Morning Report: MBA asks for relief from FINRA and the SEC

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 2581 -29.4
Oil (WTI) 20.94 0.89
10 year government bond yield 0.70%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.38%

 

Stocks are down this morning as we wrap up Q1, which was the worse quarter for stocks since 2008. Bonds and MBS are up.

 

The Fed will buy up to $30 billion in MBS today, along with some CMBS paper. It sounds like the NY Fed heard the pleas of originators and is cognizant of the margin call issue. The MBA issued a letter to the SEC and FINRA asking them to give guidance to broker-dealers to lay off the margin calls: “MBA urgently requests that FINRA and the SEC issue guidance to the nation’s broker-dealers, making clear that margin calls on mortgage lenders’ TBA hedge positions should not be escalated to destabilizing levels,” Broeksmit said. “Absent such guidance and an immediate shift in broker-dealer practices, the U.S. housing market is in danger of large-scale disruption.”

 

Been hearing chatter that a lot of originators are imposing minimum 680 FICOs on FHA loans. Also, warehouse banks are becoming more reluctant to fund them unless there is a bid in hand for the loan. It makes sense – FHA loans have the lowest margin for safety with 3.5% down and FICO scores that are generally not good enough to qualify for Home Ready or Home Possible.

 

Goldman is forecasting a Q2 GDP drop of -34% and unemployment hitting 15%. Yikes. That said, the economy should come roaring back in the third quarter as Coronavirus issues fade. The ultimate question: Did all of these small businesses that shuttered over the past month go into hibernation or did they go away? And while the banking sector has so far withstood the impact of the credit crisis, the non-banking sector is a different story. A few non-agency mortgage REITs like Two Harbors and MITT have sold their non-agency bonds to satisfy margin calls. One certainly has to worry about the CMBS mortgage REITs as well as the plain old shopping center and mall REITs. If you are anchored with a grocery story, you might be ok. If you are anchored with a Macy’s however…

 

KB Home reported better than expected numbers on Friday, and remarked that internet traffic remains up on a YOY basis. Walk-in foot traffic is not as the company has shut down its offices. In some parts of the country construction has stopped, but in most of the US it is still proceeding. Regardless of the Coronavirus issues, it appears that the demand for homes is still there, and we might see an even tighter market in existing homes as would-be sellers take their homes off the market.

 

Home prices were up 3.9% in January, according to Case-Shiller. An economist from Capital Economics expects a 4% peak-to-trough hit in real estate pricing. It will be interesting to see if home prices take a hit as a result of the Coronavirus. As KB Home mentioned, the existing home inventory should be even tighter, and homebuilders aren’t stuck with a lot of inventory at the moment and they aren’t entertaining price cuts. That said, the NY market may be a bit heavy.

Morning Report: March rate cut comes into view

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 3143 11.25
Oil (WTI) 49.46 0.19
10 year government bond yield 1.36%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.54%

 

Stocks have stabilized this morning and rates are up a touch from their intra-day all time lows yesterday. At one point, the 10 year Treasury was trading at 1.31%. This morning, Treasuries are down a touch and MBS are flat. For the most part, MBS underperformed Treasuries yesterday.

 

Mortgage applications rose 1.5% last week as purchases increased 6% and refis fell by 1%. “Last week appears to have been the calm before the storm,” said MBA Chief Economist Mike Fratantoni. “Weaker readings on economic growth caused a slight drop in mortgage rates, bringing them back to their level two weeks ago, but applications overall moved 1.5 percent higher. Refinance applications for conventional loans dropped a bit, but FHA refinances increased more than 22 percent. Purchase volume remained strong, supported both by low rates and the increased pace of construction over the past few months. With housing supply at low levels, new inventory is a positive development for prospective homebuyers.”

 

The Coronavirus issue has spooked the Fed funds futures market. The futures are now predicting a 1 in 3 chance of a rate cut at the March meeting. Just one  month ago, the March futures were handicapping a 4% chance. Take a look at the December futures, which are now forecasting 2 or 3 cuts this year.

 

fed funds futures

 

Note that Dallas Fed President said yesterday: “It is still too soon to make a judgment about how it might relate to monetary policy. I still think we are a number of weeks away from being able to make the judgment” whether a rate change is required.” The April futures are already pricing it in.

 

Coronavirus fears didn’t do much to dampen US consumer confidence, which rose again. Historically consumer confidence has been an inverse of gasoline prices, in other words, when gasoline rises, consumers get salty and vice versa. Oil is now trading below $50 a barrel, and the refineries are beginning to switch from heating oil to gasoline refining. Good news for the summer driving season.

 

Luxury homebuilder Toll Brothers reported lower than expected earnings this morning and the stock is getting hammered pre-open (down about 9%). Earnings were down big and revenues missed guidance.

Morning Report: New home purchase applications surge

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 3396 -11.25
Oil (WTI) 51.06 -0.95
10 year government bond yield 1.55%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.69%

 

Stocks are lower this morning after Apple warned that revenues will be light in Q1 based on Coronavirus issues. Bonds and MBS are up.

 

We have a lot of housing data this week, with the NAHB Housing Market Index, housing starts, and existing home sales. We also quite a bit of Fed-speak, but not much in the way of market-moving data.

 

New home purchase applications started off the year strong, rising 40% from December and 35% from a year ago. “New home applications and sales activity surged in January. This was a continuation of the end of 2019, which saw strong residential construction and increased purchase applications activity,” said Joel Kan, MBA Associate Vice President of Economic and Industry Forecasting. “Even with some global and domestic economic uncertainty, builders have ramped up production in recent months to meet increased homebuyer demand.” Strength in homebuilding may turn out to be the economic surprise of 2020.

 

Democratic hopeful Michael Bloomberg proposes tightening the regulatory grip on the financial industry, by imposing a 10 basis point financial transaction tax, merging Fannie and Freddie, banning payday lenders. and ending the use of mandatory arbitration. This is interesting since he was critical of Obama-era financial regulation when he was Mayor of NY.

 

Top fintech names which are changing the housing market.

Morning Report: Strong jobs report

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 3340 -3.25
Oil (WTI) 50.38 -0.32
10 year government bond yield 1.61%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.68%

 

Stocks are lower this morning as investors sell winners. Bonds and MBS are up.

 

Jobs report data dump:

  • Nonfarm payrolls up 225,000
  • Unemployment rate 3.6%
  • Average hourly earnings up 3.1% annually
  • Labor force participation rate 63.4%
  • Employment-population ratio 61.2%

Overall, a strong report. Certainly payrolls were way above the 158,000 expectation. Construction gained workers, which comports with what we have been hearing from the builders – that they are ramping up for 2020. Wage growth and payroll growth remain strong, and more people are entering the workforce, with the participation rate up and a rise in the employment-population ratio.

 

The NAHB notes that 63 million households are unable to afford a $250,000 home. Interesting stat from the piece: “A previous post discussed the often-cited estimate that a $1,000 increase in the price of a median-priced new home will price 158,857 U.S. households out of the market for the home.  A second post discussed the related estimate that a quarter point increase in the mortgage rate will price out 1.3 million.”

 

On the other side of the spectrum, Redfin notes that luxury home prices are rising again as interest rates fall. “Demand for luxury is improving. That’s showing up primarily in an increase in sales right now, but it’s also putting some slight upward pressure on prices,” said Redfin chief economist Daryl Fairweather. “We’re ending the year in a much better position than we started, which is a good sign for 2020. I expect price growth to return to at least 3% to 5% by spring.”

 

 

Morning Report: The government hires and advisor for Fannie and Freddie

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 3289 43.25
Oil (WTI) 51.38 1.02
10 year government bond yield 1.59%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.63%

 

Stocks are higher after Chinese markets held up overnight. Bonds and MBS are down.

 

Construction spending fell 0.2% in November, but was up 5% on a YOY basis. Residential construction was up 1.4% MOM and up 5.8% YOY. Public residential construction was up almost 30% YOY.

 

Manufacturing performed better than expected in January, with the ISM Manufacturing Index rising to 50.9. This is a sharp rebound from December, which indicates that trade issues are in the rear view mirror.

 

The government is considering an expansion of the Federal Home Loan Bank’s customer base to include non-bank lenders and mortgage REITs. Federal Home Loan Bank borrowers generally get a sweetheart deal on financing, usually much better than even overnight repo lines. The reason? government subsidies. Note that some mortgage REITs currently do have FHLB lines, but I guess they want more mortgage REITs in the business. The Feds have been frustrated by the large banks, who have shied away from all but the most credit-worthy borrowers.

 

FHFA has hired an advisor to help recapitalize Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Houlihan Lokey won the deal. This will allow Fan and Fred to hire their own advisors for the equity sale. This is part of the government’s plan to decrease its footprint in the mortgage market. The share sale could top $125 billion, which would dwarf the largest IPO ever (Saudi Aramco in December) by a factor of 5. Lots of details remain, but progress is being made.

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: New Home Sales flat but trend is steadily upward

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 3259 20.25
Oil (WTI) 53.38 0.22
10 year government bond yield 1.62%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.71%

 

Stocks are up this morning as the tape exhibits a risk-on feel. Bonds and MBS are down small.

 

The FOMC meeting begins today. No changes in rates are expected, but market participants will be watching for changes in the interest on overnight reserves and changes in the Fed’s balance sheet.

 

Durable goods orders rose 2.4%, which was better than expected although the volatile transportation sector accounted for the growth. Ex-transportation they fell 0.1%. Capital expenditures continue to disappoint, falling 0.9%.

 

Home prices rose 0.5% MOM and 2.6% YOY according to the Case-Shiller home price index.

 

New home sales were roughly flat with November, but are up 23% on a year-over-year basis. For the year, new home sales came in at 681,000, up 10% from 2018. As you can see from the chart below, we are back towards historical norms, but given the increase in population, that isn’t enough.

 

new home sales

 

Homebuilder D.R. Horton reported Q1 earnings that impressed the Street, with earnings up 53% and revenues up 14%. Orders were up 19% in units and 22% in dollar volume. The cancellation rate fell to 20% from 24%. The stock was up 2% in what was otherwise a putrid tape.

 

Black Rock’s bond strategist sees bond yields falling another 10 – 15 basis points, as uncertainty over coronavirus and the election seeps into the market. If the virus gets materially worse, and travel and business becomes curtailed, then we could be looking at 1.3% on the 10 year.

 

The CFPB has issued a statement on how it intends to police abusive behavior by lenders. The Bureau has decided that the definition of abusive behavior is too vague, and that uncertainty is having a negative effect on consumers by driving overly-cautious behavior in lenders. The money quote:

First, consistent with the priority it accords to the prevention of harm, the Bureau intends to focus on citing conduct as abusive in supervision or challenging conduct as abusive in enforcement if the Bureau concludes that the harms to consumers from the conduct outweigh its benefits to consumers. Second, the Bureau will generally avoid challenging conduct as abusive that relies on all or nearly all of the same facts that the Bureau alleges are unfair or deceptive. Where the Bureau nevertheless decides to include an alleged abusiveness violation, the Bureau intends to plead such claims in a manner designed to clearly demonstrate the nexus between the cited facts and the Bureau’s legal analysis of the claim. In its supervision activity, the Bureau similarly intends to provide more clarity as to the specific factual basis for determining that a covered person has violated the abusiveness standard. Third, the Bureau generally does not intend to seek certain types of monetary relief for abusiveness violations where the covered person was making a good-faith effort to comply with the abusiveness standard.

The MBA has more analysis of the change here.