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: Decent jobs report

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 3049 13.25
Oil (WTI) 54.82 0.64
10 year government bond yield 1.71%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.92%

 

Stocks are higher after a decent jobs report. Bonds and MBS are up small.

 

Jobs report data dump:

  • Payrolls up 128,000 versus 90,000 expected
  • Unemployment rate 6.3%
  • Manufacturing payrolls – 36,000
  • Labor force participation rate 63.3%
  • Average hourly earnings up 0.2% MOM / 3.0% YOY

Overall a pretty decent report. Payrolls were depressed by the GM strike (about 46,000 workers), however the labor force participation rate ticked up and the employment-population ratio was flat at 61%. The two month revision was up 95,000 as well – September payrolls were revised upward by 44,000 and the August number was revised upward by 51,000. So, if you add back the GM strikers, and take into account the revisions, August’s number becomes 219,000, September becomes 180,000, and October becomes 174,000. Certainly nothing that would indicate any sort of major slowdown in the US economy.

 

Pennymac reported good numbers last night, with originations increasing to $35 billion in the last quarter. This was up 44% from Q2 and almost double last year. As expected, they took a hit on MSR valuations as rates fell, but they got a lot of that back on their hedges. Good times abound in origination business.

 

TRI Pointe reported numbers that beat the street, however revenues declined, as did average sales prices. That said, margins are increasing which is good news for the building sector. The S&P Homebuilder ETF (XHB) is up 54% so far this year.

Morning Report: The fed cuts rates and goes on hold.

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 3042 -5.25
Oil (WTI) 54.42 -0.64
10 year government bond yield 1.73%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 4.02%

 

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

 

As expected, the Fed cut rates by 25 basis points yesterday, and Jerome Powell said that “the current stance of policy is expected to remain appropriate” as long as the labor market remains strong and the economy continues to expand moderately. They also removed the language that said the Fed would “act as appropriate” to maintain the current expansion. This was the “pause” language that the markets were looking for. The vote was 8-2, with two members voting to maintain the current Fed Funds target. For some reason, the pause language put some starch in the bond market, which has sent rates lower by about 12 basis points. The December Fed Funds futures are currently handicapping a 20% chance of another 25 basis point cut. FWIW, Morgan Stanley is out with a call saying the Fed is on hold through 2020. As a general rule, the Fed tries to stay out of the picture as much as it can during an election year, so that call may end up being correct.

 

Personal Incomes and spending increased 0.3% and 0.2% respectively, which was lower than August’s torrid pace. On an annual basis, incomes rose 3.8% and consumption increased 4.4%, both strong numbers and well ahead of the weaker-than-expected inflation readings. The PCE price index (which is the Fed’s preferred inflation measure) was flat in September, and up 1.3% YOY. Ex-food and energy the PCE index was flat and up 1.7% annually. Separately, the employment cost index rose 0.7% in the third quarter and was up 2.8% YOY. Note that wages increased 0.9%, which is a quite strong number.

 

The Urban Institute has panned the Administration’s plan to reduce the GSE footprint in the mortgage market. Their point is that the government guarantee for Fannie MBS is so important that it will be hard for other entities to compete, unless the guarantee fee is set higher than the credit risk dictates. They also claim that it will reduce credit and slow down the economy.

 

The overall share of GDP attributable to housing increased to 14.6% in yesterday’s GDP report. Residential fixed investment (homebuilding, remodeling, etc) increased to 3.11%, while housing services, which is mainly rent, was about 11.5% of the economy. Historically, residential fixed investment has been closer to 5% and rent has been closer to 12% – 13%. In other words, housing is still punching below its weight economically, although it may be turning around. This represents a huge potential boost to GDP once things return to normalcy.

 

housing GDP

 

 

Morning Report: Ben Carson adjusts enforcement to entice banks back into FHA lending

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 3035 -2.25
Oil (WTI) 54.91 -0.84
10 year government bond yield 1.83%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 4.03%

 

Stocks are flattish as earnings continue to come in and the Fed begins its two-day FOMC meeting. Bonds and MBS are flat.

 

Ben Carson has “slayed” the False Claims Act “monster” that has kept banks out of FHA lending. The False Claims Act was used as a cudgel during the Obama Administration to extract massive settlements out of the banks, often over immaterial errors.

“[Banks] were in before and obviously they were in because it was beneficial to them,” Carson told HousingWire about banks’ presence in FHA lending.

“And then the housing crisis occurred and all of the sudden, the False Claims Act became a monster that started chasing everybody around the room, making their lives miserable, causing them an inordinate amount of pain,” Carson continued. “So they got out. But now, the monster has been slayed.”

Since 2010, the banking share of FHA origination has fallen from about 50% to 15%, and FHFA lays the blame at the feet of the False Claims Act. The DOJ will have its footprint in the enforcement process reduced, getting involved only when the Mortgagee Review Board deems it necessary.

 

Home Prices rose 0.3% MOM and 3.2% YOY in August, according to the Case Shiller Home Price Index. The hottest markets (San Francisco, Denver, and Seattle) are cooling off, and San Fran was down on a monthly and annual basis. The leading market was Phoenix.

 

The FOMC decision will come out tomorrow, and it looks like market participants will be taking a close look at the language for signs of a pause. If the rate cuts were merely an insurance policy to maintain the expansion, then they probably should take a break and see how the economy develops.

Morning Report: Housing starts disappoint again

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 2999 -1.25
Oil (WTI) 54.47 0.44
10 year government bond yield 1.75%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.97%

 

Stocks are lower this morning on weak overseas growth. Bonds and MBS are flat.

 

Housing starts disappointed again, falling 9.4% from an upwardly revised August number to 1.26 million units. This is up slightly on a YOY basis. Building Permits came in at 1.387 million units, higher than expected but still down 2.4% on a MOM basis. Compared to last year, they are up 9.4%.

 

Despite the disappointing starts, builder confidence hit an 20 month high. “The second half of 2019 has seen steady gains in single-family construction, and this is mirrored by the gradual uptick in builder sentiment over the past few months,” said NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz. “However, builders continue to remain cautious due to ongoing supply side constraints and concerns about a slowing economy.”

 

Industrial production fell 0.4% in September, and manufacturing production was down 0.5%. August’s numbers were revised higher. Capacity Utilization fell to 77.5%. Tariffs are attributed to the slowdown, but overseas growth in general is weakening. Note China had the lowest GDP growth since the early 1990s. The global slowdown has increased the odds of another rate cut in two weeks, which is up to 87% compared to 28% a month ago.

 

fed funds futures

Morning Report: The impeachment process begins

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 2968 -2.25
Oil (WTI) 56.35 -0.64
10 year government bond yield 1.65%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.91%

 

Stocks are flattish this morning despite overseas weakness and Trump Impeachment news. Bonds and MBS are flat.

 

The news that Nancy Pelosi was opening an impeachment inquiry over the Trump / Ukraine situation was a non-event market-wise. Stocks and bonds didn’t budge. Supposedly Trump will release the transcript of the call today, and will make the whistleblower available to Congress. We will see where this goes, but market-wise it will take a while to play out. Check out the chart of the S&P 500 during 1998 when the whole Bill Clinton impeachment situation was played out:

 

clinton

 

Here is a chart of the bond market during the same time period (10 year yield). Looks like we saw a drop in the 10 year of about 160 basis points peak to trough during the whole process. Note that this is a classic example of the old market saw “buy the rumor, sell the fact.” The market priced in impeachment before the votes even took place. If you got short on the votes, you got your head handed to you. If you bought the Treasury flight to safety in late summer of 98, when the whole thing was coming to a head, you were too late, and were on the wrong side of the trade by that point.

 

clinton bond

 

There was some slight movement in the Fed Funds futures for December, with the current odds at 22% no cut, 52%, a 25 basis point cut, and 26% chance of 50 basis points. Note that the repo market issues has been taken by the Fed that they don’t have as much leeway to shrink the balance sheet as they had anticipated.

 

Mortgage applications fell by 10% last week as purchases fell 3% and refis fell 15%. Rates were more or less flat at 4.01% last week, so the refi number is a surprise. That said, mortgage rates had risen about 20 basis points over the past few weeks, so maybe this was a catch-up phenomenon. Despite the back up in rates, the MBA estimates that 2019 will be the best year since 2016, with originations expected to hit $1.9 trillion.

 

Consumer confidence fell in September on trade fears and darkening expectations. The present conditions index fell but it was mainly future expectations that drove the decline.

Morning Report: Housing is coming back

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 3003.75 4.25
Oil (WTI) 58.37 -0.94
10 year government bond yield 1.78%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 4.00%

 

Stocks are flattish as we await the FOMC decision at 2:00 pm EST today. Bonds and MBS are up.

 

Housing starts increased 12.3% MOM and 6.6% YOY to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.36 million. This is the highest in 12 years. July was revised upward as well. Building Permits rose 7.7% MOM and 12% YOY to 1.4 million, which is close to historical levels (non-population adjusted). This data seems to comport with the MBA’s 30% rise in purchase activity. Permit activity increased the most in the Northeast, while falling in the Midwest.

 

housing starts

 

Mortgage applications were flat last week despite a huge back up in rates. There was also an adjustment for Labor Day, so that will affect the numbers. Purchases rose 6%, while refis fell 4%. The average rate on a 30 year fixed rose 19 basis points to 4.01%, and government loans increased share.

 

CFPB Chair Kathy Kraninger believes her job security is unconstitutional and supports a Supreme Court review of a case pending before the 9th Circuit. Essentially, Dodd-Frank made the head of the CFPB basically untouchable – the President can only fire “for cause” and not at the discretion of the White House. “From the Bureau’s earliest days, many have used the uncertainty regarding this provision’s constitutionality to challenge legal actions taken by the Bureau in pursuit of our mission,” Kraninger wrote to staff. “Litigation over this question has caused significant delays to some of our enforcement and regulatory actions. I believe this dynamic will not change until the constitutional question is resolved either by Congress or the Supreme Court.” Given that the case is currently in front of the liberal 9th Circuit (aka the Nutty Ninth) the current structure will almost certainly be upheld and it will go to SCOTUS.

 

Some inside-baseball stuff: Despite the bet that the Fed will cut rates to a range of 175-200 basis points today, the Fed had to intervene yesterday to prevent the Fed Funds rate from breaching the top of the current 200-225 basis point range. The cause was a shortage of dollars in the money markets ahead of Q3 interim tax payments and a big Treasury bond issue. This caused overnight repo rates to surge to 500 basis points on Monday, and the punch line is that this problem might push the Fed to increase the size of its balance sheet, which means more QE. This stems from a change in how the Fed mechanically manages the Fed Funds rate in the immediate aftermath of the financial crisis. How will it affect mortgage markets? Not directly, however issues with financing / hedging and rate volatility will negatively impact mortgage rates, at least at the margin.

 

repo rates