Morning Report: Mortgage rates lag Treasury yields

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 3217 -17.25
Oil (WTI) 63.87 0.74
10 year government bond yield 1.78%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.89%

 

Stocks are lower as the markets continue to digest the Iranian strike last week. Bonds and MBS are up.

 

Friday’s rally in the bond markets left some LOs disappointed, as mortgage backed securities barely moved. This is typical behavior to big shocks in the bond markets – mortgage backed securities (and therefore mortgage rates) invariably lag. We are seeing the same effect again this morning with bond yields falling and MBS barely moving.

 

Senior central bankers saw a possibility that interest rates could go even lower in the future, driven by changing demographics (in other words, an aging population). This is precisely the issue that has been dogging Japan for the past 30 years.

 

There was nothing earth-shattering in the FOMC minutes which were released on Friday. The Fed did nothing at the December meeting, so no new revelations were really expected. Officials “discussed how maintaining the current stance of policy for a time could be helpful for cushioning the economy from the global developments that have been weighing on economic activity.” Note that the latest NY Fed forecast has Q4 GDP coming in at 1.1%, which seems far below the other forecasts out there. This was largely due to the weak December ISM survey which showed manufacturing continue to decline. New orders, production, and employment all were contracting. The report was actually the weakest since 2007. It is probably too early to tell if this is a temporary blip or the new Phase 1 deal with China will make a difference. Punch line: No rate hikes for a while

 

 

Morning Report: The Fed maintains current interest rate policy

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 3140 -3.25
Oil (WTI) 58.90 -0.14
10 year government bond yield 1.79%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.97%

 

Stocks are flattish after the Fed maintained interest rates yesterday. Bonds and MBS are up.

 

The Fed maintained the Fed Funds rate at current levels and gave a generally upbeat assessment on the economy. The FOMC took down their future unemployment estimates by .2% and left all other projections unchanged. The biggest revelation was the dot plot, which was a bit more dovish than the September plot, but is still forecasting the possibility of a hike in 2020, along with no forecasts for a rate cut.

 

Dec dot plot

 

The Fed Funds futures, which have been (a) more dovish than the Fed’s dot plots and (b) more correct, went from forecasting a 50% chance of a cut in 2020 to a 70% chance of a cut. The bond market adjusted as well, with the 10 year bond yield falling about 4 basis points in the afternoon.

 

The Producer Price Index (PPI) was unchanged in November, and up 1.1% on a year-over-year basis. The PPI measures inflation at the wholesale level, and is a companion inflation index to the Consumer price index. Ex-food and energy, the index fell in November and was up 1.3% YOY.

 

Initial Jobless Claims jumped to 252,000 last week. This is a huge jump, and I am not sure what drove it. We have been hanging around in the low $200,000s for quite some time. FWIW, this jump in new jobless doesn’t necessarily comport with the other labor market indicators out there, but it is less of a lagging indicator than the others.

Morning Report: Mortgage rates and the 10 year.

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 2915 -6.25
Oil (WTI) 53.07 0.54
10 year government bond yield 1.61%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.84%

 

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

 

Consumer inflation was flat in September, and is up 1.7% YOY. The core rate, which excludes some volatile commodities, rose 0.1% MOM and 2.4% YOY. Inflation continues to sit right in the range it has been historically.

 

Job openings fell from a downward-revised 7.17 million to 7.05 million, while initial jobless claims ticked up to 214k.

 

Mortgage Applications rose 5.2% last week as purchases fell 1% and refis rose 10%. The rate on a 30 year fixed conforming loan fell 9 basis points to 3.9%. Weaker-than-expected economic data drove the decrease.

 

Good news for the financial community: Trump is planning to sign a couple of executive orders, which will bring more sunlight on rulemaking, and will permit more public input in the federal guidance. Much of this guidance had been “rulemaking in secret” and this will give companies more of a head’s up when the regulatory agencies plan major changes in guidance. The CFPB sprung a nasty surprise on auto lenders during the Obama Administration, where they determined that any lenders who provide auto loans through dealerships are responsible for “discriminatory pricing.” It is this sort of the thing the order intends to limit.

 

“CNBC is saying the 10 year bond yield is way lower, but I just ran a scenario and my borrower still has to pay a point and a half. What is going on?” This is a common observation these days, and it can be frustrating for both loan officers and borrowers. As the Wall Street Journal notes, that the difference between the typical mortgage rate and the 10 year bond is at a 7 year high. What is going on? First, and most important, mortgage rates are not determined by the 10 year. They are determined by mortgage backed securities, which have entirely different financial characteristics than a government bond. When rates are volatile (i.e. changing a lot in a short time period) mortgage backed security pricing will be negatively affected. In practical terms, it means that when the 10 year bond yield abruptly moves lower, it will take a few days for mortgage rates to catch up, while the time it takes to adjust to big upward moves in Treasury rates is often shorter. It also explains why it can be hard to get par pricing when you have a lot of loan level hits from Fannie (i.e. investment property, cash out refinancing, etc). The “rate stack” gets compressed and MBS investors are wary of buying high coupon securities. Bond geeks have a term for this – negative convexity – but in practical terms it means that moves in the 10 year don’t directly carry over to mortgage rates.

 

primary market spreads

Morning Report: Bonds down on trade progress with China

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 3017.5 5.25
Oil (WTI) 55.37 0.44
10 year government bond yield 1.83%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.90%

 

Stocks are higher this morning after further progress on trade talks with China. Bonds and MBS are down.

 

China walked back some proposed tariffs on US agricultural products after Trump agreed to delay some additional tariffs. Commodities in general are up on the news.

 

Retail Sales rose 0.4% MOM in August, according to Census. July was revised upward to an increase of 0.8% from an increase of 0.7%. This was the back-to-school shopping season, so it gives a good indication that this year’s holiday shopping season will be strong as well. Given that consumption accounts for 70% of GDP, we might see some upward revisions in Q3 and Q4 estimates.

 

Mortgage credit availability declined in August, according to the MBA. “Credit supply declined across the board in August, even as mortgage rates fell and application activity picked up, particularly for refinances,” said Joel Kan, MBA’s associate vice president of economic and industry forecasting. “Last month’s decrease was the largest since December 2018, and also the first tightening we have seen for conventional loans all year. We anticipate some weakening of the job market in the year ahead as economic growth cools. It’s possible some lenders may be tightening credit in expectation of a slowdown.” Some contraction was expected for VA due to the new rules, but it is surprising to see it in the other buckets.

 

MCAI

 

The Trump Admin is working to end Fannie and Freddie’s net profits sweep in September. “We expect a deal prior to Sept. 30 in which Fannie and Freddie will stop paying a quarterly dividend to Treasury,” Cowen Managing Director Jaret Seiberg wrote in the note. “Instead, they will pay a commitment fee for the outstanding preferred capital line. This means they can retain the rest of their profits in order to rebuild capital.”

Morning Report: Personal incomes rise

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 2943 16.5
Oil (WTI) 56.33 -0.34
10 year government bond yield 1.51%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.77%

 

Stocks are up ahead of the 3 day weekend. Bonds and MBS are flat.

 

No word yet from SIFMA regarding an early close, so assume the bond market is open all day.

 

Personal incomes rose 0.1% in July, which was a deceleration from the previous few months. June was revised upward from 0.4% to 0.5%. Disposable personal income rose 0.3%, and spending rose 0.6%, which came in above expectations. The core PCE index (the Fed’s preferred measure of inflation) rose 0.2% MOM and 1.6% YOY, which is below their 2% target. The headline PCE rose 0.2% / 1.4%.

 

Consumer sentiment fell in August according to the University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Survey.

 

Pending Home Sales fell 2.5% in July, according to NAR. “Super-low mortgage rates have not yet consistently pulled buyers back into the market,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist. “Economic uncertainty is no doubt holding back some potential demand, but what is desperately needed is more supply of moderately priced homes.” Regionally, they declined 1.6% in the Northeast and fell 3.4% on the Left Coast.

 

As bond yields have fallen, mortgage rates have not kept up as investors have been sweating prepayment speeds in the MBS market. The biggest issues have been rate volatility, which negatively impacts mortgage backed security pricing, along with fears we are entering a new refinance cycle. Also, many mortgage bankers set their staffing levels for the year back in late 2018, when it looked like we were in a tightening cycle and volumes would be much lower. “Do not expect much, if any of a drop in mortgage rates in the coming weeks,” said Mitch Ohlbaum, president, Macoy Capital Partners in Los Angeles. “It’s not because they shouldn’t, it’s because the lenders are already beyond capacity with refinances and frankly do not want any more volume.” There is probably some truth to that, but that is fixable. The volatility in the Treasury market and convexity risk is killing MBS investors. The classic example of a MBS investor is Annaly, a mortgage REIT, which has gotten clocked this year and cut its dividend.

 

NLY chart

 

PIMCO is advising the Fed to “aggressively cut rates” given the recent economic data suggests a slowdown. Their point is that recent data is “understating” the extent of the slowdown. They raise the point that labor market momentum has decelerated more than forecasters were predicting. Of course, at 3.7% unemployment, we are pretty much at or close to full employment. Wages are generally a lagging indicator, but this morning’s personal income disappointment was partially driven by a decrease in asset income, which probably just reflects falling interest rates.

Morning Report: Fed at Jackson Hole this week

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 2923 32.5
Oil (WTI) 55.32 0.44
10 year government bond yield 1.61%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.78%

 

Stocks are higher on optimism of a trade deal with China. Bonds and MBS are down.

 

The upcoming week will be dominated by Fed-speak as they head to Jackson Hole. Economic data will be sparse, with leading economic indicators, and new home sales the only potential market-moving numbers. Jerome Powell is scheduled to speak on Friday where he is pretty much expected to hint at another rate cut at the September meeting. Note the Fed funds futures are pricing in a 93% chance of a 25 basis point cut, and a 7% chance of a 50 basis point cut.

 

fed funds futures

 

Homebuilder KB Home notes that consumer confidence took a hit in August, and this translates into lower home sales more than interest rates do. “I’ve always maintained over the years that consumer confidence means more than rates to the home buying decision,” said Jeff Mezger, CEO of Los Angeles, CA-based KB Home. “We’ve had some great years where interest rates were 8, 9,10%—because people find a way when they feel confident about the future.” Of course interest rates were way higher during the 80s and 90s and people still bought homes. Nominal wage growth was higher too. Further, he talks about why housing starts are weak: “Frankly, as an industry, that’s what is holding us back from getting to normalized levels,” said Mezger. “We’re only going to invest and build if we can get a return, and it’s difficult to find the combination of land, the cost to produce, the fee structure in that city and then what you can sell a home for based on the incomes in that submarket. So that is the challenge.” So, it is land, labor, and regulations that are the issue. Income growth might be what ends up squaring the circle.

 

Speaking of sentiment, the University of Michigan preliminary survey showed that confidence has dropped. Trade concerns and Fed policy increased fears of a recession, which translated into the numbers.

 

The Administration is set to introduce a new rule to codify lending discrimination and move away from the disparate impact standard that began during the Obama Administration. It appears that lenders will have protection if they use ” – third party systems” – i.e. algorithms – to make lending decisions. The actual guidance (from a leaked memo) is supposedly here.  While they don’t mention any algorithms by name, they are probably proposing that if you use DU or LP for lending decisions, you will have safe harbor from lending discrimination charges. If it turns out that DU or LP are biased, that is on the provider of these algorithms, not the lender. All of this is in response to a disparate impact lawsuit (Texas vs. Inclusive Communities), which allowed disparate impact theory to be used, however it did institute some restrictions on its use. The updated guidance from HUD will be to align current policy with that decision.

Morning Report: Strong retail sales

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 2857 14.5
Oil (WTI) 54.92 -0.64
10 year government bond yield 1.59%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.84%

 

Stocks are up after strong retail sales numbers. Bonds and MBS are flat. The German Bund hit a new low this morning, trading at negative 66 basis points.

 

Strong retail sales numbers out this morning. The headline number was up 0.7%, well above the Street expectations of 0.4%. The control group, which strips out volatile gas and autos, was up 1.0% MOM, exceeding the Street estimate by 0.7%. Note that Trump’s delay of Chinese tariffs means they won’t hit until mid-December, or after the holiday shopping season. These numbers bode well for the back-to-school shopping season, which is the second most important of the year. Note that Walmart also reported strong numbers this morning, another bellwether for the retail sector. Expect strategists to take up their GDP estimates on these figures.

 

In other economic news, initial jobless claims rose to 220,000 last week, while industrial production fell 0.2% MOM and rose half a percent YOY. Capacity Utilization fell to 77.5%. The industrial and manufacturing numbers are probably influenced by trade.

 

Productivity rose 2.3% in the second quarter, way more than expectations as output rose 1.9%, hours worked fell 0.4% and compensation rose 4.8%. The biggest surprise however came in the revisions, where compensation in the first quarter was revised upward from -1.5% to +5.5%! These are inflation-adjusted numbers, so we had real compensation growth of 5.2% in the first half of the year. Where was the growth strongest? Manufacturing.

 

With the inversion of the yield curve, the business press is chattering about an imminent recession. Don’t buy it. Most of them are talking their partisan book and are sticking with their preferred narrative: (Trump’s trade war is causing a recession!). It helps that it is the most convenient and easy to explain scenario, and let’s face it: it is hard to talk about overseas interest rates when most journalists wouldn’t know a Bund if it bit them in the begonias. Reality check: you generally don’t get recessions with a dovish Fed, unemployment at 50 year lows, strong consumer spending and accelerating wage growth. In fact, the bullish case is that with strong wage growth, overseas deflation keeping inflation in check, and a dovish Fed, you could see what a scenario similar to the mid / late 90s. Food for thought.

 

The new FHA guidance for condos is available in its unpublished form here. The new rule will become effective 60 days after publication in the Federal Register (which should be any day now) and will make more condos eligible for FHA insurance.

 

Home prices rose 3% in July, according to Redfin. “July home prices and sales were weaker than I had expected, especially given that falling mortgage rates have been luring homebuyers back to the market since early spring,” said Redfin chief economist Daryl Fairweather. “Even though we’ve seen increased interest from homebuyers—especially compared to a year ago when mortgage rates were climbing—uncertainties in the overall economy and talk of a looming recession have people feeling jittery about making a huge purchase and investment. But I think the odds are that we won’t see a recession within the next year. If rates stay low and the economy continues to grow, we’ll see more homebuyers come back in a serious way in 2020, and the market will be much more competitive.” Home sales were down 3.4%, while supply fell by the same amount. In terms of price, the previously hot markets of San Jose and Seattle fell, while many of the laggards (like Cleveland and Rochester) rose.

 

Redfin price chart