Morning Report: Trouble with non-agency mortgage REITs

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 2438 -89.4
Oil (WTI) 20.46 0.09
10 year government bond yield 0.60%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.5%

 

Stock indices are lower as we kick off the second quarter. Bonds and MBS are up small.

 

The Fed took up just 53% of the bonds offered to them yesterday. It sounds like they are backing off on their aggressive buying which was triggering margin calls throughout the industry.

 

Speaking of margin calls, it looks like New Rez has a deal to sell $6.1 billion of non-agency bonds. No price was indicated, but a couple days ago New Rez cut its dividend by 90% and said that book value was down about 25% – 30% from the 12/31 mark.

 

Impac recently said it would suspend lending operations for two weeks after a whole loan investor went radio-silent about its commitment to purchase whole loans. They have let go most of their employees.

 

I can’t see how the non-QM market comes out of this as anything more than a portfolio product for banks who have the werewithall to hold the paper. While I would bet the vast majority of these non-QM loans are money good and will perform as expected, they simply aren’t suitable for repo financing. Securitize them or hold them.

 

The economy lost 27,000 jobs in March, according to the ADP jobs report. In the previous report the economy gained 183k. Small business bore the brunt of the job losses, losing 90k. The Street is expecting a -150k print for Friday’s job report. with the unemployment rate increasing from 3.5% to 3.9%. The government just passed a stimulus bill with aid to help small businesses get through this period. Many are hoping to hold on until the cavalry arrives.

 

Mortgage applications rose 15% last week as purchases fell 11% and refis rose 26%.

Morning Report: Fiscal stimulus on the way

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 2422 -19.4
Oil (WTI) 23.61 -0.49
10 year government bond yield 0.85%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.44%

 

Stocks are lower this morning despite a deal on the fiscal stimulus bill. Bonds and MBS are up. The Fed will be continuing its normal $50 billion in MBS purchses this morning.

 

Congress came to a deal on a stimulus bill which aims to ease as much of the economic shock from Coronavirus as it can. Most Americans will get a $1,200 check, small businesses will get $367 billion in relief and state / local governments will get $500 billion in loans. Unemployed workers will get an additional $600 a week up to 4 months.

 

Trump says that he wants the “country opened” by Easter in order to salvage the US economy. The idea would be to re-open restaurants and in-person employment in the non-hotspots. Needless to say, health experts are aghast at the idea, and yes, health concerns are a concern. They aren’t the only concern. Of course state governments are going to have the last word on that as well.

 

A consortium of originators, credit agencies and lobbyists sent a letter to the government discussing relief for homeowners affected by Coronavirus. The idea would be to allow people affected by the crisis to defer mortgage payments for 90 days without interest or penalties. The missed payments would essentially be added to the final payments of the mortgage without interest. Of course servicers are on the hook for the advances, and non-bank servicers don’t have the liquidity to make these advances. The group urges the government to provide some sort of borrowing facility for non-bank servicers to draw upon to make the these additional payments.

 

The Coronavirus has impacted commercial mortgage backed securities as well. As businesses shut down, they can’t make their mortgage payments. This means that the mortgages securing the complex are having issues. Lots of small business owners are combing over the force majure clauses in their contracts right now. For mortgage bankers, this is an issue because the same folks that buy CMBS often buy RMBS. To make matters worse, some of the biggest buyers of mortgage backed are sovereign wealth funds, and with less goods coming from overseas, the less demand for MBS from foreign funds. The Fed will purchase agency CMBS with the help of Blackrock.

 

Mortgage Applications fell 29% last week as rate spiked and bottlenecks in the mortgage market increased. “The 30-year fixed mortgage rate reached its highest level since mid-January last week, even as Treasury yields remained at relatively low levels. Several factors pushed rates higher, including increased secondary market volatility, lenders grappling with capacity issues and backlogs in their pipelines, and remote work staffing challenges,” said Joel Kan, MBA’s Associate Vice President of Economic and Industry Forecasting. “With these higher rates, refinance activity fell 34 percent, and both the conventional and government indices dropped to their lowest level in a month. Looking ahead, this week’s additional actions taken by the Federal Reserve to restore liquidity and stabilize the mortgage-backed securities market could put downward pressure on mortgage rates, allowing more homeowners the opportunity to refinance.”

 

Have been hearing that Fannie cash window pricing was 50 – 200 basis points wider yesterday. FHA rates have been getting smashed on the basically worthless servicing value. Every co-issue partner is on hiatus. Tough to manage a pipeline when the bids for your loans are lower and the NY Fed is pushing your hedge inexorably higher which is driving margin calls. I keep saying the mortgage banking business will feast once this is over, but we gotta get to the table first.

 

 

Morning Report: Spring Selling Season slows down dramatically

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 2359 -52.4
Oil (WTI) 21.91 2.39
10 year government bond yield 1.14%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.58%

 

Stocks are lower this morning as volatility continues. Bonds and MBS are down.

 

Late yesterday, the Fed announced measures to support short-term money market mutual funds. Global central banks have been cutting rates and conducting currency interventions.

 

Initial Jobless Claims came in at 288k last week, a big increase but hardly recessionary. The big tell will what happens next week, which will include people who were laid off this week.

 

The government has imposed a 60 day moratorium on foreclosures and evictions.

 

Redfin has suspended its iBuying program. This was the program where Redfin would buy homes directly from sellers and handle the sale. I have to imagine Zillow won’t be far behind. While the Fed is pulling out all the stops to keep the financial markets functioning, if lines of credit are at risk of getting pulled, this strategy absolutely does not work.

 

The NYSE has shut down floor operations and is going all electronic in response to the virus. To be honest, I am surprised at how well the stock market has functioned during this whole sell-off. I thought the algorithmic traders would disappear with this volatility. So far, so good.

 

The Spring Selling Season it taking a hiatus due to Coronavirus. After a 27% increase in traffic, it was flat over the past week. Redfin has canceled open houses, and at some point appraisals will become an issue if appraisers don’t want to go into homes.

 

Dismayed by the lack of inventory at your local supermarket? Don’t be.

 

 

 

 

Morning Report: Bonds down on Italian fears

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 2393 -92.4
Oil (WTI) 24.51 -2.39
10 year government bond yield 1.08%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.44%

 

Stocks are down big this morning as we continue the volatile markets. Bonds are getting slammed, where the US Treasury is following the carnage in Europe.

 

Volatility begets volatility, and that is what we are seeing. Oil is now at a 17 year low. The ironic thing is that gasoline prices will be ridiculously low for the summer driving season, but there will be nowhere to go. European bonds are selling off due to fears that the Italian economy is going to be so bad that they will need a bailout from Germany. The German Bund has picked up 50 basis points in yield, going from -78 basis points on Friday to -28 today. The US Treasury is being pulled along for the ride.

 

Washington is putting together a panoply of measures to try and support the economy while everyone hunkers down at home. It looks like the government is going to give everyone $1,000 in a couple of weeks to get people through this tough time. Multiple industries will probably get some sort of help, with hospitality and airlines at the front of the line. As oil falls, the frackers will be soon behind, and I suspect the mall REITs will be next. Companies are suspending stock buybacks left and right, which may explain some of the sogginess in the stock market.

 

Homebuilder sentiment fell in March to 72, which is still strong. I have heard that construction activity has been suspended in the Bay Area, and I saw that Loan Depot has ceased accepting loans from all of the counties surrounding San Francisco.

 

Housing starts came in at 1.6 million again in February. Building Permits were 1.45 million. February was probably too early to be affected by Coronavirus, so March will be a better tell.

 

Mortgage applications fell 8% last week as purchases fell 1% and refis fell 10%. Between margin calls and a lack of investor appetite for refis, mortgage rates backed up last week. Don’t forget that mortgage backed security investors detest volatility in the bond market. It makes hedging their portfolios more expensive, and the prepay option (which an MBS investor is short) more valuable.

 

Despite the moves by the Fed in the markets, the mortgage REITs continue to get slammed. I suspect this is a “shoot first, ask questions later” mentality on the part of investors, but some of these stocks are looking crazy cheap, trading at half of book value and some with dividend yields of 20% + (one of which declared its normal dividend yesterday) Watch the REITs, because their appetite for paper flows through to mortgage rates.

Morning Report: Futures predicting another cut in two weeks

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 3039 -70.25
Oil (WTI) 46.46 -0.29
10 year government bond yield 0.94%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.28%

 

Stocks are down again on coronavirus fears. Bonds and MBS are up with the 10 year trading below 1% again.

 

The Fed’s rate cut doesn’t seem to be having the desired effect. Volatility in the markets continues, and to be honest, I don’t see how cutting interest rates is going to make any difference. The markets don’t have a credit availability issue, and lower rates aren’t going to entice people to take a cruise all of a sudden. The Fed is also running out of ammo if we do experience a recession.

 

Speaking of rate cuts, the Fed Funds futures are handicapping a 50% chance of a 25 basis point cut and a 50% chance of a 50 basis point cut at the March meeting in two weeks. The December futures are assigning a 27% chance we go back to zero.

 

fed funds futures

 

The Coronavirus has certainly been a double-edged sword for mortgage originators. The MBA Mortgage applications index increased by 15% last week as purchases fell 3%, but refis rose 26%.

 

“The 30-year fixed rate mortgage dropped to its lowest level in more than seven years last week, amidst increasing concerns regarding the economic impact from the spread of the coronavirus, as well as the tremendous financial market volatility,” said Mike Fratantoni, MBA Senior Vice President and Chief Economist. “Refinance demand jumped as a result, with conventional refinance applications increasing more than 30 percent. Given the further drop in Treasury rates this week, we expect refinance activity will increase even more until fears subside and rates stabilize.”

“We are now at the start of the spring homebuying season,” Fratantoni added. “While purchase applications were down a bit for the week, they are still up about 10 percent from a year ago. The next few weeks are key in whether these low mortgage rates bring in more buyers, or if economic uncertainty causes some home shoppers to temporarily delay their search.”

 

 

If the March Fed Fund futures are correct, we could be looking at mortgage rates with a 30 year fixed rate mortgages with a 2 in front of them. While this could generally be a good thing for mortgage bankers, people that hold mortgage servicing rights are about to get a 2×4 to the side of the head as prepay speeds accelerate. And their broker dealers are asking for more margin as rates rally. The best of times, the worst of times…

 

Optimal Blue, the loan pricing engine many bankers use has experience record volume and has been experiencing latency issues as a result. Unfortunately Optimal Blue was making some tech migrations when all of this hit.

 

The CFPB may get its wings clipped at the Supreme Court. At issue is whether the President can replace the Director of the CFPB without cause. The Trump Administration is siding with the Plaintiff in this case and is refusing to defend the Agency’s structure. The House has sent its general counsel to defend the agency. While SCOTUS probably won’t go so far as to rule that the agency be disbanded, it is likely to rule that the President is free to appoint a director that shares his ideology.

 

 

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: Rates steady

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 3239 12.25
Oil (WTI) 51.46 0.19
10 year government bond yield 1.37%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.55%

 

Stocks are higher this morning as coronavirus fears ease. Bonds and MBS are flat.

 

The 10 year bond yield traded briefly yesterday below the 2016 closing low of 1.37%. So far, that level seems to be holding. The trader in me thinks that any sort of good news on the coronavirus front will send rates back up 10 – 20 basis points. Big moves generally have decent retracements, and the 1.37% seems to be providing technical support. Note that the German Bund is not at record lows and any bounce up in rates there will be felt in the US. While it feels like the path of least resistance is down in rates over the long term, that might not be the case over the next few weeks. Lock accordingly.

 

Home prices rose 0.4% MOM and 2.9% YOY according to the Case-Shiller Home Price Index. Separately, the FHFA House Price Index rose 0.6% MOM and 5.1% YOY. The FHFA index only looks at homes with conforming mortgages, so it excludes jumbos and distressed.

 

It looks like economic growth improved in January, according to the Chicago Fed National Activity Index. Note that Goldman and others are taking down Q1 GDP growth estimates based on Coronavirus.

 

Intuit is buying Credit Karma, which will help the company create a “personalized financial assistant” to help people manage their money. Credit Karma bought Approved, a digital mortgage platform in 2018, and this will be part of the strategy. “We wake up every day trying to help consumers make ends meet. By joining forces with Credit Karma, we can create a personalized financial assistant that will help consumers find the right financial products, put more money in their pockets and provide insights and advice, enabling them to buy the home they’ve always dreamed about, pay for education and take the vacation they’ve always wanted.”

 

Joe Biden has a housing plan, which includes returning to the Obama-era CFPB practices (presumably regulation by enforcement action), spending $100 billion on affordable housing, and a tax credit of up to $15,000 for first time homebuyers. The plan also includes aid for low-income renters and a task force to combat homelessness.