Morning Report: Initial Jobless Claims spike

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 2463 -4.4
Oil (WTI) 23.84 -0.69
10 year government bond yield 0.81%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.44%

 

Stocks are flattish as volatility begins to receded. Bonds and MBS are down. The Fed should be buying another $50 billion of MBS today.

 

Initial Jobless Claims jumped eleven-fold to 3.3 million last week. In a period where it seems like everything is considered “unprecedented,” this one is too.

 

initial jobless claims bbg

 

The third revision to fourth quarter GDP was unchanged at 2.1%. Estimates for second quarter GDP at this point are all across the board, but down double digits is certainly a possibility.

 

The Senate passed the stimulus bill yesterday and the House is trying to pass it without being in session. AOC is supposedly granstanding on this and wants to bring everyone back.

 

Good explainer on what is happening in the mortgage REIT sector. Essentially, the non-agency REITs are the big buyers of non-QM paper, and they are getting margin calls. While much of this non-QM paper is probably money good, it doesn’t matter. Also, servicers are getting slammed as well. Suffice it to say the buyers of non-QM paper, assuming they make it through this whole thing, are probably going to have a much lower appetite going forward. The non-QM market is probably going to be on hold for a long time. Annaly and AGNC are doing the best in this market, although even they are not immune.

 

The House’s stimulus bill included language for a Fed servicing advance line to be extended to servicers who go along with the program and let people defer mortgage payments during the crisis. The big Ginnie servicers are going to need the help.

 

The government is considering taking equity stakes in the airlines as part of a bailout package.

 

Redfin is seeing a 27% decrease in traffic due to the Coronavirus, but it is still flat on a YOY basis. Remote tours are becoming more popular. Note that all of the ibuyers (Zillow, OpenDoor and Redfin) have all suspended buying.

Morning Report: Bonds down on Italian fears

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 2393 -92.4
Oil (WTI) 24.51 -2.39
10 year government bond yield 1.08%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.44%

 

Stocks are down big this morning as we continue the volatile markets. Bonds are getting slammed, where the US Treasury is following the carnage in Europe.

 

Volatility begets volatility, and that is what we are seeing. Oil is now at a 17 year low. The ironic thing is that gasoline prices will be ridiculously low for the summer driving season, but there will be nowhere to go. European bonds are selling off due to fears that the Italian economy is going to be so bad that they will need a bailout from Germany. The German Bund has picked up 50 basis points in yield, going from -78 basis points on Friday to -28 today. The US Treasury is being pulled along for the ride.

 

Washington is putting together a panoply of measures to try and support the economy while everyone hunkers down at home. It looks like the government is going to give everyone $1,000 in a couple of weeks to get people through this tough time. Multiple industries will probably get some sort of help, with hospitality and airlines at the front of the line. As oil falls, the frackers will be soon behind, and I suspect the mall REITs will be next. Companies are suspending stock buybacks left and right, which may explain some of the sogginess in the stock market.

 

Homebuilder sentiment fell in March to 72, which is still strong. I have heard that construction activity has been suspended in the Bay Area, and I saw that Loan Depot has ceased accepting loans from all of the counties surrounding San Francisco.

 

Housing starts came in at 1.6 million again in February. Building Permits were 1.45 million. February was probably too early to be affected by Coronavirus, so March will be a better tell.

 

Mortgage applications fell 8% last week as purchases fell 1% and refis fell 10%. Between margin calls and a lack of investor appetite for refis, mortgage rates backed up last week. Don’t forget that mortgage backed security investors detest volatility in the bond market. It makes hedging their portfolios more expensive, and the prepay option (which an MBS investor is short) more valuable.

 

Despite the moves by the Fed in the markets, the mortgage REITs continue to get slammed. I suspect this is a “shoot first, ask questions later” mentality on the part of investors, but some of these stocks are looking crazy cheap, trading at half of book value and some with dividend yields of 20% + (one of which declared its normal dividend yesterday) Watch the REITs, because their appetite for paper flows through to mortgage rates.

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.”