Morning Report: Mortgage Credit Availability eases

Vital Statistics:

Last Change
S&P futures 2792 4
Eurostoxx index 388.99 1.46
Oil (WTI) 65.94 -0.41
10 Year Government Bond Yield 2.96%
30 Year fixed rate mortgage 4.62%

Stocks are higher as we await the FOMC decision. Bonds and MBS are flat.

The FOMC decision is set to come out at 2:00 pm EST. Investors are going to probably focus most closely on the dot plot to get a sense of whether we get 1 or 2 more hikes this year. Generally speaking, the dot plots have been a bit more hawkish than the Fed Funds futures market.

Inflation appears to be picking up at the wholesale level (kind of echoes what we were seeing yesterday in the NFIB Small Business Optimism report). The Producer Price Index rose 0.5% MOM / 3.1% YOY, which was higher than expectations. Much of the pressure came from higher energy prices. Trade (which is a function of the dollar) was the other catalyst. Ex-food and energy, prices rose 0.1% MOM / 2.6% YOY. The Fed does pay attention to this number, however the PCE index is their preferred measure of inflation, and it is sitting close to their target.

Mortgage applications fell 2% last week. Both purchases and refis fell by the same amount.

Mortgage Credit Availability rose in May by 1.5% as a dwindling refi market is encouraging originators to widen the credit box. While the index has been steadily rising since 2011 when it was benchmarked it is nothing like the bubble, where credit was orders of magnitude tighter.

MCAI

The business press warns that liquidity is going to dry up during the next crisis. While Dodd-Frank claims to allow market making (and not proprietary trading), there is no doubt that banks are going to be completely uninterested in sticking their necks out during the next sell-off. Even worse will be ETF investors who think an exchange traded fund gives them a liquidity risk “free lunch”. (It isn’t like I am investing in junk bonds – I am investing in an ETF that invests in junk bonds – its different!) When the underlying assets of that ETF go no-bid, so will the ETF.

Ever wonder why servicing values in states like NY, NJ, and CT are so low? The foreclosure process can stretch out for years. In this case, the occupants made their last payment in June 2010.

Speaking of the Northeast, all real estate is local as they say. While the West Coast sees sales close in weeks, luxury properties languish for years in the Northeast. The tony NYC suburb of New Canaan, CT has banned “for sale” signs, because there are too many of them (although the excuse is that people shop on line). There is definitely a bifurcation line in the NYC suburbs – below $750k you can move the property, above that good luck. And $1.5 million or more, forget about it.

From the NAHB: rental inflation is moderating. Meanwhile, home equity hits a new high.

Morning Report: Small Business sentiment near 45 year high

Vital Statistics:

Last Change
S&P futures 2789 2.25
Eurostoxx index 387.87 -0.07
Oil (WTI) 66.04 -0.06
10 Year Government Bond Yield 2.98%
30 Year fixed rate mortgage 4.59%

Stocks are higher this morning on reports of an agreement with North Korea. Bonds and MBS are down.

The FOMC meeting begins today. The Fed Funds futures are handicapping a 91% chance of a rate hike tomorrow.

Trump and Kim signed an agreement to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula. There is no timetable, but not much in the way of concrete agreements, however Trump did pledge to end military exercises with South Korea.

Inflation at the consumer level remains under control, as the Consumer Price Index rose 0.2% MOM / 2.8% YOY. The core rate rose 0.2% MOM / 2.2% YOY. These numbers were all in line with street estimates. Aside from energy, healthcare costs (hospital, Rx) drove the increase.

Small business optimism remains strong, as the NFIB index hit its second highest level in its 45 year history. Compensation increases hit a 45 year high as a net 35% of small businesses increased wages. 58% of employers reported openings, but half couldn’t find qualified applicants. I will say this again, I suspect the biggest culprit in the “labor shortage” is the plethora of application tracking systems which pre-screen job applications. They may have been a help during the days of high unemployment when finding the right employee was like finding a needle in a haystack. Nowadays, they the computer systems are probably screening out potential fits before anyone gets to see the resume. There are all sorts of articles about how these systems have to be gamed, and most people probably don’t.

NFIB

The strong economy and good home price appreciation are contributing to a drop in delinquencies, according to CoreLogic. 30 day DQs dropped by 10 basis points to 4.3% in March. The foreclosure rate fell from 0.8% to 0.6%. In the first quarter, the typical homeowner saw a $16,300 increase in home equity.

Declining margins has lenders bearish, according to the latest Fannie Mae lender sentiment survey. “Lenders remain bearish this quarter as they continue to face headwinds from rising mortgage rates, tight supply, and strong home price appreciation, which have drastically reduced refinance activity and restrained home purchase affordability,” said Doug Duncan, senior vice president and chief economist at Fannie Mae. “These factors have combined to squeeze mortgage origination volumes and have increased competitive pressures. Increased competitiveness will likely persist as a top driver of lenders’ mortgage business strategy. We expect this will prompt businesses to turn to cost-cutting as a means of managing their bottom lines, with payroll reduction likely to assume a more prominent role in future belt-tightening efforts.”

Morning Report: Big week ahead

Vital Statistics:

Last Change
S&P futures 2782 -0.5
Eurostoxx index 386.55 1.43
Oil (WTI) 65.12 -0.61
10 Year Government Bond Yield 2.96%
30 Year fixed rate mortgage 4.59%

Stocks are flattish this morning ahead of a busy week. Bonds and MBS are down small.

This is a big week with the FOMC meeting on Tuesday and Wednesday, the ECB, and also a slew of economic data, particularly inflation data. The FOMC meeting will dominate, and we will also get a fresh new set of projections. The Street will focus on the inflation projections, especially as we continue to get anecdotal evidence of wage inflation.

The G7 met over the weekend, and it largely consisted of Donald Trump playing Al Czervik to the Bushwood global elite. There is talk about us doing permanent damage to our allies, but these events are largely messaging affairs and nothing much concrete ever comes out of them. There were a bunch of threats and counter-threats over trade barriers, and the message from the Administration was that the US has historically accepted the short end of the stick on these trade deals in the name of free trade in general, but those days are over. Will anything actually come from this? Probably not, which is why the markets don’t care.

Trump left the G7 meeting early to head to the Singapore Summit to meet with Kim Jong Un.

CFPB Director Mick Mulvaney said on Friday that he fired the 3 advisory boards because they were simply too big. He said that many participants were uncomfortable being candid at these meetings, and that “There is actually some good information that can pass when you sort of turn the cameras off.” Mulvaney has also been frustrated by leaks coming out of the agency, and he hopes this will help. Mulvaney also intends for the CFPB to go out “in the field” and have more town hall discussion meetings.

The interest rate on excess reserves is a real “inside baseball” statistic that could hold some clues on how the Fed intends to proceed going forward. The Fed is worried that conditions are tightening in the money markets and there are less excess reserves (excess reserves in another name for “dry powder” in the banking system). If there is less dry powder (or lending capacity) in the system then borrowers will have to accept higher rates in order to access these funds. The Fed funds rate is already close to the high end of the target range, which is worrying the some on the FOMC. The Fed started unwinding its QE balance sheet, letting about $100 billion of its $4.5 trillion sheet run off. We are already seeing a swoon in emerging markets. Bottom line: tightening financial conditions could cause the Fed to take a breather sooner than anticipated.

Fed assets

Rising interest rates and home prices are not deterring potential home purchasers, as the Fannie Mae Home Purchase Sentiment Index hit a new high in May. “The HPSI edged up to another survey high in May, bolstered in part by a fresh record high in the net share of consumers who say it’s a good time to sell a home. However, the perception of high home prices that underlies this optimism cuts both ways, boosting not only the good-time-to-sell sentiment but also the view that it’s a bad time to buy, and presenting a potential dilemma for repeat buyers,” said Doug Duncan, senior vice president and chief economist at Fannie Mae.

Morning Report: December Fed Funds futures still leaning towards 3 hikes this year

Vital Statistics:

Last Change
S&P futures 2767 -8.25
Eurostoxx index 385.56 -0.38
Oil (WTI) 65.78 -0.17
10 Year Government Bond Yield 2.93%
30 Year fixed rate mortgage 4.59%

Markets are lower this morning on negative news out of Apple. Bonds and MBS are down small.

Something to watch: We are seeing bigger bets against emerging markets currencies and some European bonds. These trades will bump up against Treasury shorts, which were increased last week in the wake of the Italian election results. One of the biggest trades in the hedge fund community is short Treasuries – which means hedge funds are betting on rising rates. A sell-off in Euro bonds and emerging markets will add buying pressure to Treasuries on the flight to quality trade. So, expect some volatility in Treasuries as fast money enters and exits the market.

Rising interest rates are creating another phenomenon – increased flows into money market funds. Money market funds had been a moribund asset class after the crisis, with interest rates at 0% and the memories of breaking the buck still fresh in many investors minds. Money market funds are seeing the biggest inflows since 2013. Expect to see more of this as bond investors also look for ways to shorten duration. This is yet another reason why hedge funds are short Treasuries.

After the Italian led drop in rates, the market adjusted its prediction for the Fed Funds rate. Still sitting at a 60-40 bet for 3 or less hikes this year / 4 or more.

fed funds probability 2

Warren Buffett and Jamie Dimon are exceedingly bullish on the US economy. “Right now, there’s no question: It’s feeling strong. I mean, if we’re in the sixth inning, we have our sluggers coming to bat right now” is how Warren Buffet characterized it. Jamie Dimon’s view: “The way I look at it, there is nothing that is a real pothole,” he said. “Business sentiment is almost at the highest level it’s ever been, consumer sentiment is at its highest levels, markets are wide open, housing’s in short supply and my guess is mortgage credit will expand a little bit.”

Buffett and Dimon are also arguing for companies to stop providing earnings guidance. They claim that focusing on short term quarterly earnings causes companies to de-emphasize long-term growth. Berkshire Hathaway does not provide any sort of guidance to the Street. It is an interesting idea, however companies provide guidance to the Street because investors as a general rule prefer predictable companies to unpredictable ones.

How not to “teach your servicer a lesson.” Yikes. If you think your lender is making a mistake, or you are unhappy with the service, don’t stop paying as a means of retaliation.

The OCC is taking a more constructive approach with the banks. At the top of the agenda: re-writing community reinvestment rules to be less onerous for the industry. Obama’s head of the OCC was a career regulator who made a point of challenging the perception that the OCC was too close to the banks it regulated. The Obama administration pushed hard for banks to take less credit risk, and I wonder how much of the issue with a lack of housing construction is due to that. While this wouldn’t affect the Lennars of the world, most construction is with smaller builders who would have to go to their local community bank for financing.

Morning Report: Changes happening at the CFPB

Vital Statistics:

Last Change
S&P futures 2774 1.75
Eurostoxx index 386.72 -0.16
Oil (WTI) 65.25 0.52
10 Year Government Bond Yield 2.98%
30 Year fixed rate mortgage 4.58%

Stocks are higher this morning as trade tensions with China ease. Bonds and MBS are lower.

Initial Jobless Claims fell to 222k last week. We are still bouncing around lows that we haven’t seen since the Vietnam War.

Changes are afoot at the CFPB. First, Mick Mulvaney dismissed all 25 members of the Consumer Advisory Board in order to cut costs and increase the diversity of voices. The Community Bank Advisory Board and the Credit Union Advisory Board were also terminated. Apparently, these committees were traveling to DC on taxpayer expense. Many of these people are simply professional political activists in the business of raising money for liberal candidates, and were often given funds from settlements – in other words, it was a bit of a political money-laundering operation. So, there is no reason for an agency under a Republican Administration to fund the Democratic political machine. Also, the Obama / Cordray CFPB was one-sided – they listened only to consumer advocates and had zero interest in input from the industry. For better or worse, you make better policy when you have input from the people who will be affected by your rules and regulations.

Separately, the CFPB is prepared to dismiss its case against PHH. The PHH case is a tricky one, where the CFPB unilaterally increased a judge’s $6 million penalty to $106 million. PHH won a big victory last January when an appeals court threw out the judgement. There structure of the Agency was also brought into question during this case, which helps explain why the CFPB is anxious to make this case go away.

Independent mortgage bankers lost money on average in the first quarter, according to the MBA. Net production losses were $118 per loan (or about 8 basis points). The last time we saw something similar was the first quarter in 2014. The first quarter is always a seasonally weak period.  Declining volumes, increasing costs, and thinner margins are driving the losses. Net secondary marketing income was more or less flat, and purchases accounted for 71% of the volume. Pull-through rates fell to 70% from 74% in the fourth quarter. Production expenses and personnel expenses increased quite a bit, to almost $9,000 a loan. That number has been closer to $6,200 since 2008. Productivity also fell to 1.9 loans per employee from 2 loans in the fourth quarter.

Chinese money has been pushing up real estate prices in many cities, from Vancouver to Seattle, to Sydney. Local governments are finding more and more of their citizens are being priced out of the market and are trying to do something about it. In Vancouver, prices were appreciating at an annual rate of 30% before the government imposed a foreign investments tax. The money then left and moved to Toronto. Ultimately probably nothing will change until the Chinese real estate bubble bursts, and no one has any idea when that will happen. One thing is for sure, however. When the bubble does burst, these cities will get hit first. In a financial crisis, you sell what you can, not what you want to.

Chinese money

How easy is credit these days? Twitter is offering $1 billion in convertible bonds paying 25 basis points of interest that convert into Twitter stock at a 44% premium to the current share price. That is as close to free money as you are going to get.

Apparently the market cap of the FAANG stocks (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, and Google) is now higher than the GDP of Germany. Most crowded trade since the Nifty 50 in the 1970s.

Morning Report: Productivity revised downward

Vital Statistics:

Last Change
S&P futures 2755.25 3.75
Eurostoxx index 386.61 -0.28
Oil (WTI) 65.11 -41
10 Year Government Bond Yield 2.95%
30 Year fixed rate mortgage 4.54%

Stocks are higher this morning as trade negotiations continue with China. Bonds and MBS are down.

Italian bond yields are higher this morning, but so far the market seems to have concluded that this will not snowball into a larger European problem. That said, continuing issues in Italy will provide at least a marginal bid for Treasuries.

Mortgage applications rose 4% last week as purchases and refis rose the same amount. Grazie.

Nonfarm productivity was revised downward to 0.4% from 0.7% in the second estimate for first quarter productivity. Output increased 2.7% and hours worked increased 2.3%. Unit Labor Costs were revised upward from 2.8% to 2.9%. Compensation increased 3.3% and productivity increased 0.4%. Since productivity increases drive standard of living improvements and wage gains, this somewhat explains the anemic wage growth we have been seeing. These numbers are going to concern the Fed a little, given that it might increase inflationary pressures, at least at the margin. Productivity is notoriously hard to measure however, so it carries with it a lot of uncertainty. The theme of the US post-crisis has been low productivity.

productivity

Freedom mortgage was penalized for serial VA refinancings. As part of their punishment, they are no longer allowed to issue mortgages into multi-issuer pools, which will severely reduce the number of potential investors for their paper. This is a temporary restriction, and they could be out of the doghouse as soon as next year. A couple of other lenders – Sun West and NewDay also were penalized.

Wells has sold its branches in the Rust Belt to Flagstar Bank. They will continue their presence in mortgage lending, commercial and wealth management however.

The FTC and DOJ held a hearing on the potential competition issues between the Zillow and Redfin online real estate duopoly. It also covered in more general terms the effects of companies like Zillow and Redfin on the brokerage model in general. Will technology end the need for a realtor? Perhaps for the experienced and professional buyer, but probably not for everyone else. Fees could be affected though.

Steve Mnuchin urged President Trump to exempt Canada from steel and aluminum tariffs. While tariffs are in general counterproductive, it is important to remember the US has much lower tariffs than our trading partners.

tariffs

The media discovers FHA lending. And no, FHA lending is not the same as the no-no loans of the subprime days.

Morning Report: Number of job openings equals number of unemployed

Vital Statistics:

Last Change
S&P futures 2747 1.75
Eurostoxx index 388.56 0.45
Oil (WTI) 64.56 -0.19
10 Year Government Bond Yield 2.91%
30 Year fixed rate mortgage 4.54%

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

Job openings continue to creep upward, hitting 6.7 million in April, which is just about the number of unemployed people in the country. Job openings increased in manufacturing, but fell in finance. The quits rate was flat MOM at 2.3% and is up about 20 bps since last year. The quits rate is a strong predictor of wage inflation, as it measures people leaving jobs to take new, higher paying ones. Below is a chart of the quits rate versus wage growth. Wage inflation is a bit more volatile, but the correlation is pretty tight.

quits rate

The ISM non-manufacturing index rose in May to 58.6. The current level historically corresponds to a GDP growth rate of around 3.5%. Tariffs are weighing on many sectors however.

The House Financial Services Committee will hold a hearing tomorrow to discuss transparency and accountability at the CFPB. This hearing is the result of a memo from Mick Mulvaney, which recommended that the CFPB be subject to Congressional appropriation, that major rules be passed by legislation, that there be an independent Inspector General, and recommended that the agency report to the President.

Home prices rose 1.2% in April, according to CoreLogic. On a YOY basis, they are up 6.9%. They expect home price appreciation to moderate over the next year and increase about 5%. Much of the country’s real estate is becoming overvalued, according to CoreLogic’s model – in fact, over half. The valuation metric is based on incomes, which is why an expensive market like San Francisco may appear fairly valued, while areas on the Gulf Coast may seem overvalued.

Corelogic overvalued

The first time homebuyer accounted for almost half the Freddie Mac purchase market, the highest since 2012, when Freddie first started tracking this statistic. The Bloomberg headline is terrible – the first time homebuyer does not account for almost half of mortgages. 40% are refis and the first time homebuyer is about 32% of existing home sales.

Over the past 2 years, about 4.4 million jobs have been added in the US. How many houses have been built? 2.4 million. Great illustration of just how acute the housing shortage is.

Morning Report: Why we haven’t seen much wage growth (yet) and what the left gets wrong about labor markets

Vital Statistics:

Last Change
S&P futures 2743 9.7
Eurostoxx index 388.45 1.55
Oil (WTI) 65.49 -0.32
10 Year Government Bond Yield 2.91%
30 Year fixed rate mortgage 4.54%

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

We should have a relatively quiet week coming up, with not much in the way of data and no Fed-speak.

Friday’s jobs report was pretty much a Goldilocks report as far as the markets are concerned. Strong job growth, with respectable (but controlled) wage growth is exactly what the Fed wants to see. Tomorrow, we will get the JOLTS job openings report, which should show job openings of around 6.5 million.

Academics are scratching their heads trying to figure out why wage growth is so slow with unemployment below 4%. With the economy at “full employment” at least according to the unemployment numbers, how can so many jobs still be created? And if unemployment is below 4% and we are at a record number of job openings, where is the wage growth?

First of all, the jobs report had wage growth at 2.7%, and the core PCE inflation rate is 2%. So, we do have inflation-adjusted (i.e. real) wage growth. Second, productivity is a puzzle. It has been low for a decade, and part of the issue is that productivity is notoriously hard to measure, especially when valuable goods are “free” or hard to measure. Think of social media, which has all sorts of entertainment value and productivity enhancing value, yet is supposedly free. Yes, you are paying with your data, but what is your data worth? Productivity calculations need a dollar value. Productivity has been low, but there is a huge uncertainty range around that number.

I think a huge part of the issue is the fact that the unemployment rate excludes anyone who has been unemployed over 6 months, and there is a huge reservoir of workers on the sidelines who want to return to the labor force. Companies know this, and all they have to do is relax their standards (i.e. hire people who have been out of the labor force for a while) and they will fill their positions. At the end of the day, this is a numbers game. The employment-population ratio has been steadily increasing since 1970 as women have entered the workforce. It peaked in 2000, bottomed after the Great Recession, and has been steadily working its way upward. The demographic factor (retiring baby boomers) is probably getting overplayed here, as most people no longer can retire at 65 (and there really is no reason why most can’t continue to work).

Leftist economics are arguing that employers are somehow colluding to keep wages low, and therefore are suggesting a panoply of policy levers designed to artificially force up wages and increase unionization. Aside from non-competes in the rarefied air of Silicon Valley engineers, generally this doesn’t happen – cartels are almost impossible to make work (witness OPEC) and there are simply too many employers who don’t compete with each other to coordinate it, even if they wanted to.

Instead of jumping to the “market failure” conclusion, the answer is that there is more slack in the labor market than the numbers suggest. There may be a mismatch of skills, where there is high demand in areas where there aren’t a lot of available workers (skilled trades, data scientists) but overall the employment population ratio doesn’t lie. The last time we saw decent wage growth was the 90s, where the employment-population ratio was around 63%. The latest number was 60.4%. That difference in a population of 326 million is about 8.5 million jobs. That is about 3 year’s worth of job growth, without population growth which is still measurable at 0.7% a year. Even if you take into account the 6.5 million job openings, you still have probably 2 million extra workers on the sidelines. IMO, that is your answer about wage growth, not monopsony of collusion, which is just a specious argument for more government intervention in the labor markets.

Chart: Employment-population ratio.

employment population ratio

House price appreciation continues apace, and between rising price and interest rates, the monthly house payment on the median house with 20% down has increased by $150 a month, according to Black Knight Financial Services. Income growth at 2.7% is not going to keep up with home price appreciation, which is running at around 6% a year. When rates were falling, we were able to paper over that issue with lower mortgage payments, but that game is over. Housing starts are still way too low, and that question is even more perplexing than wage growth.

Note that private equity is now building homes for rent, which should alleviate some of the supply problem. It was only a matter of time until new entrants saw the opportunity that the big builders have been sitting on. Politicians are getting sick and tired of the lack of housing supply (especially at the lower price points).

Friday’s jobs report reversed the Euro-driven drop in the June Fed Funds futures. At one point, they were predicting a 81% chance of a hike. Now it is back up to a near certainty. The December futures are predicting a 40% chance of 4 or more hikes this year and a 60% chance of 3 or less.

Morning Report: No, we are not in another housing bubble

Vital Statistics:

Last Change
S&P futures 2716 10
Eurostoxx index 387.8 4.74
Oil (WTI) 66.4 -0.63
10 Year Government Bond Yield 2.92%
30 Year fixed rate mortgage 4.48%

Stocks are higher after a Goldilocks employment report. Bonds and MBS are down.

Jobs report data dump:

  • Payrolls up 223,000 (expectation was 190,000)
  • Unemployment down to 3.8%
  • Labor force participation rate 62.7% (a drop)
  • Average hourly earnings up 0.3% / 2.7%

The Street was looking for wage growth of 0.2% MOM, but the annual number was in line with expectations. The wage growth print shouldn’t move the needle as far as the Fed is concerned. The employment – population ratio increased a tad as the population increased by 183k and the number of employed increased by 293k. We saw another good jump in construction jobs. Bottom line, a good report for equity markets, and a push for the bond market.

In merger news, Citizens Bank is acquiring Franklin American Mortgage. This deal should vault Citizens into a top-15 mortgage lender, bulk up its servicing portfolio and diversify its origination mix.

Italy has found a solution to its political crisis with a new coalition government that will be installed on Friday. Treasury yields should probably be higher, however tough trade talk out of the Trump Administration is keeping them lower. Even the International Steelworkers is against new tariffs, and if you can’t even get the unions on your side it says a lot…

Hard to believe it is here already, but the hurricane season is just beginning. CoreLogic estimates that 7 million homes are at risk in what NOAA expects to be a normal or above normal season. Note the National Flood Insurance program is set to expire right in the middle of the season.

Construction spending increased in April, according to the Census Bureau. Residential construction rose 4.4% MOM and 9.7% YOY.

Manufacturing accelerated in May, according to the ISM report. Employment expanded sharply. New order and production also grew.

As usual, the ISM report showed employers having difficulty finding qualified labor. Labor shortages are a theme these days, but you aren’t seeing the growth in wages you would expect. I wonder if part of the issue is application tracking systems, which seize on keywords and therefore have to be gamed somewhat. How many applicants are unaware of this or are simply bad at it? And if so, how many qualified workers are being screened out and never get presented before a set of eyes? I suspect ATS are good for companies in bad times, when there are a surfeit of applicants, but work against them when the labor pool is tighter.

An interesting editorial in the Wall Street Journal today about the credit box and the possibility of another housing bubble. The authors point to the way home prices have outstripped income growth and posits that a widening credit box (i.e. new 3% down loans from Freddie) are contributing. The authors suggest that underwriters tighten standards, and the government tighten loan parameters to prevent another foreclosure crisis when the market turns.

With regard to home price appreciation, is it due to widening credit standards, or is it due to restricted supply? In other words, is it a housing start problem or a MCAI (mortgage credit availability index) problem? The chart below is of the MBA’s Mortgage Credit Availability Index, which shows a loosening of standards since the bottom, but also demonstrates we are nowhere near the standards that existed during the bubble (and pre-bubble days).

MCAI long term

FHA and the GSEs are stepping in on low downpayment loans because there is a complete and utter void in the private market. Prior to the crisis, FHA was a sleepy backwater of the mortgage market, targeted toward low income first time homebuyers. Afterward, its share grew because it was the only game in town. Let’s not conflate FHA mortgages with neg-am pick a pay loans of the bubble years. IMO the issue is a lack of supply (heck the appreciation is the highest in places like San Francisco, where the median price is double the limit on a FHA loan). Housing starts around 2 million for the next several years is what will be needed to cool off home price appreciation (along with the REO-to-rental types ringing the register on their portfolios).

Morning Report: Job cuts fall again

Vital Statistics:

Last Change
S&P futures 2725 1
Eurostoxx index 386.51 1
Oil (WTI) 67.49 -0.72
10 Year Government Bond Yield 2.86%
30 Year fixed rate mortgage 4.47%

Stocks are flat this morning after personal incomes came in as expected. Bonds and MBS are flat.

Personal Incomes rose 0.3% in April, in line with expectations. Personal Spending rose 0.6%, higher than the 0.4% estimate and inflation was tame at 2% YOY, with the core rate up 1.8% YOY. The big jump in consumer spending will probably have some strategists taking up their estimates for Q2 GDP. March and February spending numbers were revised upward. Inflation remains in check, which will give the Fed the leeway to hold off on hiking rates if the European situation with Italy escalates.

Pending Home Sales fell 13% in April, according to NAR. The supply / demand imbalance remains the story: Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, says the housing market this spring is hindered because of the severe housing shortages in much of the country. “Pending sales slipped in April and continued to stay within the same narrow range with little signs of breaking out,” he said. “Feedback from Realtors®, as well as the underlying sales data, reveal that the demand for buying a home is very robust. Listings are typically going under contract in under a month1, and instances of multiple offers are increasingly common and pushing prices higher.”

Initial Jobless Claims fell to 221,000 last week. We are still at exceptionally low levels.

Mortgage rates fell 10 basis points last week, and this is even before the huge bond market rally on Tuesday.

Deutsche Bank was put on the troubled bank list last year. This was obviously a big impetus behind its decision to reduce its US footprint. The German regulators have been on top of the bank as well. With credit default spreads widening in the Euro banking market, expect to see the European Central Bank tread extremely cautiously with policy normalization, and for the Fed to adopt a wait and see attitude after hiking in June. Separately, if Deutsche Bank decides to exit the US entirely, wouldn’t it be wild to see them spin off Bankers Trust?

Job Cuts fell to 31,517 in May, according to outplacement firm Challenger, Gray, and Christmas. This is the seasonally slow period for job cuts, as most companies concentrate them in Jan-Feb time frame. The cuts are mainly coming in retail, although things are picking up in the financial sector. Regionally, they are concentrated in the Northeast, particularly NY and NJ.

Job cuts by month

The Trump Administration is set to push for tariffs on European steel and aluminum. A German magazine said that Trump told French President Emannuel Macron that he wanted to “stick to his trade policy long enough until no Mercedes-Benz cars were cruising through New York.” The deadline for negotiations is this Friday.

US regulators are set to sand off some of the harder edges on Dodd-Frank and the Volcker Rule. The biggest change requested from the industry is the rebuttable presumption that any position held for less than 60 days is considered a proprietary trade. Essentially, this is a “innocent until proven guilty” scenario. The Fed also intends to clarify the liquidity management exception, which is meant to distinguish between market-making and proprietary trading. At the end of the day, falling commissions and tightening bid/ask spreads have made market-making an unprofitable business for the most part anyway. I suspect investors and regulators are in for an unpleasant surprise the next time we have a crash and the only bids in the market are retail GTC orders.

The number of underwater homes fell below 10% in the fourth quarter for the first time since the crisis. Torrid home price appreciation has cut the percentage down to 9.1%, or about 4.4 million homes. “For much of the country the Great Recession is an increasingly distant memory – the American economy is booming once again and markets are now shifting their gaze to future downturn risks,” said Zillow senior economist Aaron Terrazas. “But scattered in neighborhoods across the country, the legacy of the mid-2000s housing bubble and bust lingers among the millions of Americans still underwater on their mortgages, trapped in their homes with no easy options to regain equity other than waiting.” The worst areas? Chicago, Virginia Beach, and Baltimore.