Morning Report: Q2 GDP revised upward

Vital Statistics:

Last Change
S&P futures 2899 -1
Eurostoxx index 385.81 0.35
Oil (WTI) 69.08 0.55
10 year government bond yield 2.88%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 4.55%

Stocks are flat this morning after GDP came in better than expected. Bonds and MBS are down small.

Mortgage Applications fell 1.7% last week as purchases fell 1% and refis fell 3%. This is despite a drop in rates.

Second quarter GDP was revised upward to 4.2% from 4.1%, which was higher than the street estimate of 4.0%. The main revisions were to consumption (downward) and fixed residential investment (upward). Inventories were a drag on GDP, which means that we should see a bump to Q3’s numbers. The GDP price index was also revised up a touch, from 1.8% to 1.9%. All of this provides a good environment for the Fed to ease back from the zero bound.

Mortgage bankers made $580 per loan in the second quarter, an increase from $118 in the first quarter. Banks cut costs aggressively (dropping production costs per loan by about $1,000) however declining volumes offset that, and this turned out to be the weakest quarter since the MBA began keeping records in 2008. That $580 represents a profit of 21 basis points per loan, which was a drop form 24 bps a year ago. Fee income dropped to 341 bps from 370 in the first quarter. Refis continue to decline, with purchases accounting for 81% of all volume.

Here is something wild. Last night, there were no trades in the JGB market (the world’s second largest bond market). This is the 7th time this has happened this year. The Bank of Japan basically controls the market, and trading has dried up. We live in interesting times, at least if you are a central banker.

Pending Home sales fell 0.7% in July, according to NAR. Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, says the housing market’s summer slowdown continued in July. “Contract signings inched backward once again last month, as declines in the South and West weighed down on overall activity,” he said. “It’s evident in recent months that many of the most overheated real estate markets – especially those out West – are starting to see a slight decline in home sales and slower price growth.” Blame tight supply, which has driven up prices to unaffordable levels.

The housing slowdown has not been lost on the stocks of the homebuilders, who despite strong earnings (and an incredibly strong stock market) are down 14% YTD. At some point, the sector will be unable to rely on increasing ASPs and will have to pump up volume to show growth. Despite the clear need for new housing, especially at the starter level, builders seem content to meter their growth and plow excess cash into buybacks.

Morning Report: Blowout GDP number

Vital Statistics:

Last Change
S&P futures 2842 2
Eurostoxx index 391.88 1.35
Oil (WTI) 69.55 -0.1
10 Year Government Bond Yield 2.95%
30 Year fixed rate mortgage 4.62%

Stocks are up this morning after blowout earnings from Amazon and a strong GDP report. Bonds and MBS are up.

Second quarter GDP came in at 4.1%, a big jump from the first quarter, and the highest print in 4 years. Q1 was revised upward to 2.2% from 2.0%. The inflation numbers were good as well. Q2 inflation came in at 1.8% which was a decrease from the 2.5% pace in Q1. Ex-food and energy, prices increased 2%. Consumption increased 4%, while investment increased 2.1%. Capital Expenditures increased strongly, while residential construction fell. Inventories fell, which dismisses the talking point that Q2 was artificially boosted by inventory build ahead of a trade war.

GDP

Note that international trade was a big boost to GDP numbers. While economists talk about trade wars negatively affecting growth, remember that GDP includes the net trade balance. So if imports fall in response to tariffs, that will actually increase GDP. Does that mean you can goose growth via trade spats? No, but trade wars that reduce the trade deficit will bump up the GDP numbers, which is largely an accounting question.

In the wake of the GDP report, the Fed funds futures are predicting a 90% chance of a Sep hike and a 68% chance of a Sep and Dec hike.

Freddie Mac reported that delinquencies fell in June and they are back to pre-hurricane levels.

Foreign demand for US residential property fell in 21% Q1, according to NAR. Foreign buyers accounted for 8% of existing home sales, a drop from 10% in the previous period. While a drop in foreign buying will help alleviate the supply / demand imbalance in the US resi market, new construction is really needed to square the circle, and judging by the GDP numbers, that still isn’t happening.

Morning Report: Second quarter GDP revised downward

Vital Statistics:

Last Change
S&P futures 2695 -8.5
Eurostoxx index 376 -3.9
Oil (WTI) 72.39 -0.39
10 Year Government Bond Yield 2.83%
30 Year fixed rate mortgage 4.53%

Stocks are lower this morning on overseas weakness. Bonds and MBS are flat.

The third estimate for first quarter GDP came in lower than expected, as an upward revision in the price index and a downward revision in consumer spending lowered the third and final estimate from 2.2% to 2%. The price index was revised upward from 1.9% to 2.2%, while consumer spending was revised downward from 1% to 0.9%. Housing was actually a negative in the first quarter. I may sound like a broken record, but from 1959 to 2002, housing starts averaged 1.5 million per year, with a much smaller population. Post-bubble, we have averaged around a million per year. Just to get supply and demand into balance probably requires 2 million starts, which would do wonders for GDP. Incidentally, yesterday’s inventory figures prompted the Atlanta Fed to take up its tracking estimate for second quarter GDP to 4.5%.

The drop in the 10 year yield has probably been influenced by the Fed Funds futures, which have been inching towards one more hike this year as opposed to 2. Current probability levels:

  • No more hikes: 11%
  • One more hike 44%
  • Two more hikes: 42%
  • Three hikes 2%

While the US economic data probably supports more hikes in interest rates, wage growth remains muted, and the sell-off in emerging markets is being viewed as a canary in the coal mine for global growth. Finally fears of a trade war are bearish for the economy, which would give the Fed another excuse to hold off in either September or December.

Initial Jobless Claims increased to 227k last week, which is still an astoundingly low level. Meanwhile corporate profits were revised upward in the first quarter from 0.1% to 2.7%.

Ben Carson testified in front of the House Financial Services Committee yesterday, where he laid out some of the changes he has implemented at HUD. He has made some changes with the Home Equity Conversion Mortgage program (aka reverse mortgages) to put the insurance fund on sounder footing. He is emphasizing the removal of lead paint and other hazards in HUD housing, and has suspended the Obama-era scheduled cut in the FHA mortgage insurance premium. HUD is concerned about the number of FHA cash-out refinances, which have increased from 45% of refis to 60% in the last year. (As an aside, since rate / term refi opportunities are largely gone, so you would expect to see an increase in the percentage of cash-outs).

Why socially responsible investing sounds like a nice idea, but isn’t a free lunch. You can “do good” but you should be prepared to underperform.

Morning Report: Markets take down chances of 4 hikes this year

Vital Statistics:

Last Change
S&P futures 2705 4
Eurostoxx index 384.58 0.1
Oil (WTI) 67.12 0.39
10 Year Government Bond Yield 2.84%
30 Year fixed rate mortgage 4.45%

Stocks are slightly higher this morning as Italian bonds bounce. Bonds and MBS are down.

US Treasuries touched 2.76% yesterday on the flight to quality trade. The Fed Funds futures are now predicting a 81% chance of a hike in June. The biggest effect of the Italy situation can be seen in the December Fed Funds futures. A couple of weeks ago, we were looking at a coin toss for 4 hikes this year. Now it is closer to 20%. The dot plot consensus is 3, so the markets are aligning a little closer to what the Fed thinks it is going to do.

fed funds probability 2

Why is Italy worrying the markets so much? Italy has a huge amount of debt – 1.9 trillion euros worth. Its debt to GDP ratio is 130%. The fear is that the uncertainty over this issue over the summer will depress Euro growth, while the banking sector (which already has some issues) will take further hits. As of now, this is a political, not an economic issue – Italian yields are around 3%, nowhere near the 8% level they hit in 2012. Note that Spanish yields are beginning to creep up as well.

Mortgage Applications fell 3% last week as purchases fell 2% and refis fell 5%. This is the 8th consecutive decline. The refi index is down to the lowest level since December 2000. “Rates slipped slightly over the week as concerns over U.S. trade policy and global growth sent some investors back to safer U.S. Treasuries,” said MBA Associate Vice President of Economic and Industry Forecasting Joel Kan. “Minutes from the most recent Federal Open Market Committee meeting also yielded a more dovish tone, which added to the downward pressure in rates. Our 30-year fixed mortgage rate decreased two basis points over the week to 4.84 percent as a result. Both purchase and refinance activity decreased despite the drop in rates, part of which was due to slowing activity before the Memorial Day holiday.”

The second estimate for GDP came in at 2.2%, right in line with the first estimate. Inflation was revised downward a touch from 2% to 1.9% and consumption was revised downward from 1.2% to 1%. Inventories were revised downward, while business investment was revised up to 9.2% – a big number.

Whether the increase in business investment was a direct result of the tax cuts remains to be seen, but so far tax cut effects aren’t showing up in corporate profits which were more or less flat in the first quarter with last year.

The economy created 178,000 jobs in May, according to the ADP Employment Report. The Street is looking for 190,000 jobs in Friday’s report, although the ADP and BLS reports have been pretty far away the last few times around. The key number will be wage growth, not payroll growth in any case.

Interesting data points in the ABA survey of the nation’s banks. QM has actually caused banks to decrease non-QM lending (which was the opposite of the intended effect). About half retained servicing. Almost nobody lends to FICOs below 620.

The Fed is set to announce proposed changes to the Volcker Rule, which severely limits proprietary trading activities for commercial banks. The current rules are so vague that JP Morgan Jamie Dimon once quipped that traders would need a lawyer and a psychiatrist by their side to determine whether they were in compliance with the law. The Fed will probably tweak the rules only modestly, and will not usher in a return to pre-2008 rules. That would require legislation, which isn’t happening.

Morning Report: James Bullard says no further rate hikes are warranted

Vital Statistics:

Last Change
S&P futures 2722 3.75
Eurostoxx index 392.17 0.2
Oil (WTI) 71.3 -0.06
10 Year Government Bond Yield 2.96%
30 Year fixed rate mortgage 4.56%

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

Import prices rose 0.3% MOM and 3.3% YOY, driven by oil. Ex-energy import prices were flat.

St. Louis Federal Reserve Head James Bullard said that interest rates may already be at the level where they are no longer stimulating the economy. There are “reasons for caution in raising the policy rate further given current macroeconomic conditions” he said in his prepared remarks. Bullard has generally been considered a dove, so this is not much of a surprise. He is also a non-voter. He believes that there is little in the inflationary pressures being signaled in the market.

With respect to inflation signalling, he has a point. The spread between the 30 year bond and the 5 year bond is now the narrowest since 2007. Note that the yield curve generally flattens during tightening phases and is probably not signifying the type of deflationary period that 2007 did. Given all of the QE over the past decade, the signals from the bond markets are heavily distorted and should be taken with a grain of salt. Note short Treasuries is one of the biggest hedge fund trades on the Street.

flat yield curve

Are the homebuilders set to outperform going forward? They have suffered more than the market during the recent declines, but the environment should be favorable for the sector going forward. With a shortage of housing, high demand and rising prices, the sector should be in good shape. The problem for investors? The sector is highly cyclical, and the stock behavior reflects that. In other words, earnings will rise and fall, and the multiple will expand and contract, dampening the effect. So, if the average multiple is typically mid-teens, don’t be surprised if P/E ratios fall to the high single digits during boom times.

Q2 GDP is currently tracking at 3.7%.

Sen Pat Toomey says that the Trump Administration doesn’t have the authority to pull out of NAFTA, since it was passed by Congress. On the other hand, the Admin does have the authority to pull out of the Iran Deal, as well as the Paris Accords because they were only deals with the Obama Administration and not the US – never ratified by Congress.

Morning Report: GDP comes in better than expected

Vital Statistics:

Last Change
S&P futures 2673 -1.5
Eurostoxx index 384.63 0.87
Oil (WTI) 67.92 -0.27
10 Year Government Bond Yield 2.97%
30 Year fixed rate mortgage 4.62%

Stocks are flat this morning after GDP came in higher than expected. Bonds and MBS are up small.

The advance estimate of first quarter GDP came in at 2.3%, higher than the Street 2.0% estimate. Consumption rose 1.1%, in line with estimates, and inflation was lower than expected at 2%. In many ways, this was a Goldilocks type report, with decent growth and controlled inflation. The savings rate increased to 3.1%, compared to 2.6% in the fourth quarter. One note of caution: the first quarter has had some quirky measurement issues over the past several years, which has subjected it to subsequent upward revisions. The tax cuts will probably have a similar effect this time around.

GDP

Wage inflation is picking up, according to the Employment Cost Index which rose 0.8% for the quarter and is up 2.7% for the year. Wages and salaries increased 0.9% compared to 0.5% in the previous quarter. For the Fed, these two reports this morning are great news. Real wage growth (2.7% increase in wages and salaries less a 2% increase in inflation) with moderate growth and inflation.

Consumer sentiment slipped from March’s 14 year high in April to a still strong 98.8.

The Fed Funds futures are predicting a 93% chance of another 25 basis point hike at the June meeting.

North and South Korea pledged to de-nuclearize the peninsula and declare an official end to the 50 year old Korean War.

Freddie Mac is introducing its 3% down product for first-time homebuyers – HomeOne. With an Affordable Second, the LTV can go as high as 105%. Income and geographic limits are intended to reach a broad audience.

The CFPB has fixed the “black hole” issue in TRID.