Morning Report: Disappointing payroll number

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 2819 14.35
Oil (WTI) 53.02 -0.46
10 year government bond yield 2.12%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 4.13%

 

Stocks are higher this morning after yesterday’s rally continued overnight. Bonds and MBS are flat.

 

Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said yesterday that the central bank was monitoring the trade tensions between China and the US and would “act appropriately” to maintain the economic expansion. Investors took this to mean that the Fed would probably cut rates this year. The stock market had its best day in 5 months, and bonds sold off a touch, although lower rates should be supported by low overseas yields and the prospect of a rate cut.

 

Donald Trump announced that he would institute tariffs on Mexican goods if the country didn’t do more to curb illegal immigration into the US. This new front in the trade war was the catalyst to push the 10 year below 2.1%. Yesterday, Republican senators warned that there was not support for tariffs in the Senate.

 

Mortgage Applications increased 1.5% last week as purchases fell 2% and refis increased 6%. “Mortgage rates dropped to their lowest level since the first week of 2018, driven by increasing concerns regarding the ongoing trade tensions with China and Mexico,” said Mike Fratantoni, MBA Senior Vice President and Chief Economist. “Some borrowers, particularly those with larger loans, jumped on the opportunity to refinance, bringing the index and average refinance loan size to their highest levels since early April. Additionally, refinances for FHA and VA loans jumped by 11 percent.”

 

Payrolls only increased by 27k last month according to the ADP Employment Report. Small firms reduced payrolls by 52,000 last month, and it looks like the majority of that was in construction. Manufacturing fell by 3,000 which might be tariff related. The service sector increased employment by 71,000 and large employers increased by 68,000. Street expectations are for a 185,000 increase in payrolls for Friday’s jobs report. Now that the Fed is out of the way, the wage growth number is no longer the focus.

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Morning Report: Overseas yields hit a record low

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 2759.6 9.65
Oil (WTI) 52.61 -0.84
10 year government bond yield 2.11%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 4.13%

 

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

 

We are seeing lots of articles tying trade to rate cuts. IMO, I think the business press and politicians overestimate the effects of trade sometimes, but there is no doubt that there is a sea change in opinion. The markets are pricing in a 96% chance of a rate cut this year. Only 1 month ago, they were pricing in a 53% chance of no movement at all. Compare the forecast now versus May 3. Amazing how much sentiment has changed. The central tendency is now for 2 rate cuts (although the markets expect the Fed to hold steady at the June meeting in a couple of weeks).

 

fed funds futures

 

Is trade the driver of the change in sentiment? It plays a part, no doubt. But, the yield curve inversion has more to do with general economic malaise especially in Europe. The  German Bund (Germany’s 10 year bond) has hit a record low yield of -21 basis points. This is a big deal, and is the real culprit behind the drop in US Treasury rates. Relative value trading (in other words managers selling Bunds which pay nothing for Treasuries which pay something) is pulling US rates lower, which has inverted the yield curve. An inverted yield curve occurs when short term rates (like the 1 month T-bill) are higher than long term rates like the 10 year. The 1 month T-bill pays 2.35% while the 10 year pays 2.11%. Historically, an inverted yield curve has been a recessionary indicator, but that probably isn’t what is going on right now. I certainly don’t think the Fed imagines a recession is imminent or even a decent possibility – we will get an idea however when they release their economic projections at the June FOMC meeting.  That said, the markets see two rate cuts this year, and the dot plot will be an interesting view.  Strange to think that the Fed tightened to fight nonexistent inflation and will ease to fight a nonexistent recession, but here we are….

 

Home prices rose 1% MOM and 3.6% YOY in April, according to CoreLogic. They do see home price appreciation picking back up over the next year, and are forecasting a 4.7% increase over the next year.

Morning Report: Rates continue to move lower

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 2746 -5
Oil (WTI) 54.23 0.76
10 year government bond yield 2.12%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 4.18%

 

Stocks are lower as trade fears dominate the market’s mood. Bonds and MBS are up (yields down). The 10 year hit 2.07% in the overnight session.

 

On the open, it is looking like mortgage backed securities are lagging the move in Treasuries. Prepayment speed worries are behind it. It may take a couple of days for mortgage rates to catch up.

 

The upcoming week will have a slew of important economic data, with construction spending, the ISM numbers and the jobs report on Friday. Productivity and costs will be another key number, although the Fed is more worried about a slowdown than an acceleration of inflation. After that, the Fed goes into their quiet period ahead of the FOMC meeting in two weeks.

 

Housing affordability is at its strongest in about a year, according to Black Knight Financial. The annual rate of housing inflation fell below the 25 year average of home price appreciation for the first time since 2012. 22% of median income was required to purchase the average house, which is will below the historical average of around 25%. Most of that has to do with lower interest rates, but slowing home price appreciation and rising incomes have been the drivers there.

 

According to Sentier Research, the median income in March of 2019 was $64,016. NAR has the median home price at $267,300. This puts the median house price to median income ratio at just under 4.2x. This is still elevated compared to historical numbers, but low interest rates offset the high multiple.

 

Affordability issues are driving a new business model for builders in some high-cost areas: build to rent. Toll Brothers is going to spend something like $60 million in a joint venture to build rental properties. “Renting by choice” is one of the new consumer trends, and it may not be going anywhere. The plan is to stick rental properties in planned communities that are more or less identical to neighboring properties. Why would people choose to rent? If they are worried about another housing bubble, they shouldn’t. That isn’t going to happen again for a long, long time. If they believe they need a 20% down payment, then the industry has an education job to do. If they are doing it because they want the freedom to move easily, that will probably change once they have kids.

 

Construction spending was flat in April, according to the Census Bureau. Residential was down 0.6% MOM and 11.2% YOY.

Morning Report: Tariff threats push the 10 year to 2.15% overnight

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 2761 -29
Oil (WTI) 55.56 -0.6
10 year government bond yield 2.16%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 4.25%

 

Stocks are lower this morning after Trump threatened Mexico with 5% tariffs over illegal immigration. Bonds and MBS are up.

 

The 10 year bond is trading at 2.16 this morning, the lowest level in almost 2 years. We are seeing some action in the TBAs as the 3% FN coupons are all trading above par. We should see more pain in the servicing space as marks have to come in. If you were hoping for a good MSR mark to paper over an aggressive cut in margins, you are about to get a double-whammy.

 

Personal Incomes rose 0.5% in April versus Street expectations of a 0.3% increase. Personal Consumption rose 0.3%, again topping estimates. March’s consumption numbers were revised upward as well. The core PCE  price index (the Fed’s preferred measure of inflation) rose 1.6% YOY, which is well below their target. For those keeping score at home, the market is now pricing in a 90% probability of a rate cut this year. with a better-than 50% chance of 2 or more!

 

fed funds futures

 

Regardless of the strength in the economy, pending home sales dropped 1.5% in April. YOY contract signings fell 2%, making this the 16 consecutive month of YOY declines. Lawrence Yun highlighted the problem: a glut of expensive homes and a shortgage of low priced homes: “Home price appreciation has been the strongest on the lower-end as inventory conditions have been consistently tight on homes priced under $250,000. Price conditions are soft on the upper-end, especially in high tax states like Connecticut, New York and Illinois.” The supply of inventory for homes priced under $250,000 stood at 3.3 months in April, and homes priced $1 million and above recorded an inventory of 8.9 months in April.”  Given that a balanced market is usually around six and a half months, you can see the extremes of 3.3 months at the low end and 8.9 months at the high end.

 

Fed Vice Chair Richard Clarida gave some support to the bond market yesterday in a speech at the Economic Club of New York. “If the incoming data were to show a persistent shortfall in inflation below our 2 percent objective or were it to indicate that global economic and financial developments present a material downside risk to our baseline outlook, then these are developments that the [Federal Open Market Committee] would take into account in assessing the appropriate stance for monetary policy…..Midway through the second quarter of 2019, the U.S. economy is in a good place…By most estimates, fiscal policy played an important role in boosting growth in 2018, and I expect that fiscal policies will continue to support growth in 2019.”

Morning Report: Rates heading lower

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 2788 -17
Oil (WTI) 57.53 -1.78
10 year government bond yield 2.23%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 4.31%

 

Stocks are lower this morning as bond yields continue to fall worldwide. Bonds and MBS are up.

 

Mortgage applications fell 3% last week as purchases declined 1% and refis declined 6%. This is despite a 6 basis point drop in mortgage rates.

 

Bond yields are down worldwide, with Japan, Australia, and Germany all hitting lows or close to it. This is not being driven by trade concerns – it is being driven by economic malaise in Europe. The German Bund, which is the European benchmark, is yielding -17 basis points (which means you have to pay to lend to the German government). Japanese government bonds yield -10 basis points. All of this will pull down US bond yields as investors swap out of negative yielding assets into positive yielding ones. Even if investors need to bear the foreign exchange risk to buy a US Treasury, many of them figure a possible loss is a better deal than a certain one.

 

Expect the narrative of the business press to evolve as this goes on, from worrying about trade issues to worrying about an inverting yield curve. The business press is going to jump at the narrative that the yield curve is predicting an impending recession, especially as we head into the 2020 elections. Be careful with that interpretation. Historically an inverted yield curve has been a signal of a recession, that much is true. That was before the days of extensive central bank intervention in the bond markets, which has diluted the economic messages being sent by rates. The signal-to-noise ratio of the yield curve is at a historical low, and has been for the past 10 years.

 

Instead of signalling a recession, lower long-term rates are more likely to be good news for the US economy in general. Slower global growth will keep a lid on inflation, which will give the US economy more leeway to grow without building inflationary pressures. This has been a theme for the the past 30 years – emerging economies exporting deflation, and that allows the US economy to run hotter than it ordinarily would. And, unlike the late 90s or the mid 00s, we don’t have a stock / residential real estate bubble to worry about. Note that consumer confidence is back towards 18 year highs as well.

 

Quicken CEO Dan Gilbert had a stroke over the weekend. We all wish him a speedy recovery.

Morning Report: Dovish FOMC minutes

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 2835.25 -22.4
Oil (WTI) 60.47 -0.95
10 year government bond yield 2.36%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 4.41%

 

Stocks are lower this morning on trade fears and European elections. Bonds and MBS are up.

 

The minutes from the April FOMC meeting were released yesterday, and the Fed continues to adjust its sails to the messages from the market. The bond market took the minutes to be dovish, and bond yields dropped after they were released. The quote that investors focused on:

 

“Members observed that a patient approach to determining future adjustments to the target range for the federal funds rate would likely remain appropriate for some
time, especially in an environment of moderate economic growth and muted inflation pressures, even if global economic and financial conditions continued to improve.”

 

That statement (even if global economic and financial conditions continued to improve) is an all-clear signal to the bond market that positive economic data is no longer a threat. Given the background of creeping Eurosclerosis and a trade dispute, the highs for interest rates are probably in, and strategists are already talking about an insurance rate cut.

 

Talk of a rate cut is probably premature however. The data just don’t support it, and with the jawboning out of the White House the Fed is going to resist cutting rates if only to prove they are independent. That said, the circumstances required to justify a rate hike are even more unlikely.

 

Troubles in the luxury end of the real estate market? Not so fast. McMansion builder Toll reported earnings yesterday that exceeded street expectations, and Toll CEO Doug Yearley noted that the Spring Selling Season, which had been a bit of a disappointment, has finally woken up. “We are encouraged by the improvement in demand as the quarter progressed.  FY 2019’s April contracts surpassed FY 2018’s April on both a gross and per-community basis.  Although the Spring selling season bloomed late, it built momentum.  We view this as a positive sign for the overall health of the new home market.”

 

Initial Jobless Claims ticked up to 215,000 last week, while the Markit purchasing managers’ index decreased in April.

 

New home sales ticked down in April, falling to a seasonally adjusted annual pace of 673,000. That said, March’s numbers were revised upwards to 732,000. The median home price was more or less flat YOY at $326,400 and the inventory of 332,000 units represents a 5.9 month supply.

Morning Report: Weak data sends yields lower

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 2832.5 -6
Oil (WTI) 61.11 -0.59
10 year government bond yield 2.36%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 4.17%

 

Stocks are lower after weak economic data out of China. Bonds and MBS are up.

 

Some weak economic data this morning, which is pushing bond yields lower. The 10 year is trading at 2.63%, which is the lowest level since December 2017.

 

Mortgage Applications fell 0.6% last week as rates were more or less steady. Purchases fell 0.6%, while refis fell 0.5%. The typical 30 year fixed rate mortgage came in at 4.24%. “Purchase applications declined slightly last week but still remained almost 7 percent higher than a year ago,” said Joel Kan, MBA’s Associate Vice President of Economic and Industry Forecasting. “Despite the third straight decline in mortgage rates, refinance applications decreased for the fifth time in six weeks, albeit by less than 1 percent.”

 

Separately, 30-day and 60-day delinquencies did tick up in the first quarter, however foreclosure inventory is at the lowest level since 1995.

 

Retail sales disappointed, with the headline number coming in -0.2%. Ex autos, they rose 0.1% and the control group was flat. YOY, they were up 3.1%

 

Industrial Production and manufacturing production both fell 0.5% in April, while capacity utilization fell to 77.9%.

 

After the weak data, the December Fed Funds futures are forecasting a 76% chance of a rate cut this year, and the June futures are factoring in a 1 in 5 chance of a 25 basis point cut. 1 month ago, the markets were handicapping a 40% chance of a cut this year, so there has been a big change in sentiment. While that seems aggressive given the language out of the Fed, it is hard to ignore what the markets are saying.

 

fed funds futures