The physician - who lives in Upper Manhattan - had returned to NYC ten days ago after treating Ebola patients in West Africa. Late in the trading session today, stocks gave back some of their big gains on a report he had been hospitalized with Ebola-type symptoms.
City officials are at work tracing the doctor's contacts to determine who else may be at risk, and his girlfriend is being tested for the disease.
"Many builders indicated that they were having a more difficult time filling positions compared to one year earlier," says the Atlanta Fed in its Construction and Real Estate Survey. "A shortage of labor was noted across many trades, including masons, drywall hangers, framers, electricians, and plumbers."
The diffusion index on construction activity and the 90-day outlook fell to its lowest level since about the start of 2012 as a growing number of builders report activity as flat to slightly down.
As for buyer traffic, the report from brokers and builders was mixed, with those indicating a decline suggesting seasonal factors and a drop in buyer confidence as being the main factors behind the dip.
The average rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage fell to 3.92% in the past week, down from 3.97% in the prior week and hitting the lowest level since June 2013, according to the latest Freddie Mac survey.
"Fixed mortgage rates continued to fall this week after the yield on 10-year Treasuries dropped to their lowest point of the year," says chief Freddie economist Frank Nothaft; the rate has dropped 30 bps since mid-September.
The average rate for the 15-year fixed-rate mortgage fell to 3.08% from 3.18% a week earlier.
A year ago, the respective rates for the 30- and 15-year fixed mortgages were 4.13% and 3.24%.
"Everyone is always saying rates will rise; it is almost comical,” says Jeff Gundlach, speaking at ETF.com's Inside Fixed Income conference. It's a mistake looking at past economic recoveries as a template for this one, he says, because persistent deflation - owing to a number of factors - makes this cycle different.
While the Fed realizes QE doesn't do a lot of good and is ending it, he adds, the central bank has no reason to hike rates anytime soon.
Gundlach never sticks with just fixed income, and this time he turns to oil, which he believes is headed far lower. "I'm convinced Saudi Arabia wants oil at $70. They love turning the screws on people who mean them harm in the Middle East." Seventy dollar oil, however, will also hurt the booming energy sector here in the States as fracking is hardly worth it at that price.
While the MBA mortgage application index jumped 11.6% in the week ended October 17, it was a 23.3% surge in refinances leading the way. Purchase applications actually fell 4.6%, are now 9% lower than year-ago levels, and last week made up just 35% of total applications - this despite significantly lower mortgage rates.
What it suggests is - for now - lower rates aren't luring homebuyers.
The MBA index rose 11.6% for the week ended October 17, the largest gain since January as mortgage rates continued to decline - the average 30-year fixed mortgage coming in at 4.1%, the lowest since May 2013.
Should the trend continue, the now-lean mortgage operations at places like Wells Fargo (WFC +0.2%), JPMorgan (JPM +0.2%), and Bank of America (BAC +0.2%), among others, should provide a nice boost to Q4 results.
A little discussed reason the stock market may have hit bottom and started to recover: The realization that the lowest oil prices in four years will provide a stimulus of more than $1T to global economies, according to Citigroup.
“A reduction in oil prices also results in a reduction in prices across commodities, starting with natural gas, but also including copper, steel and agriculture,” says Ed Morse, the bank's head of global commodities research.
Alas, some big banks say the collapse in oil is nearly over, but much will depend on whether OPEC supports the price by cutting production, as is the norm, or protects its market share by keeping production steady.
One of the key issues serving as a road block to mortgage lending is banker fear over having any loans put back to them by the GSEs at any time - even years down the road - for any number of reasons.
This concern was voiced most pointedly in the late summer by Wells Fargo (WFC +1.2%) CEO John Stumpf in the kind of call-out of regulators you don't often hear from corporate leaders.
The WSJ is now reporting that Fannie (OTCQB:FNMA +5.9%), Freddie (OTCQB:FMCC +7.3%), their regulators, and banks are near a deal in which the lenders could feel protected enough to begin granting mortgages to those without perfect credit and employment histories.
September housing starts at a seasonally-adjusted rate of 1.017M were 6.3% higher than August and 17.8% higher than a year ago, with single-family starts up just 1.1% from August and volatile multi-family starts up a big 18.5%.
Building permits rose 1.5%, with single-family permits down 0.5% and multi-family up 7%.