Morning Report: Fed Week

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 3144 -6.25
Oil (WTI) 58.59 -0.64
10 year government bond yield 1.81%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.98%

 

Stocks are slightly lower as we head into a Fed Week. Bonds and MBS are up.

 

There are two big events this week: the FOMC meeting on Tuesday and Wednesday and the spate of new Chinese tariffs expected to take effect at the end of the week. We will get some interesting economic data in productivity, inflation and retail sales, but with the Fed on the sidelines trade and overseas markets will be driving interest rates.

 

The Fed Funds futures are predicting no changes to interest rate policy at the meeting this week. The June 2020 futures are predicting a roughly 50/50 chance of another rate cut.

 

The average size of a first-time homebuyer’s mortgage was $231,974 for the first 3 quarters of 2018 and was up 4.2% on a YOY basis.

 

first time mortgage size

 

Interesting stat courtesy of the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies: annual household growth over the next 10 years is expected to be 1.2 million per year. With housing starts around the same level, we are not taking into account functional obsolescence and deterioration.

 

Is a homeowner who sells his house via iBuyers (think Zillow and Opendoor) leaving money on the table? Turns out the average discount to market value is about 1.3%. The typical fee charged an iBuyer is around 7%. So the total costs is 8.3%. Compare that to using traditional realtors and paying 6%, along with the expense of showing the home, etc. Essentially the seller is paying for convenience, which is a non-contingent offer in a week, with no showing necessary. In this case the fee is about 2.3%, which represents the additional fee of 1% the iBuyer charges along with the 1.3% market value discount.

 

Paul Volcker, the Fed Chairman who slayed the 1970s inflation dragon has passed away.

Morning Report: Blowout jobs report

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 3148 22.25
Oil (WTI) 57.99 -0.44
10 year government bond yield 1.85%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.94%

 

Stocks are higher after a blowout jobs report. Bonds and MBS are down.

 

Jobs report data dump:

  • Nonfarm payrolls up 266,000
  • Unemployment rate 3.5%
  • average hourly earnings up 0.2% MOM / 3.1% YOY
  • Employment-population ratio 61%
  • Labor force participation rate 63.2%

Huge surprise in payrolls given the ADP report only had 67,000. The unemployment rate of 3.5% is the lowest in 50 years. About the only blemish was the small downtick in the labor force participation rate. Note that manufacturing payrolls increased smartly.

 

What does this mean for the bond markets? Nothing since the Fed is on hold, probably through the 2020 election. It also might mean that the rate cuts of earlier this year are beginning to take effect and the drag from the 2018 tightening cycle is behind us.

 

Note that the makeup of the 2020 FOMC voting members will be more dovish than 2019. Eric Rosengren and Esther George – two hawks that dissented against rate cuts – rotate off the board next year. In their place, we will be getting Neel Kahskari and Robert Kaplan. Neel Kashkari is considered one of the most dovish members of the FOMC. Will it make much of a difference? Probably not, although the bar for increasing interest rates will be adjusted upward accordingly.

 

Interesting chart: the median age of US homebuyers since 1980. It has increased from 32 to 47 over that period. Half of that increase came from the Great Recession. Much of this is explained by the muted presence of the first time homebuyer, who has been about 30% of sales as opposed to their historical 40%.

 

median age of us homebuyer

Morning Report: Jumbo loans remain much cheaper than conforming loans.

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 3120 8.25
Oil (WTI) 58.69 0.24
10 year government bond yield 1.81%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.94%

 

Stocks are higher this morning on optimism for a trade deal. Bonds and MBS are down.

 

China maintained that tariffs must be cut if there is to be a phase 1 deal before new tariffs go into effect December 15. Chinese officials said the two sides remain in close communication.

 

Despite the weak ADP print yesterday, other labor market indicators look healthy. Outplacement Firm Challenger Gray and Christmas reported that announced job cuts fell 11% MOM and 13% YOY to 44,569. Tech was the biggest sector this month however retail is the leader for the year. Year-to-date, companies have announced 556,000 job cuts versus 1.2 million planned hires. Note that Challenger and Gray only looks at press releases, not actual cuts. Separately, initial jobless claims fell to 203,000 for the holiday-shortened week.

 

The service sector continued to expand, albeit at a slower rate in November, according to the ISM survey. Employment plans accelerated, while production decelerated. “Tariffs are impacting prices for a broad array of products used in the delivery of services and completion of projects for our clients. Upward pressure is impacting suppliers and their pricing to customers. We are seeing no relief from our customers, so we’re being negatively impacted by tariff-driven price increases. Numerous suppliers report looking for alternative manufacturing/supply locations outside of China, but with limited or no success so far.” (Management of Companies & Support Services)

 

The government has ended the limits on VA mortgages, which means veterans can borrow as much as their incomes and credit allow. So theoretically veterans can buy million dollar homes with no money down.

 

Mortgage credit increased in November, according to the MBA, especially in the jumbo space. “Most notably, the jumbo index climbed to yet another record high, as investors increased their willingness to purchase loans with lower credit scores and higher LTV ratios,” said Joel Kan, MBA Associate Vice President of Economic and Industry Forecasting. “Additionally, the government index saw its first increase in nine months, driven by streamline refinance programs.”

 

Speaking of jumbos, the spread between 30 year conforming loans and jumbos remained negative this year, which means jumbo rates are less expensive than conforming rates. This is odd given that conforming loans are government guaranteed and jumbos are not. The spread did rise a bit this year, largely driven by staffing issues. Still, what is going on? According to CoreLogic, an “increase in GSE guarantee fee, a reduction in the GSE funding advantage, and portfolio lenders’ desire to hold jumbo loans explain much of the variation in the jumbo-conforming spread.” The issue of portfolio lenders could be translated to: banks are subsidizing jumbo loans because they are interested in the cross-selling opportunities, especially wealth management services. 

 

jumbo conforming spread.PNG

Morning Report: Home price appreciation accelerates in September

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 3134 1.25
Oil (WTI) 58.39 0.24
10 year government bond yield 1.74%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.93%

 

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

 

Jerome Powell spoke last night and said that the Fed cut rates this year as the economy wasn’t as strong as anticipated. He reiterated that the Fed won’t be making any moves unless things change “materially” in the US economy: “Monetary policy is now well positioned to support a strong labor market and return inflation decisively to our symmetric 2 percent objective. If the outlook changes materially, policy will change as well. At this point in the long expansion, I see the glass as much more than half full. With the right policies, we can fill it further, building on the gains so far and spreading the benefits more broadly to all Americans.”

 

Home prices rose 1.1% in the third quarter, according to the FHFA House Price Index. They are up 4.9% on a YOY basis. They added an interactive map, so you can drill down to MSA-level home price appreciation. Separately, the Case-Shiller home price index rose 3.2% on an annual basis in September.

 

Mortgage delinquency rates fell in October, according to Black Knight’s First Look. The Deep South still has the highest delinquency rates, while the West Coast and Mountain states have the lowest levels. Prepay speeds are up 134% on a YOY basis.

 

Redfin makes its predictions for the 2020 housing market.

  • a return of bidding wars
  • 30 year fixed rate mortgage stabilizes at 3.8%
  • home prices will rise in the Southeast as people get priced out of the cities

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.

 

 

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: 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?”