Weekly Round-Up: October 26

Key stories from the week that was.

Stock markets rallied this week, while mortgage rates continued to fall. The S&P 500 index set a record high on hopes the Federal Reserve will maintain stimulus well into 2014.

Mortgage rates fell to their lowest level since June 20, which should bode well for the housing recovery. The 30-year fixed rate mortgage from Freddie Mac fell to 4.13 percent, down from last week’s 4.28 percent.

• As mortgage rates fell, stock markets in the U.S. and around the world continued to trend higher. The S&P 500 rose to 1,759 on Friday, a fresh all-time high.

• Regulators overseeing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac said they will allow the government-sponsored mortgage entities to continue to buy large home loans. The announcement signaled a reversal from previous statements made by the administration. Observers say the White House is nervous about removing government support from the high-end segment of the housing market too soon.

• Washington’s jitters over the housing market were probably incited at least in part by the latest mortgage application data. Despite falling interest rates, mortgage applications continue to trend lower, dipping 0.6 percent last week and plunging nearly 10 percent month-over-month.

• The September jobs report was released on Tuesday, after being delayed by the government shutdown. The U.S. added 148,000 jobs last month, a weaker number than expected. Markets cheered the news because it decreases the likelihood of any reduction in Federal Reserve stimulus this year.

• Meanwhile, in the world of insurance, controversy over the botched Obamacare rollout raged on throughout the week. Leaders from the IT firms responsible for the glitchy websites were hauled before lawmakers on Capitol Hill to give sworn testimony about the fiasco. President Obama expressed his frustration to reporters, saying, “nobody’s madder than me.”

• A report from MasterCard Advisors says the U.S. is on the way to becoming a “cashless” society. Based on an exhaustive study of more than 63 trillion dollars in spending transactions, the report found that four out of every five dollars are now spent electronically in the U.S., a significant increase from just a few years ago. Countries who use cash the least were Belgium, France and Canada.