Morning Report: 2018 GDP highest in 12 years.

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 2788 -6.75
Eurostoxx index 371.36 -1.22
Oil (WTI) 56.82 -0.13
10 year government bond yield 2.67%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 4.34%

 

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

 

Fourth quarter GDP came in at 2.6%, a deceleration from the third quarter reading of 3.4%, but much higher than many in the political economic punditry were predicting. Consumer spending rose 2.8%, while inflation rose 1.6%. Inflation fell from 1.8% in the third quarter. For 2019, GDP came in at 2.9%, the highest reading since 2006.

 

Initial Jobless Claims rose to 225,000 continuing a string of extremely low readings.

 

One of the most politically explosive issues these days concerns wage growth – why it seems to be so low and what can be done about it. Many will misinterpret cherry-picked numbers to make the claim that wages have not increased for 40 years, which is preposterous. That said, wage growth has been running in the high 2s, and with inflation around 2%, that equates to under 1% real wage growth. Modest, but certainly not what you would expect, especially this far into a recovery, especially with unemployment running below 4%. If the numbers don’t appear to comport with common sense, often times there is an issue with the numbers.  That seems to be the case here. It turns out that wage growth is quite a bit higher, and it is due to the measurement problems inherent in the Bureau of Labor Statistic’s calculations. The BLS basically adds up wages paid and divides it by hours worked. If higher paid older workers are exiting, and younger lower paid workers are entering it will depress the averages, and it won’t accurately measure the growth that someone who has stayed in the labor force for the entire year has seen. Take a look at the chart below, where the Fed imputed average wage growth from census data as opposed to the BLS. Wage inflation jumps from 3% to 5%, which makes a lot more sense given the current economic numbers.

 

average hourly earnings vs census

 

Toll Brothers reported an increase in pretax earnings and sales for the first quarter of 2019. Orders declined in a big way however, falling 24% in units and 31% in dollars, driven primarily by weakness in California. Home price appreciation has been moderating in the hotter markets, and it is especially pronounced in the luxury segment, where Toll resides. The cancellation rate jumped to 9.6% from 5.3% a year ago. Tax reform limited the mortgage interest deduction, and the luxury segment is most prominent in high tax states, so those two effects are squeezing demand.

 

Realtor.com predicts this year’s Spring Selling Season could be the weakest in years despite rising inventory. While lower rates have improved conditions compared to late 2018, we are still weaker than early 2018.

Morning Report: Dueling bills to end the shutdown

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 2643.25 4.75
Eurostoxx index 356.16 1.08
Oil (WTI) 52.37 -0.25
10 year government bond yield 2.73%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 4.62%

 

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

 

Dueling bills to end the shutdown will be voted on in the Senate today, with neither one having much chance of passing. The point of holding these votes is to hopefully create some avenue for compromise. Separately, Trump will postpone the State of the Union address until after the shutdown is over.

 

The government estimates that first quarter GDP could be flat if the government shutdown lasts for the whole quarter. There is always some seasonal noise that depresses Q1 GDP relative to the rest of the year, and the added effects of the shutdown would exacerbate that.

 

House prices rose 0.4% in November, according to the FHFA House Price Index. On a YOY basis, they were up 5.8%. Take a look at the chart below – you can see how much the hot markets out West have cooled down.  That said, the FHFA index is holding up better than indices like CoreLogic or Case-Shiller. This is because the index focuses on conforming loans only, which makes it a starter-home heavy index and that is where the demand is.

 

fhfa regional

 

There has been another major leak of financial data, this time affecting mortgage and loan data from Citi, HSBC, Wells, Capital One, and HUD. The data contained names, social security numbers, and bank account numbers. Much of the data was quite old, dating back to the bubble years.

 

 

Morning Report: Are we heading for a shutdown?

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 2478 -8
Eurostoxx index 335.75 -0.92
Oil (WTI) 45.53 -0.35
10 year government bond yield 2.79%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 4.60%

 

Markets are lower this morning ahead of what will be a 4 day weekend for most. Bonds and MBS are flat.

 

Hopes for a deal to avoid a government shutdown were dealt a blow yesterday when President Trump said he would veto any budget that does not include funding for the wall. The Wall is a political non-starter for Democrats, which means we have a problem in the Senate. That said, unless Santa needs FAA approval for his Christmas Eve run, I suspect not too many people are going to notice if the government shuts down over the weekend.

 

Separately, Trump abruptly announced a withdrawal from Syria, and General Mattis has retired in protest.

 

The VA adopted new policies regarding refinancing and the required net tangible benefit to veterans. The biggest change will concern seasoning of loans before refinancing. A loan is considered seasoned after 6 monthly payments have been made, or 210 days since the first payment. Under previous guidance, loans which did not meet these requirements were ineligible for traditional Ginnie Mae pooling. Now they are uninsurable.

 

We have some economic data out this morning. The third revision to Q3 GDP was unchanged at 3.5%, while consumption was taken down very slightly from 3.6% to 3.5%. Durable Goods orders rose 0.8%, while the Index of Leading Economic indicators came in stronger than expected. October’s LEI were revised downward however. Economic growth definitely is slowing from its midyear pace, and Q4 forecasts are around 3%.

 

Home Affordability hit a 10 year low, as rising rates and home prices are not being offset quickly enough by rising wages. “Home affordability is getting worse nationwide,” says Daren Blomquist, senior vice president at ATTOM. But buyers shouldn’t lose hope. “We’re going to hit an affordability tipping point in 2019, where it becomes more affordable to buy. Buyers will have more inventory to choose from and they will be running against fewer multiple-offer situations.” Of course all real estate is local, and not all areas are overvalued or undervalued. You can see that big parts of FL, TX and the Pacific Northwest are overvalued, while the Midwest remains affordable. The chart is courtesy of CoreLogic.

 

Corelogic overvalued

 

 

Morning Report: Fed week

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 2603.75 -1
Eurostoxx index 345.16 -2.05
Oil (WTI) 51.84 0.64
10 year government bond yield 2.88%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 4.72%

 

Stocks are flattish as we head into Fed week. Bonds and MBS are flat.

 

The Fed will meet on Tuesday and Wednesday, with the official announcement scheduled for 2:00 pm Wednesday. The markets are anticipating a 25 basis point hike, but the action will be in the forecasts and in the dot plot.

 

We actually do have some interesting data this week with the NAHB Housing market Index later today, housing starts, and existing home sales. We will also get the third revision to Q3 GDP on Friday.

 

Retail Sales rose 0.2% in November, in line with forecasts, and well below October’s torrid levels. The control group, which strips out volatile food, energy, and building product prices, rose 0.9%, which was well above forecasts. FWIW, the retail sector looks to have a good holiday shopping season.

 

The NY Fed’s is predicting 2.4% GDP growth for the 4th quarter. While this is a drop from the third quarter’s 3.5% pace, it is still a decent number. Much will hinge on December retail sales. Note that strategists are beginning to worry about 2019, and PIMCO is saying that recession signs are “flashing yellow.” FWIW, while there is a bit of a slowdown in housing, wages are increasing and that should pump consumption. IMO, the business press is talking their ideological book a lot here – they don’t like Trump, so they are generally pessimistic, and that is feeding into their outlook.

 

Congress and the President need to get a stopgap budget passed this week, and there is all sorts of partisan posturing over border security. Are we going to get a shutdown? Perhaps. Trump wants something like $5 billion for the border wall, and the Democrats are only willing to spend $1.6 billion in “border security.” For the record, $5 billion is chump change in Washington – so this isn’t about money. The D base loathes Trump and the Wall has become a sort of MacGuffin for partisans on both sides. For originators, if the government shuts down, most government lending will be just fine, but tax transcripts will probably be unavailable.

Morning Report: Lousy new home sales print

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 2932.25 -9
Eurostoxx index 357.94 0.56
Oil (WTI) 50.06 -0.15
10 year government bond yield 3.02%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.85%

 

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

 

Jerome Powell spoke yesterday and said that rates are “just below” the neutral range. These comments pushed up bond prices (rates fell) and contributed to a rally in the stock market. He may have been walking back an earlier unscripted statement which said that the Fed had a “ways to go” before hitting neutral. He also said that there were no financial bubbles in the US and that the stock market was near its long term valuation average. This put a bid under stocks and other risk assets.

 

The Fed Funds futures didn’t really react all that much, however a consensus seems to be building that we are looking at a hike in December, and probably one more in 2019.

 

TBAs have spent the last couple of days catching up with the move lower in the bond market. MBS were up a good 6 ticks or so in a flat Treasury market. Note we will get the minutes from the November FOMC meeting at 2:00 pm EST. It probably should be a nonevent, but just be aware.

 

GDP came in at 3.5% for the third quarter. This was the second revision out of BEA and there were few changes. This is a deceleration from Q2’s torrid 4.2% growth rate. The PCE price index rose 1.5%, which is slower than the second quarter’s 2.0% pace, and below the Fed’s target or 2%.

 

GDP

 

Mortgage applications increased 5.5% last week as purchases rose 9% and refis rose 1%. Last week contained the Thanksgiving day holiday, so there were all sorts of adjustments to these numbers. Still it is encouraging.

 

New Home sales came in much weaker than expected, and we saw major, major declines in the Midwest and Northeast (which dropped around 20%). New Home Sales is a notoriously volatile number, and is often subject to major revisions. That said, there is no way to put a positive spin on that number – it was simply lousy.

 

new home sales

 

 

Morning Report: GDP comes in stronger than expected

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 2691 21.65
Eurostoxx index 356.69 4.38
Oil (WTI) 67.32 -0.28
10 year government bond yield 3.10%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 4.93%

 

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

 

The 10% retracement level in the S&P 500 held on Friday and bond yields were around 3.08 when sitting at that level. As usual, MBS lagged the moves in the bond markets, waiting for confirmation.

 

The first estimate for third quarter GDP came in at 3.5%, which was higher than the 3.3% Street estimate. Consumption was strong, but investment growth came in weaker than previous quarters. The biggest hit to GDP came from trade, which subtracted an estimated 1.8 percentage points from the number as exports fell, while imports were largely unaffected by tariffs. As usual, housing was a weak spot.

 

Housing economist Robert Shiller notes that housing is weak, however he believes we aren’t looking at another huge slowdown. Housing never fully recovered from the bubble, and inventory is tight. While prices have recouped the losses from the bubble years, we are nowhere near bubble territory.

 

We do have some data this week, with productivity and costs, personal incomes and outlays and the jobs report on Friday. That said, bonds seem to be reacting to the movements in the stock market these days, so it is hard to say these will be market-moving reports.

 

Credit card companies are beginning to restrict credit, or at least pull back the reins a little. Capital One’s CEO believes “the economy is almost too good to be true,” and is beginning to lower credit limits. Credit card issuers are usually the first to react to a tightening in credit, so this bears watching.

Morning Report: The Fed hikes as expected

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 2914 2.75
Eurostoxx index 385 0.05
Oil (WTI) 72.35 0.77
10 year government bond yield 3.06%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 4.79%

 

Stocks are higher after the Fed hiked rates yesterday. Bonds and MBS are flat.

 

As expected, the Fed raised the Fed Funds rate 25 basis points and removed the term “accomodative” from their statement. The decision was unanimous. The biggest change in the projection materials was an upward bump in GDP estimates for this year and next. The dot plot showed a slight uptick in forecasts (about 7 basis points for this year and next). The dot plot says we are probably looking at another hike in December, 2 more hikes in 2019, and one more in 2020. In other words, the heavy lifting of this tightening cycle has already been done. That said, monetary policy acts with a lag, so the 2018 hikes probably won’t be felt until mid-to-late 2019.  The 2s-10s spread fell to 22 basis points.

 

dot plot comparison jun vs. sep 2018

 

Bonds rallied (rates fell) on the FOMC announcement, which was probably attributable to the largely unchanged dot plot and the fact that rates rose so much leading into the FOMC announcement. Classic “buy the rumor, sell the fact” situation.

 

Durable goods increased 4.5%, driven by a big jump in aircraft orders. Ex-transportation, durable goods orders were roughly flat. Core Capital Goods (a proxy for business capital expenditures) fell 0.5%. Note the Fed mentioned strong business capital investment in the statement yesterday.

 

The final estimate for second quarter GDP was unchanged at 4.2%. The price index and consumption estimates were unchanged as well. This is the fastest pace in 4 years. Meanwhile, corporate profits for the second quarter were revised downward from 6.7% to 6.4%.

 

Initial Jobless claims inched up to 214k last week. Remember these are 50 year lows, and if you consider the fact that the population was 2/3 of current levels back then (along with a military draft) these numbers are astounding.

 

Pending Home Sales fell in August, according to NAR.  Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, says that low inventory continues to contribute to the housing market slowdown. “Pending home sales continued a slow drip downward, with the fourth month over month decline in the past five months,” he said.

 

“Contract signings also fell backward again last month, as declines in the West negatively impacted overall activity,” he said. “The greatest decline occurred in the West region where prices have shot up significantly, which clearly indicates that affordability is hindering buyers and those affordability issues come from lack of inventory, particularly in moderate price points.”