Morning Report: Small Business Confidence soars

Vital Statistics:

Last Change
S&P futures 2833 7.5
Eurostoxx index 385.12 0.21
Oil (WTI) 67.99 0.79
10 Year Government Bond Yield 2.88%
30 Year fixed rate mortgage 4.58%

Stocks are higher this morning after the Turkish Lira rallied 6%. Bonds and MBS are flat.

Import prices were flat in July but were up just under 5% on a YOY basis. This was pretty much all driven by oil prices which are inherently volatile and self-correcting.

Small business optimism is near record highs according to the NFIB. Availability of workers remains a big concern, and we are seeing record levels of compensation increases. Note that many of these comp increases are planned, so there will be a 9 month lag before it shows up in the government data. Credit availability is a non-problem. The biggest headache for small business is availability / quality of labor, not the cost of labor. I don’t know that we have cost-push labor inflation quite yet, but if that is the case, then it won’t be good for mortgage rates as it will primarily affect the long end of the curve.

NFIB

HUD is electing to discontinue the Obama Administration’s controversial interpretation of the AFFH rule from the 60s, which means it no longer will be suing towns to force them to change their zoning codes to allow multi-family housing. HUD will focus on eliminating regulatory impediments to building more housing, and will tie grants to measures which increase building. In other words, The Obama Admin used a stick approach, while the Trump Admin will use a carrot approach.

Home prices rose 0.7% MOM and 6.8% YOY in June according to CoreLogic. They are forecast to rise 5% over the next year. Sales in the red-hot markets are down double digits as affordability issues and lack of inventory crimp activity.

The Despot reported better than expected earnings as homeowners choose to fix up their existing place instead of trying to move in a tight real estate market. Better weather helped the company rebound from their sales miss in the first quarter.

Morning Report: Turkey situation deteriorates

Vital Statistics:

Last Change
S&P futures 2836 -0.55
Eurostoxx index 384.89 -0.96
Oil (WTI) 67.37 -0.26
10 Year Government Bond Yield 2.88%
30 Year fixed rate mortgage 4.58%

Stocks are lower as the Turkey situation snowballs to other emerging markets. Bonds and MBS are up on the flight to quality trade.

Financial markets are being driven by the situation in Turkey, with the Turkish Lira continuing to depreciate. This has spread to other emerging markets currencies like the South African Rand. The Chinese currency has hit the lowest level in a year, which is bound to increase trade tensions with the US. There is the potential for this to affect the balance sheets of some European banks, however the US will be pretty much insulated from it. The most likely effect is that it will cause a flight to quality to the US dollar which will keep a lid on interest rates.

10 year yield

The Turkish crisis hasn’t affected the Sep Fed Funds futures, which are handicapping a 94% of a hike, but they have tempered the probability of a follow-on hike in December. It isn’t a dramatic move, but we have slipped from 66% to 61%.

fed funds probability 2

We won’t have much in the way of market-moving data this week – retail sales on Wednesday will be the only one that matters. We will also get housing starts on Thursday. Other than that, it should be a dull week.

Ben Carson is changing the way HUD encourages multifamily real estate development. The Obama HUD used the stick approach – suing local governments to force them to change their zoning rules, based on demographic analysis. The Carson HUD will use the carrot approach – tying grants to changes in zoning restrictions.

Conventional financing accounted for 69% of all financing last year. Of the non-conventional types of financing, FHA loans led with 12%, followed by cash with 10% and VA with 4%.

Elon Musk clarified his tweet regarding taking Tesla private. He decided to use Twitter in order to notify the public of his intention to take the company private. Most companies file an 8-K with the SEC and do a press release, but Elon decided to use Twitter. Second, his “funding secured” comment was based on a conversation with the Saudi Sovereign Wealth Fund who asked if Tesla was interested in selling to the fund. Musk then looked at the assets of the fund, concluded they had the money, and then tweeted that funding was secured. One thing is for sure, if this deal ever happens, the background section of the proxy statement is going to make for some entertaining reading.

Morning Report: Home ages climb

Vital Statistics:

Last Change
S&P futures 2842 -11.5
Eurostoxx index 386.37 -3.68
Oil (WTI) 67.28 0.48
10 Year Government Bond Yield 2.90%
30 Year fixed rate mortgage 4.58%

Stocks are lower this morning on overseas weakness. Bonds and MBS are up on the risk-off trade.

Inflation at the consumer level remains under control, with the Consumer Price Index rising 0.2% MOM and 2.9% YOY. Stripping out food and energy, it rose 0.2% / 2.4%. A big driver of the increase was shelter, adding 0.3%. Food rose slightly while energy declined.

The EU and the US are scheduled to meet to discuss ways to bring down tariffs. The US would like to see more soybean and energy exports to the Continent, and is hoping to derail a potential pipeline of natural gas from Russia to Germany.

The Turkish Lira is in freefall, and there is discussion of how that will affect Euro banks, specifically BBVA, BNP Paribas, and Unicredito. Yields on the Turkish 10 year bond have hit 20%. This is causing a flight to quality which is benefiting US bonds. While Turkey is probably not big enough to cause any sort of contagion, it could cause the ECB to go a little slower on policy normalization. Note Trump is stirring the pot, threatening to double tariffs.

Fannie Mae has also announced forbearance policies for borrowers affected by the California wildfires. Borrowers can get up to 12 months forbearance without penalty if they live in FEMA-designated disaster areas.

The average age of a home is 37 years old, according to the American Communities Survey. This really speaks to how weak housing starts have been since the real estate bubble burst. Pre-bubble they averaged 1.5 million a year.

age of homes

Slower delivery times are beginning to affect manufacturers (and their earnings reports). Ultimately, bottlenecks are usually inflationary. This is also the downside of making supply chains elongated and lean – capacity is maxed so meeting incremental demand requires investment that many firms are reluctant to make. The good news is that demand is strong, but the downside is that this is yet one more inflationary issue. The odd thing is that capacity utilization is sitting at 78%, which is about the historical average.

capacity utilization

Despite strong labor data, more people are worried about their jobs

Vital Statistics:

Last Change
S&P futures 2859 3.5
Eurostoxx index 389.41 -0.28
Oil (WTI) 67.29 0.35
10 Year Government Bond Yield 2.94%
30 Year fixed rate mortgage 4.58%

Stocks are higher this morning on decent earnings. Bonds and MBS are up.

Very slow news day.

Initial Jobless Claims fell to 213,000 last week, an exceptionally low level. The 4 week average is sitting at 45 year lows.

Inflation at the wholesale level was surprisingly weak in the first of two inflation readings this week. The Producer Price Index was flat MOM and rose 3.3% YOY. Ex-food and energy, it rose 0.1% MOM / 2.7% YOY. Tariffs explain some of it, but freight and packaging costs pushing prices higher too.

Freddie Mac has extended mortgage forbearance measures due to the wildfires in California. Borrowers in FEMA-declared disaster areas may be allowed to suspend mortgage payments without penalty for up to a year. Fannie Mae is expected to do something similar.

Fannie Mae’s Home Purchase Sentiment Index fell in July for the second consecutive month as inventory and affordability issues weighed on homebuyer moods. The net number of respondents who think it is a good time to buy fell by 4 percentage points and the number who think it is a good time to sell fell by 6. Most respondents think mortgage rates and home prices will rise over the next year. One interesting data point: a big jump in the number of people who are worried about their job. The net number of people (% who are concerned less the % who are not concerned) fell by 11 percentage points. This certainly flies in the face of the data out there, and sentiment surveys are usually not very predictive, but it is a surprise.

HPSI job

Morning Report: Refinance index falls to an 18 year low

Vital Statistics:

Last Change
S&P futures 2857 -2.75
Eurostoxx index 389.8 -0.69
Oil (WTI) 68.41 -0.76
10 Year Government Bond Yield 2.99%
30 Year fixed rate mortgage 4.58%

Stocks are flattish this morning on no real news. Bonds and MBS are down.

Mortgage applications fell 3% last week as purchases fell 2% and refis fell 5%. Activity overall has fallen to a 19 month low. The refi index has is at an 18 year low.

MBA refi index

Mortgage credit availability increased in July, although it tightened for government loans. The MBA’s MCAI increased 1.7%, which is a post-crisis high, but nowhere near what it was during the bubble years.  “Credit availability continued to expand, driven by an increase in conventional credit supply. More than half of the programs added were for jumbo loans, pushing the jumbo index to its fourth straight increase, and to its highest level since we started collecting these data. There was also continued growth in the conforming non-jumbo space, which reached its highest level since October 2013,” said Joel Kan, MBA’s Associate Vice President of Economic and Industry Forecasting. Note that some observers think the MCAI understates how loose credit is, when you look at things like LTV and credit scores.

MCAI by sector

Separately, US banks eased lending standards for business loans. The report noted increased demand for business loans, and decreased demand for commercial real estate loans. As mortgage lending dries up, banks are competing more for small business loans, although increased liquidity in the secondary market for these loans also helped.

Elon Musk proposed the largest LolBO ever on Twitter yesterday, saying he was thinking of taking Tesla private at $420 a share. He claims he has funding secured, which is quite the statement. Even in this market, raising $71 billion isn’t the easiest thing in the world, especially for a negative cashflow company trading with an EV / EBITDA in the 150s.  Perhaps the price should have tipped people off that this was a joke, but apparently it isn’t.

The NAHB conducted a survey of potential homebuyers, and only 14% are planning to buy a home in the next year. That number was 24% in the fourth quarter of 2017. Of those planning to buy a home, 61% are first time buyers, of which 71% are Millennials. Most are noting that the number of homes for sale with the desired features and price point are smaller than they were 3 months ago.

Morning Report: Home Prices increase 6.8%

Vital Statistics:

Last Change
S&P futures 2856 6
Eurostoxx index 391.01 2.35
Oil (WTI) 69.62 0.61
10 Year Government Bond Yield 2.96%
30 Year fixed rate mortgage 4.58%

Stocks are higher this morning on no real news. Bonds and MBS are flat.

There were 6.7 million open jobs in June, according to BLS. The all-important quits rate was unchanged at 2.3%. The quits rate is a leading indicator for wage growth and is a stat the Fed follows closely. The quits rate was highest in the South and Midwest, and lowest in the Northeast. If you look at industry groups, one group stands out with a quits rate that is going nowhere. Financial Services.

quits by industry

Home Prices rose 0.7% MOM in June, according to CoreLogic. They are up 6.8% YOY and forecast to rise another 5% over the coming year. Rising mortgage rates and home prices are affecting sales in the high cost markets. They also surveyed renters and found that affordability is the biggest reason why they aren’t interested in buying a home. For older renters, affordability isn’t the biggest issue – probably convenience is – although a jump in bankruptcy filings in the senior citizen demo is on the rise. We are seeing large pockets of overvaluation on the coasts, but the interior of the country is undervalued.

Corelogic overvalued

Freddie Mac is trying a new program to enhance rental affordability: providing low-interest loans to developers who promise to cap rental inflation. This is certainly a less intrusive way to deal with the affordable housing problem. The West Coast is finding that affordable housing mandates are pushing developers to scrap projects entirely and local governments are being pushed to override zoning restrictions. Freddie’s program is a way to incentivize the private sector into doing something: “Maybe there’s a way we can help change incentives,” said David Brickman, an executive vice president at Freddie Mac and head of its multifamily division. “We can provide an economic basis for private, profit-oriented developers to pursue a strategy where they didn’t raise rents by quite as much. You’re taking some of the opportunity to hit a home run off the table but arguably making it more likely you can hit a single or a double.”

Washington is hoping to address the affordable housing crisis by allowing tax credits for low-income renters who spend more than 30% of their income on rent. Cory Booker’s plan also looks to ease some of the regulatory burden in building new housing as well as introduce a new savings plan for renters.

What is it with tech companies who have a competitive edge wanting to diversify into hyper-competitive low-margin businesses? The latest is Zillow, which has decided it is time to get into the mortgage business. Wall Street panned the move, sending the stock down 20%. Part of the decline was due to lousy earnings, but still….

Morning Report: Tough times in mortgage banking

Vital Statistics:

Last Change
S&P futures 2840 0.75
Eurostoxx index 388.33 -0.84
Oil (WTI) 69.29 0.8
10 Year Government Bond Yield 2.95%
30 Year fixed rate mortgage 4.58%

Stocks are flat this morning on no real news. Bonds and MBS are flat as well.

The week after the jobs report is invariably data-light and this week is no exception. We will get inflation data on Thursday and Friday and JOLTS data tomorrow and that is about it.

Everyone knows that 2018 has been an awful year for mortgage banking. How bad is it? Check out the graph below courtesy of Garrett Macauley:

mortgage banking profitability

The one thing that jumped out at me (aside from the -8 basis points this year) is how little the industry made during the bubble years. Is it as simple as saying the mortgage business lives and dies on the refinance business and even in great purchase markets (like 04-06) mortgage banking is a marginal activity at best?

If you are tired of hearing predictions of an inverted yield curve, check this out. Jamie Dimon thinks the 10 year bond yield should be 4% right now, and is saying that 5% is a possibility. “I think rates should be 4 percent today,” Dimon said from the gala, according to Bloomberg News. “You better be prepared to deal with rates 5 percent or higher – it’s a higher probability than most people think.” While it is impossible to rule that forecast out, take a look at the chart below: Interest rate cycles are long and during periods of low inflation they just don’t move around all that dramatically.  It took rates 20 years (1946 – 1966) to go from 2% to 5%. What was inflation in 1966? 5%. With the core CPI sitting at 2%, a 5 handle on inflation seems pretty unlikely. Not saying it is impossible – lots of differences between the mid 20th century and today – but….

100 years of interest rates

Chinese buying has been supporting prices in some big West Coast markets, and it is drying up. While trade war concerns are probably playing a role, we are seeing declines in other global real estate markets, like London and Vancouver. This is a signal that the issue is probably internal to China, which has a real estate bubble of its own. The government has issued regulations limiting the purchase of foreign property, and seems worried about the currency. If the Chinese real estate bubble bursts, expect to see more selling in West Coast markets because that will be the only way for Chinese investors to raise cash.

Morning Report: Decent jobs report

Vital Statistics:

Last Change
S&P futures 2829.25 1.5
Eurostoxx index 386.66 -3.19
Oil (WTI) 37.32 -0.34
10 Year Government Bond Yield 2.97%
30 Year fixed rate mortgage 4.57%

Stocks are higher this morning on fears of an escalation in the trade war. Bonds and MBS are up small as markets continue to digest moves from the Bank of England and the Fed.

The Fed maintained current policy and didn’t reveal anything new in the statement. Bonds yawned at the decision. Trade was not mentioned in the statement. The Fed Fund futures are now sitting at a 94% chance of a Sep hike and a 70% chance of a Sep and Dec hike.

The jobs report was decent – payrolls disappointed but the revisions in May and June more than made up for it. Jobs report data dump:

  • Payrolls up 157,000 (Street was looking for 190,000)
  • Prior two month revision + 57,000
  • Labor force participation rate 62.9%
  • Unemployment rate 3.9%
  • Average hourly earnings up .3% MOM / 2.7% YOY (in line with expectations)

The employment population ratio ticked up to 60.4%. While this number has been steadily rising, the labor force participation ratio remains stuck just below the 70% level.

labor force participation rate vs ep ratio

Initial Jobless Claims were flat last week at 218,000, while announced job cuts fell to 27,122.

Wells will pay a $2 billion penalty for misrepresentations on loans made during the bubble years. This is after they paid a $1 billion penalty for auto loan issues.

The Atlanta’s Fed’s GDP tracker is now looking for 5% growth in Q3. This model tends to give volatile results early in the quarter, but that is a pretty amazing number. Seems like every business in the US is firing on all cylinders except for mortgage banking.

The Trump Administration is looking into the idea of indexing capital gains to inflation. This idea has been around for decades, and it is based on the idea that asset prices will rise over time, some of which is due to simple inflation. If prices overall rise 5%, and your house value increases 5% as well, are you really better off? You probably aren’t, and yet you are paying taxes as if you are. It gets brutal in places like California, where if you move, the equity you built just gets rolled into buying an even more expensive home than the one you left. The tax bill makes that a difficult trade. The Admin is looking to see if they can make the change directly in the tax code, bypassing Congress. So far, it seems like the idea has little traction in Congress. Democrats will be uniformly opposed and Republicans don’t seem all that anxious to get whacked in the press for something that nobody seems to be asking for in the first place.

Speaking of politics, we are in opposite world, where the Koch brothers are cozying up with Democrats and Richard Trumka of the AFL-CIO is supporting Trump’s trade war. What does this mean? It means some investors are moving to cash ahead of midterm elections.

Morning Report: Strong ADP number

Vital Statistics:

Last Change
S&P futures 2818 1.75
Eurostoxx index 389.71 -1.9
Oil (WTI) 67.7 -1.06
10 Year Government Bond Yield 2.99%
30 Year fixed rate mortgage 4.62%

Stocks are higher this morning after good earnings from Apple. Bonds and MBS are down.

Japanese government bonds got shellacked overnight, with yields rising 8 basis points, which is causing reverberations throughout global bond markets. 8 basis points is a lot in one day regardless, but when rates were only 5 bps to begin with, it is quite the move.

Donald Trump threatened more tariffs with China. We seem to be going back and forth between detente and escalation.

The FOMC announcement is scheduled to be released at 2:00 pm EST. No changes in rates are expected, however the action will be in the statement and the interpretations for a December hike. While Trump’s criticism of the Fed’s rate hikes was unfortunate, things have been testier between the Central Bank and the Executive branch in the past. LBJ shoved William (take away the punch bowl just as the party is getting going) McChesney up against the wall in the Oval Office.

Mortgage Applications fell 2.6% last week as purchases fell 3% and refis fell 2%. We saw a 7 basis point increase in conforming rates to 4.84%. The government share of mortgages increased.

The private sector added 219,000 jobs in July, according to the latest ADP report. The Street is looking for 190,000 in Friday’s report, but as always, the bond market will be looking more at average hourly earnings than the headline payroll number. Construction added 17,000 jobs, while business services added 47,000 and healthcare added 49,000.

ADP jobs report

Manufacturing decelerated slightly in July, but continued to its torrid pace. As expected, much of the talk is about steel tariffs and when those costs will get passed on to consumers. Labor is becoming a bottleneck as well – it is causing capacity constraints.

Construction spending fell 1.1% in June (which missed estimates) and is up 6.5% on a YOY basis. Resi construction was down on a MOM basis, but increased 8.7% on an annual basis.

Morning Report: Personal incomes and spending rise

Vital Statistics:

Last Change
S&P futures 2811 7.75
Eurostoxx index 391.64 0.72
Oil (WTI) 69.72 -0.41
10 Year Government Bond Yield 2.95%
30 Year fixed rate mortgage 4.62%

Stocks are higher as earnings continue to come in. Bonds and MBS are up on news that the Bank of Japan will continue to hold down rates.

Personal spending and personal income rose 0.4% in June, according to BEA. Inflation remains under control with the PCE price index up 2.2% YOY and the core rate up 1.9%. The income and spending numbers were in line with expectations, and the inflation numbers were a touch below. Good news for the bond market as we start the FOMC meeting. Separately, another strong number out of the Chicago PMI.

personal income

The employment cost index rose 2.9% in the second quarter with wages and salaries increasing 2.9%. Benefit costs increased 2.9%.

Punch line: wages and salaries up 2.9%, inflation up 2.2% – we are seeing real wage growth despite all the stories in the press that wages are stagnant.

Home prices rose 6.4% in May according to the Case-Shiller home price index. San Francisco, Seattle and Las Vegas all reported double-digit gains. All MSAs are beginning to correlate a little tighter, with the spread between fastest and smallest falling to 10 percentage points, which is much smaller than the 25 ppts we saw during the bust years and the 20 ppt average since 2001. My guess is that this is a function of the improving job market in the Midwest and working through the last of the foreclosure inventory in the Northeast.

Mission creep out of the GSEs? Some Republican congressmen are calling foul as Fannie and Fred started a pilot program where they buy low downpayment loans and pair them with MI from Arch. Many in Congress would like to see Fannie and Freddie reduce their footprint in the mortgage market, not increase it. The FHFA has justified this move as necessary to perform their affordable housing mission. This will be a constant partisan battle, between Republicans who are alarmed by the fact that the US taxpayer bears the majority of the credit risk in the US mortgage markets and Democrats who are alarmed by the lack of affordable housing.

Young people are shunning construction jobs. The share of younger (under 24) workers in the construction industry has fallen 30% since the bubble days. The number of workers in the industry has fallen as well – from 11.7 million in 2006 to 10.2 million 10 years later. The typical construction job stays open for 39 days nationally, and many builders are hiring ex-cons to meet demand. The obvious answer would be for builders to raise pay to attract people, but what do you do if you are in the starter home business? Between higher wages and regulatory costs, your starter home might be unaffordable to people with the starter income. Note the industry has promised to train 50,000 workers over the next 5 years, but this is a drop in the bucket.