Morning Report: Banks pan the SBA loan program

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 2517 4.4
Oil (WTI) 28.56 3.29
10 year government bond yield 0.59%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.5%

 

Stocks are flattish after the jobs report. Bonds and MBS are flat as well.

 

Jobs report data dump:

  • Nonfarm payrolls down 710,000
  • Unemployment rate 4.4%
  • Labor force participation rate 62.7%
  • Average hourly earnings up 3.1%

Job losses were concentrated in the service sector, with leisure and hospitality losing 459k jobs. Health care lost 61k jobs (mainly support people) and construction was down as well. FWIW, the 710k number is probably not representative of what is really going on – it will be the cumulative weekly initial jobless claims, which are at something like 10 million.

 

The government is supposed to launch its SBA loan program next week. Apparently many banks will be sitting out. The biggest concern will be reps and warrants, especially when it comes to preventing fraud. The banking system remembers well when the Obama Administration used the False Claims Act to extract massive penalties with FHA lending. Many of those banks, like JPM, never returned to the sector. Also, the requirements to prevent terrorist financing and money laundering, which under the best circumstances takes weeks to do. Finally, the rate the banks will be forced to charge will be too low and will cost them money. But there will have to be reps and warrants relief to get banks to participate. They remember what happened in 2009 and 2010 too well.

 

All of the Fed’s buying has driven its balance sheet up to 5.86 trillion in assets. Before 2008, it was about $800 billion.

 

While most of us are focused on what COVID-19 is doing to the residential market, the commercial market is even worse. The CMBS market is completely frozen. Multifamily, retail, office tenants etc are simply not paying rent right now, and that is going to cascade onto the balance sheets of the banks.

 

There had been talk of a Fed facility to allow servicers to borrow to make advances to bondholders. It looks like that isn’t going to happen, at least not yet. Treasury wants to get a read on how many borrowers actually take advantage of the program. The problem is that if you tell someone that they can skip the next few payments on their mortgage, with no hit to their credit rating, no penalties, and the missed payments will just get tacked on to the end of the mortgage, who isn’t going to take advantage of it? A dollar today is worth more than a dollar tomorrow.

 

Moody’s has downgraded the non-bank mortgage sector from “stable” to “negative” as the financial markets seize up. We have seen the big non-agency mortgage REITs like New Rez, Two Harbors, and Redwood make distressed asset sales in order to meet margin calls.

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: Bonds adjust to the prospect of no more rate cuts

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 3083 7.25
Oil (WTI) 56.97 0.64
10 year government bond yield 1.84%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.92%

 

Stocks are higher this morning after Chinese President Xi Jinping committed to lowering tariffs and institutional transaction costs. Bonds and MBS are down.

 

The markets expect to see some sort of phase 1 trade deal with China in the coming weeks. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that China and the US are considering rolling back some tariffs. Separately, the Chinese central bank lowered rates to deal with a liquidity crunch.

 

There isn’t much data this week (as is typical after the jobs report) however we do have a lot of Fed-Speak so, we could see some movement in the bond markets as we adjust to the pause. For those keeping score at home, the December Fed Funds futures are signalling only a 5% chance of another rate cut this year. A month ago, they were handicapping a 44% chance of another cut.

 

fed funds futures

 

Home prices rose 3.5% YOY according to CoreLogic. By their models, 36% of the top 100 MSAs are overvalued (including the NYC area), while 23% were undervalued and 41% were fairly valued. Their model compares housing values to disposable incomes to come up with a valuation score. They are forecasting home price appreciation to accelerate to 5.6% over next year. Note that Realtor.com said that listing prices rose 4.3% in October to a high of 312,000.

 

Corelogic overvalued

 

About 0.6% of all originations went DQ within 6 months, according to Black Knight Financial Services. While this is much lower than the pre-bubble years, it has been steadily increasing since the housing market bottomed. The concentration is primarily in first time homebuyers. Foreclosures remain under control, at levels last seen in 2005.

Morning Report: 2019 best year since 2006?

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 3033 12.25
Oil (WTI) 56.61 0.04
10 year government bond yield 1.84%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 4.00%

 

There is definitely a risk-on feel to the tape as strong earnings continue to come in, and some positive trade developments over the weekend. Bonds and MBS are down after the UK was granted an extension to achieve an orderly Brexit.

 

We have a big week ahead, with a lot of important data and the Fed meeting. We will get the advance estimate for Q3 GDP on Wednesday, the FOMC decision on Wed afternoon, the jobs report on Friday, along with construction spending and the manufacturing ISM. We will also get Case-Shiller and pending home sales on Tuesday, and personal income / spending on Thursday. So definitely, a big week.

 

In other economic data, the Chicago Fed National Activity Index fell to -.45 on weakness in the manufacturing sector. Retail inventories rose 0.3%, while wholesale inventories fell 0.3%. Not sure how the inventory numbers will affect Q3 GDP, but it can be sensitive to inventory builds and liquidations. The forecasts for Q3 GDP seem to be in a range of +1.5% to +1.9%.

 

What a difference a year makes. Lenders extended $700 billion in mortgage loans in the second quarter as falling rates improved refinance activity. This was the highest quarter since the bubble years, and 2019 could be the best year since 2006. I think many people imagined 2019 was going to be good, but not that good. Note that HELOCs have lagged.

 

mortgage originations

 

Ellie Mae has agreed to acquire Capsilon, which makes AI-powered automation software. “With the delivery of our next generation lending platform, we are accelerating our mission to automate everything automatable for the residential mortgage market. This includes making strategic acquisitions of best-in-class solutions to bring more value to the platform and the ecosystem faster,” said Jonathan Corr, president and CEO of Ellie Mae. “This is a significant day for the mortgage industry, as with the acquisition of Capsilon we are bringing together two market-leading companies and adding to our platform the pioneer of AI-powered intelligent automation leveraged by some of the largest lenders and servicers in the industry. As lenders and servicers continue to shift toward data-driven automation, we are excited to provide automated document recognition, classification and data extraction to further drive down costs and time of loan origination, acquisition and servicing.”

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: The CFPB eyes the GSE patch

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 3025 1.5
Oil (WTI) 53.61 0.14
10 year government bond yield 2.05%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 4.07%

 

Stocks are flattish as we head into FOMC week. Bonds and MBS are up.

 

The FOMC begins its two day meeting on Tuesday, and is expected to cut rates by 25 basis points. We will also get the jobs report on Friday, so this should be a busy week.

 

While the Fed is ostensibly cutting rates to ward off a potential recession, the economic data has been surprisingly robust. Despite trade fears, GDP growth in the second quarter topped 2%, and earnings season has been robust. The “Powell Put” as it has been dubbed, is the expectation that rates are going down and that will support the stock market. That said, the global economy is slowing and that is pushing down interest rates. Note the German 10-year is again pushing negative 40 basis points, and the Chinese are having issues in their banking system. Meanwhile, the US consumer is alive and well as the biggest canary in the coal mine for the US consumer – UPS – reported a 14% increase in quarterly profit.

 

Last Thursday, the CFPB announced that it was willing to let the “GSE patch” expire in 2021. The GSE patch allows loans with DTI ratios above 43 to fit in the QM bucket if they are approved for sale to Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. “The top line is the patch is going to expire,” [CFPB Director Kathy] Kraninger said in a meeting with reporters. “We are amenable to what a transition would look like.” The CFPB has put out a public request for comment on the new rules, and is working to ensure that there are no disruptions in the mortgage market. This is important given that 1/3 of the Fan and Fred loans have DTIs over 43%. It is possible that FHA will pick up the slack, however FHA has been tightening credit standards as well, requiring FICOs above 620 to go over 43%. Note that a quarter of FHA lending has DTI ratios over 50% (FHA permits up to 57%), but it is more likely that these loans will end up as securitized non-QM loans. There are still many issues to be resolved before the private label market returns to its former glory, but this may force those issues to finally get ironed out. This may be why the government considers this to be a key part of GSE reform – it will shrink the GSE’s footprint in the market, and also increase the credit quality of their loans.

 

The Trump Administration had indicated they wanted to get GSE reform done before the 2020 election, however that is looking like it won’t happen. Mark Calabria, head of the FHFA, think this is more likely to happen within the next 5 years. By far the biggest issue is whether the government will continue to guarantee MBS issued by the GSEs. The government guarantee was never explicit prior to the financial crisis, and the government floated a trial balloon during the crisis about not guaranteeing these securities. Bill Gross of PIMCO threatened to stop buying Fan and Fred MBS if the government did that and that was the end of that discussion. Note Bill had just loaded up the boat in his Total Return Fund with agency MBS and made a killing when the government formally guaranteed them, so he was talking his book so to speak.

 

Housing security is a big issue for seniors. With the end of defined benefit pension plans, most people are living on Social Security and savings. One proposal would allow seniors to use pretax earnings in their IRA or 401k plans to pay off mortgage debt without triggering taxes and penalties.

Morning Report: Small business optimism slips

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 2968 -10
Oil (WTI) 57.95 0.25
10 year government bond yield 2.06%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 4.03%

 

Stocks are lower this morning as we await a speech from Jerome Powell. Bonds and MBS are down.

 

Jerome Powell speaks at 8:45 this morning at the Boston Fed regarding stress-testing for the banks. Here are his prepared remarks. He doesn’t address monetary policy.

 

There were 7.3 million job openings in May, down slightly from April. The quits rate, which tends to lead increases in wages, was steady at 2.3%, where it has been all year. Private sector openings were flat, while government fell by about 40,000.

 

Small Business Optimism slipped in June, according to the NFIB. This reversed May’s jump, however sentiment is still at historically high levels. Expectations eased for sales and profitability, and the outlook for capital expenditures weakened. The capital expenditure level was the lowest since May 2015. Employment also decreased, however most firms are still in hiring mode, with the availability of qualified labor the biggest issue.

 

NFIB

 

The Congressional Budget Office analyzed the probable effects of raising the Federal Minimum Wage to $15 an hour. Unsurprisingly, they concluded that it would cost jobs, with the median estimate coming in at 1.3 million. The graph below looks at how the constant dollar minimum wage has behaved relative to the bottom 10th and 25th percentile of workers over time.

 

minimum wage

 

Mortgage delinquencies are the lowest in 20 years, according to CoreLogic. 30 day DQs fell 0.7% to 3.6%, while the foreclosure rate slipped 0.1% to 0.4%. Delinquencies fell pretty much across the board, with the exception of areas that were affected by natural disasters.

Morning Report: The Fed catches up with the markets

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 2817 -10
Eurostoxx index 380.22 -0.62
Oil (WTI) 60.12 1.09
10 year government bond yield 2.51%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 4.22%

 

Stocks are lower after the Fed cut interest rates. Bonds and MBS are up.

 

As expected, the Fed maintained the Fed Funds rate at current levels and took down their forecast for the end of year. The December dot plot showed a central tendency in the 2.72% (using the lower bound of the range) and the March plot showed a central tendency of 2.37%. The forecast for 2019 GDP was lowered from 2.3% to 2.1%, while the unemployment rate was increased from 3.5% to 3.7%. PCE inflation was more or less unchanged at 2%.  The Fed Funds futures increased their probability of a 2019 rate cut from about 25% to about 40%.

 

dot plot

 

The Fed also tweaked their balance sheet runoff plan, increasing the amount they reinvest each month by $15 billion. This only affects Treasuries – MBS will continue to run off.

 

Stocks initially rallied on the Fed announcement, but then sold off on fears the Fed sees something the markets don’t. Bonds rallied on the Fed announcement, with the 10 year yield falling to 2.53%. MBS were slow to follow, but we did see some reprices towards the end of the day. With rates even lower this morning, expect to see a big move down in mortgage rates. FWIW, Fannie Mae has taken down their prediction for the 30 year fixed rate mortgage from 4.8% to 4.4%.

 

What does some of this mean for mortgage bankers? 2019 won’t necessarily be as bad as people feared for origination, and if you have been aggressively marking your servicing portfolio in order to paper over a price war, you might have a problem.

 

Banks that refocused their mortgage lending towards high-end buyers in the aftermath of the financial crisis are seeing the winds shift. Jumbo origination has been falling as prices at the high end have been peaking out and tax reform has limited the value of the mortgage interest deduction. Many non-banks focused on the first time and moderate income buyer. Many banks were offering amazing jumbo terms, presumably in an attempt to cross sell the more lucrative asset management business.

 

 

Morning Report: New home sales still anemic historically

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 2821  9
Eurostoxx index 380.4 1.8
Oil (WTI) 58.12 -0.14
10 year government bond yield 2.60%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 4.28%

 

Stocks are higher this morning on overseas strength, particularly in China and Japan. Bonds and MBS are up.

 

New Home Sales fell to 607,000 in January, according to the Census Bureau. This is down 7% MOM and 4% YOY. New Homes Sales is a notoriously volatile number, and the margin for error is generally in the mid-teens %. Still 607,000 is roughly in line with historical averages over the past 50 years. That said, population has grown since then, so it isn’t really comparable. Take a look at the chart below, which is new home sales divided by population – we are still only at levels associated with the depths of prior recessions. In other words, we are still in very early innings with the housing recovery, and you can make an argument that the recovery hasn’t even begun yet.

 

new home sales divided by population

 

Industrial Production rose 0.1% in February, and January’s initial 0.6% drop was revised upward to -0.4%. Manufacturing production fell 0.4%, while January’s 0.9% drop was revised upward to -0.5%. Capacity Utilization fell to 78.2%, while Jan was revised up again. So, Feb wasn’t great, but January wasn’t as bad as it initially appeared to be.

 

We have entered the quiet period for the Fed ahead of their meeting next week. No rate hikes are expected, although we will get new economic forecasts and a new dot plot. Sentiment regarding the Fed has changed massively over the past few months. As of now, the the Fed funds futures are estimating that there is a 75% chance the Fed does nothing this year, and a 25% chance they cut rates by 25 basis points. The fed funds futures are pricing a 0% chance of a hike. While Trump’s jawboning of the Fed was bad form, and you generally don’t want to see presidents doing that, you also can’t escape the fact that the Fed Funds futures and the markets think he was right!