Morning Report: Home price appreciation is flattening

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 2826 -5
Oil (WTI) 58.98 0.35
10 year government bond yield 2.29%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 4.41%

 

Stocks are flattish as investors return from the long Memorial Day weekend. Bonds and MBS are flat.

 

Mortgage REITs like Annaly and American Capital Agency are increasing the size of their mortgage books. Over the past year, mortgage REITs have increased their exposure by 28%. The agency REITs generally stay fully invested in a portfolio of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac MBS and adjust duration exposure and leverage as different pockets of value develop in the MBS market. Mortgage REITs are an important source of financing for the residential real estate market, and are stepping up as the Fed reduces its exposure. What does this increase in exposure tell us? That these REITs are betting on interest rate stability over the near term. If you own a large leveraged portfolio of mortgage bonds, you want rates to move as little as possible to maximize your returns.

 

Home prices rose 3.7% in March according to the Case-Shiller Home Price Index. This is a decline from the 3.9% increase reported in February. Real estate prices probably rose too far too fast especially out West and now we are seeing a leveling-off. Prices in Los Angeles, San Diego, Seattle, and San Francisco were up only about 1%. Meanwhile, prices are falling in Manhattan, to the tune of 5.2%.

 

The FHFA House Price Index rose 5.2% in March, which shows that there is still decent demand at the lower price points. The FHFA index only considers houses with conforming mortgages, which means it excludes the jumbo market and that is where the slowdown is occurring.

 

One of the worst this-time-is-different hot takes on the real estate market was the Millennials want to live in walkable, urban areas one. There were lots of approving news stories and analysis pieces about environmentally conscious Millennials who take mass transit and live in dense urban environments.  Was this some sort of social movement or nothing more than a transient phenomenon based on circumstances? It is looking more like the latter. The Brookings Institution notes that the suburbs are now growing, while cities are losing residents. As Millennials start having kids, it turns out they want the same thing every generation wanted before them: a yard and good schools. New York City lost 39,000 residents last year, and we are seeing the same thing in expensive West Coast cities. One of the most cited impediments to more homebuilding has been the lack of buildable lots. I wonder if this was due to builders focusing on urban areas. If the exurbs are coming back, that issue should disappear.

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Morning Report: US bond yields anchored by creeping Eurosclerosis.

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 2859 -7
Oil (WTI) 62.65 -0.48
10 year government bond yield 2.43%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 4.41%

 

Stocks are lower this morning on no real news. Bonds and MBS are flat.

 

The MBA Secondary Conference was held in NYC on Monday and Tuesday, and it seemed (at least to me) to be much more sparsely attended than in prior years. The most obvious example was the HUB or the conference floor, where there were about half the number of booths. You could see it in the major sessions, where the seats were maybe 25% taken. Of course the secondary conference is largely an off-site event where people go to the various hotels around Times Square for meetings, but it definitely looks like traffic was down this year.

 

The big topic was growth and how to achieve it. Generally speaking most originators were focusing on non-QM as well as renovation loans as the best way to drive growth. Mergers were also mentioned as a way to increase volume. Mohammed El-Arian forecasted that rates will go nowhere in the near future, anchored by negative rates in Europe. The German Bund is trading at a negative yield of 8 basis points (in other words you have to pay for the privilege of lending to the German government), and many money managers prefer to invest in positive-yielding US Treasuries and roll the dice on the currency risk than to lock in a sure loss in German Bunds. He also doesn’t see any sort of recession for at least the next two years unless a massive trade war breaks out internationally.  You can see the creeping Eurosclerosis in the chart of the Bund yield below:

 

german bund

 

The Trump Administration is vetting Judy Shelton to fill a seat on the Federal Reserve Board. She is currently on the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, which means she has already been through part of the confirmation process. She is in favor of keeping interest rates low, and has criticized the Fed’s methodology for setting the Fed Funds rate.

 

Existing home sales fell in April, according to NAR. They were down 4.4% from a year ago to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.19 million. The median home price rose to 267,300 which is a 3.6% increase from a year ago. Inventory rose as well, to 1.83 million units, which represents a 4.2 month supply. Historically, 6 months would have been considered a balanced market, and we also have a mismatch between price points, where there is a glut of luxury properties and a shortage of entry-level homes. Days on market declined however to 24 days. “I think the market had a bit of a slow start in the Fall, but Realtors® all over the country have been telling me that April was a nice rebound. We’re hopeful and expect that this will continue heading into the summer,” said NAR President John Smaby, a second-generation Realtor® from Edina, Minnesota and broker at Edina Realty. “Homes over the last month sold quickly, which is not only a win-win for buyers and sellers, but it’s also great for the real estate industry.”

 

The mismatch between supply and demand is translating into more boomer empty-nesters staying in their homes. Trulia believes this is a matter of choice, but it may simply be the fact that there is not much demand for those 3,500 square foot homes. The demand is at the lower sizes and price points.

 

Mortgage applications rose 2.4% last week as purchases fell 2.4% and refis rose 8.3%. The average contract interest rate fell 7 basis points to 4.33%.

Morning Report: Housing starts still weak

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 2865.5 10
Oil (WTI) 62.69 0.66
10 year government bond yield 2.38%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 4.17%

 

Stocks are higher this morning as the market continues its rebound. Bonds and MBS are flat.

 

Housing starts rose 5.7% MOM to 1.23 million in April, which is down about 2.5% from a year ago. March was revised upward to 1.17 million. Building Permits rose to 1.3 million, up a touch from March, but down 6% YOY. We saw an increase in activity in the historically lagging areas – the Midwest and the Northeast. You would have thought that increasing home prices would drive more construction, but so far there is no evidence of that. Costs are increasing, especially labor costs. Tariffs are also being blamed, but lumber prices are down over 50% from a year ago.

 

lumber

 

Despite the slow and steady pace of new homebuilding, builder confidence did improve markedly in April, according to the NAHB Housing Market Index. “Builders are busy catching up after a wet winter, and many characterize sales as solid, driven by improved demand and ongoing low overall supply,” said NAHB Chairman Greg Ugalde. “However, affordability challenges persist and remain a big impediment to stronger sales.” “Mortgage rates are hovering just above 4% following a challenging fourth quarter of 2018 when they peaked near 5%. This lower interest rate environment, along with ongoing job growth and rising wages, is contributing to a gradual improvement in the marketplace,” said NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz.  “At the same time, builders continue to deal with ongoing labor and lot shortages and rising material costs that are holding back supply and harming affordability.”

 

Initial Jobless Claims rose to 220,000 last week. The labor market continues to be strong.

 

 

Morning Report: VA sends subpoenas to several lenders

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 2875 -15
Oil (WTI) 61.27 -0.13
10 year government bond yield 2.43%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 4.17%

 

Stocks are lower this morning on no real news. Bonds and MBS are up.

 

Trade fears have been the driver of negative sentiment in the markets this week after Trump tweeted that he is considering increasing tariffs on Chinese goods this week. It turns out that Beijing sent a marked-up agreement that basically reneged on most of their former commitments, which is what drove the response from the US.

 

There were 7.5 million job openings at the end of March, according to BLS. The quits rate was unchanged at 2.3%. Quits rose in real estate and fell in construction. Job openings are pretty much close to record levels and exceed the numbers we saw in 2000. This is the 13th straight month where the number of openings has exceeded the number of unemployed.

 

Mortgage applications rose 2.7% last week as purchases rose 4% and refis rose 1%. We saw a good week for the spring home buying season, as a 5 percent increase in purchase applications–both weekly and year-over-year–drove the results,” said MBA Associate Vice President of Economic and Industry Forecasting Joel Kan. “Average loan amounts also stayed elevated, with government purchase applications rising to the highest in the survey. Even with slower price appreciation in higher-priced markets, home prices are still rising enough to push average loan sizes higher.” The increase in government applications was driven by VA purchase activity. The typical 30 year fixed rate mortgage fell 4 basis points to 4.27%.

 

Speaking of VA loans, the government has sent subpoenas to at least 8 lenders seeking information regarding delinquencies and prepayments. VA prepay speeds have been an issue for both the government and investors. VA has recently put out a request for input from various stakeholders regarding VA loans and prepay speeds and is considering making some high LTV VA loan ineligible for GNMA multi-issuer pools, which would almost certainly negatively affect pricing.

 

Newco spelled backwards reported a first quarter loss, due to a negative mark on their MSR book. The mark was probably due more to interest rates than anything else, as both prepayments and delinquencies fell. Yet another instance where investors have loaded up the boat buying MSRs ahead of an expected increase in interest rates, only to see them head back down. This has pretty much been the story for the past several years.

Morning Report: FOMC begins

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 2940 -2.9
Eurostoxx index 390.26 -0.72
Oil (WTI) 64.46 1.2
10 year government bond yield 2.53%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 4.18%

 

Stocks are lower this morning after Google missed earnings last night. Bonds and MBS are down.

 

The FOMC begins its 2 day meeting this morning. The result should be announced tomorrow at 2:00 pm. No changes are expected in policy.

 

The employment cost index rose 0.7% in Q1, driven by a 0.7% increase in wages and a 0.7% increase in benefit costs. On an annualized basis wages and salaries increased 2.9% and benefits increased 2.6%.

 

Home Price Appreciation continues to slow, according to the Case-Shiller Home Price index. The index increased 4% YOY, compared to 4.2% in the previous month. “The pace of increases for home prices continues to slow,” says David M. Blitzer, Managing Director
and Chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices. “Homes began their climb in 2012 and accelerated until late 2013 when annual increases reached double digits. Subsequently, increases slowed until now when the National Index is up 4% in the last 12 months. Sales of existing single family homes have recovered since 2010 and reached their peak one year ago in February 2018. Home sales drifted down over the last year except for a one-month pop in February 2019. Sales of new homes, housing starts, and residential investment had similar weak trajectories over the last year. Mortgage
rates are down one-half to three-quarters of a percentage point since late 2018.

 

“The largest year-over-year price increase is 9.7% in Las Vegas; last year, the largest gain was 12.7% in Seattle. Regional patterns are shifting. The three California cities of Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego have the three slowest price increases over the last year. Chicago, New York and Cleveland saw only slightly larger prices increases than California. Prices generally rose faster in inland cities than on either the coasts or the Great Lakes. Aside from Las Vegas, Phoenix, and Tampa, which saw the fastest gains, Atlanta, Denver, and Minneapolis all saw prices rise more than 4% — twice the rate of
inflation.”

 

 

Morning Report: Hamptons Real estate is for sale

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 2931.75 0.7
Eurostoxx index 390.26 -0.72
Oil (WTI) 66.21 0.32
10 year government bond yield 2.53%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 4.23%

 

Stocks are lower after 3M missed earnings. Bonds and MBS are flat as well. We will get Amazon.com and Ford after the close.

 

Durable Goods orders came in way higher than expected for March – increasing 2.7% versus expectations of 0.8%. Much of this was transportation-related. Ex transports, they rose 0.4%, which still beat the 0.2% forecast. Nondefense capital expenditures rose 1.3%, again better than the 1.2% expectation. We might see some estimates for Q1 GDP get taken up on these numbers.

 

Initial Jobless Claims rose 38k to 230,000. This is the highest print in a while, but it is too early to get a read on whether the labor market is changing. FWIW, organized labor has been scoring some victories lately as worker shortages have given them the upper hand.

 

Homebuilder D.R. Horton disappointed the street with their earnings this morning. Homebuilding revenue increased 8% YOY and homes closed increased 10% in units. Forward guidance was the issue as its revenue forecast came in light despite the sales estimate coming more or less as expected. The stock is down about 4% pre-open.

 

More problems with luxury real estate: a glut of inventory in the Hamptons. There are 869 homes for sale in the tony NYC summer vacation location, which is the highest since at last 2012. This seems to mirror the glut of luxury homes in Fairfield County CT as the market seems to be finally meeting its day of reckoning, which was pushed off in the immediate aftermath of the financial crisis. Most people had the wherewithall to wait out the market, hoping for a recovery that never really came. Now, they are getting impatient and it looks like this sector of the market will finally clear.

 

hamptons

 

Fed pick Steven Moore is in hot water, not for his ideology (though left econ has been piling on), but for calling Cleveland OH and Cincinnati OH “armpits” of America. This is probably a non-controversial opinion to most non-Ohians, but Sherrod Brown (D-OH) thinks this should disqualify him. Note the Washington post is miffed about some humor columns that he wrote in the past too. Herman Cain has withdrawn his application, and it looks like Moore might be on the ropes as well.

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.