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: Blowout jobs report

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 3148 22.25
Oil (WTI) 57.99 -0.44
10 year government bond yield 1.85%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.94%

 

Stocks are higher after a blowout jobs report. Bonds and MBS are down.

 

Jobs report data dump:

  • Nonfarm payrolls up 266,000
  • Unemployment rate 3.5%
  • average hourly earnings up 0.2% MOM / 3.1% YOY
  • Employment-population ratio 61%
  • Labor force participation rate 63.2%

Huge surprise in payrolls given the ADP report only had 67,000. The unemployment rate of 3.5% is the lowest in 50 years. About the only blemish was the small downtick in the labor force participation rate. Note that manufacturing payrolls increased smartly.

 

What does this mean for the bond markets? Nothing since the Fed is on hold, probably through the 2020 election. It also might mean that the rate cuts of earlier this year are beginning to take effect and the drag from the 2018 tightening cycle is behind us.

 

Note that the makeup of the 2020 FOMC voting members will be more dovish than 2019. Eric Rosengren and Esther George – two hawks that dissented against rate cuts – rotate off the board next year. In their place, we will be getting Neel Kahskari and Robert Kaplan. Neel Kashkari is considered one of the most dovish members of the FOMC. Will it make much of a difference? Probably not, although the bar for increasing interest rates will be adjusted upward accordingly.

 

Interesting chart: the median age of US homebuyers since 1980. It has increased from 32 to 47 over that period. Half of that increase came from the Great Recession. Much of this is explained by the muted presence of the first time homebuyer, who has been about 30% of sales as opposed to their historical 40%.

 

median age of us homebuyer

Morning Report: Jumbo loans remain much cheaper than conforming loans.

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 3120 8.25
Oil (WTI) 58.69 0.24
10 year government bond yield 1.81%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.94%

 

Stocks are higher this morning on optimism for a trade deal. Bonds and MBS are down.

 

China maintained that tariffs must be cut if there is to be a phase 1 deal before new tariffs go into effect December 15. Chinese officials said the two sides remain in close communication.

 

Despite the weak ADP print yesterday, other labor market indicators look healthy. Outplacement Firm Challenger Gray and Christmas reported that announced job cuts fell 11% MOM and 13% YOY to 44,569. Tech was the biggest sector this month however retail is the leader for the year. Year-to-date, companies have announced 556,000 job cuts versus 1.2 million planned hires. Note that Challenger and Gray only looks at press releases, not actual cuts. Separately, initial jobless claims fell to 203,000 for the holiday-shortened week.

 

The service sector continued to expand, albeit at a slower rate in November, according to the ISM survey. Employment plans accelerated, while production decelerated. “Tariffs are impacting prices for a broad array of products used in the delivery of services and completion of projects for our clients. Upward pressure is impacting suppliers and their pricing to customers. We are seeing no relief from our customers, so we’re being negatively impacted by tariff-driven price increases. Numerous suppliers report looking for alternative manufacturing/supply locations outside of China, but with limited or no success so far.” (Management of Companies & Support Services)

 

The government has ended the limits on VA mortgages, which means veterans can borrow as much as their incomes and credit allow. So theoretically veterans can buy million dollar homes with no money down.

 

Mortgage credit increased in November, according to the MBA, especially in the jumbo space. “Most notably, the jumbo index climbed to yet another record high, as investors increased their willingness to purchase loans with lower credit scores and higher LTV ratios,” said Joel Kan, MBA Associate Vice President of Economic and Industry Forecasting. “Additionally, the government index saw its first increase in nine months, driven by streamline refinance programs.”

 

Speaking of jumbos, the spread between 30 year conforming loans and jumbos remained negative this year, which means jumbo rates are less expensive than conforming rates. This is odd given that conforming loans are government guaranteed and jumbos are not. The spread did rise a bit this year, largely driven by staffing issues. Still, what is going on? According to CoreLogic, an “increase in GSE guarantee fee, a reduction in the GSE funding advantage, and portfolio lenders’ desire to hold jumbo loans explain much of the variation in the jumbo-conforming spread.” The issue of portfolio lenders could be translated to: banks are subsidizing jumbo loans because they are interested in the cross-selling opportunities, especially wealth management services. 

 

jumbo conforming spread.PNG

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: 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: Quiet week ahead

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 3120 7.25
Oil (WTI) 57.79 0.24
10 year government bond yield 1.78%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.93%

 

Stocks are higher this morning after China agreed to take more steps to protect US intellectual property. Bonds and MBS are flat.

 

The upcoming week should be relatively quiet with the Thanksgiving holiday. SIFMA is recommending early closings for Wednesday and Friday. Wednesday will have some important economic data with GDP and personal incomes, but with the Fed on hold, economic data is going to take a backseat. Note Jerome Powell is expected to give a speech tonight after the market close.

 

The CFPB is taking a look at loan originator compensation, and is thinking about relaxing some of the rigid rules regarding variations in compensation. The biggest issue surrounds state loan programs, which are meant to make a mortgage more affordable and help get people into homes. Most of these programs have strict limits on how much the originator is permitted to make on a loan, and is often well below what the lender will make on normal conforming loans. This rule change will allow loan officers to lower their compensation to make these programs work financially for the lender. The Bureau is also looking at allowing lenders to decrease LO comp on loans where there are errors due to LO mistakes.

 

The investment community (firms like Blackrock, PIMCO, and Fidelity) are encouraging the Trump Administration to include an explicit government guarantee for Fannie and Freddie loans in its housing reform. The Trump Administration’s plan to privatize the GSEs does not contemplate an explicit government guarantee – and they would like to reduce the size of the government’s footprint in the mortgage market. Note they never had one – the GSEs were “government sponsored” entities, which doesn’t mean “government guaranteed.” Fannie and Fred were always public-private hybrids. Any sort of explicit government guarantee would require legislation, and that is probably going to be almost impossible absent another crisis.

 

 

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.