Morning Report: Home demand is back

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 2823 -23.1
Oil (WTI) 28.79 1.29
10 year government bond yield 0.60%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.36%

 

Stocks are lower this morning after a lousy retail sales number. Bonds and MBS are up.

 

Retail sales fell 16.4% MOM and 21.6% YOY, according to Census. Obviously these are unprecedented numbers, never seen before. Apparel, home furnishings, and electronics were down the most.

 

Joe Biden would support rent forgiveness if elected.  In other words, if you missed rent payments due to COVID, you’ll never have to pay them back. This is just election pandering – the chance of this getting through Congress is pretty much zero. I guess it is a way to encourage the Bernie Sanders supporters to come out and vote for him on election day.

 

Meanwhile, the FHFA is extending its foreclosures and eviction moratorium until June 30.

 

Interesting data point: Home buyer demand is higher than it was pre-COVID 19. Meanwhile supply is down 25%.  Big open floor plans are out, home offices are in. “Pre-COVID people wanted a beautiful open floor plan. After a few months in quarantine, buyers want quiet spaces where they can actually get away from everyone else and dedicated space for school and work.”

homebuyer demand

 

JP Morgan and American Homes 4 Rent are joining together to build suburban homes. FWIW, COVID-19 might be what makes the white picket fence cool again.

Morning Report: New servicing guidance out of FHFA

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 2783 -23.1
Oil (WTI) 26.09 0.29
10 year government bond yield 0.63%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.36%

 

Stocks are lower this morning on no real news. Bonds and MBS are up.

 

Initial Jobless Claims came in at 3 million last week. This puts the number of jobs lost to COVID at 36.4 million, or about 430 jobs per death.

 

The FHFA made an announcement yesterday which permits servicers to allow borrowers who enter forbearance to wait to pay back the skipped payments until they either refinance the loan or at maturity.

“For homeowners in forbearance due to COVID-19, payment deferral allows them to make up missed forbearance payments when they sell their home or refinance,” said FHFA Director Mark Calabria. “This new forbearance repayment solution responsibly simplifies options for homeowners while providing an additional tool for mortgage servicers. Borrowers who can pay their mortgage should, because missed payments remain an obligation that will ultimately have to be repaid.”

Servicers are required to evaluate borrowers for one of several repayment options, generally referred to as a “hierarchy” of repayment and loan modification options. The big question is whether the borrower can demand the servicer provide the option they want. Who has the final say on the repayment plan? The borrower or the servicer?  Plus, since Fannie will reimburse the 4 months of advances immediately, does the servicer have any financial incentive to choose one plan or the other?

One of the biggest deterrents to taking forbearance was that you would be unable to refinance your mortgage until the missed payments are made up. But, since this contemplates paying it off on a refi, then I guess that isn’t the case? I am sure FHFA and the GSEs will provide more guidance.

Remember the huge Fannie and Freddie LLPAs for loans that go into forbearance before they are sold to Fannie Mae? Correspondent lenders are removing them. I haven’t seen anything official, but it looks like the government might have backtracked on that one.

 

While Jerome Powell was greasing the skids for a prolonged recession, that might not be what happens. Don’t forget, there was nothing wrong with the economy to begin with. No bubbles, no buildup of inventory and bad debt, no mal-investments to work off. The economy was put into a medically-induced coma. The real work of recessions – working off excess inventory, disposing of bad assets, trimming bloated payrolls, isn’t applicable here.

The stimulus dollars (along with people being free to not pay their mortgage for a year) will provide an immense jolt to the economy. Think of what you would do if you all of a sudden could just, stop, paying your mortgage for a year. And you didn’t have to pay it off until you refinance or move? That is a lot of additional disposable income.

 

Even with COVID-19, some of the hottest markets are still going strong. The Denver area is still going strong. FWIW, I was listening to the Equity Residential earnings call the other day, and the company noted that traffic and applications started off down 50% on a YOY basis in March when the government initiated the stay at home orders. Things have improved so much that traffic and applications are now flat YOY. Delinquencies? About 5%. While Equity Residential is mainly affluent renters, this is a pretty interesting data point. Note however that the Multifamily Housing Council reported that 20% of renters have failed to make their May payment as of May 6, so it isn’t all great. But so far so good.

Morning Report: Purchase Applications increase in New York

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 2853 3.1
Oil (WTI) 25.59 0.29
10 year government bond yield 0.67%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.36%

 

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

 

Mortgage Applications rose 0.3% last week as purchases rose 11% and refis fell 3%. “There continues to be a stark recovery in purchase applications, as most large states saw increases in activity last week. In the ten largest states in MBA’s survey, New York – after a 9 percent gain two weeks ago – led the increases with a 14 percent jump. Illinois, Florida, Georgia, California and North Carolina also had double-digit increases last week,” said Joel Kan, MBA’s Associate Vice President of Economic and Industry Forecasting. “We expect this positive purchase trend to continue – at varying rates across the country – as states gradually loosen social distancing measures, and some of the pent-up demand for housing returns in what is typically the final weeks of the spring home buying season.” Interesting comments about New York. It looks like people are fleeing NYC after the COVID-19 issue, and why not? NYC is expensive as heck, and the main thing to recommend it is the easy commute if you work there and all the great bars and restaurants. With work at home now becoming mainstream, is it worth the expense and the risk?

 

Delinquencies ticked up in the first quarter after hitting a record low in the fourth, according to the MBA. “The mortgage delinquency rate in the fourth quarter of 2019 was at its lowest rate since MBA’s survey began in 1979. Fast-forward to the end of March, and it is clear the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting homeowners. Mortgage delinquencies jumped by 59 basis points – which is reminiscent of the hurricane-related, 64-basis-point increase seen in the third quarter of 2017,” said Marina Walsh, MBA’s Vice President of Industry Analysis. “The major variances from the fourth quarter of 2019 to this year’s first quarter are tied to the increase in early-stage delinquencies for all loan types. For example, the 30-day FHA delinquency rate rose by 113 basis points, the second-highest quarterly ramp-up in the survey series. The 30-day VA delinquency rate rose by 78 basis points – the highest quarterly increase.”

 

Wholesale prices fell in April, according to the PPI. The headline number was down 1.3% MOM and 1.2% YOY. Even ex-food and energy, trade services, etc, it was down on a YOY basis.

 

Jerome Powell warned of a prolonged recession after the Coronavirus issue get sorted out. He points out that this recession was not caused by a burst bubble or an inflationary spate which caused a tightening. “This downturn is different from those that came before it. Earlier in the post–World War II period, recessions were sometimes linked to a cycle of high inflation followed by Fed tightening. The lower inflation levels of recent decades have brought a series of long expansions, often accompanied by the buildup of imbalances over time— asset prices that reached unsupportable levels, for instance, or important sectors of the economy, such as housing, that boomed unsustainably. The current downturn is unique in that it is attributable to the virus and the steps taken to limit its fallout. This time, high inflation was not a problem. There was no economy-threatening bubble to pop and no unsustainable boom to bust. The virus is the cause, not the usual suspects—something worth keeping in mind as we respond.”  For this reason, I think the economic damage won’t be as bad as the media is hoping. I also think a prolonged period of social distancing is not in the cards either, people aren’t going to put up with that, not even in deep blue states like NY and CA.

Morning Report: Inflation falls

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 2928 3.1
Oil (WTI) 25.59 0.29
10 year government bond yield 0.71%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.36%

 

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

 

Inflation at the consumer level fell in April, which was the biggest drop since 2008. The headline index fell 0.8% MOM and rose 0.3% YOY. This was primarily due to energy and airline flights. Ex-food and energy it fell 0.4% MOM and rose 1.4% YOY. Energy was the dominant trend, however food prices increased due to supply chain issues.

 

food prices

 

Small business optimism fell in April according to the NFIB. “The impact from this pandemic, including government stay-at-home orders and mandated non-essential business closures has had a devasting impact on the small business economy,” said NFIB Chief Economist William Dunkelberg. “Owners are starting to benefit from the PPP and EIDL small business loan programs as they try to reopen and keep employees on staff. Small business owners need more flexibility, though, in using the PPP loan to support business operations and liability protection so that all these efforts to support small businesses are not ultimately lost in costly litigation.”

 

Homebuilders are beginning to offer incentives to entice buyers. FWIW, D.R. Horton noted in its first quarter earnings that it hasn’t had to resort to price cutting. For the most part, the builders went into the crisis without a ton of inventory, so we shouldn’t see big price drops.

Morning Report: What will be the shape of the recovery?

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 2900 -23.1
Oil (WTI) 24.79 0.29
10 year government bond yield 0.67%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.36%

 

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

 

About 80% of renters made a full or partial May payment as of May 6, according to the National Multifamily Housing Council’s Rent Tracker.  “Despite the fact that over twenty million people lost their jobs in April, for the second month in a row, we are seeing evidence that apartment renters who can pay rent are stepping up and doing so,” said Doug Bibby, NMHC President. “We expect May to largely mirror April, when the payment rate increased throughout the month as financial assistance worked its way to people’s bank accounts.” Meanwhile, New York extended its eviction moratorium until August. Note that rent strikes are a thing now.

 

Matt Taibbi discusses the mortgage servicers. The balloon payment issue is a hot button one for the left, and they are sounding the alarm. Basically Taibbi interviewed all the usual consumer advocate types on the left – guys like Richard Cordray, analysts at liberal think tanks and advocacy groups, and take the servicers to task for not having 4 months of advances laying around.

Should the Fed open its war chest and create a “liquidity facility” to help mortgage servicers? It seemed like the obvious move — this really was a problem caused by a bailout that encouraged even people who didn’t need forbearance to accept it — but how could this be done in a way that didn’t put homeowners at more risk?

“This is the script of a heist flick, where homeowners get screwed in the end while servicers get the money,” says Carter Dougherty of Americans for Financial Reform. “If you combine money for servicers with strong consumer protections and a vigorous regulator, then the film could have a happy ending. But I’m not holding my breath.”

That said, this unfortunately IS what the industry is up against, and a good indicator of how the regulators (at least on the left) view the industry. It is why getting some sort of liquidity facility for the servicers might be harder than it looks. Which is pretty sad when the Fed is considering buying corporate junk bonds to stabilize the economy.

 

More economic forecasters are predicting a “swoosh” style recovery. “This is not going to be a quick recovery,” said Mark Schneider, chief executive officer of Nestlé SA, the world’s biggest packaged foods maker, recently. “This is going to be a several-quarter, if not several-year kind of process.”

recoveries

For what its worth, I am somewhat skeptical of the long, drawn out recovery argument. Most recessions in the past started for a reason – a long expansion encouraged a buildup of inventory, or asset bubbles. Once the economy slows down the problems that have been building become apparent. That isn’t what happened this time around. We didn’t have a slowdown driven by organic issues in the economy. We had a government-engineered crash. Sure, there were pockets of the economy like retail which were weak to begin with, but for the most part the economy was super healthy going into the COVID Crisis. I think comparing this to the Great Depression or the Great Recession has to be done carefully. Both were driven by rotten timbers in the economy that finally collapsed. That wasn’t the case this time around, and I think that argues for a V-shaped recovery.

Morning Report: Jobs day

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 2900 23.1
Oil (WTI) 24.27 0.29
10 year government bond yield 0.66%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.36%

 

Stocks are higher this morning after the jobs report. Bonds and MBS are up.

 

Jobs report data dump:

  • Nonfarm payrolls down 20.5 million
  • Unemployment rate 14.7%
  • Labor force participation rate 60.2%
  • Average hourly earnings up 4.7% MOM / 7.4% YOY

The report was not as bad as feared. One stat jumped out at me, which is how the COVID Crisis has disproportionately affected lower wage earners. Average hourly earnings increased almost 5%, simply due to hourly workers getting laid off, which means the higher wage people who are able to work from home pull the average up. Average hourly earnings increased to $30.01 an hour in April from $28.67 an hour in March.

 

That stat may also explain why the stock market doesn’t seem to care all that much about COVID any more. The people who are most affected are the least likely to hold stocks and vice versa. I am hoping however that the stock market, being a forward-looking indicator, is looking over the valley and signalling that this whole thing is on the downside. If so, then we could see a V-shaped recovery as well. FWIW, I don’t think American have the appetite to shelter in place past Memorial Day, regardless of what the health professionals say.

 

Fannie Mae’s Home Purchase Sentiment Index plunged in April, which isn’t surprising given the jobs report. “The HPSI experienced another unprecedented decline in April, falling to its lowest level since November 2011,” said Doug Duncan, Senior Vice President and Chief Economist. “The 17.8-point decrease reflected consumers’ deepening concerns about both their incomes and the housing market. Attitudes about whether it’s a good time to sell a home fell most sharply, dropping an additional 23 points this month. Individuals’ heightened uncertainty about job security, as registered in the survey over the last two months, is likely weighing on prospective homebuyers, who may be more wary of the substantial, long-term financial commitment of a mortgage. On average, consumers expect home prices to fall 2 percent over the next 12 months, the lowest expected growth rate in survey history. While consumers did grow more pessimistic in April about whether it’s a good time to buy a home, low mortgage rates remain a driver of purchase optimism. We expect that the much steeper decline in selling sentiment relative to buying sentiment will soften downward pressure on home prices.”

 

Speaking of homebuying, Redfin is resuming iBuying, and Zillow Offers isn’t far behind.

Morning Report: Mortgage Credit Tightens

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 2876 43.1
Oil (WTI) 26.27 2.29
10 year government bond yield 0.69%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.36%

 

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

 

Initial Jobless Claims fell to 3.2 million, taking the COVID total of job losses to 33.4 million.

 

Challenger, Gray and Christmas reported 671,000 job cuts were announced last month.

 

Productivity fell 2.5% in the first quarter, which was better than the expectations of a 5.5% drop. While next quarter will be the big test, it certainly looks like businesses are figuring out a way to work around COVID restrictions.

 

I was listening to Fannie Mae’s Q1 conference call, and their baseline scenario for forbearance is 15%. Their baseline scenario is a second half recovery, with overall negative GDP growth for 2020 and massive growth in 2021.

 

Mortgage Credit Availability fell to a 6 year low in April according to the MBA. “The abrupt weakening of the economy and job market – and the uncertainty in the outlook – drove credit availability down in April for the second consecutive month,” said Joel Kan, MBA’s Associate Vice President of Economic and Industry Forecasting. “The overall index fell to its lowest level since December 2014, and the sub-indexes pointed to tightened credit supply for all loan types. The decline was largely driven by lenders dropping many low credit score and high-LTV programs, as well as further reduction in jumbo and non-QM products.”

To be honest, I was expecting worse. Given the issues with forbearance and cash-outs, it probably will get worse.

 

MCAI

 

Treasury is celebrating the sequel to Top Gun by reviving the 20 year bond, last seen when aviator glasses, leather jackets, and Val Kilmer having a career.