Morning Report: FOMC minutes confirm no move in December

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 3110 1.25
Oil (WTI) 57.39 0.74
10 year government bond yield 1.76%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.93%

 

Stocks are flat this morning after China invited the US for trade talks in Beijing despite the resolution backing Hong Kong. Bonds and MBS are down small.

 

In economic data, initial jobless claims were flat at 227,000 last week and the Philadelphia Fed manufacturing survey improved.

 

The CFPB is conducting an assessment of the TRID rule. There doesn’t appear to be any specific issues the CFPB is looking to address, but it is part of the Trump Administration’s push to eliminate unnecessary burdens on business.

 

Independent mortgage banks had their best quarter in 7 years as pretax production profit rose to 74 basis points from 64 in the prior quarter. “A surge in refinance activity and a healthy purchase market led to robust mortgage volume in the third quarter, pushing up production profits to a high not seen since the fourth quarter of 2012 ($2,256 per loan),” said Marina Walsh, MBA Vice President of Industry Analysis. “The increase in profits was primarily driven by declining production expenses and higher loan balances, which mitigated the effects of lower basis-point revenue.” Interestingly, production revenue and secondary marketing income fell. The purchase share of the market fell from 74% to 60%.

 

Bold prediction: Within the next two years, we will see the majority of loans go through the entire process without any human involvement. It will be a much more mechanized process.

 

The minutes from the Fed confirmed the market’s view that the central bank will be out of the picture for a while. They removed the “act as appropriate” language in order to signal that stance. From the minutes:

 

In describing the monetary policy outlook, they also agreed to remove the “act as appropriate” language and emphasize that the Committee would continue to monitor the implications of incoming information for the economic outlook as it assessed the appropriate path of the target range for the federal funds rate. This change was seen as consistent with the view that the current stance of monetary policy was likely to remain appropriate as long as the economy performed broadly in line with the Committee’s expectations and that policy was not on a preset course and could change if developments emerged that led to a material reassessment of the economic outlook.

 

Translation: We aren’t moving in December. Note the Fed Funds futures agree with that assessment, although they are predicting more cuts in 2020. FWIW, the Fed generally tires to avoid modifying policy in the months leading up to an election for fear of appearing political. That said, the March futures are pricing in about a 25% chance of a cut.

 

fed funds futures

 

Is the REO-to-Rental trade finally done? Blackstone has finally exited its entire position in Invitation Homes, which it created in the aftermath of the financial crisis. Invitation was one of the first to buy up distressed properties and rehab them to rent. Turns out Blackstone tripled its money on the trade.

Morning Report: Senate resolution complicates trade negotiations

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 3111 -6.25
Oil (WTI) 55.69 -0.74
10 year government bond yield 1.74%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.96%

 

Stocks are lower this morning as tensions increase between China and the US over Hong Kong. Bonds and MBS are up.

 

The Senate passed a resolution last night supporting democracy for Hong Kong and urging China to not use violence to suppress the demonstrations. This will undoubtedly complicate trade negotiations, and will push the markets to more of a “risk-off” (stocks down, bonds up) posture. Bond yields are lower this morning, with the 10 year trading at 1.74%.

 

Mortgage Applications decreased by 2.2% last week on a seasonally adjusted basis as purchases rose 6.7% and refis fell 7.7%. Veteran’s Day influenced the numbers. “U.S. and China trade anxieties and protests in Hong Kong pulled U.S. Treasuries lower last week, and the 30-year fixed mortgage rate followed the same path, dipping below 4 percent,” said Joel Kan, MBA Associate Vice President of Economic and Industry Forecasting. “Despite lower rates, mortgage applications decreased 2.2 percent, driven by an 8 percent slide in refinance activity. Rates have stayed in the same narrow range of around 4 percent since July, so we may be starting to see the expected slowdown in refinancing as the pool of eligible homeowners shrinks.”

 

The retailers are announcing earnings and the markets are looking for indications of how this year’s holiday shopping season will shake out. Target and WalMart both announced strong earnings and took up their Q4 guidance. These two stocks are a bellwether for John Q Public’s spending habits.

 

The FOMC minutes will be out at 2:00 pm today. The minutes usually aren’t market-moving, but given the somewhat abrupt change in the Fed’s posture there is always the possibility that we could see some action. Just be aware when locking around that time.

 

 

 

 

Morning Report: Experts talk about 2020 forecasts

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 3116 -1.25
Oil (WTI) 57.29 -0.24
10 year government bond yield 1.82%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 4.00%

 

Stocks are flattish this morning as violence continues in Hong Kong. Bonds and MBS are flat as well.

 

Optimism for a trade deal with China waxes and wanes, and we had some conflicting reports this weekend. CNBC said that the government was disappointed in Trump’s reluctance to roll back tariffs, while the Chinese state media company said Beijing and Washington had constructive talks over the weekend.

 

The upcoming week has some real-estate related data with housing starts and existing home sales, but nothing much market moving. We will get the FOMC minutes on Wednesday, but the sense in the market is that the Fed is on hold for a while, and probably through the election.

 

The Fed said the US financial system “appears resilient” in its semiannual report on financial stability. “The current combination of very low credit spreads and high levels of indebtedness among risky nonfinancial corporates, including through leveraged loans, merits heightened vigilance,” Fed Governor Lael Brainard said in a prepared statement. “Over the medium term, the low-for-long environment and the associated incentives to reach for yield and take on additional debt could increase financial vulnerabilities.” They were also critical of cryptocurrencies, warning they could destabilize the system if implemented without regulation and oversight. Wasn’t the whole point of cryptocurrencies to have a medium of exchange that is beyond the reach of governments?

 

Predictions for 2020:  Rates will remain low, with Fannie Mae predicting the 30 year fixed rate mortgage will end up in a tight range around 3.5% – 3.6%. Home price appreciation will re-accelerate, with home prices rising 5.6% next year versus 3.5% this year. Inventory will remain tight, however especially at the lower price points. “While historically low rates increase buying power and make it more likely for potential buyers to attain their homeownership dream, they also increase the risk of a long-run housing supply shortage, which we predict will continue through 2020 and possibly intensify,” Kushi says. “As first-time buyers lock-in these historically amazing rates and existing owners refinance—in droves in recent months, everyone will stay put and not sell. Where’s the incentive?”

Morning Report: Retail sales strong

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 3105 8.25
Oil (WTI) 56.59 -0.14
10 year government bond yield 1.84%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 4.00%

 

Stocks are up this morning on optimism for a trade deal. Bonds and MBS are flat.

 

Retail Sales increased 0.3% MOM and 3.1% YOY. in October. The control group, which strips out the volatile auto, gas, and building materials sectors) increased 0.3%. Apparel and big-ticket items like furniture and appliances were weak, however. Regardless, it is looking like this year’s holiday shopping season will be strong.

 

Dallas Fed President Robert Kaplan doesn’t see a recession in 2020 as strong consumer spending and a robust labor market provide a strong foundation to keep the economy going. Numerous Fed speakers – Powell, Williams, Kaplan, Clarida – have all expressed comfort with the current level of interest rates. As a general rule, the central bank is loath to do anything during an election year for fear of appearing political and wanting to help one candidate or another. This is especially true when one of the candidates is trying to influence Fed policy publicly. This means we probably won’t see any further action out of the FOMC until 2021. Long-term rates (and mortgage rates) will therefore be more influenced by overseas rates and any sort of inflation surprises in the US. FWIW, I think the Fed is exactly where they want to be, with a positively sloped yield curve, decent growth and tame inflation.

 

Mortgage delinquencies fell to a 25 year low, according to the MBA. The rate for 1 – 4 unit DQs fell to 3.97% in the third quarter, which was down 59 bps from the second quarter and 50 bps from a year ago. “Mortgage delinquencies decreased in the third quarter across all loan types – conventional, VA, and in particular, FHA,” said Marina Walsh, MBA’s Vice President of Industry Analysis. “The FHA delinquency rate dropped 100 basis points, as weather-related disruptions from the spring waned. The labor market remains healthy and economic growth has been stronger than anticipated. These two factors have contributed to the lowest level of overall delinquencies in almost 25 years.”

 

 

 

 

Morning Report: Fannie / Freddie sale by 2022?

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 3088 -6.25
Oil (WTI) 57.59 0.44
10 year government bond yield 1.83%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 4.00%

 

Stocks are lower this morning on weak overseas economic data. Bonds and MBS are up.

 

Initial Jobless Claims rose to 225k last week. We are still at extremely low levels historically. Jerome Powell will be testifying today at 10:00 am. Nothing earth-shattering came out of his testimony yesterday, although he pushed back on Trump’s suggestion that the Fed should cut rates below zero.

 

Inflation at the wholesale level came in a little hotter than expected, with the Producer Price Index rising 0.4%% MOM and 1.1% YOY. Ex-food and energy, it rose 0.3% MOM and 1.6% YOY. These readings are still well below what the Fed would like to see, which is inflation at 2%.

 

Mark Calabria said that Fannie and Fred could be ready to exit government conservatorship by 2022. “If all goes well, 2021, 2022 we will see very large public offerings from these companies,” Calabria said at an event sponsored by the American Association of Residential Mortgage Regulators and the Conference of State Bank Supervisors. “The consent decree will be able to give that window where they can go to market, do an offering and still operate under a way where we’ve got some prudential safeguards.” Fannie and Fred stock fell on the news. Fannie’s stock has been a trader’s dream, with plenty of volatility to play with.

 

FNMA chart

Morning Report: Risk-on feel as China and US strike a trade deal

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 3088 12.25
Oil (WTI) 57.27 0.94
10 year government bond yield 1.88%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.97%

 

Stocks are higher this morning after the US and China agree to remove tariffs. China also made some high profile arrests to stem the tide of fentanyl coming into the US. The fentanyl issue was a key part of the US’s issues with China. Bonds and MBS are down on the “risk-on” trade.

 

After a dismal start to the year, the luxury end of the market (homes over $1.5 million) rebounded in the third quarter as rates fell. Prices rose 0.3% on average, but they had been falling since 2018. Manhattan was hit particularly hard on the new mansion tax. Florida was the beneficiary as prices rose over 100% in West Palm and some of the other nearby areas. Previously hot markets like San Diego also remained in the losing category. “Because recession fears peaked over the summer, I expected luxury home prices and sales to dip. But it appears that nerves alone weren’t enough to scare off wealthy homebuyers,” said Redfin chief economist Daryl Fairweather. “The U.S. economy grew faster than expected in the third quarter, partly as a result of healthy consumer spending. Those results, along with flat luxury home prices and rising sales, go to show that Americans are basing their spending habits on their own personal financial situation rather than concerns about global economic tensions. For many, that means strong incomes and good employment prospects.”

 

Fannie Mae is out with their housing forecasts for 2020. They anticipate the 30 year fixed rate mortgage will continue to fall, hitting 3.5% by the end of 2020, and home prices will rise about 4%. Interestingly, they do not anticipate any sort of pickup in housing starts – in fact they anticipate they will be flat with 2019. Despite the drop in rates, they anticipate origination volumes will fall to 1.86 trillion from 2.04 trillion as the refinance share of the market falls from 37% to 31%.

 

New York Fed President John Williams said that the FOMC sees no reason to cut interest rates further: “The three rate cuts we did were very effective at managing the risks” slowing global growth and trade uncertainty present to the U.S. economy, New York Fed President John Williams said at a Wall Street Journal event in New York. Chicago Fed President Charles Evans echoed the same sentiment.

 

Finally, we know that gathering strength in the US economy is helping push rates higher. It is important to note that rising rates is not simply a US phenomenon. US Treasuries don’t trade in a vacuum – they are always going to be subject to moves in overseas rates. For now, the key overseas interest rate to watch is the yield on the German Bund, which has increased by 45 basis points since early September. The Bund still has a negative yield, but it is now -27 basis points after bottoming at -72 basis points 2 months ago.

 

bund

Morning Report: Bonds adjust to the prospect of no more rate cuts

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 3083 7.25
Oil (WTI) 56.97 0.64
10 year government bond yield 1.84%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.92%

 

Stocks are higher this morning after Chinese President Xi Jinping committed to lowering tariffs and institutional transaction costs. Bonds and MBS are down.

 

The markets expect to see some sort of phase 1 trade deal with China in the coming weeks. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that China and the US are considering rolling back some tariffs. Separately, the Chinese central bank lowered rates to deal with a liquidity crunch.

 

There isn’t much data this week (as is typical after the jobs report) however we do have a lot of Fed-Speak so, we could see some movement in the bond markets as we adjust to the pause. For those keeping score at home, the December Fed Funds futures are signalling only a 5% chance of another rate cut this year. A month ago, they were handicapping a 44% chance of another cut.

 

fed funds futures

 

Home prices rose 3.5% YOY according to CoreLogic. By their models, 36% of the top 100 MSAs are overvalued (including the NYC area), while 23% were undervalued and 41% were fairly valued. Their model compares housing values to disposable incomes to come up with a valuation score. They are forecasting home price appreciation to accelerate to 5.6% over next year. Note that Realtor.com said that listing prices rose 4.3% in October to a high of 312,000.

 

Corelogic overvalued

 

About 0.6% of all originations went DQ within 6 months, according to Black Knight Financial Services. While this is much lower than the pre-bubble years, it has been steadily increasing since the housing market bottomed. The concentration is primarily in first time homebuyers. Foreclosures remain under control, at levels last seen in 2005.