Morning Report: Fed Day

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 3139 3.25
Oil (WTI) 58.99 -0.24
10 year government bond yield 1.84%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.98%

 

Stocks are flattish as we await the FOMC decision. Bonds and MBS are flat as well.

 

Mortgage applications increased 3.8% from a week earlier, according to the MBA. The purchase index dropped 0.4%, while the refi index rose 9%. Interest rates rose one basis point.

 

The FOMC decision is set for 2:00 pm EST. Given that the Fed is on the sidelines for a while, there shouldn’t be anything market moving in it.

 

Consumer prices rose 0.3% in November, according to the BLS. Higher shelter and energy prices drove the increase. The index was up 2.1% on an annualized basis. Ex-food and energy, the index was up 0.2%. These numbers were a hair higher than street expectations.

 

The first time homebuyer is returning, according to the Genworth First Time Buyer report.  The rebound in the third quarter was driven primarily by falling interest rates and increasing home affordability. Supply constraints, particularly at the affordable price points have been the issue. “The first-time homebuyer market rebounded this quarter and although the rebound was modest compared with the number of first-time homebuyers a year ago, and a quarter behind the broad rebound, it was a strong rebound from the previous quarter allowing first-time homebuyers to make up some lost ground,” said Tian Liu, Genworth Mortgage Insurance Chief Economist.

 

The report noted that repeat buyers (read move-up buyers) have increased as well. The lack of move-up buyers has depressed housing mobility, which may have been driven by lack of home equity from purchases made during the bubble years. Given the change in the house price indices over the past 10 years, negative equity is less of an issue than it was a few years ago.

 

Interestingly,  the number of first-time homebuyers this quarter was comparable to the peak of the last housing boom in 2005 and 2006, and only modestly below the peak levels of 1999 and 2000. Still, the Millennial generation is bigger than Gen X by a large margin, so there should be more room to run here.

 

quarterly sales to first time homebuyers

Morning Report: Fannie and Freddie are interviewing investment banks

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 3138 3.25
Oil (WTI) 58.87 -0.14
10 year government bond yield 1.82%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.98%

 

Stocks are up as we head into the FOMC meeting. Bonds and MBS are flat.

 

The FOMC will meet today and tomorrow, with the interest rate announcement expected Wednesday at 2:00 pm. The Fed Funds futures are predicting no change in rates. That doesn’t necessarily mean the markets will ignore what is going on, as subtle changes in language can have out-sized effects on the markets. One such word is “symmetric.” The word symmetric refers to the Fed’s 2% inflation target, and how much they will tolerate inflation above that target. The Fed desperately wants to avoid the low inflation / low growth trap that evolved in Europe and Japan, and is signalling to the markets that they will allow inflation to run above 2% for an extended period of time.

 

The Fed will also be watching the overnight repurchase market, to ensure we don’t have another situation like late September where overnight rates spiked over 10%. This was due to a shortage of cash in the market. While this sort of thing doesn’t affect mortgage lending directly, it does raise the cost of borrowing for MBS investors, which can cause them to sell these securities to raise cash. That flows through to rate sheets. While the shortage caught the Fed flat-footed in September, they have been discussing the issue, so hopefully we don’t see another replay at the end of this month.

 

Fannie and Freddie are tightening the restrictions for their Home Ready and Home Possible programs. Previously, borrowers with incomes at the Area Median Income (AMI) were qualified for these 3% down programs; now they will be limited to borrowers at 80% of the AMI. This is all part of the strategy to reduce Fan and Fred’s overall risk prior to setting them free. Note that they are currently interviewing banks to handle the IPO, which will be somewhere between $150 billion and $200 billion. This would dwarf the record for the largest IPOs in history – Saudi Aramco and Alibaba – by over 6x.

 

Despite a glut of McMansions in some areas, Toll Brothers beat estimates and forecasted a strong 2020.  The company noted demand increased throughout the year, and the recent weeks have been stronger than the prior quarter, which is encouraging given that typically you see a slowdown this time of year. Douglas C. Yearley, Jr., Toll Brothers’ chairman and chief executive officer, stated: “Fiscal 2019 ended on a strong note. Building on steady improvement in buyer demand throughout the year, our fourth quarter contracts were up 18% in units and 12% in dollars, and our contracts per-community were up 10% compared to one year ago. Through the first six weeks of fiscal 2020’s first quarter, we have seen even stronger demand than the order growth of fiscal 2019’s fourth quarter. This market improvement should positively impact gross margins over the course of fiscal 2020.”

 

Small business optimism grew in November, according to the NFIB. Recession worries faded into the background, and impeachment remains little more than a curious albeit boring sideshow, similar to the Clinton impeachment saga which had zero effect on the markets. Improving labor conditions were a big driver, with 26% of firms planning on raising compensation in the coming months – the highest in 30 years. (BTW, this is music to the Fed’s ears). It looks like the drag from the 2017-2018 rate hikes are behind us, and the headwind has turned into a tailwind courtesy of the recent rate cuts.

 

Productivity declined in the third quarter as output increased 2.3% and hours worked increased 2.5%. Unit labor costs increased by 2.5%.

Morning Report: Fed Week

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 3144 -6.25
Oil (WTI) 58.59 -0.64
10 year government bond yield 1.81%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.98%

 

Stocks are slightly lower as we head into a Fed Week. Bonds and MBS are up.

 

There are two big events this week: the FOMC meeting on Tuesday and Wednesday and the spate of new Chinese tariffs expected to take effect at the end of the week. We will get some interesting economic data in productivity, inflation and retail sales, but with the Fed on the sidelines trade and overseas markets will be driving interest rates.

 

The Fed Funds futures are predicting no changes to interest rate policy at the meeting this week. The June 2020 futures are predicting a roughly 50/50 chance of another rate cut.

 

The average size of a first-time homebuyer’s mortgage was $231,974 for the first 3 quarters of 2018 and was up 4.2% on a YOY basis.

 

first time mortgage size

 

Interesting stat courtesy of the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies: annual household growth over the next 10 years is expected to be 1.2 million per year. With housing starts around the same level, we are not taking into account functional obsolescence and deterioration.

 

Is a homeowner who sells his house via iBuyers (think Zillow and Opendoor) leaving money on the table? Turns out the average discount to market value is about 1.3%. The typical fee charged an iBuyer is around 7%. So the total costs is 8.3%. Compare that to using traditional realtors and paying 6%, along with the expense of showing the home, etc. Essentially the seller is paying for convenience, which is a non-contingent offer in a week, with no showing necessary. In this case the fee is about 2.3%, which represents the additional fee of 1% the iBuyer charges along with the 1.3% market value discount.

 

Paul Volcker, the Fed Chairman who slayed the 1970s inflation dragon has passed away.

Morning Report: Construction spending disappoints

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 3092 -21.25
Oil (WTI) 55.39 -0.54
10 year government bond yield 1.78%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.98%

 

Stocks are lower this morning on negative trade talk out of the White House. Bonds and MBS are up, following German Bund yields lower.

 

Home Prices rose 3.5% YOY in October, according to CoreLogic. “Nationally, over the past year, home prices are up 3.5% with the rate of growth accelerating from September into October,” said Frank Martell, president and CEO of CoreLogic. “We expect home prices to rise at least another 5% over the next 12 months. Interestingly, this persistent increase in home prices isn’t deterring older millennials. In fact, 25% of those surveyed anticipate purchasing a home over the next six to eight months.” CoreLogic conducted a survey with RTi Research regarding to consumer-housing sentiment and found that millennials are largely unconcerned about qualifying for a mortgage.

 

Construction spending disappointed in October, falling 0.8% on a MOM basis and rising 1.1% on an annual basis. Residential Construction fell 0.9% on a monthly basis and was up only 0.5% year-over-year. Despite the lousy number, the National Association of Realtors is optimistic that homebuilding will step up in 2020. “This housing cycle is definitely unique in the sense that it’s been a decade and we’re not back to normal in terms of home building,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist. “Many small-time builders are still out of the game. It was small-time builders in the aggregate that built many more homes than the big builders, and they’ve hesitated to get back in, even though it appears there is a money-making opportunity….All the factors that contribute to higher home sales like the job situation are terrific, and of course mortgage rates are critical to buying a home and those are favorable,” Yun said.” Note that construction loans increased 0.8% in the third quarter.

 

The Fed is considering raising its inflation target above its 2% target, according to the Financial Times. The idea (called the “make-up” strategy) would be to temporarily raise the target level if inflation comes in below 2% (the current target). The Fed fears deflation more than inflation, and has been utterly vexed by their inability to push inflation up to their target rate. This would be a signal to the markets that the Fed intends to keep rates lower for longer, although many members are worried about communication issues with the markets.

 

HUD has put out a request for information regarding affordable housing development, specifically which laws, regulations or administrative practices are inhibiting building. “Owning a home is an essential component of the American Dream. It is imperative that we remove regulatory barriers that prevent that dream from becoming a reality,” said HUD Secretary Ben Carson, who is also Chairman of the White House Council on Eliminating Regulatory Barriers to Affordable Housing. “Through this request, communities across the country will have the opportunity to identify roadblocks to affordable housing and work with State, Federal, and local leaders to remove them.”

 

 

Morning Report: Online Black Friday sales surprisingly strong

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 3145 2.25
Oil (WTI) 56.39 1.24
10 year government bond yield 1.84%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.88%

 

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

 

A surprise election result in Germany over the weekend has pushed the German Bund yield up 8 basis points to negative 28 bps. Since global sovereign debt generally trades together, this will put some upward pressure on rates in the US.

 

We have quite a bit of economic data this week, with the ISM reports, construction spending and the jobs report. Given that the Fed is on hold, it probably won’t be that dramatic to the markets.

 

The FHFA lifted its conforming limits last week to $510,400 for a single family home. For high cost areas, the limit for a single family residence is now $765,500.

 

Pending Home Sales fell 1.7% in October, according to NAR. Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, noted the decline in inventory and a small rise in mortgage rates in October from September to, in part, explain this month’s signings drop. “While contract signings have decreased, the overall economic landscape remains favorable,” Yun said. “Mortgage rates continue to be low at below 4% – which will attract buyers – employment levels are strong and many recession claims have dissipated.”

 

Retailers are optimistic about the holiday shopping season after record online spending on Black Friday. The National Retail Federation estimates nearly 69 million Americans will scour the web for deals on everything from iPads and homeware to kids’ toys, and Adobe’s estimate of $9.4 billion would be a 19% increase on the same day a year ago.

 

Personal incomes were flat in October, while personal spending rose 0.3%. The PCE inflation indices were up 1.3%. The personal income number was a surprise, as wages and salaries have been growing, but falling interest income and rental income pulled down the number.

Morning Report: Home price appreciation accelerates in September

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 3134 1.25
Oil (WTI) 58.39 0.24
10 year government bond yield 1.74%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.93%

 

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

 

Jerome Powell spoke last night and said that the Fed cut rates this year as the economy wasn’t as strong as anticipated. He reiterated that the Fed won’t be making any moves unless things change “materially” in the US economy: “Monetary policy is now well positioned to support a strong labor market and return inflation decisively to our symmetric 2 percent objective. If the outlook changes materially, policy will change as well. At this point in the long expansion, I see the glass as much more than half full. With the right policies, we can fill it further, building on the gains so far and spreading the benefits more broadly to all Americans.”

 

Home prices rose 1.1% in the third quarter, according to the FHFA House Price Index. They are up 4.9% on a YOY basis. They added an interactive map, so you can drill down to MSA-level home price appreciation. Separately, the Case-Shiller home price index rose 3.2% on an annual basis in September.

 

Mortgage delinquency rates fell in October, according to Black Knight’s First Look. The Deep South still has the highest delinquency rates, while the West Coast and Mountain states have the lowest levels. Prepay speeds are up 134% on a YOY basis.

 

Redfin makes its predictions for the 2020 housing market.

  • a return of bidding wars
  • 30 year fixed rate mortgage stabilizes at 3.8%
  • home prices will rise in the Southeast as people get priced out of the cities

Morning Report: FOMC minutes confirm no move in December

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 3110 1.25
Oil (WTI) 57.39 0.74
10 year government bond yield 1.76%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.93%

 

Stocks are flat this morning after China invited the US for trade talks in Beijing despite the resolution backing Hong Kong. Bonds and MBS are down small.

 

In economic data, initial jobless claims were flat at 227,000 last week and the Philadelphia Fed manufacturing survey improved.

 

The CFPB is conducting an assessment of the TRID rule. There doesn’t appear to be any specific issues the CFPB is looking to address, but it is part of the Trump Administration’s push to eliminate unnecessary burdens on business.

 

Independent mortgage banks had their best quarter in 7 years as pretax production profit rose to 74 basis points from 64 in the prior quarter. “A surge in refinance activity and a healthy purchase market led to robust mortgage volume in the third quarter, pushing up production profits to a high not seen since the fourth quarter of 2012 ($2,256 per loan),” said Marina Walsh, MBA Vice President of Industry Analysis. “The increase in profits was primarily driven by declining production expenses and higher loan balances, which mitigated the effects of lower basis-point revenue.” Interestingly, production revenue and secondary marketing income fell. The purchase share of the market fell from 74% to 60%.

 

Bold prediction: Within the next two years, we will see the majority of loans go through the entire process without any human involvement. It will be a much more mechanized process.

 

The minutes from the Fed confirmed the market’s view that the central bank will be out of the picture for a while. They removed the “act as appropriate” language in order to signal that stance. From the minutes:

 

In describing the monetary policy outlook, they also agreed to remove the “act as appropriate” language and emphasize that the Committee would continue to monitor the implications of incoming information for the economic outlook as it assessed the appropriate path of the target range for the federal funds rate. This change was seen as consistent with the view that the current stance of monetary policy was likely to remain appropriate as long as the economy performed broadly in line with the Committee’s expectations and that policy was not on a preset course and could change if developments emerged that led to a material reassessment of the economic outlook.

 

Translation: We aren’t moving in December. Note the Fed Funds futures agree with that assessment, although they are predicting more cuts in 2020. FWIW, the Fed generally tires to avoid modifying policy in the months leading up to an election for fear of appearing political. That said, the March futures are pricing in about a 25% chance of a cut.

 

fed funds futures

 

Is the REO-to-Rental trade finally done? Blackstone has finally exited its entire position in Invitation Homes, which it created in the aftermath of the financial crisis. Invitation was one of the first to buy up distressed properties and rehab them to rent. Turns out Blackstone tripled its money on the trade.