Morning Report: New guidance from the Fed

Vital Statistics:

Last Change
S&P futures 3475 -3.6
Oil (WTI) 43.24 -0.17
10 year government bond yield 0.66%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 2.91%

 

Stocks are flattish this morning as we await Jerome Powell’s (virtual) Jackson Hole speech. Bonds and MBS are up.

 

Second quarter GDP was revised upward from -32.9% to -31.7%. Consumption was revised up as well from -34.6% to -34.1%. Separately, 1 million people filed for unemployment the first time last week.

 

Home prices rose 11% in the week ending August 16, according to Redfin. The Redfin Homebuyer Demand index increased by 29% from pre-pandemic levels earlier in the year. “Schools are beginning to start again, and it seems like that has slowed the amount of homebuyer activity a little bit, but that doesn’t make the market less crazy,” said Oakland, Calif.-area Redfin agent Veronica Clyatt. “Instead of 20 offers on a home, you may ‘just’ see 10. But prices have not gone down—home price increases haven’t slowed at all.”

redfin home prices

 

Fan and Fred will continue to buy loans in forbearance through September 30, extending the previous deadline of August 31. “MBA and its members appreciate FHFA and the GSEs extending these important features,” said MBA President and CEO Bob Broeksmit. “Both the origination flexibilities and the program to purchase loans in forbearance are providing important stability to the mortgage market during the pandemic, and today’s announcement will enable lenders to continue to make low rate mortgage financing readily available to consumers and avoid the inevitable credit tightening that would have resulted from their expiration.”

 

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has proposed a $15,000 first-time homebuyer tax credit. Supposedly they could use the credit when they make the purchase instead of having to wait to file taxes. The details haven’t been ironed out, which is typical for campaign promises.

 

The Fed has updated its statement on its longer-run goals for monetary policy, strengthening its commitment to a stronger job market. “The economy is always evolving, and the FOMC’s strategy for achieving its goals must adapt to meet the new challenges that arise,” said Federal Reserve Chair Jerome H. Powell. “Our revised statement reflects our appreciation for the benefits of a strong labor market, particularly for many in low- and moderate-income communities, and that a robust job market can be sustained without causing an unwelcome increase in inflation.”

One change is subtle but important: they replaced the term “deviations” from full employment to “shortfalls” from full employment. This basically codifies what Janet Yellen alluded to years ago, that the Fed will allow the labor market to run hot for a while. This essentially means that the Fed will remain supportive to the labor market when the economy is below full employment, and will be reluctant to take away the punch bowl when we are at full employment.

The bigger question is whether this is just wishful thinking. As we saw before, as the level of government debt rises, the velocity of money slows. And the US economy took a quantum leap upward in indebtedness in response to COVID. Which means talking about a super-hot economic growth in the US makes as much sense as talking about super-hot economic growth in France or Japan. Punch line: we are looking at lower rates for longer, at least at the short end of the curve. The big question is whether the Fed will continue to purchase the 10 year to drive down longer-term rates.

velocity of money

Morning Report: Existing home sales jump

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 3377 -3.6
Oil (WTI) 41.94 -0.82
10 year government bond yield 0.64%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 2.89%

 

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

 

Exiting home sales increased 24.7% in July, according to NAR. “Homebuyers’ eagerness to secure housing has helped rejuvenate our nation’s economy despite incredibly difficult circumstances,” said NAR President Vince Malta, broker at Malta & Co., Inc., in San Francisco, Calif. “Admittedly, we have a way to go toward full recovery, but I have faith in our communities, the real estate industry and in NAR’s 1.4 million members, and I know collectively we will continue to mount an impressive recovery.”  The annualized pace of sales puts it at 5.86 million units. The median home price increased 8% to $280k. First time homebuyers were up 35%.

 

The 50 basis point LLPA will wipe out millions in mortgage banking profit, according to an article in American Banker. “The way they did this is very, very damaging to banks and other mortgage bankers and brokers who have loans in the pipeline,” said Scott Buchta, head of fixed-income strategy at Brean Capital. “In the first month, the bulk of the fee will come out of the pockets of bankers and brokers that locked in a lot of loans.”

 

More than three dozen ex-Fed officials have signed a letter urging the Senate to reject Fed nominee Judy Shelton. Her crime is having the audacity to say something positive about the gold standard. Perhaps that is out of step with today’s army of progressive economists who are trying to fine-tune the economy by intervening directly in markets. If so, that is a good thing. The US Federal Reserve is thick in the biggest economic experiment the world has ever seen, and is highly susceptible to groupthink. The last think we need is a bunch Janet Yellens all saying the same thing.

 

The Fed has increased its balance sheet almost tenfold in the last twelve years. The US debt-to-GDP ratio (a measure of how leveraged the economy is) has increased from 67% to 107%. This should be massively stimulative to the US economy, yet the best we have been able to muster is “meh” for most of the past 10 years. Why is that? The velocity of money (basically how many times a dollar gets used) has fallen off a cliff. This has kept inflation in check, but the downside is that the US is slouching towards Japan, where disinflation (or outright deflation) has taken hold.

 

velocity of money

 

 

Morning Report: Stocks fall on pessimistic FOMC minutes

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 3357 -16.6
Oil (WTI) 42.54 -0.32
10 year government bond yield 0.65%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 2.89%

 

Stocks are down this morning after the Fed minutes revealed pessimism about the economy. Bonds an MBS are up.

 

Initial Jobless Claims rose back above the 1 million market last week.

 

The Fed released its minutes from the July FOMC meeting yesterday. The big revelation was a moderating of economic expectations into the end of the year. The money quote: (note this is from the staff economists)

The projected rate of recovery in real GDP, and the pace of declines in the unemployment rate, over the second half of this year were expected to be somewhat less robust than in the previous forecast.

There was also discussion about the concept of yield caps, in other words the Fed targeting specific maturities in the Treasury market to keep the 10-year or 5-year bond yield below a certain target level.

A majority of participants commented on yield caps and targets—approaches that cap or target interest rates along the yield curve—as a monetary policy tool. Of those participants who discussed this option, most judged that yield caps and targets would likely provide only modest benefits in the current environment, as the Committee’s forward guidance regarding the path of the federal funds rate already appeared highly credible and longer-term interest rates were already low.

This is generally good news, at least for those that still cling to the idea that interest rates should be determined by a market. Still, the Fed and the US continues its “slouching towards Japan” strategy. Given the theory that increases in government debt as a percentage of GDP creates sluggish growth and low rates, not inflation (certainly borne out in Japan and Europe), low rates may be around for quite some time.

 

Mortgage Applications decreased 3.3% last week as rates rose. The purchase index rose by 1%, while refis fell by 5%. “Positive economic data reported last week on retail sales, as well as a large U.S. Treasury auction, drove mortgage rates to their highest level in two weeks,”  said Joel Kan, MBA Associate Vice President of Economic and Industry Forecasting. “The rise in rates dampened refinance activity, but purchase applications continued their strong run and were 27 percent higher than a year ago – the third straight month of year-over-year increases.”

 

There were a lot of rumors going around that the GSEs are looking to delay the 50 basis point LLPA for mortgage refinances. The industry has been dead set against it, and we have seen bipartisan opposition to it. The industry’s main gripe is the short fuse: loans that were locked before the announcement but expected to close after would require the lender to eat the additional cost. A longer runway (say Jan 1) would prevent this. Another option is to apply the LLPA on locks after Sep 1. The word on the street is that the next shoe to drop will be investment properties, so we could see higher LLPAs there in the future.

 

Fannie CEO Hugh Frater and Freddie CEO David Brickman threw cold water on that idea in a blog post.

Contrary to much of the criticism we have received since making this announcement, this will generally not cause mortgage payments to “go up.” The fee applies only to refinancing borrowers, who almost always use a refinancing to lower their monthly rate…

Some have asserted that this price adjustment could impact borrowers by as much as $1,500—but this life of the loan estimate is a misrepresentation of how this cost would be applied. For an average refinanced mortgage, we estimate a reduction in savings of about $15 per month, meaning refinancing homeowners who were previously saving $133 on their monthly payments will now save $118 per month, on average.

This estimate also assumes lenders pass on the entire fee to borrowers. That is up to them. If they do not, the $15-per-month figure would go down, potentially to zero.

Does this sound like someone reconsidering the idea? It sounds more like “I am altering the deal. Pray I don’t alter it any further.”

 

Despite the economic gloom, renting households are making their rent payments, according to the National Multifamily Housing Council. Almost 87% of renters have paid August rent, which is down about 2% from a year ago. Note that NYC is bringing up the rear at a sub-80% rate. Writer James Altucher wrote an interesting essay about why this time is indeed different for NYC.

Morning Report: Homes selling at record pace

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 3356 25.6
Oil (WTI) 42.44 0.82
10 year government bond yield 0.68%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 2.85%

 

Stocks are higher this morning on no real news. Bonds and MBS are down.

 

Inflation remains muted. The producer price index (which measures wholesale inflation) rose 0.6% month-over-month, but is down 0.4% on a year-over-year basis. The consumer price index rose 0.6% MOM and is up 1% YOY. This is well below the Fed’s target of 2%.

 

Mortgage applications rose 6.8% last week as purchases increased 2% and refis increased 9%. “Mortgage rates fell across the board last week, as investors grew less optimistic of the economic rebound given the resurgence of virus cases,” said Joel Kan, MBA Associate Vice President of Economic and Industry Forecasting. “Loan types such as the 30-year fixed, 15-year fixed, and jumbo all reached survey lows. Refi activity responded to these lower rates, with the refi share reaching almost 66 percent of all applications, its highest level since May. And the refi index jumped 9 percent, reaching its highest level since April, as both conventional and government applications for refinances increased.”

 

United Wholesale is offering a 1.99% 30 year mortgage. Of course you are going to have to pay points to get that rate, and some of it will depend on broker comp.

 

Solution to the affordable housing issue? Converting COVID-driven office and hotels to affordable housing. “That’s going to free up a lot of commercial space, which can be converted to affordable housing,” U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson said of the pandemic in a June 24 Fox News interview. “We are very much looking at that right now, looking at ways to be able to facilitate that transformation.” This model was used in the Rust Belt to help revitalize abandoned downtown areas.

 

The pace of homebuying is accelerating. According to Redfin, 46% of sellers are accepting an offer within two weeks. Home sale prices were up 9% YOY to a new high of $311,000. Meanwhile, on the supply side, listings are down 2.7% and the active inventory of homes for sale is down 28%. The list-to-sale ratio is 99%, a record.

Morning Report: M&A in the mortgage space

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 3372 23.6
Oil (WTI) 42.83 0.52
10 year government bond yield 0.63%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 2.85%

 

Stocks are higher this morning on no real news. Bonds and MBS are down.

 

Job openings increased to 5.9 million at the end of June according to the JOLTs jobs report. Hires fell to 6.7 million, but that was the second-highest reading for the series. The quits rate fell to 1.9%, which is to be expected during a recession.

 

Small Business optimism slipped in July, according to the NFIB. “This summer has been challenging for many small business owners who are working hard to keep their doors open and remain in business,” said NFIB’s Chief Economist Bill Dunkelberg. “Small business represents nearly half of the GDP and this month we saw a dip in optimism. There is still plenty of work to be done to get businesses back to pre-crisis numbers.”

 

The Intercontinental Exchange bought Ellie Mae from private equity firm Thoma Bravo for $11 billion last week. Note Thoma Bravo paid $3.7 billion for Ellie Mae just a year before. The Intercontinental Exchange is best known for owning the New York Stock Exchange, but it has been building a mortgage business. ICE owns MERS and Simplifile, and believes the acquisition of Ellie Mae gives it access to the entire mortgage value chain, from origination to post-closing. Analysts did raise their eyebrows on the announcement conference call regarding the price, but it does make strategic sense for ICE to do the acquisition. That said, Ellie Mae is expected to do about $470 million in EBITDA this year, and 23x EBITDA is not cheap.

 

Black Knight is buying Optimal Blue as well. On the earnings conference call, Black Knight explained some of the reasoning behind the acquisition:

Sure. Good morning Tien-Tsin. Thank you. Yeah, we’re obviously very excited with Optimal Blue. We think that there are a lot of opportunities there. In addition to the reasons that we’re excited to acquire them, they’ve got a really sticky network effect in their marketplace where they bring mortgage originators and investors together. And we see a lot of cross-sell opportunity in terms of us selling some of our capabilities into their client base and for them to sell some of those capabilities to our client base. So as we look at it, from that perspective, we think there are, as you can imagine with any acquisition, you always find the obvious. And then there’s always hidden gems, we always look for, and we see some of those as well, such as, the trading platform that they have. We’ve been talking about that for a while, adding our loans — seasoned loans on top of that, as well as all of our data and our analytics that have tremendous insight into those loans and facilitating trading. So we see a lot of areas of revenue synergy from that perspective.

 

Meanwhile, CoreLogic continues to be pursued by Cannae (which sold Optimal Blue to Black Knight). Cannae is offering $65 in cash for Corelogic, and hopes to call a special meeting of stockholders to replace half of CoreLogic’s Board.

 

30 day delinquencies increased in May to 7.3% of all mortgages, according to CoreLogic. Frank Martell, CEO of CoreLogic had this to say:

“Government and industry relief programs have helped to cushion the initial financial blow of the pandemic for millions of U.S. homeowners. COVID-19 and the resulting pressures continue to influence the economic activity of many households. Barring additional intervention from the Federal and State governments, we are likely to see meaningful spikes in delinquencies over the short to medium term.”

 

Meanwhile, the number of mortgages in forbearance fell for the 8th straight week, according to the MBA. Forbearances fell by 23 basis points to 7.44% of homes with a mortgage. Many borrowers who were making payments while in forbearance decided to exit their plans.

Morning Report: Quicken IPO prices below expectations

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 3315 -3.6
Oil (WTI) 42.53 -0.52
10 year government bond yield 0.52%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 2.85%

 

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

 

Initial Jobless Claims fell to 1.1 million last week from 1.4 million the week before. Claims are going in the right direction, but claims over 1 million are still super high.

 

Congress is still negotiating a second relief package. Supposedly the two sides are “trillions of dollars off.” The sticking point is size and the target. Democrats want something along the lines of the initial $3.4 trillion plan, including $1 trillion for state and local governments (read deep blue states and cities). Republicans want something much smaller, and have little interest in bailing out places like Portland, Seattle, and New York City.

 

Goldman is out with a call this morning that a COVID vaccine could upend the bond markets and cause a rotation out of stocks. FWIW, I don’t see how the bond market can fall off without the Fed ending purchases and a resurgence of inflation. We are certainly seeing anecdotal evidence of inflation, but nothing yet that shows up in the numbers.

 

Quicken’s IPO Rocket Mortgage (RKT) priced yesterday at $18 per share. The company will sell 100 million shares at that price This was below the initial price talk of 150 MM shares at $20 – $22 a share. I am not sure when it will open for trading. After the IPO CEO Dan Gilbert will control 79% of the vote.

 

Zillow is back to Zillow Offers in 24 markets. This is where Zillow will buy your house, fix it up for sale and then sell it. The company recently teamed up with homebuilder D.R. Horton to buy the existing homes of people who buy a new one.

 

Mortgage credit increased in July according to the MBA. “Credit availability rose slightly in July – the first increase in eight months – as the supply of certain types of adjustable rate mortgages (ARMs) and jumbo loans increased. The improvement was more of a leveling off from the precipitous drop earlier this spring. Credit availability is still over 30 percent lower than a year ago and near its lowest level since 2014,” said Joel Kan, MBA’s Associate Vice President of Economic and Industry Forecasting. “The July data signals that lenders saw conditions improve this summer, as forbearance requests flattened, and record-low mortgage rates spurred strong levels of purchase and refinance activity.”

Morning Report: Isiasis heads up the East Coast.

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 3277 -16.6
Oil (WTI) 40.53 -0.32
10 year government bond yield 0.53%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 2.98%

 

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

 

Tropical Storm Isaisis is heading up the East Coast today. Don’t be surprised if people (including the office) lose power.

 

Trump is mulling executive action to see if he can extend the stimulus payments, eviction moratorium, or institute a payroll tax cut. Since Congress controls taxing and spending he cannot. This is campaign fodder and nothing else. He also is supposedly demanding some sort of cut for the government if / when Microsoft buys Tick Tock.

 

Construction spending fell 0.7% MOM and was more or less flat on a YOY basis. Residential construction 1.4% MOM and 0.4% YOY.

 

Home Prices rose 4.9% YOY, according to CoreLogic. “Mortgage rates hit record lows this spring, which enhanced affordability for home buyers,” said Dr. Frank Nothaft, chief economist at CoreLogic. “First-time buyers, and millennials in particular, have jumped at the opportunity to achieve homeownership.” FWIW, CoreLogic sees home price appreciation flattening out, and I just don’t see that as a possibility given the supply / demand imbalance and the effect of lower interest rates.

 

 

Morning Report: The FOMC meets

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 322 -10.6
Oil (WTI) 41.45 -0.12
10 year government bond yield 0.6%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 2.98%

 

Stocks are lower this morning as the FOMC meeting begins. Bonds and MBS are flat.

 

The FOMC meeting begins today, and we will get the announcement tomorrow. The Fed is considering the idea of basically controlling the entire yield curve, which means it essentially sets interest rates by diktat. The Fed is reaching into its historical toolbox and returning to the Truman Administration, where the Fed pushed down rates to limit the government’s borrowing costs. Japan has experimented with the same policy. Note that the rest of the world more or less relies on the 10 year US bond yield to determine the correct price of risk, and taking that number out of the hands of the market is playing with fire. IMO, we have a sovereign debt bubble of epic proportions, with negative yields all over the globe. Like all bubbles, this one will probably blow up too, once inflation returns. I have no idea what it will look like, but I can almost assure you that politicians, the media, and academia will blame the free market and not a bunch of academics sitting in a room trying to manipulate the price of money the way the Soviets manipulated the price of corn, tractors or gasoline.

 

Durable Goods orders rose 7.3% last month, which was higher than expectations. Core Capital Goods orders (kind of a proxy for business capital expenditures) rose 3.3%.

 

The MBA reported that the share of loans in forbearance fell for the 6th straight week. Reported loans in forbearance decreased by 6 basis points to 7.74%, or about 3.9 million homeowners. Ginnie loans ticked up, while Fannie / Freddie loans fell.

 

The Senate GOP has released their $1 trillion coronavirus relief proposal, which will include another $1,200 payment to individuals, more payroll protection money, but a reduction in the additional unemployment benefits from $600 a week to $200 a week. Democrats are complaining about the drop in unemployment benefits. The increased benefits will probably get get reinstated to get enough support to get it through the House. Both parties realize that as we approach the election, it will get harder to pass anything.

 

New COVID cases are slowing in Arizona, Texas and Florida.

 

Homebuilder D.R. Horton reported a 10% increase in revenues for the quarter ended June 30. Net orders were up 38% in units. Orders were up 50% year-over-year in May and June. Note D.R. Horton has a lot of Texas exposure, which is seeing an increase in COVID cases.

The Company believes the increase in demand since May has been fueled by increased buyer urgency due to lower interest rates on mortgage loans, the limited supply of homes at affordable price points across most of the Company’s markets, and to some extent the lower levels of home sales from mid-March through early April which caused some pent-up demand.

D.R. Horton stock is up 4% pre-open

 

We saw similar order growth for MDC Holdings as well. Orders increased 5% in the June quarter and were up 53% in the month of June.

Our results this quarter reflect the favorable industry dynamics in place today, including a low interest rate environment, a lack of available supply and a highly motivated buyer. They also reflect our continued shift in focus to the more affordable segments of the market and the benefits of our build-to-order strategy, which caters to the wants and needs of a large segment of the buying population. We believe that providing homebuyers with flexibility and choice at an affordable price is a winning strategy for our company. Given the favorable market conditions we are experiencing, we now believe that we may achieve as many as 8,000 home deliveries for the 2020 full year, which would be a 15% increase from the prior year.

MDC stock is trading up 6% pre-open.

Morning Report: Fed week

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 3218 14.6
Oil (WTI) 41.54 0.22
10 year government bond yield 0.58%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 2.98%

 

Stocks are higher this morning in anticipation of further stimulus out of DC. Bonds and MBS are flat.

 

The FOMC will meet this week. There should be no changes to monetary policy, but perhaps there will be discussions about further measures the Fed could take to support the economy.

 

Aside from the Fed, we will get the first pass at second quarter GDP on Thursday. The consensus is a decline of 35%. Friday will have personal income and outlays. We will also get consumer confidence numbers this week.

 

Black Knight is acquiring Optimal Blue from Cannae Holdings. “Optimal Blue is a business that we have respected for many years. By bringing Optimal Blue into the Black Knight family, we will be adding industry-leading product, pricing and eligibility (PPE) capabilities to our already robust set of solutions and enhancing our already comprehensive data and analytics capabilities,” said Anthony Jabbour, CEO of Black Knight. “In addition to Optimal Blue’s high-quality and passionate management team, we are pleased and honored to be partnering with two experienced and successful investors in Cannae and THL, both of which we have known and respected for a long time and are confident will provide meaningful value-add.” Cannae is trying to acquire CoreLogic, which just reported earnings this morning.

 

1 in 3 homeowners could save $300 a month on their mortgage payment by refinancing. This works out to be 15.6 million homeowners. That said, many are unable to refi due to tighter credit these days. “Mortgage lenders are being exceptionally cautious about who they lend to, in part due to a fear of borrowers who immediately request forbearance on the loan, before the loan can be sold on by the issuer,” said Jeff Tucker, economist at Zillow.com. “This is putting pressure on lenders to effectively narrow their credit box, especially reducing access for borrowers with FICO scores below 700.”

 

Jumbo mortgages are no longer the cheapest mortgages around. In mid-July, the average rate on a jumbo was 3.77%, about 40 basis points higher than the typical conforming rate. This reversed a trend that had been in place since 2015. Blame COVID and the resulting stress in the financial markets. Jumbo and non-QM securitizations dried up in March and have yet to return. Forbearance is an issue as well, with 10% of jumbos in forbearance versus 8% for all mortgages.

 

The Trump Administration reversed a particularly aggressive reading of the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule implemented by the Obama Administration which attempted to Federalize local zoning restrictions. Despite all the howling in the media, we are just going back to the standard that existed from 1968 through 2015.

Morning Report: Forbearance requests fall

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 3264 20.1
Oil (WTI) 42.34 1.22
10 year government bond yield 0.61%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.02%

 

Stocks are up this morning on stimulus talks in Europe and positive news on a COVID vaccine. Bonds and MBS are up.

 

Happy half century birthday to Freddie Mac. “As our company celebrates 50 years, we stand on the threshold of a new stage in our evolution as an organization, leading an industry poised for fundamental transformation and playing a critical, stabilizing role during a time of extreme volatility for our country,” said David Brickman, CEO of Freddie Mac.

 

Economic growth accelerated in June, according to the Chicago Fed National Activity Index. Led by improvements in production- and employment-related indicators, the Chicago Fed National Activity Index (CFNAI) increased to +4.11 in June from +3.50 in May. Three of the four broad categories of indicators used to construct the index made positive contributions in June, and two of the four categories increased from May. The index’s three-month moving average, CFNAI-MA3, moved up to –3.49 in June from –6.36 in May.

 

FHFA has maintained the same goals for Fannie and Fred in the upcoming year. 24% of mortgages should be from low income borrowers, while 14% of mortgages have to come from low income areas.

 

Forbearance rates fell to a 2 month low, according to the MBA. 7.8% of mortgages are in forbearance. By source, Fannie and Freddie forbearance numbers are 5.6%, government are 10.3% and non-government guaranteed mortgages were 10.4%. This was the biggest drop in forbearances since they began tracking them.