Feature

Market for mortgages dries up

And more of the week's best financial insight

Here are three of the week's top pieces of financial insight, gathered from around the web:

Market for mortgages dries up

Fewer people applied for mortgages last week than at any point in the past 22 years, said Aarthi Swaminathan in MarketWatch. The Mortgage Bankers Association said its market composite index, "a measure of home loan application volume," fell 6.5 percent compared with a week earlier. The index is down 55 percent from a year ago; the refinance index is down 75 percent. The numbers suggest that "a slowdown in the housing market is in full effect." Mortgage rates have soared in recent months "thanks to the market pricing in a series of future interest-rate hikes by the Federal Reserve," while housing inventory remains "persistently low." That combination is keeping more potential homebuyers on the sidelines — or figuring out ways to pay cash. 

Appealing tax assessments

You can combat a property tax assessment that you think is too high, said Kate Dore at CNBC. "If the value of your home ballooned during the pandemic," you may not have seen that reflected in property taxes for 2021. But this year "homeowners may be seeing assessments from six to 12 months prior, which may be higher than their home's current value." While fewer than 5 percent of homeowners contest their property tax assessments, such appeals are often successful. Frequently, the local tax office will "base your assessment on similar homes that recently sold in your area, without visiting the property." An appeal might point out underlying defects, "like a leaky roof or basement that floods." You can also hire an appraiser to support your case, "which may pay off for higher-value homes."

Investors turn away from tech

"Some investors say the decade-long era of tech dominance in markets is coming to an end," said Gunjan Banerji in The Wall Street Journal. So far this year, the S&P 500's information-technology sector is down 20 percent, "its worst start to a year since 2002." Shares of the FAANG stocks — Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, and Google — have all declined by double digits. Some investors see a market echo of 2000, when tech stocks blew up after a period of "technological innovation combined with low interest rates." This time, the decline in tech is not quite as extreme, but the S&P 500 Value Index, which owns "stocks that are cheap on measures such as earnings," is outperforming the S&P 500 Growth Index by 17 percentage points, "its widest margin since 2000."

This article was first published in the latest issue of The Week magazine. If you want to read more like it, you can try six risk-free issues of the magazine here.

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