Morning Report: Forbearance curve is flattening

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 2940 -7.1
Oil (WTI) 33.54 1.19
10 year government bond yield 0.73%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.28%

 

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

 

Fed Chairman Jerome Powell and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin head to Capitol Hill to testify in front of the Senate today.  In his prepared remarks, Jerome Powell basically laid out everything the Fed has done so far, so it doesn’t look like anything new is going to come out of this.

 

Social distancing took a bite out of housing starts in April, falling 30% to 891 thousand. Building Permits also fell 19% from March. Separately, the NAHB Housing Market index increased in May to 37 from 30.

 

CNBC explains why this isn’t the Great Depression, even though the unemployment numbers are up there. The simplest explanation – there was no economic rot that caused the drop in the economy. No asset bubbles, no bad investments, no bank failures – it isn’t comparable. This was a healthy economy that was put in a deep freeze in response to a pandemic. Recessions generally exist because bad debt needs to be written off, excess inventory needs to be sold, and bad businesses liquidated. There isn’t any of that this time around. Just like the predictions of millions of deaths in the US from COVID turned out to be overly pessimistic, I think many of the predictions of a long, drawn out recovery will be too.

 

The Despot missed earnings expectations this morning, but maintained its dividend. It also withdrew its guidance for the rest of the year. The company took some actions to help its employees including paid time off, bonuses, and healthcare expense help which hit earnings by 60 cents a share. Meanwhile, WalMart reported strong numbers this morning as shoppers stockpile necessities.

 

It looks like the “forbearance curve” is flattening. “The pace of forbearance requests continued to slow in the second week of May, but the share of loans in forbearance increased,” said Mike Fratantoni, MBA’s chief economist. “There has been a pronounced flattening in loans put into forbearance – despite April’s uniformly negative economic data, remarkably high unemployment, and it now being past May payment due dates.”

Morning Report: 9% of mortgages are in forbearance

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 2929 83.1
Oil (WTI) 32.54 1.29
10 year government bond yield 0.68%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.36%

 

Stocks are higher this morning on positive news for a COVID vaccine. Bonds and MBS are down.

 

The upcoming week should be relatively quiet, with no major economic news. Jerome Powell speaks tomorrow and we will get the FOMC minutes, but that is about it. Markets will be closing early on Friday for the Memorial Day weekend.

 

The MBA sent a letter to Congress stressing the need for a liquidity facility for non-bank servicers. In order to work, Ginnie must be given legal authority to approve pledges of an issuer’s future reimbursements on servicing advances. The MBA also points out that allowing everyone to get forbearance regardless of circumstances was not the smartest idea. While FHFA has stated that borrowers who seek forbearance will not be required to repay everything at once, that doesn’t necessarily apply to non-government-backed paper.

 

About 9% of US mortgages are in forbearance right now. This works out to be $1 trillion in unpaid principal. By the end of June, Black Knight estimates that 10% – 12% of the mortgage market will be in forbearance. 12% would work out to be 6.3 million borrowers. That is a lot of advances. Separately, the National Multifamily Housing Council reported that 88% of renters made their May payment through May 13.

 

Jerome Powell warned on the economy turning around: “There is a growing sense that the recovery may come more slowly than we would like, but it will come. And that may mean that it’s necessary for us to do more.” He is advocating for Congress to provide more fiscal stimulus, which doesn’t seem like it will be forthcoming. The House has passed a liberal wish-list, but Mitch McConnell doesn’t seem all that eager to take it up. The big trade will be liability protection for business in exchange for vote-by-mail.

 

The MBA says buyers will return by summer as lockdown ends. “We expect that heading into the summer, more prospective homebuyers will gradually return to the market.” FWIW, “summer” is only a month away, but I think this is already happening. I was listening to the American Homes 4 Rent conference call, and they said that traffic was slower in the second half of March, but by the second half of April, traffic was up 25% year-over-year. They had 9,500 showings is five days which worked out to be six tours per available property. While these are for rentals, it does show that people who are living in crowded urban areas want to escape to the suburbs, where social distancing is easier. The company even mentioned on the call that COVID is driving traffic. I have to imagine the same thing happening for purchase activity. We will get a better idea on April numbers this week when existing home sales comes out on Thursday.

 

Just like the talking heads overestimated the whole COVID-19 crisis, I think they are also overestimating the economic fallout from it. There just weren’t too many problems with the economy going into the crisis, and this recession wasn’t caused by economic rot or inflation. It was like taking a healthy person and putting him into a medically induced coma. All of the economic models are based on history – in other words, recessions which were caused by asset bubbles or the Fed. It would be like comparing our healthy patient’s coma recovery to someone who was put into a medically-induced coma because of an illness. Without an underlying condition that needs to heal, the recovery should be faster, all things being equal.

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: 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: First quarter GDP falls 4.8%

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 2915 48.1
Oil (WTI) 15.71 3.29
10 year government bond yield 0.61%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.43%

 

Stocks are higher this morning despite a disappointing GDP print. Bonds and MBS are up.

 

First quarter GDP fell 4.8% as the COVID lockdown depressed consumer spending, which fell 7.6%. The price index rose 1.3%, and that will be a number to watch going forward. Inflation is too much money chasing too few goods. We have managed to sidestep inflation in the past because shortages weren’t a problem. Now they are. Do you remember paying a buck a roll for TP last year? How about chicken? It averaged $3.11 a pound last year. At the local Stop and Shop it is now $3.80, and with the Tyson closures it will go higher. The black swan out of this whole thing could be a resurgence of inflation, right when that is the last thing the economy needs. 

 

The FOMC will make their announcement at 2:00 pm today. Not sure what they can say,(Information received since the Federal Open Market Committee met in March seems to indicate the economy has hit a brick wall and is sinking like an anvil….) and I can’t see it being market-moving. The mortgage industry would love to see something about a servicing advance repo line, but aside from accepting newer forms of collateral I don’t think there is much more they can do.

 

Mortgage applications fell 3.3% last week as purchases rose 12% and refis fell 7.5%. The refi market continues to tighten as investors add overlays to cash-outs. The strength in the purchase market is encouraging. Separately, the homeownership rate hit 63.5% in the first quarter, the highest since 2013. I think for many urban millennials with families, the COVID Crisis will trigger a flight to the suburbs, which should bump up the homeownership rate going forward.

 

According to a NPR poll, half of Americans have been financially affected by the Coronavirus. If that is the case, then forbearance numbers are going up.

 

Consumer confidence fell from 119 to 87, which was worse than expected.

 

 

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: Rates falling on global growth fears

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 3243 19.25
Oil (WTI) 51.58 0.02
10 year government bond yield 1.54%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.65%

 

Stocks are higher despite Chinese markets getting hammered on Coronavirus. Bonds and MBS are down small.

 

We saw a big jump downward in rates last week, both here and in Europe. The Coronavirus is triggering the “flight to safety” trade, which means investors sell risky assets like stocks to buy less risky assets like Treasuries. So far, we aren’t seeing major moves in the Fed funds futures, but this situation is still developing.

 

Stocks this week will probably be driven by developments in China more than the usual catalysts (earnings and economic data). We are in the heart of earnings season right now, with heavyweights like Google reporting tonight. Not much in terms of Fed speak this week, however we do have some important economic data with the jobs report on Friday.

 

Black Knight Financial estimates there are 9 million refinanceable mortgages in the market right now. By their numbers, 9.4 million borrowers could save an average lf $272 a month if they were to refinance, assuming 30 year mortgage, 20% equity and a 720 FICO. That adds up to $2.6 billion per month, the highest potential savings in 20 years.

 

Wells estimates that if Coronavirus takes a big bite out of global growth, we could be looking at low 1%s in the 10 year. They also think each 1% sell-off in the S&P 500 translates into about 4 basis points lower in the 10 year yield.

 

The homeownership rate ticked up in the fourth quarter to 64.8%, the highest level in the second quarter of 2014. I don’t know if we will get back to the peak levels we saw in 2005-2006 given that the financial conditions that spawned it aren’t present any more.

homeownership rate