Morning Report: Big jump in employment

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 3327 23.25
Oil (WTI) 50.88 1.02
10 year government bond yield 1.65%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.68%

 

Another “risk-on” day as stock markets rally overnight and bonds get sold. MBS are performing a touch better than the 10 year.

 

Mortgage applications hit a six year high last week, which included an adjustment for the MLK holiday. The index rose 5% while refis increased 15%. The refi index is up 183% from the same week a year ago. Purchases fell 10%. “The 10-year Treasury yield fell around 20 basis points over the course of last week, driven mainly by growing concerns over a likely slowdown in Chinese economic growth from the spread of the coronavirus. This drove mortgage rates lower,” said Joel Kan, MBA Associate Vice President of Economic and Industry Forecasting. “Refinance activity jumped as a result, with an increase in the number of applications and a spike in the average loan amount, as homeowners with jumbo loans reacted more resoundingly to lower rates.”

 

ADP reported that payrolls increased by 291,000 last month, a huge jump from December, which was revised upward from 139,000 to 202,000. The Street is looking for an increase of 158,000 nonfarm payrolls in Friday’s jobs report, so that number appears to be too low. There was a pretty big increase in construction workers as it looks like homebuilders are eager to finally fulfill the pent-up demand for housing out there. It looks like the ADP number was the strongest in at least a year

 

ADP report

 

Home prices rose 0.3% MOM in December, and are up 4% on an annual basis according to CoreLogic.

Morning Report: MBA urges tweaks to the CFPB

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 3199 3.25
Oil (WTI) 60.61 -0.34
10 year government bond yield 1.89%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.96%

 

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

 

Mortgage Applications fell by 5% last wee as purchases fell 2% and refis fell 7%. Mortgage rates were mostly unchanged, even as a potential trade deal between the U.S. and China caused rates to inch forward at the end of last week,” said Mike Fratantoni, MBA Senior Vice President and Chief Economist. “With rates showing little meaningful movement, both refinance and purchase activity took a step back. As we move into the slowest time of the year for home sales, purchase application volume is declining but continues to outperform year-ago levels, when rates were much higher. Purchase activity was 10 percent higher than a year ago.”

 

Job openings ticked up to 7.3 million at the end of October, according to the BLS. Retail, financial, and durable goods manufacturing saw the biggest increases. The quits rate was stuck at 2.3%, which is odd given that the labor market is strong and wages are increasing.

 

iBuying, which means buying or selling property via platforms like Zillow, Opendoor or Offerpad accounted for 10% of all sales in several MSAs. These platforms permit the buyer and seller to bypass the traditional realtor and sell their properties directly to the company sponsoring the exchange. Does this save the seller money, since they aren’t paying realtor commissions? Not really. Zillow charges a 7.5% fee on average, which is higher than the 6% in realtor commissions a seller typically pays. That extra 1.5% is a convenience fee – you don’t have to stage the property, you get a non-contingent offer within a few days, and can sew the process up in a week or two.

 

The MBA and NAR filed amicus briefs urging the Supreme Court to maintain the CFPB, but to remove the language that says a Director can only be removed for cause. “When determining how to remedy an unconstitutional statute, courts seek to give effect to congressional intent and to avoid unnecessary disruption,” the brief said. “Striking down the entirety of the CFPA, or declaring it unconstitutional without addressing severance, would eliminate or call into question the legitimacy of the detailed, technical regulations that govern past and future real estate finance transactions, not to mention the authority of a federal agency responsible for enforcing a host of consumer protection laws. Such an outcome would immediately cause significant disruption to the American economy, overturning regulatory guideposts, upsetting settled expectations, and creating substantial uncertainty in our housing markets, all in contravention of Congress’s clearly expressed intent to promote financial stability. The Court should avoid causing such harm. Accordingly, in the event that the Court finds the for-cause removal provision unconstitutional, it should sever that provision from the statute.”

 

After yesterday’s blockbuster housing starts data, Fannie Mae took up their estimates for homebuilding in 2020. They anticipate housing starts will increase by 10% and housing will be the sector that leads the economy going forward.

Morning Report: ADP reports weak payroll growth.

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 3104 13.25
Oil (WTI) 57.39 1.54
10 year government bond yield 1.75%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.91%

 

Stocks are higher this morning on trade optimism. Bonds and MBS are flat.

 

Mortgage Applications fell 9.2% last week, which contains an adjustment for the Thanksgiving holiday. Purchases increase 1% while refis dropped 16%. Despite the 30-year fixed rate remaining unchanged at 3.97 percent, mortgage applications fell last week, driven down by a 16 percent drop in refinances. Purchase applications were up slightly but declined 24 percent from a year ago. This week’s year-over-year comparisons were distorted by Thanksgiving being a week later this year.”

 

The economy added 67,000 jobs in November, according to the ADP Employment report. The markets are looking for 180,000 new jobs in Friday’s employment situation report, so there is a big disconnect. “In November, the labor market showed signs of slowing,” said Ahu Yildirmaz, vice president and co-head of the ADP Research Institute. “The goods producers still struggled; whereas, the service providers remained in positive territory driven by healthcare and professional services. Job creation slowed across all company sizes; however, the pattern remained largely the same, as small companies continued to
face more pressure than their larger competitors.”

 

Realtor.com forecasts the 2020 market. Punchline: more of the same, where there is strong demand for housing and supply remains low primarily because builders are reluctant and boomers are content to age in place. “After the housing crash in 2008, which wiped out quite a few builders, those who remained have largely focused on higher-end developments with bigger profit margins. Although they’re finally showing signs of a shift toward building more entry-level homes, faced with overwhelming demand, it will take a few years for a significant number to come to market.”

Morning Report: Third quarter GDP comes in stronger than expected

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 3036 0.25
Oil (WTI) 55.32 -0.24
10 year government bond yield 1.84%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 4.03%

 

Stocks are flat as we await the FOMC decisions and earnings from Facebook and Apple after the bell. Bonds and MBS are flat.

 

The FOMC decision is set for 2:00 pm. The big tariff-related slowdown that has been widely predicted doesn’t seem to be materializing. This means that the language of the FOMC statement and the press conference will take on more weight and we could see some volatility in the bond market as everyone reassesses the lay of the land. Be careful locking around then.

 

The advance estimate of third quarter GDP came in better than expected, at 1.9%, versus street expectations of 1.6%. Personal consumption expenditures drove the increase, rising 2.9%, while investment fell 1.5%. Residential fixed investment broke a 6 quarter losing streak, increasing 5.1% in the quarter. Inflation remains under control, with the headline PCE number rising 1.5%, and the core rising 2.2%.

 

GDP

 

ADP estimated that payrolls increased by 125,000 in October, which was above expectations. September’s estimate was revised downward however to below 100k. Note the 125,000 number is well above the Street estimate for Friday’s jobs report, which is forecasting an increase of only 85,000.

 

Mortgage applications increased by 0.6% in the latest MBA survey. Purchases increased 2% and refis fell 1%. “The 10-year Treasury rate rose slightly last week, as markets expected more progress toward a trade deal between the U.S. and China,” said Joel Kan, MBA Associate Vice President of Economic and Industry Forecasting. “Mortgage rates increased for the second straight week as a result, with the 30-year fixed rate climbing to 4.05 percent–the highest level since the end of July. Mortgage applications were mostly unchanged, with purchase activity rising 2 percent and refinances decreasing less than 1 percent. Purchase applications continued to run at a stronger pace than last year, finishing a robust 10 percent higher than a year ago. Considering how much lower rates are compared to the end of 2018, purchase applications should continue showing solid year-over-year gains.”

 

The MBA forecasts that 2019 will be the best year for origination since 2007, at $2.06 trillion, although they expect 2020 to slip to $1.89 trillion. Although they forecast rates will remain low, they anticipate that refis will dry up in the second half and the margin pressure that bedeviled lenders in 2018 will reappear.

 

Pending home sales rose 1.5% in September, according to NAR. “Even though home prices are rising faster than income, national buying power has increased by 6% because of better interest rates,” he [NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun] said. “Furthermore, we’ve seen increased foot traffic as more buyers are evidently eager searching to become homeowners.” The foot traffic comment is interesting since we should be seeing a drop-off heading into the seasonally slow period.

 

The homeownership rate ticked up to 64.8% in the third quarter. This is an increase of 70 basis points from the second quarter and an increase of 40 bps from a year ago.

Morning Report: Why mortgage rates are underperforming Treasuries

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 2922 23.5
Oil (WTI) 56.73 0.64
10 year government bond yield 1.59%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.83%

 

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

 

We will get the minutes from the July FOMC meeting at 2:00 pm EST. Given the dramatic change in the Fed’s posture over the past several months, there is a possibility that it could be market-moving.

 

The Trump Administration floated the idea of a payroll tax cut and a capital gains tax cut in order to stimulate the economy. Note that a payroll tax cut would require Congressional approval, which means there is a less than 0% chance of this happening ahead of the 2020 election.

 

Mortgage applications fell 0.9% last week as purchases fell 4% and refis rose 0.4%. The MBA mentioned how much mortgage rates have underperformed the Treasury market: “In a week where worries over global economic growth drove U.S. Treasury yields 13 basis points lower, the 30-year fixed mortgage rate decreased just three basis points. As a result, the refinance index saw only a slight increase but remained at its highest level since July 2016,” said Joel Kan, MBA Associate Vice President of Economic and Industry Forecasting. “The small moves in rates and refinancing are potentially signs that lenders may be approaching capacity constraints as they continue to deal with the largest wave of refinance activity in three years. The refinance share of applications, at almost 63 percent, was also at its highest level since September 2016.” Turn times are certainly getting longer from correspondent lenders as this refi wave caught the entire industry off guard.

 

What is driving the underperformance of MBS versus Treasuries? Capacity constraints are one big possibility – as firms use up their operational excess capacity, they will increase margins. The other issue is that the inverted yield curve is wreaking havoc on MBS investors, who borrow short and lend long. The big agency mortgage REITs  (Annaly Capital and American Capital Agency) cut their dividends recently. Two Harbors also cut their dividend. This is a warning sign that the mortgage REIT sector is losing money as rising prepayment speeds kill the value of their portfolios. Since mortgage REITs are probably deleveraging in response, that means they are either selling MBS or at least cutting back their purchases. That lack of demand means that mortgage rates will be higher than you would expect. So, if you are running scenarios and wondering why you can’t get par pricing at X%, that is a big reason why.

 

McMansion builder Toll Brothers reported better than expected earnings last night. That said, most numbers were down on a YOY basis – earnings, revenues, contracts, margins. Despite the mediocre numbers, the stock is up pre-market. Douglas C. Yearley, Jr., Toll Brothers’ chairman and chief executive officer, stated: “In our third quarter, we had strong revenues, gross margin, and earnings. While our third quarter contracts were down modestly, we are off to a good start in our fourth quarter. Low mortgage rates, a limited supply of new and existing homes, and a strong employment picture are providing tailwinds. We are focused on measured growth through geographic, product and price point diversification, and capital-efficient land acquisitions. We continue to expand the buyer segments that we serve with homes now ranging in price from $275,000 to over $3 million. Our balance sheet remains strong and our book value continues to grow. With ample liquidity, moderate leverage, and limited near-term debt maturities, we have the flexibility to execute on our balanced capital allocation strategy.”

Morning Report: The US yield curve inverts

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 2890 -41.5
Oil (WTI) 55.49 -1.64
10 year government bond yield 1.61%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.88%

 

Stocks are lower after disappointing overseas economic data. Bonds and MBS are up on the flight to safety.

 

Overnight, the US yield curve officially inverted with 2s/10s trading at negative 1.7 basis points.  This has historically been considered a recession indicator. You can see the chart below, which plots the difference between the 10 year bond yield and the 2 year bond yield, and not that the shaded grey bars (which represent recessions) have historically followed after the line goes to zero. One caveat to keep in mind however: In the past, we didn’t have the sort of activism out of central banks that we have now. Quantitative easing (where the central bank tries to directly influence long term rates) are a new phenomenon, and therefore investors should take that signal with a grain of salt. Still, it does speak to a global slowdown, and that will inevitably pass through to the US.

 

2s10s

 

The German Bund yields negative 64 basis points, which is a record low. Their economy contracted by 0.1% last quarter. This is what is driving stocks lower and bonds higher. The trade war is being blamed on their economic weakness. China reported the slowest industrial growth since 2002.

 

The FHA announced they will widen the credit box for condos, in an attempt to revive the entry-level condo market and help the first time homebuyer. “This is set to really expand homeownership,” said Ben Carson, secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which oversees the FHA. FHA will now begin insuring loans in unapproved buildings, provided no more than 10% of the units have a FHA loan.

 

Mortgage applications increased 21.7% last week as purchases increased 2% and refis increased 37%. The average contract interest rate fell from 4.01% to 3.93%, and has dropped about 80 basis points this year. The government refi index is at the highest level since 2013, driven by VA refis.

Morning Report: Fed day

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 3017 5.5
Oil (WTI) 58.51 0.54
10 year government bond yield 2.05%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 4.07%

 

Stocks are higher this morning after good numbers from Apple. Bonds and MBS are flat.

 

The FOMC announcement is scheduled for 2:00 pm EST. A Bloomberg piece from Ex NY Fed President William Dudley was making the rounds yesterday, which poured cold water on the idea that the Fed is entering a new easing cycle.

“All told, the case for lowering rates is less compelling now than it was when the Federal Open Market Committee last met in June. This doesn’t necessarily mean that an interest-rate decrease this week would be a mistake. But it does mean that market participants — who are expecting a series of cuts over the next year or so — might be in for an unpleasant surprise, because the Fed’s future moves will be more dependent on incoming economic data than they think. There’s a good chance that, after this week’s meeting, the central bank will be “one and done.”

If Dudley is right, and Powell’s subsequent press conference confirms this, then the Fed Funds futures market is way over its skis with respect to further rate cuts this year. The December Fed Funds futures are handicapping a 88% chance of at least 50 basis points in rate cuts this year. If the Fed disappoints, that doesn’t necessarily mean that long-term rates would increase, since the US 10 year is highly influenced by overseas bond markets. But further rate cuts are already baked in the cake, and the market will be vulnerable to a statement and / or press conference that is insufficiently dovish. Not only that, don’t be surprised if one or two members dissent (in favor of no rate cut). Might want to think about locking before the 2:00 pm release.

 

fed funds futures

 

Mortgage Applications fell 1.4% last week as purchases decreased 3% and refis were down 0.1%. Purchase activity is up 6% from a year ago, however it has been stalling out. Refinance applications for conventional mortgages were up 1.1%, however a 3% drop in government (primarily VA) offset the gain. Conventional 30 year mortgage rates were unchanged at 4.04%.

 

The economy added 156,000 jobs in July, according to the ADP Employment Report. IT and mining fell, while most other buckets increased. The Street is looking for 164,000 nonfarm payrolls this Friday.

 

The employment cost index rose 0.6% in the second quarter. On a YOY basis, they rose 2.7% as wages and salaries rose 2.9% and benefit costs rose 2.3%.

Morning Report: Two new Fed nominees, weak payroll growth

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 2986.25 6.4
Oil (WTI) 56.75 0.9
10 year government bond yield 1.96%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 4.06%

 

Stocks are higher this morning as we are approaching detente in the US-China trade spat. Bonds and MBS are higher.

 

Bonds are rallying globally, with the German Bund yield hitting a record low of -39 basis points. Ex-IMF Chair Christine Lagarde is in the running to replace Mario Draghi as the head of the ECB. She is considered to be more of a politician, so the markets are interpreting her nomination to be bond-bullish. US rates will be influenced by overseas bond markets, so that means lower rates here at least at the margin.

 

Christopher Waller and Judy Shelton are the latest Trump picks to join the Federal Reserve Board. Judy Shelton has been vocal in criticizing the Fed’s practice of paying interest on excess reserves, and has questioned the effectiveness of the current regime of floating exchange rates versus the gold standard and the gold exchange standards of yesteryear. While there is a 0% chance we go back to some sort of hard-asset backed currency, between the serial bubbles of the past 40 years and the hyper-inflation of the 1970s, the economic record of post-Bretton Woods era (basically from when Nixon closed the gold window) has been mixed.

 

Construction spending fell 0.8% MOM and 2.3% YOY in May. Residential construction continues to be an issue, falling 0.6% MOM and 11.2% YOY.

 

Manufacturing expanded in June, according to the ISM Manufacturing report. That said, it decelerated compared to May. Tariffs remain the largest concern. New Orders were flat, while employment and production increased.

 

Mortgage Applications were more or less flat last week, as purchases increased 1% and refis fell 1%. Mortgage rates were unchanged-to-slightly lower, depending on the product. We have left the tightening-driven doldrums of 2016-2018 and approaching more normal levels. Here is the MBA Mortgage Index going back 20 years to give some perspective:

 

MBA application index

 

Private payrolls increased by 102,000, according to the ADP Employment Report. This is the second weak-ish reading in a row. Jobs were created in education and health as well as professional and business, while the construction sector lost jobs. Note the Street is looking for 160,000 new payrolls in Friday’s jobs report. Separately, initial jobless claims fell to 221k last week. You can see the drop-off in hiring in the ADP chart below:

 

ADP report

 

 

Morning Report: Fed day

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 2925 -0.25
Oil (WTI) 53.85 -0.35
10 year government bond yield 2.09%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 4.15%

 

Stocks are flat as we head into the FOMC decision, which is set for 2:00 pm. Bonds and MBS are down.

 

The disconnect between the current market forecast and the last Fed dot plot are so stark that we are probably set up for some volatility in bonds after the announcement. Be careful locking around then.

 

Donald Trump looked at ways to possibly remove Fed Head Jerome Powell. While the law protects the independence of the Central Bank, Fed Chairmen have been removed before. Jimmy Carter removed G. William Miller in the late 70s after something like 11 months on the job, and kicked him upstairs to Treasury. Note the President was unhappy with the ECB and their signals of new stimulus – it strengthened the dollar against the euro and that is a negative for US exporters.

 

Mortgage Applications fell 4% last week as purchases and refis fell by 4%. Rates rose by 2 basis points to 4.14%. “After seeing a six-week streak, mortgage rates for 30-year loans increased slightly, which led to a pullback in overall refinance activity,” said MBA Associate Vice President of Economic and Industry Forecasting Joel Kan. “Borrowers were sensitive to rising rates, but the refinance share of applications was still at its highest level since January 2018, and refinance activity was at its second-highest level this year. Government refinances actually increased last week, led by a 17 percent in VA refinance applications, while conventional refinance applications decreased 7 percent.” The refi index has rebounded to the highest level in almost 3 years:

 

MBA refinance index

 

New Jersey has tightened the requirements for nonbank servicers.

Morning Report: New home sales surprise to the upside

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 2937.5 -0.5
Eurostoxx index 391.52 0.39
Oil (WTI) 65.92 -0.36
10 year government bond yield 2.54%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 4.34%

 

Stocks are flat as we await earnings from heavyweights like Facebook, Microsoft and Caterpillar. Bonds and MBS are up.

 

New Home Sales surprised to the upside, coming in at 692,000, indicating that lower mortgage rates are helping sales. The most interesting number in the report was the median price of $302,000, which is down 10% from a year ago. This indicates that builders are concentrating on the lower price points, or at least that is where the sales are concentrated. Still, a 10% drop in median home prices is an eye-popping number.

 

new home sales

 

Mortgage applications fell 7% last week as purchases fell 4% and refis fell 11%. Rates were up 2 basis points for the week, however the week included the Good Friday holiday so there might be some noise in there as well. “The 30-year fixed mortgage rate has risen 10 basis points in three weeks, and is now at its highest level in over a month,” said MBA Chief Economist Mike Fratantoni. “Borrowers remain extremely sensitive to rate changes, which is why there has been a 28 percent drop in refinance applications over this three-week period. Purchase activity also declined, but remains almost 3 percent higher than a year ago. Borrowing costs have recently drifted higher because of ebbing geopolitical concerns, as well as signs of strengthening in the U.S. economy, including the recent data pointing to robust retail sales.”

 

The CFPB is becoming a little more creditor-friendly, by giving firms under investigation information about what they did that was wrong. “Consistent with the updated policy, CIDs [civil investigative demands] will provide more information about the potentially applicable provisions of law that may have been violated,” the Bureau said in a news release. “CIDs will also typically specify the business activities subject to the Bureau’s authority. In investigations where determining the extent of the Bureau’s authority over the relevant activity is one of the significant purposes of the investigation, staff may specifically include that issue in the CID in the interests of further transparency.”

 

Flagstar reported a 30% drop in originations in the first quarter, falling from $7.9 million in the first quarter of 2018 to $5.5 million in the first quarter of 2019. On a QOQ basis, originations were down 13% as well. Gain on sale margins rebounded from the fourth quarter, increasing to 72 basis points from 60, although they are down from 77 in the first quarter of last year.

 

The NY Fed asks the question whether tax reform has inhibited home sales. Spoiler alert: it looks like that is the case.