Morning Report: Homebuyer sentiment softens

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 2571 20
Eurostoxx index 346.77 3.89
Oil (WTI) 49.14 0.86
10 year government bond yield 2.69%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 4.43%

 

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

 

As the shutdown drags on with no end in sight, the IRS has decided to begin issuing tax transcripts. It will probably take a few days to catch up with the backlog, but at least this headache for originators will go away.

 

Small business sentiment remains strong, according to the NFIB. “Optimism among small business owners continues to push record highs, but they need workers to generate more sales, provide services, and complete projects, said NFIB President and CEO Juanita D. Duggan. “Two of every three of these new jobs are historically created by the small business half of the economy, so it will be Main Street that will continue to drive economic growth.” Bill Dunkelberg notes the cognitive dissonance in the business press these days:  “Recently, we’ve seen two themes promoted in the public discourse: first, the economy is going to overheat and cause inflation and second, the economy is slowing and the Federal Reserve should not raise interest rates,” said NFIB Chief Economist Bill Dunkelberg. “However, the NFIB surveys of the small business half of the economy have shown no signs of an inflation threat, and in real terms Main Street remains very strong, setting record levels of hiring along the way.”

 

Growth in the service sector decelerated in December, according to the ISM Non-Manufacturing Index. New Orders were the bright spot in the report while most other indicators fell. Note that we are still at historically very strong levels, so there is nothing recessionary in this report. Residential construction remains an issue. One of the respondents said: “New residential home sales have slowed significantly. Tariff delay has slowed material cost increases, but all indications are that January will bring price increases.” I found that surprising given that lumber prices have been falling steadily for the past 6 months and are down 22% YOY.

 

lumber

 

Homebuyer sentiment has been souring as well, according to the latest Fannie Mae National Housing Survey. Blame high house prices: “Consumer attitudes regarding whether it’s a good time to buy a home worsened significantly in the last month, as well as from a year ago, to a survey low,” said Doug Duncan, senior vice president and chief economist at Fannie Mae. “Although home price growth slowed in 2018, the cumulative impact of sustained, robust increases in home prices outpacing income growth likely helped drive the share of consumers citing high home prices as a primary reason for a bad time to buy a home to a survey high.” The net number of people who think it is a good time to buy fell from 23% to 11%. The net number of people who think home prices will rise fell slightly, but nothing as dramatic as the good time to buy statistic. Note that there was no major moves in the personal economics numbers either – the net number of people not concerned about losing their job hit 79%, a series high.

 

The Washington Post summarized the 2019 housing forecasts from the MBA, NAR, and more. The MBA is forecasting that the 30 year fixed rate mortgage will hit 5.1%. (Zillow is even more bearish – they are forecasting 5.8%) While those forecasts are certainly a possibility, they seem unlikely if the Fed is indeed done with this tightening cycle.  Despite that rate forecast the MBA does see purchase origination increasing, while refis will decline. The NAHB is predicting new home sales will be flat with 2018, around 618,000.

Morning Report: Homes are still affordable, but for how much longer?

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 2732.75 -6.85
Eurostoxx index 362.55 -0.95
Oil (WTI) 62.68 -0.42
10 year government bond yield 3.20%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 4.96%

 

Stocks are lower as voters head to the polls for Midterm elections. Bonds and MBS are flat.

 

Regardless of what your politics are, I think everyone will agree that it will be refreshing to not get spammed everywhere with political ads, starting tomorrow.

 

The Midterm elections will hold the press’s attention today, however they won’t have much (if any) of an impact on markets. Expect Democrats to take the House and a few governorships and Republicans to hold the Senate. This means gridlock for the next two years, which is good news for stocks and bonds.

 

The ISM Non-Manufacturing Index slowed a touch in September, but was still pretty strong. New Orders rose while employment was a drag on the index. Employment issues referred to the labor supply, with comments like: “Low unemployment causing team members to leave for higher wages in other businesses and industries” and “Challenging to replace vacant positions.” Expect to see more wage inflation ahead. Tariffs are still worrying some respondents and construction is experiencing cost push inflation. Retailers are reporting strong traffic and expect it to continue through the rest of the year. All of this adds up to a probable hike in December.

 

Rising mortgage rates have cut the size of the refinanceable pool of mortgages to 1.85 million, a 56% drop from the beginning of the year. Overall, there apparently were 6.5 million borrowers in total who had the opportunity to refinance during the ZIRP years that missed the boat. Despite the concerns about affordability, it takes 23.6% of median income to make the monthly payment on the average house which is lower than the pre-bubble benchmark of 25.1%. (Note: I did a deep dive into that metric earlier this year in the Scotsman Guide: Homes are Not Overpriced.) Black Knight estimates that an additional 50 basis points rise in the mortgage rate will push the monthly payment metric above the historical average, even if home prices don’t rise further.

 

refinance candidates

 

The residential homebuilding sector has had a lot of headwinds to deal with, from labor shortages, to rising materials prices and also the lack of buildable lots. The issue is that in the areas where demand is highest (places like Seattle and SF) there are geographical issues that make building out hard. On the other hand, in places like the Midwest, where there is less demand, there is plenty of land available.

Morning Report: Gen X hit hardest by Great Recession

Vital Statistics:

Last Change
S&P futures 2733 19.7
Eurostoxx index 382.97 2.89
Oil (WTI) 74.32 0.2
10 Year Government Bond Yield 2.85%
30 Year fixed rate mortgage 4.54%

Stocks are higher this morning on rumors that the Trump Administration is dialing back its plans for tariffs on European autos. Bonds and MBS are flat.

The minutes from the June FOMC meeting are coming out at 2:00 pm today. Be careful locking around then since they could be market-moving.

The service economy continues to plow ahead, according to the ISM Non-Manufacturing Survey. Higher input prices, tariffs, and labor shortages are the biggest worries. Trucking shortgages are increasing prices, and that has the potential to push up inflation since it touches just about every business, at least indirectly.

The economy added 177,000 jobs last month according to the ADP Survey. This was a touch below street estimates. Note that ADP numbers have generally been higher than the government’s for the past several months. The Street is looking for 191,000 jobs in tomorrow’s payroll report. While the payroll number will be important, for the bond market, it will all come down to the average hourly earnings number.

Initial Jobless Claims ticked up to 231,000 last week. Separately, outplacement firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas noted there were 37,000 announced job cuts in May.

Tariffs on about $34 billion worth of Chinese exports are set to go into effect tomorrow. Beijing has announced it will retaliate with more tariffs the “instant it goes into effect.” Trade fears have been weighing on the stock market, and we are seeing some effects in commodity prices. Today’s minutes will probably discuss the issue at length. On one hand, this trade war is pushing up commodity prices, which is inflationary and should encourage the Fed to lean hawkish, at least at the margin. On the other hand, trade wars are an economic drag, which should encourage more dovishness. The Fed generally considers commodity inflation to be transitory, so on net trade wars should encourage dovishness, at least at the margin.

Oil prices have been a problem for while now, as WTI crude now trades close to $75 a barrel. Oil prices have been rising due to Venezuela issues and pressure on Europe to not buy Iranian oil. Trump tweeted that OPEC should increase production, which caused Saudi Arabia to announce it would increase output and Iran to announce that his pressure on them have added about $10 to the price of oil in the first place.  At the end of the day however these issues affect North Sea Brent prices, which really only matter to East Coast refineries. The rest of the country uses US domestic oil. Higher gas prices do make consumers surly and the Administration wants to see them down ahead of midterms this fall.

Here are the hottest real estate markets in June, according to Realtor.com. Note it isn’t the names you would think.

Interesting chart in today’s Journal about which breaks down the labor force participation rate by age cohort. The press keeps harping on the job market for entry level workers (essentially the Millennial Generation) however if you look at the labor force participation rate for that cohort, it is lower than the year 2000, but not by much. Nor is the problem the 55+ cohort (baby boomers). They are close to all-time highs. It is Gen X that is the issue – their cohort peaked around 83% in 2000 and now is closer to 80%. It is this generation that was hit hardest by the Great Recession (nailed right during the peak earnings years) and has yet to recover.

labor force participation rate by age cohort

Morning Report: Number of job openings equals number of unemployed

Vital Statistics:

Last Change
S&P futures 2747 1.75
Eurostoxx index 388.56 0.45
Oil (WTI) 64.56 -0.19
10 Year Government Bond Yield 2.91%
30 Year fixed rate mortgage 4.54%

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

Job openings continue to creep upward, hitting 6.7 million in April, which is just about the number of unemployed people in the country. Job openings increased in manufacturing, but fell in finance. The quits rate was flat MOM at 2.3% and is up about 20 bps since last year. The quits rate is a strong predictor of wage inflation, as it measures people leaving jobs to take new, higher paying ones. Below is a chart of the quits rate versus wage growth. Wage inflation is a bit more volatile, but the correlation is pretty tight.

quits rate

The ISM non-manufacturing index rose in May to 58.6. The current level historically corresponds to a GDP growth rate of around 3.5%. Tariffs are weighing on many sectors however.

The House Financial Services Committee will hold a hearing tomorrow to discuss transparency and accountability at the CFPB. This hearing is the result of a memo from Mick Mulvaney, which recommended that the CFPB be subject to Congressional appropriation, that major rules be passed by legislation, that there be an independent Inspector General, and recommended that the agency report to the President.

Home prices rose 1.2% in April, according to CoreLogic. On a YOY basis, they are up 6.9%. They expect home price appreciation to moderate over the next year and increase about 5%. Much of the country’s real estate is becoming overvalued, according to CoreLogic’s model – in fact, over half. The valuation metric is based on incomes, which is why an expensive market like San Francisco may appear fairly valued, while areas on the Gulf Coast may seem overvalued.

Corelogic overvalued

The first time homebuyer accounted for almost half the Freddie Mac purchase market, the highest since 2012, when Freddie first started tracking this statistic. The Bloomberg headline is terrible – the first time homebuyer does not account for almost half of mortgages. 40% are refis and the first time homebuyer is about 32% of existing home sales.

Over the past 2 years, about 4.4 million jobs have been added in the US. How many houses have been built? 2.4 million. Great illustration of just how acute the housing shortage is.