Morning Report: Housing’s contribution to GDP hits a 13 year high.

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 3255 6.6
Oil (WTI) 40.23 0.32
10 year government bond yield 0.55%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 2.98%

 

Stocks are higher as earnings continue to come in. Bonds and MBS are flat.

 

Personal incomes fell 1.1% in June while consumer spending rose 5.6%. The inflation numbers are all well below the Fed’s 1% target.

 

I saw a piece yesterday discussing the jump in the homeownership rate. The 2.9 percentage point increase in the rate was highly unusual (in statistical parlance, an 8 sigma event) which almost certainly points to measurement or data errors. For one thing, we don’t have anywhere near that amount of existing home sales during the quarter to justify that move. While the direction is almost certainly correct, the number looks overstated and probably will be revised downward later.

 

homeownership rate

 

Regardless of the homeownership rate measurement issues, demand is so strong that nearly half the home sales last year were never seen in person by the buyer. This is the highest share since 2015, when professional investors were the big buyers, looking to fix and rent single family properties. “Sight-unseen offers will likely continue to climb in the coming months,” said Redfin Chief Economist Daryl Fairweather. “By the end of the 2020 homebuying season, the majority of homebuyers will have made a sight-unseen offer. The pandemic has changed the way many people view homes, and on top of that, the market is highly competitive. If you aren’t using this strategy, another buyer who is could beat you to the punch.”

 

Housing as a percentage of GDP climbed to a 13 year high, albeit in a pretty unusual GDP print. Housing contributed 16.2% of GDP, as opposed to sub 15% in the prior quarter. Note that we are still way below historical levels. There is incredible pent-up demand.

housing GDP

 

Some borrowers who went into forbearance are finding themselves hit with unexpected bills when the period ends. Not sure if this is a one-off, but Washington will almost certainly try and make hay with these sorts of situations.

Morning Report: Second Quarter GDP drops by a third

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 3218 -38.6
Oil (WTI) 40.23 -1.12
10 year government bond yield 0.55%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 2.98%

 

Stocks are lower after a lousy GDP print. Bonds and MBS are up.

 

Today is a big day for earnings, with heavyweights such as Google, Amazon and Apple all reporting.

 

GDP fell by 32.9% in the second quarter, which was driven by a 34.6% drop in consumer spending, partially offset by 18% increase in Federal spending. Note that these are annualized growth rates, so the economy didn’t really shrink by 33% in the second quarter. Still it was probably the worst print since the Great Depression. NPR puts the quarter from hell in perspective:

 

GDP NPR

 

The FOMC didn’t make any changes in its FOMC statement, although Jerome Powell mentioned that the rate of improvement in the economy is decelerating, which many are taking to mean he expects a double-dip recession.

 

Initial Jobless Claims came in at 1.4 million again.

 

Pending Home Sales increased 16% according to NAR. “It is quite surprising and remarkable that, in the midst of a global pandemic, contract activity for home purchases is higher compared to one year ago,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist. “Consumers are taking advantage of record-low mortgage rates resulting from the Federal Reserve’s maximum liquidity monetary policy.”  Consumers are beating feet out of the cities. The Northeast reported a 54% increase in pending home sales from May to June, but sales are still just about flat YOY.

 

The demand is pushing home prices to record highs. “When the pandemic helped tip the U.S. economy into recession, most homeowners and home buyers braced for falling house prices,” says realtor.com Chief Economist Danielle Hale. “That’s what happened in the last recession. But that’s not what we’re seeing in today’s market. We had a housing shortage already, and the pandemic has created conditions that have only worsened it.” It kind of amazes me that people are comparing this recession to the last one, which was caused by a burst residential real estate bubble. The two aren’t remotely comparable, at least as far as housing is concerned.

Morning Report: The Fed tightens slightly

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 3251 -21.25
Oil (WTI) 52.38 -0.92
10 year government bond yield 1.57%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.71%

 

Stocks are lower on mixed earnings reports. Bonds and MBS are up.

 

The Fed made no changes to monetary policy, however they did tweak some overnight lending rates. The interest on overnight excess reserves and reverse repo transactions were hiked by 5 basis points to 1.6% and 1.55% respectively. The vote was unanimous. The Fed Funds futures became more dovish, with the Dec futures predicting an 85% chance for a cut of some sort, and a 15% chance of no change. Interesting to see the move in the Fed Funds futures given that the Fed actually tightened slightly by increasing the reverse repo and interest on overnight reserve rates.

 

fed funds futures

 

GDP rose at 2.1% in the fourth quarter of 2019, a little bit higher than expectations. Consumption growth slipped to 1.8%, while inflation remained broadly in check. The PCE index rose 1.5%, while the core PCE, excluding food and energy rose only 1.3%. Residential construction rose 5.8%. The trade balance moved in the US’s favor, which also helped growth.

 

GDP

 

Initial Jobless Claims came in at 216,000.

 

Pending Home Sales decreased 4.8% in December according to NAR. “Mortgage rates are expected to hold under 4% for most of 2020, while net job creation will likely exceed two million,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist. “Due to the shortage of affordable homes, home sales growth will only rise by around 3%,” Yun predicted. “Still, national median home price growth is in no danger of falling due to inventory shortages and will rise by 4%. The new home construction market also looks brighter, with housing starts and new home sales set to rise 6% and 10%, respectively.”

Morning Report: Fed day

ital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 3286 8.25
Oil (WTI) 53.98 0.22
10 year government bond yield 1.62%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.71%

 

Stocks are higher as earnings continue to come in. Bonds and MBS are flat.

 

The Fed is set to announce its decision at 2:00 pm this afternoon. No changes in rate policy are expected, however there might be some news regarding the balance sheet and overnight rates. It probably won’t be market-moving, but just be aware.

 

Mortgage applications rose 7.2% last week as purchases rose 5% and refis rose 8%. “Mortgage applications continued their strong start to the year, as borrowers acted on the drop in mortgage rates last week. Rates were driven lower by investors’ increased concern about the economic impact from China’s coronavirus outbreak, in addition to existing concerns over trade and other geopolitical risks,” said Joel Kan, MBA’s Associate Vice President of Economic and Industry Forecasting. “With the 30-year fixed rate at its lowest level since November 2016, refinances jumped 7.5 percent. Purchase applications grew 2 percent and were 17 percent higher than the same week last year. Thanks to low rates and the healthy job market, purchase activity continues to run stronger than in 2019.” Note that there was an adjustment due to the Martin Luther King holiday.

 

Pulte reported better than expected earnings yesterday. Revenues were flat, but the 33% increase in new order stood out.  “As demonstrated by our 33% increase in orders, the recovery in housing demand that began earlier this year gained momentum through the fourth quarter as we realized strong sales across all buyer groups,” said Company President and CEO Ryan Marshall. “Strong demand for new homes is benefiting from favorable market dynamics including improved affordability in part due to low mortgage rates, high employment and consumer confidence, and a generally balanced inventory of new homes,” added Marshall. The stock was up about 5% yesterday.

 

Consumer confidence perked up in January, according to the Conference Board. “Consumer confidence increased in January, following a moderate advance in December, driven primarily by a more positive assessment of the current job market and increased optimism about future job prospects,” said Lynn Franco, Senior Director, Economic Indicators, at The Conference Board. “Optimism about the labor market should continue to support confidence in the short-term and, as a result, consumers will continue driving growth and prevent the economy from slowing in early 2020.”

 

Strong consumer confidence, better homebuilding numbers and low rates mean that 2020 could be better than people are thinking for the mortgage industry. CNBC polls show that growth is expected to be 2% next year. Seems low if December’s housing starts weren’t a fluke, and judging by what we are hearing from the builders, it might not be. Those hoping for a recession will be encouraged by the inverting yield curve, but in this age of central bank intervention the signal doesn’t carry the weight it used to.

Morning Report: Blowout housing starts number

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 3315 -7.25
Oil (WTI) 57.83 -0.74
10 year government bond yield 1.79%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.88%

 

Stocks are lower this morning as US investors return from a 3 day weekend. Bonds and MBS are flat.

 

Housing starts hit a 13 year high, rising to a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 1.6 million. This is up 17% from November and 41% above a year ago. The caveat: the uncertainty around this number is pretty high, so it might get revised downward next month. That said, we have heard from the builders that they are seeing high traffic and no seasonal slowdown. Housing has been the missing link from the post-crisis recovery, and there clearly is unsatisfied demand. If this is the year we finally see homebuilding begin to meet demand, then current GDP estimates for 2020 are way too low. Note Larry Kudlow just laid a marker: GDP growth will hit 3% this year. Compare this to the current estimates of 1.2% – 2%.

 

housing starts

 

It should be a relatively quiet week, although Davos is going on, which means lots of CNBC interviews in the snow. The theme seems to be environmental this year. We don’t have much in economic data (nothing market-moving at least) and no Fed-Speak. We will get some housing data, with the FHFA House Price index and NAR’s existing home sales report tomorrow.

 

Job openings fell to 6.8 million in November, according to the JOLTS survey. While this is below the 7 million openings we have become accustomed to, it is still quite elevated and speaks to a robust labor market. The quits rate remained at 2.3%. Job openings fell in manufacturing, which is probably related to Boeing’s 737 woes.

 

US home sales prices rose 6.9% in December, according to Redfin. Falling interest rates have boosted home affordability, which is translating into higher prices

 

Redfin price chart

Morning Report: The fed cuts rates and goes on hold.

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 3042 -5.25
Oil (WTI) 54.42 -0.64
10 year government bond yield 1.73%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 4.02%

 

Stocks are lower this morning after the Fed cut rates. Bonds and MBS are up.

 

As expected, the Fed cut rates by 25 basis points yesterday, and Jerome Powell said that “the current stance of policy is expected to remain appropriate” as long as the labor market remains strong and the economy continues to expand moderately. They also removed the language that said the Fed would “act as appropriate” to maintain the current expansion. This was the “pause” language that the markets were looking for. The vote was 8-2, with two members voting to maintain the current Fed Funds target. For some reason, the pause language put some starch in the bond market, which has sent rates lower by about 12 basis points. The December Fed Funds futures are currently handicapping a 20% chance of another 25 basis point cut. FWIW, Morgan Stanley is out with a call saying the Fed is on hold through 2020. As a general rule, the Fed tries to stay out of the picture as much as it can during an election year, so that call may end up being correct.

 

Personal Incomes and spending increased 0.3% and 0.2% respectively, which was lower than August’s torrid pace. On an annual basis, incomes rose 3.8% and consumption increased 4.4%, both strong numbers and well ahead of the weaker-than-expected inflation readings. The PCE price index (which is the Fed’s preferred inflation measure) was flat in September, and up 1.3% YOY. Ex-food and energy the PCE index was flat and up 1.7% annually. Separately, the employment cost index rose 0.7% in the third quarter and was up 2.8% YOY. Note that wages increased 0.9%, which is a quite strong number.

 

The Urban Institute has panned the Administration’s plan to reduce the GSE footprint in the mortgage market. Their point is that the government guarantee for Fannie MBS is so important that it will be hard for other entities to compete, unless the guarantee fee is set higher than the credit risk dictates. They also claim that it will reduce credit and slow down the economy.

 

The overall share of GDP attributable to housing increased to 14.6% in yesterday’s GDP report. Residential fixed investment (homebuilding, remodeling, etc) increased to 3.11%, while housing services, which is mainly rent, was about 11.5% of the economy. Historically, residential fixed investment has been closer to 5% and rent has been closer to 12% – 13%. In other words, housing is still punching below its weight economically, although it may be turning around. This represents a huge potential boost to GDP once things return to normalcy.

 

housing GDP

 

 

Morning Report: Third quarter GDP comes in stronger than expected

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 3036 0.25
Oil (WTI) 55.32 -0.24
10 year government bond yield 1.84%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 4.03%

 

Stocks are flat as we await the FOMC decisions and earnings from Facebook and Apple after the bell. Bonds and MBS are flat.

 

The FOMC decision is set for 2:00 pm. The big tariff-related slowdown that has been widely predicted doesn’t seem to be materializing. This means that the language of the FOMC statement and the press conference will take on more weight and we could see some volatility in the bond market as everyone reassesses the lay of the land. Be careful locking around then.

 

The advance estimate of third quarter GDP came in better than expected, at 1.9%, versus street expectations of 1.6%. Personal consumption expenditures drove the increase, rising 2.9%, while investment fell 1.5%. Residential fixed investment broke a 6 quarter losing streak, increasing 5.1% in the quarter. Inflation remains under control, with the headline PCE number rising 1.5%, and the core rising 2.2%.

 

GDP

 

ADP estimated that payrolls increased by 125,000 in October, which was above expectations. September’s estimate was revised downward however to below 100k. Note the 125,000 number is well above the Street estimate for Friday’s jobs report, which is forecasting an increase of only 85,000.

 

Mortgage applications increased by 0.6% in the latest MBA survey. Purchases increased 2% and refis fell 1%. “The 10-year Treasury rate rose slightly last week, as markets expected more progress toward a trade deal between the U.S. and China,” said Joel Kan, MBA Associate Vice President of Economic and Industry Forecasting. “Mortgage rates increased for the second straight week as a result, with the 30-year fixed rate climbing to 4.05 percent–the highest level since the end of July. Mortgage applications were mostly unchanged, with purchase activity rising 2 percent and refinances decreasing less than 1 percent. Purchase applications continued to run at a stronger pace than last year, finishing a robust 10 percent higher than a year ago. Considering how much lower rates are compared to the end of 2018, purchase applications should continue showing solid year-over-year gains.”

 

The MBA forecasts that 2019 will be the best year for origination since 2007, at $2.06 trillion, although they expect 2020 to slip to $1.89 trillion. Although they forecast rates will remain low, they anticipate that refis will dry up in the second half and the margin pressure that bedeviled lenders in 2018 will reappear.

 

Pending home sales rose 1.5% in September, according to NAR. “Even though home prices are rising faster than income, national buying power has increased by 6% because of better interest rates,” he [NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun] said. “Furthermore, we’ve seen increased foot traffic as more buyers are evidently eager searching to become homeowners.” The foot traffic comment is interesting since we should be seeing a drop-off heading into the seasonally slow period.

 

The homeownership rate ticked up to 64.8% in the third quarter. This is an increase of 70 basis points from the second quarter and an increase of 40 bps from a year ago.

Morning Report: Whistleblower complaint released

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 2988 1.25
Oil (WTI) 56.05 -0.64
10 year government bond yield 1.69%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.93%

 

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

 

The House Intelligence Committee released the whistleblower complaint. This is a developing story and I have not read the complaint carefully, but it seems to be all hearsay. In other words, the whistleblower is recounting things he heard from other people and did not hear directly. My guess is that the issue is going have a similar fate to the Russian Collusion story – it will fall down along partisan lines again, and the markets will largely ignore the story. At the margin, it should mean lower stock prices and lower interest rates, but it probably won’t be meaningful.

 

New Home Sales came in at 713,000, which was up 7.1% MOM and 18% YOY. The standard deviations on new home sales is always huge, so take it with a grain of salt. The South and the West experienced the biggest gains. Note that housing has been a drag on the economy for six consecutive quarters, and it appears that it will finally contribute to GDP.

 

Speaking of GDP, the third revision to second quarter GDP is out. Growth came in at 2%, and the inflation numbers were tweaked upward. The core PCE index rose 1.9%, up from the 1.7% previous estimate and the headline number was bumped up 0.2% to 2.4%. The uptick inflation doesn’t appear to have had any impact to the Fed Funds futures.

Morning Report: Q2 GDP comes in at 2%

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 2916 26.5
Oil (WTI) 56.17 0.34
10 year government bond yield 1.48%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.78%

 

Stocks are up this morning after China said it wouldn’t immediately retaliate on tariffs set to take effect this weekend. Bonds and MBS are down.

 

The second revision to Q2 GDP was unchanged at 2.0%. Consumption drove the increase in GDP as durable goods consumption was up 13% and non-durables were up 7%. Core PCE inflation was unchanged at 1.7%. Despite the chronic housing shortage, residential investment was down again for the sixth straight quarter. Investment and trade made negative contributions to the index.

 

GDP

 

Initial Jobless Claims came in at 215,000 right in line with expectations.

 

The MBA reported that net gains per loan increased to $1,675, compared to $285 in the first quarter. This was the best number since the third quarter of 2016. “With anticipated increases in prepayment activity, we saw hits to servicing profitability resulting from mortgage servicing right markdowns and amortization,” Walsh said. “Nonetheless, the profitability on the production side of the business generally outweighed servicing losses.” Average pretax production profit rose to 64 basis points, while secondary marketing income fell to 287 basis points, down from 308 in the first quarter.

 

Treasury is looking at the idea of ultra-long term government bonds, with 50 or 100 year terms. “If the conditions are right, then I would anticipate we’ll take advantage of long-term borrowing and execute on that,” Mnuchin said in the Bloomberg News interview on Wednesday.

Morning Report; GDP comes in better than expected

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 3014 7.5
Oil (WTI) 56.51 0.84
10 year government bond yield 2.08%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 4.05%

 

Stocks are higher this morning after good numbers from Google, sorry Alphabet, and Q1 GDP came in better than expectations. Bonds and MBS are flat.

 

The US economy grew at 2.1% in the second quarter, a deceleration from the 3.1% recorded in the first quarter, but higher than the Street estimate of 1.8%. Note that the Atlanta Fed’s GDP Now model was predicting only 1.3% growth as of yesterday, which is a big miss, so perhaps this number will eventually get revised down.

 

In terms of the internals, consumption rebounded rising 4.3%, compared to only 1.1% in the first quarter. Inflation rose 2.3% on the headline number, while the core PCE rose 1.8%. Disposable income rose 4.4%, or 2.5% after inflation and the savings rate fell from 8.5% to 8.1%. Trade was a drag on growth, with exports falling 5.2% and imports flat. Investment was disappointing, falling 5.5% however the first quarter was revised upward from 1% to 3.1%. The economy’s old bugaboo, housing, fell 1.5%. It is strange to think we have a such pent-up demand for housing yet it remains a headwind but here we are. Inventories fell as well.

 

GDP

 

The Fed Funds futures moved slightly. A rate cut next week is more or less a sure thing, and the futures are predicting an 80% chance of a 25 bp cut and a 20% chance of a 50 bp cut. This is realistically the last data point before the Fed meets next week, although consumption and PCE will be released on the day the meeting begins.

 

The homeownership rate fell in the second quarter, falling to 64.1% from 64.2% in the previous quarter. This rate of 64% was more or less the norm prior to the big homeownership push from the government in the mid 90s. It topped 69% during the bubble years and then fell below 63% during the bust. The rental vacancy rate was flat at 6.8%, which again is consistent with historical norms. It is an interesting series the vacancy rate was quite low during the high interest rate 1970s and quite high during the bubble years.

 

vacancy rate