Morning Report: Mortgage and rent payments are due

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 2650 -48.1
Oil (WTI) 19.81 1.29
10 year government bond yield 0.61%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.43%

 

Stocks are lower this morning after disappointing comments out of Exxon, Apple and Amazon. Bonds and MBS are flat.

 

It is May 1. Mortgage and rent payments are due. I suspect we will see a deluge of missed payments. Meanwhile, about half of US states are looking to loosen restrictions.

 

Construction spending rose 0.9% in March, despite the COVID-19 concerns. The ISM Manufacturing Index fell, but not as much as feared.

 

Fannie Mae reported net income of $461 million in the first quarter compared to $4.4 billion in the fourth quarter of 2019. Increased provisions for loan losses drove the decline. Fannie estimates that 7% of its book (or about a million loans) is in forbearance right now. Net worth fell by a billion to 13.6 billion. 1 million loans, $13.6 billion in equity.

 

According to Black Knight, 3.8 million mortgages are in forbearance. 1.7 million are Fannie / Freddie, 1.2 are GNMA and the rest are private label / other. UPB is $238 billion. Black Knight estimates that there will need to be $8 billion in P&I advances and another $1.7 billion in T&I advances.

 

Many large corporations are thinking of keeping work-from-home a permanent thing. It looks like productivity hasn’t suffered as much as employers have feared, and this could be a win-win for both employers and employees.

Morning Report: Fed Nominee Judy Shelton probably is done.

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 3384 6.25
Oil (WTI) 52.06 0.65
10 year government bond yield 1.60%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.68%

 

Stocks are higher this morning after some strong earnings reports out of the tech sector. Bonds and MBS are flat.

 

Retail Sales came in at 0.3% as expected.

 

It looks like Judy Shelton may not make it through the nomination process as the business press gangs up on her and a couple Republicans voice concerns. The issue with Shelton is that she hasn’t rejected the gold standard and she casts doubt that the conventional wisdom of central banking is correct. This may be unfortunate, as global central banks are prone to groupthink. Given the strength of the US economy (strongest labor market in 50 years) why would the Fed be increasing its balance sheet? I wouldn’t be surprises to see her withdraw her name over the long President’s Day weekend.

 

Inflows to bond funds could hit $1 trillion again in 2020. Investment dollars are flowing to high grade corporate bonds and Treasuries. This wall of money will keep a ceiling on bond yields, and should continue this process of rates slowly grinding lower throughout the year. Good news for the mortgage banking business.

 

The homeownership rate increased to 65.1% in Q4, the highest in six years. The millennial cohort rate increased by 1.1% to 37.6%. Note that the rental vacancy rate at 6.4% is the lowest in 34 years.

 

Fannie Mae reported net income of $14.2 billion in 2019. Under an agreement with Treasury, Fannie will be allowed to keep it as they build up their capital to eventually go for sale.

Morning Report: The government hires and advisor for Fannie and Freddie

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 3289 43.25
Oil (WTI) 51.38 1.02
10 year government bond yield 1.59%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.63%

 

Stocks are higher after Chinese markets held up overnight. Bonds and MBS are down.

 

Construction spending fell 0.2% in November, but was up 5% on a YOY basis. Residential construction was up 1.4% MOM and up 5.8% YOY. Public residential construction was up almost 30% YOY.

 

Manufacturing performed better than expected in January, with the ISM Manufacturing Index rising to 50.9. This is a sharp rebound from December, which indicates that trade issues are in the rear view mirror.

 

The government is considering an expansion of the Federal Home Loan Bank’s customer base to include non-bank lenders and mortgage REITs. Federal Home Loan Bank borrowers generally get a sweetheart deal on financing, usually much better than even overnight repo lines. The reason? government subsidies. Note that some mortgage REITs currently do have FHLB lines, but I guess they want more mortgage REITs in the business. The Feds have been frustrated by the large banks, who have shied away from all but the most credit-worthy borrowers.

 

FHFA has hired an advisor to help recapitalize Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Houlihan Lokey won the deal. This will allow Fan and Fred to hire their own advisors for the equity sale. This is part of the government’s plan to decrease its footprint in the mortgage market. The share sale could top $125 billion, which would dwarf the largest IPO ever (Saudi Aramco in December) by a factor of 5. Lots of details remain, but progress is being made.

Morning Report: Upbeat housing forecast from Fannie Mae

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 3252 7.25
Oil (WTI) 61.78 -0.04
10 year government bond yield 1.88%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.97%

 

Stocks are higher as investors are largely taking the day off. Bonds and MBS are up.

 

Mortgage applications fell by 5% last week as purchases and refis both fell by the same amount. “The 10-Year Treasury yield increased last week amid signs of stronger homebuilding activity and solid consumer spending, leading to a rise in conventional conforming and jumbo 30-year mortgage rates to just under 4 percent. With this increase, conventional refinance application volume fell 11 percent,” said Mike Fratantoni, MBA Senior Vice President and Chief Economist. “Refinance applications for government loans did increase, even though rates on FHA loans picked up. The change in the mix of business has kept the average refinance loan size smaller than we had seen earlier this year.” 

 

Fannie and Freddie both took up their estimates for 2020 economic growth and housing forecasts. Underpinned by a strong labor market, housing will finally take a leadership position in economic growth. “Housing appears poised to take a leading role in real GDP growth over the forecast horizon for the first time in years, further bolstering our modest-but-solid growth forecasts through 2021,” said Fannie Mae Senior Vice President and Chief Economist Doug Duncan. “In our view, residential fixed investment is likely to benefit from ongoing strength in the labor markets and consumer spending, in addition to the low interest rate environment. Risks to growth have lessened of late, as a ’Phase One’ U.S.-China trade deal appears to be in place and global growth seems likely to reverse course and accelerate in 2020. With these positive economic developments in mind, we now believe that the Fed will hold interest rates steady through 2020.”

 

The actual numbers are here. They see housing starts rising to 1.315 million units, and the 30 year fixed rate mortgage falling to 3.6%. Origination volume is expected to fall slightly to $2.04 trillion from $2.15 trillion in 2019. Purchase volume is expected to increase and refis are forecasted to fall. GDP growth is expected to come in at 1.9%

Morning Report: Fannie Mae gets more bullish on housing and the economy

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 3195 -3.25
Oil (WTI) 60.88 -0.04
10 year government bond yield 1.93%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.96%

 

Stocks are flat this morning on no major news. Bonds and MBS are down.

 

Initial Jobless Claims fell to 234k last week. The prior week had a big jump to over 250k, which really didn’t comport with other labor market data. 234,000 is still above where we were a couple weeks ago, though. As of now, assume this is just noise but it there is going to be a turnaround in the labor market, initial jobless claims is where it first shows up.

 

Fannie Mae has taken up their estimates for housing in 2020. Tuesday’s strong housing starts numbers, combined with what we are hearing out of the homebuilders, indicate that the US housing market will be an “engine of growth” for the economy in 2020. All of the talk about a trade-driven recession was more partisan wishful thinking than anything else. Fannie expects new home sales to increase 12% in 2020, and has taken up their forecast for GDP growth from 2% to 2.2%. “We now expect single-family housing starts and sales of new homes to increase substantially, aided by a large uptick in new construction as builders work to replenish inventories,” Duncan said. “Despite the expected increase in the pace of construction, the supply of homes for sale remains tight and strong demand for housing is continuing to drive home prices higher.”

 

Separately, Fannie is offering early retirement to 25% of its workforce as the company readies itself for sale. “As is common in many American companies, Freddie Mac is offering employees who meet certain age and tenure requirements a voluntary opportunity to retire early. As we prepare for our next chapter, we anticipate this will help realign our workforce to create a company attractive to outside investors as well as current and future employees,” a spokesman for Freddie Mac said in an email statement.

 

Shades of things to come? Sweden is ending its 5 year experiment with negative interest rates. Their central bank expects rates to remain at 0% for the next few years. Global interest rates are rising as a result, with the German 10 year Bund trading at negative 22 basis points, and the Japanese Government Bond trading at a hair under 0%.

 

Home prices rose 5% in November, according to Redfin. Listings fell by 5.9%, while sales increased 3%. “Given that inventory is falling quickly, we’d expect to see even stronger price growth, especially when compared to last year’s soft market,” said Redfin chief economist Daryl Fairweather. “The fact that homes are selling faster indicates that there are buyers ready to pull the trigger and take advantage of low interest rates. If lack of inventory and high demand continues, buyers who take a wait-and-see approach could face less favorable conditions in the spring season like bidding wars and faster price growth.” Note that the biggest gains were in the areas hardest hit by the real estate bust: Detroit, Camden and Bakersfield.

Morning Report: Fannie and Freddie are interviewing investment banks

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 3138 3.25
Oil (WTI) 58.87 -0.14
10 year government bond yield 1.82%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.98%

 

Stocks are up as we head into the FOMC meeting. Bonds and MBS are flat.

 

The FOMC will meet today and tomorrow, with the interest rate announcement expected Wednesday at 2:00 pm. The Fed Funds futures are predicting no change in rates. That doesn’t necessarily mean the markets will ignore what is going on, as subtle changes in language can have out-sized effects on the markets. One such word is “symmetric.” The word symmetric refers to the Fed’s 2% inflation target, and how much they will tolerate inflation above that target. The Fed desperately wants to avoid the low inflation / low growth trap that evolved in Europe and Japan, and is signalling to the markets that they will allow inflation to run above 2% for an extended period of time.

 

The Fed will also be watching the overnight repurchase market, to ensure we don’t have another situation like late September where overnight rates spiked over 10%. This was due to a shortage of cash in the market. While this sort of thing doesn’t affect mortgage lending directly, it does raise the cost of borrowing for MBS investors, which can cause them to sell these securities to raise cash. That flows through to rate sheets. While the shortage caught the Fed flat-footed in September, they have been discussing the issue, so hopefully we don’t see another replay at the end of this month.

 

Fannie and Freddie are tightening the restrictions for their Home Ready and Home Possible programs. Previously, borrowers with incomes at the Area Median Income (AMI) were qualified for these 3% down programs; now they will be limited to borrowers at 80% of the AMI. This is all part of the strategy to reduce Fan and Fred’s overall risk prior to setting them free. Note that they are currently interviewing banks to handle the IPO, which will be somewhere between $150 billion and $200 billion. This would dwarf the record for the largest IPOs in history – Saudi Aramco and Alibaba – by over 6x.

 

Despite a glut of McMansions in some areas, Toll Brothers beat estimates and forecasted a strong 2020.  The company noted demand increased throughout the year, and the recent weeks have been stronger than the prior quarter, which is encouraging given that typically you see a slowdown this time of year. Douglas C. Yearley, Jr., Toll Brothers’ chairman and chief executive officer, stated: “Fiscal 2019 ended on a strong note. Building on steady improvement in buyer demand throughout the year, our fourth quarter contracts were up 18% in units and 12% in dollars, and our contracts per-community were up 10% compared to one year ago. Through the first six weeks of fiscal 2020’s first quarter, we have seen even stronger demand than the order growth of fiscal 2019’s fourth quarter. This market improvement should positively impact gross margins over the course of fiscal 2020.”

 

Small business optimism grew in November, according to the NFIB. Recession worries faded into the background, and impeachment remains little more than a curious albeit boring sideshow, similar to the Clinton impeachment saga which had zero effect on the markets. Improving labor conditions were a big driver, with 26% of firms planning on raising compensation in the coming months – the highest in 30 years. (BTW, this is music to the Fed’s ears). It looks like the drag from the 2017-2018 rate hikes are behind us, and the headwind has turned into a tailwind courtesy of the recent rate cuts.

 

Productivity declined in the third quarter as output increased 2.3% and hours worked increased 2.5%. Unit labor costs increased by 2.5%.

Morning Report: Quiet week ahead

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 3120 7.25
Oil (WTI) 57.79 0.24
10 year government bond yield 1.78%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.93%

 

Stocks are higher this morning after China agreed to take more steps to protect US intellectual property. Bonds and MBS are flat.

 

The upcoming week should be relatively quiet with the Thanksgiving holiday. SIFMA is recommending early closings for Wednesday and Friday. Wednesday will have some important economic data with GDP and personal incomes, but with the Fed on hold, economic data is going to take a backseat. Note Jerome Powell is expected to give a speech tonight after the market close.

 

The CFPB is taking a look at loan originator compensation, and is thinking about relaxing some of the rigid rules regarding variations in compensation. The biggest issue surrounds state loan programs, which are meant to make a mortgage more affordable and help get people into homes. Most of these programs have strict limits on how much the originator is permitted to make on a loan, and is often well below what the lender will make on normal conforming loans. This rule change will allow loan officers to lower their compensation to make these programs work financially for the lender. The Bureau is also looking at allowing lenders to decrease LO comp on loans where there are errors due to LO mistakes.

 

The investment community (firms like Blackrock, PIMCO, and Fidelity) are encouraging the Trump Administration to include an explicit government guarantee for Fannie and Freddie loans in its housing reform. The Trump Administration’s plan to privatize the GSEs does not contemplate an explicit government guarantee – and they would like to reduce the size of the government’s footprint in the mortgage market. Note they never had one – the GSEs were “government sponsored” entities, which doesn’t mean “government guaranteed.” Fannie and Fred were always public-private hybrids. Any sort of explicit government guarantee would require legislation, and that is probably going to be almost impossible absent another crisis.