceutical companies; usually needs a degree in a science or medical discipline.
  • Director of quality improvement, $100,000 – $175,000: As part of a company’s operations and technical teams,+ is responsible for working to design and develop best practices related to systems administration and data architecture.
  • Clinical regulatory affairs director, $150,000 – $151,000: Plans, prepares and submits products for market nationally and internationally, writes regulatory documents for clinical trial applications, and assists with marketing documents.
  • Research biologist, $93,000 – $157,000: Explores and studies biology in a lab or out in the field while researching interaction of organisms and environments; specialized fields include zoology, taxonomy, physiology, population biology and ecology.
  • Director of business development, $100,000 – $151,000: Helps drive sales and revenue, responsible for established clients and new business, oversees sales teams for larger companies.
  • Environmental engineer, up to $110,000: Performs as expert to reduce environmental waste and damage, including managing ways to protect the Earth and human populations from harmful chemicals and pollution, ensuring compliance with regulations and, in some cases, assisting in development of regulations.
  • Major gifts officer, up to $90,000: Cultivates and solicits current and prospective donors for large-sum donations by using sales skills, organizational skills and working independently; extensive travel may be required.
  • Audit manager, $90,000 – $110,000: Leads, plans and executes financial and operational audits for companies or clients, works with stakeholders to understand the outcomes and impacts of the audit, ensures future compliance, and evaluates internal systems, policies …read moreRead more here: 10 Work-From-Home Jobs That Pay 6 Figures

    Category: careers, economy, six figures, work from home

 

6 Painless Ways to Pay Off Your Mortgage Years Earlier

By Money Talks News...

Chances are your home mortgage is the largest debt you’ll ever have. How would you like to pay it off and run your mortgage contract through the shredder a lot faster than the 30 years for which most homeowners sign up?

Let’s consider some ways to painlessly pay off your home loan sooner. You can choose to do it a little faster or a lot. In some cases, you’ll scarcely notice the added expense.

1. Make biweekly mortgage payments

Since there are 12 months in a year, homeowners make 12 monthly mortgage payments. But if you make half-sized payments every two weeks (biweekly), you’ll make 26 half-payments, the equivalent of 13 full payments.

Essentially, it is like making 13 monthly payments every year rather than the usual 12.

To go this route, call your lender and ask the best way to do it. Some lenders will set you up with biweekly payments. Or you might simply prefer to send in the extra payments by mail or electronically. Whenever you make any extra payment, however, be sure to designate it “apply to principal.” Otherwise, the lender may treat the extra as a prepayment of your next regular monthly payment.

Use a calculator like this one from the Mortgage Professor to see your savings. For example, according to this calculator, if you have a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage at 3.8 percent, making biweekly payments would save $20,573 in interest over the life of the loan and pay off your mortgage four years earlier. That’s a big bang for not many extra bucks.

One thing to avoid: “mortgage acceleration” products and plans. Paying down your mortgage is an easy thing to do, and you shouldn’t have to pay anything to do it. No expertise or pipeline to a higher authority is required. When you see ads and pitches for mortgage “acceleration” plans, programs and products, run the other direction. (Learn more about these gimmicks here.)

2. Pour every bit of extra cash into your mortgage

Dedicate every windfall – a bonus, raise, or holiday or graduation gift – you receive toward paying down debt. Obviously, the highest-interest debt takes priority. But if you have an adequate emergency savings fund and your mortgage is your only debt, don’t even ask yourself what you’ll do with extra money when it falls into your hands: Add it to your mortgage payment, designating it as additional principal.

It’s possible you’ll find better uses for extra cash than paying down your mortgage. For example, if your mortgage rate is 3.8 percent, but you can earn 5 percent on your money elsewhere, you’re obviously going to be better off earning the 5 percent. Read Stacy’s discussion about the pros and cons of using extra cash to pay down your mortgage.

3. Round up your payments

The monthly payment on a $200,000 mortgage at 3.8 percent fixed over 30 years is about $932 a month. Get into the habit of rounding up that amount …read more

Read more here: 6 Painless Ways to Pay Off Your Mortgage Years Earlier

Category: economy, housing market

7 Spending Trends That Speak Volumes About U.S. Consumers

By Money Talks News
How we spend our hard-earned money can be quite revealing.

“To some extent, we are what we buy,” explains Money.

Some products experience surging sales after a strong marketing campaign, a dramatic shift in price or the endorsement of a popular celebrity – have you heard of the “Oprah Effect”? But often the rush to buy is the result of shifting U.S. demographics.

The seven hot-selling items in a list compiled by Money reflect the latter. Check out where U.S. consumer dollars are flowing and what that reveals about Americans today:

Legal weed: With more states legalizing marijuana for recreational or medicinal purposes, the cannabis industry has experienced explosive growth. Legal pot sales reached $5.4 billion in the United States in 2015, a 17.4 percent spike over 2014. Pot sales are expected to hit $6.7 billion this year – in turn generating healthy tax revenues in states that allow it.

Canadian goods: When the value of the U.S. dollar rises compared with the Canadian currency as it has recently (the current rate is US$1 = C$1.32) many Americans flock across the northern border to shop. Money said the number of U.S. visitors to Canada shot up by 1.6 million during the first 11 months of 2015, and that number is expected to keep climbing this year.

Guns: Anxiety caused by mass shootings and fears that they will lead to more restrictive gun laws have sparked record-breaking gun sales in the United States in recent years. Check out “Gun-Buying Rush Swamps FBI Background Checkers.”

Anything that can be bought on a phone (or tablet): Mobile shopping and spending soared 60 percent from 2014 to 2015. With retailers shifting more of their focus to mobile consumers, it’s likely that number will only continue to increase in 2016.

Streaming service subscription: Regardless of whether they stream video or music, streaming service subscriptions are on the rise. Netflix, Hulu, Spotify and Amazon Prime, just to name a few, are continually increasing their customer base.

Bowls: That’s right. “Bowls are the new plates,” the The Wall Street Journal recently announced, noting that moving from plates to bowls signals a shift to a more casual lifestyle. Money noted that many health-conscious trendsetters are trading in their plates for bowls while restaurants are also moving towards bowl-friendly entrees. Money said bowl sales from dish companies like Fiesta increased by 17 percent last year.

Adult diapers: With Americans living longer these days and many seniors struggling with incontinence problems, it’s really no surprise that adult diapers are flying off the shelves. Money said adult diaper sales are expected to grow by 48 percent globally by 2020. Compare that with baby diaper sales, which are expected to experience a much more modest growth of 2.6 percent in the next four years.

Permalink | Email this | Linking …read more

Read more here: 7 Spending Trends That Speak Volumes About U.S. Consumers

Category: bonds, cloud, computers, data, dell, earnings, earnings season, healthcare, nasdaq, nyse, oil prices, stock market, stocks, utilities, wall street, csx, nj, jnj, tast, intc, jpm, fast, gs, bac, ge, lly, wfc, c, unh, emc, tri

How Credit Inquiries Affect Your Credit Score

By Wise Bread

Have you noticed inquiries on your credit report? Not sure what they mean? Soft and hard inquiries are the result of potential creditors assessing your credit report after you’ve applied for things such as a credit card, mortgage, or car loan. Hard and soft inquiries each affect your credit differently. Read on to learn more:

What Are Soft Inquiries?

Soft inquiries typically occur when your credit report is pulled for a background check. This can occur when you are applying for a new job, getting pre-approved for lending offers, and even when you check your own credit score.

While they will usually show up on your credit report, this isn’t always the case. Plus, they won’t affect your credit score, so you don’t need to be concerned about them.

What Are Hard Inquiries?

Hard inquiries occur when a lender pulls your credit report to make a lending decision. This takes place most commonly when you apply for a loan, credit card, or mortgage. However, there are other reasons that your credit may reflect a hard inquiry, such as when you request a credit limit increase. They can, in some cases, lower your FICO score by one to five points and can remain on your credit report for up to two years. Typically, the more hard inquiries on your credit report, the likelier it is to affect your score.

Multiple hard inquiries in a short period of time can cause significant damage to your credit. When multiple hard inquiries come through at once, the credit bureaus assume you are desperate for credit or can’t qualify for the credit you need. Any future creditors may also take this information and assume that you are a high risk borrower, which will reduce your chances of getting the credit you need. In fact, according to myFICO, people with six hard inquiries or more on their credit are up to eight times as likely to file for bankruptcy, compared to people with no inquiries – meaning that more inquiries usually means greater risk.

Exceptions to the Rule

There are certain instances that are gray areas, which may result in a soft or hard inquiry depending on the situation (such as when you rent a car or sign up for new cable or Internet service). If you aren’t sure about whether your actions will result in a soft or hard inquiry, you can simply ask the financial institution you are requesting financing from.

Another exception is when you are rate shopping. Generally, your FICO score will only record one single inquiry within a 14-45 day period if you are shopping for the best mortgage, auto loan, or student loan rates. By doing all of your shopping for the same type of loan within a two-week span, you can reduce the effect on your credit.

Disputing an Unauthorized Inquiry

If a hard inquiry occurred without your permission, you may be able to dispute it. This can be done by calling or writing the creditor and asking them to remove the unauthorized hard inquiry from your credit …read more

Read more here: How Credit Inquiries Affect Your Credit Score

Category: credit score, economy, hard inquiry, soft inquiry

6 Painless Ways to Pay Off Your Mortgage Years Earlier

By Money Talks News

Chances are your home mortgage is the largest debt you’ll ever have. How would you like to pay it off and run your mortgage contract through the shredder a lot faster than the 30 years for which most homeowners sign up?

Let’s consider some ways to painlessly pay off your home loan sooner. You can choose to do it a little faster or a lot. In some cases, you’ll scarcely notice the added expense.

1. Make biweekly mortgage payments

Since there are 12 months in a year, homeowners make 12 monthly mortgage payments. But if you make half-sized payments every two weeks (biweekly), you’ll make 26 half-payments, the equivalent of 13 full payments.

Essentially, it is like making 13 monthly payments every year rather than the usual 12.

To go this route, call your lender and ask the best way to do it. Some lenders will set you up with biweekly payments. Or you might simply prefer to send in the extra payments by mail or electronically. Whenever you make any extra payment, however, be sure to designate it “apply to principal.” Otherwise, the lender may treat the extra as a prepayment of your next regular monthly payment.
Use a calculator like this one from the Mortgage Professor to see your savings. For example, according to this calculator, if you have a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage at 3.8 percent, making biweekly payments would save $20,573 in interest over the life of the loan and pay off your mortgage four years earlier. That’s a big bang for not many extra bucks.

One thing to avoid: “mortgage acceleration” products and plans. Paying down your mortgage is an easy thing to do, and you shouldn’t have to pay anything to do it. No expertise or pipeline to a higher authority is required. When you see ads and pitches for mortgage “acceleration” plans, programs and products, run the other direction. (Learn more about these gimmicks here.)

2. Pour every bit of extra cash into your mortgage

Dedicate every windfall – a bonus, raise, or holiday or graduation gift – you receive toward paying down debt. Obviously, the highest-interest debt takes priority. But if you have an adequate emergency savings fund and your mortgage is your only debt, don’t even ask yourself what you’ll do with extra money when it falls into your hands: Add it to your mortgage payment, designating it as additional principal.
It’s possible you’ll find better uses for extra cash than paying down your mortgage. For example, if your mortgage rate is 3.8 percent, but you can earn 5 percent on your money elsewhere, you’re obviously going to be better off earning the 5 percent. Read Stacy’s discussion about the pros and cons of using extra cash to pay down your mortgage.

3. Round up your payments

The monthly payment on a $200,000 mortgage at 3.8 percent fixed over 30 years is about $932 a month. Get into the habit of rounding up that …read more

Read more here: 6 Painless Ways to Pay Off Your Mortgage Years Earlier

Category: economy, money, mortgage, personal finance

7 Investment Accounts All 30-Somethings Should Have

By Tim Lemke …

You’re in your 30s now. If you’re finally looking to get settled in your financial life, you may want to consider ways to build wealth over the long term. But that checking account alone isn’t gonna cut it. It’s time to examine the options out there for someone in their 30s who finally has a little bit of money to invest.

Here are seven essential investment accounts all 30-somethings should have.

1. 401K, If Available to You

If you’re employed full-time, your company may offer a retirement plan that gives you access to a number of mutual funds and other investments, plus the great tax advantages that come with it. Under a 401K, 403B, or similar plan, contributions are deducted from your pre-tax income, and most employers will match a certain percentage of what you put in. Now that fewer employers are offering pensions, the 401K has become the primary vehicle for saving for retirement. Pumping cash into this account while you’re still relatively young gives your investments plenty of time to rise in value and give you a sizable nest egg. Even better, your investment is tax-deferred until you begin making withdrawals.

2. Traditional IRA

You don’t necessarily need a traditional Individual Retirement Account if you have a 401K with an employer match. But if you have 401K from an old employer, it might make sense to roll it into an IRA, because you have a much broader choice of investments to choose from – many with lower fees. With an IRA, you can invest in practically anything, including individual stocks, mutual funds, bonds, and even commodities. Traditional IRAs are also great for people who are self-employed or otherwise don’t have access to a 401K. Like a 401K, your contributions are deducted from your taxable income. You can open an IRA at most discount brokers such as Fidelity, TD Ameritrade, and E*TRADE.

3. Roth IRA

This account is a little bit like a 401K in reverse. The tax advantage is on the back end, when you can withdraw money upon retirement without paying tax on the earnings. That’s because contributions to a Roth IRA come from earnings after tax, unlike 401Ks, which draw on pre-tax income. Under a Roth IRA, you can contribute up to $5,500 annually, and you can withdraw contributions (but not your gains) before retirement age without paying a penalty.

4. Taxable Brokerage Account

While your main focus should be investing in tax-advantaged accounts that are designed for retirement, it’s good to have some investments available in this type of account due to the flexibility. You don’t need to wait until retirement age to access funds in this account, for one thing. That means you can use it to boost your income now, through the sale of stock or the gain of dividends. If you hold on to investments in a taxable account for a long time (generally over a year), you’ll pay only the long-term capital gains tax (mostly likely 15%) …read more

Read more here: 7 Investment Accounts All 30-Somethings Should Have

Category: 30s, 401ks, budgeting, economy, investments, IRAs, personal finance, savings

Mortgage Rates Higher After Jobs Report

Mortgage rates moved only moderately higher today after the Employment Situation report came out much stronger than expected. The all-important jobs data showed payroll growth of 242k in February compared to a median forecast of 190k. The unemployment rate held steady at 4.9 percent despite more people joining or re-entering the labor force. Economic data is one of the most important cues for the bond markets that underlie mortgage rates. Stronger data tends to put upward pressure on rates and today’s was no exception. That said, today’s movement wasn’t especially bigger than any other day spent moving higher over the past week. Indeed, rates were likely able to avoid a sharper move for precisely that reason: they’ve been consistently moving higher. The most prevalent conventional 30yr fixed …read more

Read more here: Mortgage Rates Higher After Jobs Report

Category: currency, dollar, economy, federal reserve, gas prices, inflation, interest rates, janet yellen, job market, jobs, monetary policy, oil prices

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