Morning Report: New Home Sales encouraging

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 3008 55.1
Oil (WTI) 34.34 1.19
10 year government bond yield 0.7%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.28%

 

Stocks are higher this morning on optimism about the economy re-opening. Bonds and MBS are flat.

 

The upcoming week is somewhat data-light. The big numbers will be the second revision to GDP and construction spending.

 

Home prices rose 1.7% in the first quarter and were up 5.7% on a YOY basis, according to the FHFA House Price Index.  That said, the report noted that the data in the report probably doesn’t take into account the effects of COVID. The Mountain states led the charge, with Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming posting double-digit gains.

Home price appreciation by state

The Case-Shiller index reported a 4.4% annual gain. The difference between the FHFA and Case-Shiller indices? FHFA is limited to transactions with a conforming mortgage, while Case-Shiller includes all sales.

 

New Home Sales came in at 623,000 which was up from March, but down 6.7% on a YOY basis. Since April was the worst of the crisis, this is an encouraging number. Note that these are estimates with wide confidence intervals. So there is a chance these could get revised lower. I listened to pretty much every homebuilder earnings call and pretty much every one said that the second half of April was unexpectedly strong.

 

I went to a restaurant in Connecticut last night. Outdoor seating, long line out the door to get a table. Sample size of 1, but it looks like people are antsy to get out of the house and put COVID behind them. Barring any sort of second wave of infections, I think the economy rebound by the 4th of July and will have shaken off most of the economic damage by Labor Day.

Morning Report: Further stimulus probably not forthcoming

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 2800 -20.1
Oil (WTI) 19.17 -0.79
10 year government bond yield 0.61%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.43%

 

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

 

The big economic event this week will be the jobs report on Friday. The street is looking for a loss of 21.3 million jobs and a 16% unemployment rate.

 

Meanwhile about half the states are beginning to open. Note that most of the world has begun to relax restrictions as well. New York States has closed schools for the year, and will probably be the last place to emerge from the bunker.

 

The running joke is that the use of the word “unprecedented” is unprecedented. The dire predictions of the virus never panned out (no millions of deaths). I expect the predictions of lasting economic implications (Great Depression II!!!!) of this are probably going to be just as wrong.

 

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin is cautious on the need for more Coronavirus aid. As states re-open it may turn out that more aid is not needed. Note that lawsuit relief and vote-by-mail will be two partisan issues that both sides will push. The door might be closed for further relief.

 

Fannie and Freddie are preparing to cover advances after 4 months, according to the FHFA. “To provide servicers with stability and clarity regarding their payment obligations and to align our servicer advance requirement with Freddie Mac, FHFA’s instructions require that, effective August 2020, we cease requiring servicers to advance missed scheduled principal and interest payments after four months of missed borrower payments on a loan,” Fannie Mae said in its 10-Q filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Many consumers believe that the missed payments will just get tacked on to the end of the mortgage. Given Fannie’s cash position and equity that might not be possible without further government support. That will drive the whole request for balloon payments at the end of forbearance. I suspect the government is going to have to make some tough decisions in August. Especially if forbearance doubles.

 

HELOCs are disappearing quickly. Wells and Chase have already suspended these products, and other lenders will probably follow. Homeowners who are looking for liquidity should think about getting one while the getting is good.

 

 

Morning Report: The Fed maintains rates at zero

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 2908 -28.1
Oil (WTI) 16.81 3.29
10 year government bond yield 0.61%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.43%

 

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

 

The Fed maintained interest rates at 0% and pledged to continue to do what it can to support functioning markets, including buying agency mortgage backed securities and treasuries. They didn’t specify amounts, just that they wanted to keep orderly markets. As Dave Stevens noted, it is clear the Fed wants to see lower mortgage rates as a way to stimulate the economy. The problem with that of course is that the CARES Act is doing the exact opposite – it is restricting credit more than what happened in 2008. The MBA’s Mortgage Credit Availability index took a nosedive in March, and I think it will be much, much worse in April.

MCAI

Flagstar just announced a 5 point LLPA for cash-out refis. It is clear that these are the next program to go bye-bye, joining jumbos, non-QM, and sub 700 FHA. The law of unintended consequences rears its ugly head once again. I wonder if the government could tweak the CARES Act to make cash-outs ineligible for forbearance. That way the program could still exist and provide relief to people hit by COVID. Presumably if you do a cash-out, you have money to live on, so….

 

Initial Jobless Claims came in at 3.8 million, pushing the COVID job losses over 30 million.

 

Personal incomes fell 2% in March and personal spending fell 7%. The personal consumption expenditure index remained under control. I suspect that increasing food prices are being offset by lower energy prices.

 

Mortgage REITs AGNC and Annaly reported yesterday, and needless to say both were hit hard by COVID. Both have completed their deleveraging, and AGNC noted that its book value per share increased by 8% in April, after declining about 22% in Q1. For the agency REITs, it looks like the crisis is over.

 

Another round of stimulus may be a bridge too far. Nancy Pelosi wants to force states to vote by mail, and that is a non-starter with Republicans. Mitch McConnell wants lawsuit protection for businesses that remain open during the COVID crisis, and that is a non-starter to Democrats. As Travelers noted on its conference call, trial lawyers smell an opportunity here and are ginning up lawsuits as we speak.

Morning Report: 7% of all mortgages are in forbearance

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 2912 42.1
Oil (WTI) 12.71 -0.29
10 year government bond yield 0.64%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.43%

 

Stocks are higher this morning as earnings continue to come in. Bonds and MBS are flattish.

 

7% of all mortgages are in forbearance, according to the MBA. Ginnie Mae loans (FHA and VA) are now at 10%. Fannie loans are 4.6% and Freddie are 5.5%. Private label increased to 7.5%. The FHFA has also released a press release saying that lump sum payments at the end of the forbearance period are not required.

 

The Economic Policy Institute (a lefty think tank) estimates from a poll that initial jobless claims are understated by 9 – 14 million due to system problems, in other words people who can’t register because the state unemployment sites are overwhelmed with traffic. If they are right, then the actual number of people who lost their jobs due to COVID is about 37.5 million. In other words, about 662 livelihoods per person who has died from the virus.

 

The COVID lockdown is beginning to affect the food supply as well. At some point the cure is worse than the disease.

 

The Fed begins the two-day FOMC meeting this week. They can’t do much more monetary policy wise, but it sure would be nice if they announced a facility to allow mortgage bankers to repo servicing advances.

 

Home prices rose 0.4% MOM and 3.5% YOY in February, according to the Case-Shiller Home Price Index. It will be interesting to see if the COVID crisis affects home prices nationally. FWIW, Pulte said on its conference call that it hasn’t cut prices at all. In some markets where there is excess spec inventory, builders are adding financing incentives, but not breaking price.

 

We are starting to see warehouse banks curtail high balance loans. Cash-out refis are also getting harder to do. I heard a rumor that Ginnie Mae may also introduce some sort of vehicle to pass some of the forbearance costs onto lenders (perhaps a special pool for forbearance loans). While the government’s forbearance policies may provide relief to homeowners, the unintended consequence is a severe restriction in credit.

 

One of the big trends in the aftermath of the financial crisis was the Millennial Generation preferring to live in urban walkable areas. COVID-19 might have stuck a fork in that trend. Good news for suburban SFR property owners.

Morning Report: Unemployed top 26 million

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 2802 14.1
Oil (WTI) 16.51 2.59
10 year government bond yield 0.61%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.43%

 

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

 

4.4 million people filed for unemployment last week. That takes the COVID-19 tally up to 26.4 million.

 

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will now purchase loans in forbearance, provided they funded between March and May. They will incorporate a 500 basis point LLPA for first time homebuyers and 700 for everyone else. They will only buy purchase and rate / term refis, no cash outs. After 5/31 any loan in forbearance is ineligible for purchase from Fannie Mae.

 

Mark Calabria is getting beaten up  regarding the reluctance for Fannie and Freddie to provide advance lines to servicers. Ex-MBA President Dave Stevens wrote a scathing article regarding FHFA.

The CARES Act is clear about forbearance: “If a furnisher makes an accommodation with respect to one or more payments on a credit obligation or account of a consumer, and the consumer makes the payments or is not required to make one or more payments pursuant to the accommodation, the furnisher shall (I) report the credit obligation or account as current.

In this morning’s Federal Housing Finance Agency announcement – they are limiting otherwise saleable loans that are performing, “current” according to the law just passed, or charging exorbitant delivery fees.

This is unacceptable. These are GSE-eligible loans as they are performing/current according to the law just passed, unless they were delinquent at time of going into forbearance. The GSEs need to buy these loans and either hold them on balance sheet, or pool them in TBAs if that is an option (likely not).

Good point about the loan being current. If the law says a loan in forbearance is current, then the GSEs should treat it as such.

 

Meanwhile, borrowers in forbearance will get asked to repay the entire forbearance period as a lump sum, which will be pretty much impossible for anyone who had a legitimate hardship. It is looking like the CARES act forbearance will please absolutely no one.

 

The House looks set to pass an additional stimulus bill after Democrats agreed to table the idea of mandatory vote by mail. It has already passed the Senate.

Morning Report: Existing home sales flat YOY

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 2779 40.1
Oil (WTI) 14.11 2.59
10 year government bond yield 0.60%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.43%

 

Stocks are higher this morning after the Senate passed a stimulus bill to increase aid to small business, and oil rallies. Bonds and MBS are down.

 

Existing home sales fell 8.5% month over month in March, but are still up modestly on a YOY basis. “Unfortunately, we knew home sales would wane in March due to the coronavirus outbreak,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist. “More temporary interruptions to home sales should be expected in the next couple of months, though home prices will still likely rise.” Pricing was strong, with the median home price up 8% YOY. Inventory is still tight, down 10% YOY and is about 3.4 months worth. First time homebuyers increased to 34% of all buyers and investors fell to 13%.

 

Meanwhile, some are fretting about another housing crash. When demand outstrips supply as much as it does right now, you generally don’t see crashes. Residential real estate bubbles like we saw from 2004-2006 are rare (like once or twice a century). The conditions required for one simply aren’t in place right now.

 

Mortgage applications fell 0.3% last week as purchases rose 2% and refis fell 1%. Meanwhile, house prices rose 0.7% MOM in February and were up 5.7% YOY, according to the FHFA House Price Index.

 

JP Morgan is preparing to bring back workers in phases, according to an internal memo. Meanwhile, New York State will re-open in phases, based on how many COVID-19 cases are out there.

Morning Report: Oil goes negative

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 2751 -50.1
Oil (WTI) 14.23 -7.29
10 year government bond yield 0.55%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.38%

 

Stocks are lower as oil continues to weaken. Bonds and MBS are up.

 

The front month oil contract went negative yesterday, which was probably a first. I think at one point it traded at -$40 a barrel. Why? Nowhere to put it. Storage is pretty much full, and any incremental capacity out there is expensive. The May contract still trades, but June is really the active one.

 

Forbearance requests are now up to 6% of all mortgages.  8.26% of Ginnie loans are in forbearance and 4.6% of Fannie / Freddie loans are in forbearance. “With over 22 million Americans filing for unemployment over the past month, homeowners are contacting their mortgage servicers seeking relief, leading to a sharp increase in the share of loans in forbearance across all loan types,” said Mike Fratantoni, MBA’s senior vice president and chief economist. “Mortgage servicers continue to receive a very high level of forbearance requests, but volumes were down somewhat compared to the prior week.”

 

Most economists think the eventual recovery will be U-shaped, in other words and extended downturn before things get back to normal. The other predictions are a V-shaped recovery or a W-shaped one. Obviously it depends on how long the lockdown lasts, and whether people get back to work wearing gloves and masks. Interestingly this has begun to fall down partisan lines, with red-staters wanting to get back to work, and blue-staters hectoring them about it. Note that Texas supposedly opens this week, and Georgia and Tennessee are looking to re-open May 1.

 

Retailers are looking for bailout as well. While many small retailers will be able to access the Main Street Program, many larger ones like Macy’s or Needless Markup cannot. The government’s fear is that it would be propping up companies that have larger problems than just the COVID-19 virus and were probably heading for bankruptcy to begin with.

 

The Senate may be close to a deal for further funding of small business. Apparently one of the issues with the previous deal was that larger companies with existing relationships with the banks got there first, before the the smaller businesses did. This would set aside something like $125 billion for the smaller guys with no relationships. “We insisted that a chunk of the money be separate from the competition with the bigger companies, you know the ones that have two, three, 400 people and a relationship with the banks, and we got $125 billion that will go exclusively to the unbanked,” [Chuck Schumer] said. “To the minorities, to the rural areas and to all of those little mom and pop stores that don’t have a good banking connection and need the help.”

Morning Report: Stocks jump on promising COVID-19 treatment

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 2858 70.1
Oil (WTI) 17.83 -2.29
10 year government bond yield 0.63%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.38%

 

Stocks are higher this morning after positive news out of Gilead regarding a treatment for COVID-19. Bonds and MBS are down small.

 

Investors are bullish after the government released its plan to re-start the economy. It will involve a staggered, 3 stage process which will be left up largely to state governors. Under the first phase, movie theaters, restaurants, sports venues, places of worship, gyms and other venues could re-open with some restrictions. Schools would remain closed, and workplaces could re-open although companies will be encouraged to telecommute. Under the second phase, non-essential travel could resume, bars and schools could re-open. Under the final phase, visits to hospitals and nursing homes could resume. The Trump Administration believes some states could be ready to open quickly, by May 1. Others will take some time. Separately, NY extended the lockdown to May 15.

 

Politicians are beginning to become more vocal regarding the need to help servicers. Senators Maxine Waters and Sherrod Brown both called on the Fed and Treasury to provide liquidity to servicers struggling with advances. “Mortgage servicers are expected to face increased strain as millions of homeowners and renters lose jobs, are furloughed, or see reduced hours, all of which will keep them from making mortgage and rent payments, as a result of this public health crisis. We must not allow the pandemic to destabilize critical markets, including our housing market,” the lawmakers wrote in their letter.

 

China’s first quarter GDP dropped for the first time on record. China went into this crisis with a real estate bubble and a shaky banking system to begin with. Their economy will bear watching going forward, especially if the real estate bubble bursts and China begins exporting deflation. If it does, plan on 0% rates in the US for longer.

 

Chase has stopped accepting HELOC applications for the time being. This is just after instituting a 700 FICO floor and 20% down on loans. Chase wasn’t really in the FHA space after getting socked with a deluge of false claims act penalties in the aftermath of the 2008 crisis.  I have to wonder if the COVID-19 Crisis restricts the FHA market even further overall going forward. This is the last thing the left wants to see, and is perhaps why we are seeing Democrats like Maxine Waters and Sherrod Brown suddenly care about servicers.

 

Last week, I participated on Louis Amaya’s Capital Markets Today podcast and discussed the issues affecting the origination market. You can get the replay here.

Morning Report: Retail sales take a dive

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 2776 -72.1
Oil (WTI) 20.03 0.29
10 year government bond yield 0.66%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.37%

 

Stocks are lower this morning on overseas weakness. Bonds and MBS are up.

 

It is April 15, and taxes are not due. People are starting to get their stimulus checks from the government. The Fed is beginning to advise on how to get the economy started again. On one hand, the economy cannot afford the roughly $25 billion a day in lost output the lockdown costs. On the other hand, if we re-open prematurely and have a second wave of infections, the economic costs could be worse. At the end of the day, people simply aren’t going to put up with this much longer. In places where there are few cases, people are simply going to ignore the edicts out of Washington and get back to work. The local governments are going to look the other way because they need the revenue as badly as people need their paychecks.

 

Mortgage Applications rose 7% as purchases fell 2% and refis increased 10%. Purchase activity will be muted as in-home showings and appraisal issues are a problem. Separately, the homebuilder sentiment index collapsed in April, from 60 to 30.

 

Retail sales fell 8.7% in March, as weakness in autos and gasoline was offset by an increase in TP and Purell.

 

Like the other big banks, Citi’s earnings took a hit as the company reserved $5 billion for expected defaults. Citi’s exposure is less in mortgages than, say Wells, but it is huge in credit cards and commercial real estate.

 

Industrial production fell 5.4% in March, while manufacturing production fell 6.3%. Capacity Utilization fell from 77% to 72.7%.

 

If you apply for forbearance, the initial negotiating position for most banks will be that the entire amount will be due immediately at the end of the forbearance period. For what its worth, I suspect this is to deal with the precautionary forbearance borrowers, those who are gaming the system by saying “I think I could get laid off, so I will suspend my mortgage payments for 90 days and keep them in the bank. At the end of the period, I will just send it all in at once.” At the end of the day, the government should have required some sort of proof of hardship. Given that the precautionary forbearance requests will compete with the people who actually need the help, servicers are overwhelmed with requests, and it seems forbearance will go to the borrowers who have the patience and free time to sit on hold for hours. The government really should have considered servicer capacity to handle requests (among other things) when it drafted the law.

 

 

Morning Report: Bank earnings take a hit on reserve builds

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 2805 40.1
Oil (WTI) 21.23 0.29
10 year government bond yield 0.75%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.37%

 

Stocks are higher as we kick off earnings season and participants start to look forward to opening up the economy. Bonds and MBS are flattish.

 

JP Morgan reported earnings this morning. EPS came in at 78 cents a share, well below the $2.65 a year ago. $1.66 of the earnings hit was a reserve build for future credit losses. Originations almost doubled YOY to $28 billion and the loan portfolio shrank. The servicing portfolio also fell. The stock is up 3 bucks pre-open. No update on forbearance requests that I can see.

 

Wells reported a breakeven first quarter after charging 73 cents a share for reserve build. Origination was up 45% YOY to $48 billion. No update on forbearance requests that I can see. The stock is up a couple percent on the open.

 

Retail and hotel CMBS are missing April rent. “The market for commercial real estate mortgage loans in the United States stands on the brink of collapse,” real estate investment firm Colony Capital CEO Tom Barrack said in a Medium post late last month. “If these institutions are not permitted to maintain the flexibility and patience needed to undertake the loan restructuring efforts that will be critical to weathering the Covid-19 crisis, loan repayment demands are likely to escalate on a systemic level, triggering a domino effect of borrower defaults that will swiftly and severely impact the broad range of stakeholders in the entire real estate market, including property and home owners, landlords, developers, hotel operators and their respective tenants and employees.”

 

US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin reassured mortgage servicers on Monday that Treasury was aware of the problems in the sector. “We’re going to make sure that the market functions properly,” he told reporters at a White House briefing. He added that the Treasury Department has had discussions with the Federal Housing Finance Agency about the mortgage market. “We have all the appropriate people on it,” he said. “We’re very aware of the issue.” Meanwhile, NAR provided some cover fire for the industry.

 

CNBC is reporting that 2 million homeowners have applied for forbearance so far.