Morning Report: Builder sentiment close to record highs

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 3377 16.6
Oil (WTI) 42.64 0.02
10 year government bond yield 0.69%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 2.95%

 

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

 

The MBA is pushing Congress to rescind the “adverse market refinance fee,” which is the 50 basis point increase announced by the GSEs last week.

Requiring Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to charge a 0.5% fee on refinance mortgages they purchase will raise interest rates on families trying to make ends meet in these challenging times,” Killmer said. “This means the average consumer will be paying $1,400 more than they otherwise would have paid. Even worse, the September 1 effective date means that thousands of borrowers who did not lock in their rates could face unanticipated cost increases just days from closing.

As many have pointed out, the irony of the Fed pushing down mortgage rates by buying mortgage backed securities in the market versus FHFA trying to raise mortgage rates via the fee is striking.

 

There isn’t a lot of market-moving data this week, although we have a good amount of housing data with the NAHB Housing Market Index, Existing Homes Sales, and Housing starts.

 

Homebuilder Sentiment is close to record highs, according to the NAHB. The index rose to 78 in August from 72. 50 is considered neutral. Take a look at the chart below, it looks like we are pretty much at the record highs of the late 90s. Those highs were then followed by a 50% jump in housing starts.

NAHB HMI

 

Home prices are rising across the board, but rural properties are seeing the biggest increases, rising 11%.

We’ve been speculating about increasing interest in the suburbs and rural areas since the start of the pandemic,” said Redfin economist Taylor Marr. “Now we’re seeing concrete evidence that rural and suburban neighborhoods are more attractive to homebuyers than the city, partly because working from home means commute times are no longer a major factor for some people. And due to historically low mortgage rates, interest is turning into action. There will always be buyers who choose the city because their jobs don’t allow for remote work or they place a premium on cultural amenities like restaurants and bars—which will eventually come back—but right now the pendulum is swinging toward farther-flung places.

Redfin rural prices

 

New Home purchase applications are up 39% YOY, according to the MBA. That said, the COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc with seasonal adjustments, so that number could be overstated.

Morning Report: Home Prices holding up

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 2863 30.1
Oil (WTI) 23.15 2.79
10 year government bond yield 0.66%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.43%

 

Stocks are higher this morning as earnings continue to come in. Bonds and MBS are down.

 

Despite the COVID-19 crisis, home price appreciation is holding up. Prices rose 1.3% MOM in March and are up 4.5% YOY. April might be a better read, but still… D.R. Horton mentioned on its earnings call that pricing is holding up, and while they are offering some incentives (free fridge friday), they aren’t cutting prices to move inventory.

 

Here are the cities with the biggest drop in new listings. Allentown PA, Milwaukee WI, Scranton, PA, Detroit MI, and Buffalo NY. The Northeast and Upper Midwest seem to have been hit the hardest.

 

If you look at the CoreLogic map, most of these areas are on the undervalued side.

 

CoreLogic overvalued metros

 

Ex-MBA President Dave Stevens weighs in on how the CARES Act drove a massive tightening of mortgage credit. Comments from Mark Calabria about letting servicers fail and musing that borrowers might be better off with a bank servicer were unhelpful to say the least. The added LLPAs on first payment forbearance requests basically killed the cash-out market. He makes a point that Fannie has the liquidity (between its own net worth and the Treasury facility) to extend lines of credit. He makes a great point as well – Fannie was created during the New Deal to smooth the mortgage market during disruptions, and this one is probably the biggest since the New Deal days.

Morning Report: Advance facility needed

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 2567 84.4
Oil (WTI) 27.46 -0.89
10 year government bond yield 0.65%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.44%

 

Stocks are higher as  early signs show a plateauing in the COVID-19 crisis. Bonds and MBS are down.

 

Ex-MBA President Dave Stevens penned an editorial in Housing Wire that is worth a read. The CARES act mortgage forbearance policy is wreaking havoc on the mortgage banking system in general. The unintended consequences of this must be dealt with immediately. The servicers are Ground Zero of the crisis, as the CARES act requires them to make advances they don’t have. Ginnie Mae envisions a facility to make advances, but so far the GSEs do not. Also, the government’s estimate that only 750,000 homeowners will take advantage of this program is simply wishful thinking. There are probably 50 million mortgaged properties in the US. 10 million people lost their jobs in the last two weeks.  Dave Stevens argues that the government must establish an advance line facility for Fannie and Freddie loans, and they need to be clear on how advances will be replenished. The cost of not figuring this out is already evident:

Bid-ask spreads have widened, servicing bids have all but dried up or are being severely curtailed, lenders are having to pull back on minimum credit score, maximum DTI, certain loan products, and more. The Jumbo market is all but gone, especially in the third-party channels. In short, any prospective homebuyer right now is more likely to find fewer or no options for mortgage financing. This is greatly the outcome of the massive uncertainty surrounding the rollout of these federal interventions.

We are going to start hearing about some of the more tangible effects when the banks start reporting first quarter earnings in about a week. I can’t imagine what JP Morgan and Wells are going to have to say. Note JP Morgan is already publicly musing about cutting the dividend.

 

Black Knight Financial Services has a white paper discussing how to navigate the COVID-19 environment.

 

Bank of America has seen massive demand for the SBA Payroll Protection loans. Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan said that the bank would serve its borrowing customers (i.e. existing clients) first. There remain issues regarding reps and warrants relief for fraud and money laundering, which have to get solved before the banks will really start doing these.

 

St. Louis Fed President James Bullard said that the COVID-19 stimulus bill was the correct size, and another one is probably not needed. He envisions the US economy having a sharp rebound once this is over.

 

New York is beginning to plan for re-opening business.

Morning Report: Iranians protest the government

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 3277 12.25
Oil (WTI) 59.13 0.04
10 year government bond yield 1.85%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.88%

 

Stocks are higher this morning as we anticipate a phase 1 trade deal with China this week. Bonds and MBS are flat.

 

Earnings season kicks off this week with the major banks all reporting. JP Morgan, Wells, and Citi all report tomorrow. We will get inflation data, retail sales and housing starts this week as well. With the Fed on hold for the moment (and probably through the election), economic data will become less of a market-mover unless it is way out the expected range. Neel Kashkari thinks the next move for the Fed could be a rate cut. “If I were to guess the next rate move, my guess (on) the balance of risks, is that it will be down and not up.” The Fed funds futures agree, handicapping a better-than-50% chance that rates will get cut this year.

 

fed funds futures

 

Iran admitted shooting down an airliner by mistake over the weekend, which has shifted the focus from the US killing a military leader. It looks like there are major protests in Tehran right now. So far, we are not seeing any big effects in the oil market, although North America uses a different benchmark than the rest of the world.

 

HousingWire lays out some predictions for 2020. One big one refers to recruiting. As of 11/24, originators could officially move from a bank to a non-bank or another state and keep originating mortgages while they wait for the new license. This will almost certainly make recruiting for non-banks easier.

 

Mortgage credit availability decreased in December by 3.5%, according to the MBA. “Credit availability fell in December after three months of expansion, driven by drops in both conventional and government supply,” said Joel Kan, MBA Associate Vice President of Economic and Industry Forecasting. “Perhaps most noteworthy was a 6 percent drop in government credit supply because of changes to the Veterans Administration loan program, which eliminated loan limits for certain borrowers as of Jan 1, 2020. This likely prompted many investors to remove VA programs in high cost counties from their offerings. There was also a reduction in streamline refinance programs, as slightly higher rates slowed the refinance market at the end of 2019.”

Morning Report: Big jump in building permits

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 3128 6.25
Oil (WTI) 56.29 -0.74
10 year government bond yield 1.81%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.94%

 

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

 

Housing starts came in a little light, at 1.31 million but the big news was the permits number, which rose to 1.46 million. This is up almost 15% compared to October 2018 and is the highest print since the bubble years. The action was in the Northeast and the South. Completions were up big as well, coming in at 1.26 million, which is up double digits compared to last month and a year ago.

 

building permits

 

The MBA reported that applications for new home purchases increased by 9% from September and by 31.5% from a year ago. “The new home sales market continues to be strong and was reinforced by October’s increase in applications for new home purchases,” said MBA Associate Vice President of Economic and Industry Forecasting Joel Kan. “At an annual pace of 791,000 units, our estimate of new sales has reached its highest level since the inception of our survey in 2012. Home builder sentiment remains close to 18-month highs, and housing starts and permits have increased for four straight months. These are promising signs for the housing market, as the rise in new and existing housing supply has led to slower home-price growth and improving affordability.”

 

While a couple data points don’t necessarily indicate a trend yet, we might finally start seeing new home construction begin to meet the pent-up demand out there. And if this is finally happening, GDP forecasts are probably too low.

 

The Home Despot reported disappointing third quarter earnings and lowered FY 2019 guidance. Comp store sales were up, but tariffs are taking a bite out of earnings. The stock is down 5% pre-open.

 

Home prices rose 5.4% in October, according to Redfin. “Low mortgage rates are propping up homebuyer demand and juicing prices, said Redfin chief economist Daryl Fairweather. “However, home sales have been slow to grow since there are so few homes for sale and not many new listings hitting the market, especially affordable ones. The market is split: It’s a seller’s market for moderately priced homes, but a buyer’s market for pricier homes.” 

 

 

Morning Report: Q2 GDP comes in at 2%

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 2916 26.5
Oil (WTI) 56.17 0.34
10 year government bond yield 1.48%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.78%

 

Stocks are up this morning after China said it wouldn’t immediately retaliate on tariffs set to take effect this weekend. Bonds and MBS are down.

 

The second revision to Q2 GDP was unchanged at 2.0%. Consumption drove the increase in GDP as durable goods consumption was up 13% and non-durables were up 7%. Core PCE inflation was unchanged at 1.7%. Despite the chronic housing shortage, residential investment was down again for the sixth straight quarter. Investment and trade made negative contributions to the index.

 

GDP

 

Initial Jobless Claims came in at 215,000 right in line with expectations.

 

The MBA reported that net gains per loan increased to $1,675, compared to $285 in the first quarter. This was the best number since the third quarter of 2016. “With anticipated increases in prepayment activity, we saw hits to servicing profitability resulting from mortgage servicing right markdowns and amortization,” Walsh said. “Nonetheless, the profitability on the production side of the business generally outweighed servicing losses.” Average pretax production profit rose to 64 basis points, while secondary marketing income fell to 287 basis points, down from 308 in the first quarter.

 

Treasury is looking at the idea of ultra-long term government bonds, with 50 or 100 year terms. “If the conditions are right, then I would anticipate we’ll take advantage of long-term borrowing and execute on that,” Mnuchin said in the Bloomberg News interview on Wednesday.

Morning Report: Homeownership rate jumps in Q4

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 2814 6.75
Eurostoxx index 376.36 1.22
Oil (WTI) 56.49 0.7
10 year government bond yield 2.74%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 4.44%

 

Stocks are higher this morning on real news. Bonds and MBS are down.

 

The big data this week will be the jobs report on Friday. Jerome Powell said in his Humphrey-Hawkins testimony that he would like to see further wage increases, which should calm the bond markets if the average hourly earnings number comes in a bit hotter than expected. Other than that, we will get new home sales and the ISM data.

 

The homeownership rate ticked up to 64.8% in the fourth quarter, according to the census bureau. This is up from 64.4% in the third quarter and 64.2% a year ago. The homeownership rate has been slowly ticking back up after bottoming at 62.9% in 2016. Note that we are nowhere near the highs of around 69.2% during the bubble years. Bumping up that number by lending to Millennial borrowers is going to drive the mortgage business going forward, and will have to replace the rate / term refi business that drove earnings for years.

 

homeownership rate

 

28 organizations, including the MBA, NAR and a whole host of affordable housing advocates sent a letter to Acting FHFA Director Otting counseling him to go slow in GSE reform.  “A well-functioning housing finance system should provide consistent, affordable credit to borrowers across the nation and through all parts of the credit cycle without putting taxpayers at risk of a bailout,” the letter states. “We urge policymakers to take these principles into account to ensure that access and affordability are preserved under the current, and any future, housing regime.” FHFA had indicated it was willing to make some reforms without Congress, which prompted the letter. Any true GSE reform will require legislation.

 

Despite a strong Q4 GDP print of 2.6%, first quarter estimates are in the 0% to 1% range. Does the economy “feel” like it rapidly decelerated in the past couple of months? Some of the numbers suggest it – as in personal income and consumption.  I don’t sense it, but that’s what the pros are saying. As a general rule, people’s subjective assessment of the economy is often influenced by their personal partisan values. When Democrats are in charge, Republicans tend to feel the economy is worse off than it really is, and the same goes in reverse. During the Obama years, the professional economists (including the Fed) were consistently high on their GDP estimates. Now, during the Trump years, professional economists seem to be undershooting the numbers – i.e. actual growth numbers out of the BEA are much higher than forecast. I doubt there is any tampering going on, but it is something to keep in mind, especially when locking around big economic events.

Morning Report: Changes happening at the CFPB

Vital Statistics:

Last Change
S&P futures 2774 1.75
Eurostoxx index 386.72 -0.16
Oil (WTI) 65.25 0.52
10 Year Government Bond Yield 2.98%
30 Year fixed rate mortgage 4.58%

Stocks are higher this morning as trade tensions with China ease. Bonds and MBS are lower.

Initial Jobless Claims fell to 222k last week. We are still bouncing around lows that we haven’t seen since the Vietnam War.

Changes are afoot at the CFPB. First, Mick Mulvaney dismissed all 25 members of the Consumer Advisory Board in order to cut costs and increase the diversity of voices. The Community Bank Advisory Board and the Credit Union Advisory Board were also terminated. Apparently, these committees were traveling to DC on taxpayer expense. Many of these people are simply professional political activists in the business of raising money for liberal candidates, and were often given funds from settlements – in other words, it was a bit of a political money-laundering operation. So, there is no reason for an agency under a Republican Administration to fund the Democratic political machine. Also, the Obama / Cordray CFPB was one-sided – they listened only to consumer advocates and had zero interest in input from the industry. For better or worse, you make better policy when you have input from the people who will be affected by your rules and regulations.

Separately, the CFPB is prepared to dismiss its case against PHH. The PHH case is a tricky one, where the CFPB unilaterally increased a judge’s $6 million penalty to $106 million. PHH won a big victory last January when an appeals court threw out the judgement. There structure of the Agency was also brought into question during this case, which helps explain why the CFPB is anxious to make this case go away.

Independent mortgage bankers lost money on average in the first quarter, according to the MBA. Net production losses were $118 per loan (or about 8 basis points). The last time we saw something similar was the first quarter in 2014. The first quarter is always a seasonally weak period.  Declining volumes, increasing costs, and thinner margins are driving the losses. Net secondary marketing income was more or less flat, and purchases accounted for 71% of the volume. Pull-through rates fell to 70% from 74% in the fourth quarter. Production expenses and personnel expenses increased quite a bit, to almost $9,000 a loan. That number has been closer to $6,200 since 2008. Productivity also fell to 1.9 loans per employee from 2 loans in the fourth quarter.

Chinese money has been pushing up real estate prices in many cities, from Vancouver to Seattle, to Sydney. Local governments are finding more and more of their citizens are being priced out of the market and are trying to do something about it. In Vancouver, prices were appreciating at an annual rate of 30% before the government imposed a foreign investments tax. The money then left and moved to Toronto. Ultimately probably nothing will change until the Chinese real estate bubble bursts, and no one has any idea when that will happen. One thing is for sure, however. When the bubble does burst, these cities will get hit first. In a financial crisis, you sell what you can, not what you want to.

Chinese money

How easy is credit these days? Twitter is offering $1 billion in convertible bonds paying 25 basis points of interest that convert into Twitter stock at a 44% premium to the current share price. That is as close to free money as you are going to get.

Apparently the market cap of the FAANG stocks (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, and Google) is now higher than the GDP of Germany. Most crowded trade since the Nifty 50 in the 1970s.