Morning Report: Looks like the Fed tightening cycle is winding down

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 2730.25 -14
Eurostoxx index 356.36 -1.74
Oil (WTI) 50.5 -0.96
10 year government bond yield 3.01%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.85%

 

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

 

The minutes from the November FOMC meeting were released yesterday, and they said nothing all that interesting. Bonds, which had been supported by Powell’s comments on Wednesday ticked up slightly. The media seemed to take the minutes as dovish, but there really wasn’t any sort of statement that jumped out.

 

Initial Jobless Claims increased by 10k to 234,000.

 

Personal incomes rose by 0.5% in October, and consumption rose by 0.6%. Those were extremely strong numbers, and support the idea that Q4 is going to be strong as well. It was also a bit of a Goldilocks report, with the personal consumption expenditures inflation reading sitting right at the Fed’s target rate, with the core rate (ex-food and energy) rising 1.8%.

 

The Fed Funds futures are pricing in a December hike as a pretty much a sure thing, and then have coalesced around the forecast that we get one more hike in 2019. In other words, we are in the late stages of this hiking cycle. Note that monetary policy acts with about a year’s lag, so we haven’t really begun to feel the hikes from this year. Below is the implied probability chart for the December 2019 Fed Funds futures.

 

fed funds futures

 

Pending Home Sales fell 2.6% in October, according to NAR. For those keeping score at home, this is the 10th straight drop, and demonstrates the issues of higher home prices and mortgage rates. All regions experienced declines, and the West was hit particularly hard as home prices have experienced double-digit increases for years. Something has to give in the real estate market – either prices have to stabilize, interest rates have to fall, or incomes have to rise. Given the personal income numbers and other anecdotal data, rising wages will probably end up squaring the circle.

 

 

Morning Report: S&P 500 enters correction territory

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 2648 4.5
Eurostoxx index 355.05 -0.48
Oil (WTI) 66.58 -0.46
10 year government bond yield 3.11%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 4.93%

 

Stocks are slightly higher this morning ahead of a big earnings day. Bonds and MBS are down small.

 

General Electric disappointed and cut its dividend to a nominal amount. Facebook reports after the close.

 

Stocks got kicked in the teeth again yesterday, with a 100 point intraday reversal in the S&P 500. Selling climaxed right around 3:30 before recovering some of the losses into the close. The S&P is officially in a correction, which is defined as a 10% retracement from the high. Tech was thrown overboard and investors are beginning to hide in consumer staples. Bonds largely ignored the action in stocks, with the 10 year stuck in a tight range right around 3.08%.

 

Personal Income rose 0.2% in September, which came in below consensus. Personal spending was strong at 0.4%, and the savings rate fell to the lowest level this year. Inflation remained tame however, with the PCE headline and core readings at 2.0%, spot on the Fed’s target. The December Fed Funds futures are beginning to up the probability that the Fed does nothing in its final meeting of the year. Between a global growth slowdown (Europe’s GDP numbers were terrible this morning), trade fears, and controlled inflation the Fed does have the leeway to take a wait and see approach in December.

 

savings rate

 

JP Morgan was secretly prevented from growing by the Obama administration as a penance for sins during the housing bubble. The Obama Administration wouldn’t let them open any new branches in new states in a penalty that went back to 2012. The fascinating part was that it wasn’t disclosed to the markets. Surely that info was relevant to stockholders. Was Dimon hiding info from the market? Or did the Obama Admin not want people to know he was imposing double-secret probation on certain banks? Regardless, the Trump OCC has reversed the decision and JP Morgan is now free to add branches subject to the 10% deposit cap.

 

Morning Report: Self-Employed Borrowers get some help from Congress

Vital Statistics:

Last Change
S&P futures 2911 -3.75
Eurostoxx index 385.16 -1.42
Oil (WTI) 69.93 0.42
10 year government bond yield 2.86%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 4.55%

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

Donald Trump is suggesting that a new NAFTA could be in place by the end of the week. One sticking point is removing a provision that inhibits the US from pursuing anti-dumping and anti-subsidy cases. Mexico has agreed, but Canada is still fighting it.

Initial Jobless Claims slipped 1K to 213,000 last week.

Personal incomes rose 0.3%  and personal spending rose 0.4% in July, which was right in line with estimates. The PCE inflation index came in at 0.1% MOM / 2.3% YOY, and the core PCE index rose 0.2% MOM / 2.0% YOY. Inflation is pretty much right at the Fed’s target, which means they don’t have to move quickly to increase rates and can still just gradually lift off the lower bound.

A Reuters poll of real estate experts suggests that home prices will rise 6% this year and then begin to taper off the growth. Limited inventory has pushed up home prices well in excess of wage growth and inflation over the past 6 years. That sort of phenomenon can work when interest rates are falling, as the lower mortgage payment offsets the higher prices, but that game is over.

Congress is entertaining legislation that will make it easier for self-employed borrowers to get a mortgage. The bipartisan “Self-Employed Mortgage Access Act” will address the needs of borrowers who don’t have traditional W-2 income. Sponsor Mark Warner said: “An increasing number of Americans make their living through alternative work arrangements, like gig work or self-employment. Too many of these otherwise creditworthy individuals are being shut out of the mortgage market because they don’t have the same documentation of their income – paystubs or a W-2 – as someone who works 9-to-5. This bill will allow these workers to supply other forms of paperwork to verify their income while continuing to protect consumers from predatory lending.” The bill will expand the universe of income documentation to allow these borrowers to fall under QM. The bill is supported by the MBA and the Consumer Federation of America.

The Great Recession left what looks to be a permanent gap between potential GDP and actual GDP, which amounts to something like $70,000 per person. You can see the output gap in the chart below. Interestingly, the word “bubble” appears nowhere in the article – it is as if the financial crisis appeared out of nowhere, which certainly demonstrates a blind spot for the Fed (and central bankers in general).

They don’t take into account that the trajectory of growth (beginning in 1998 through 2006) was artificially boosted due to increasing asset prices. The trajectory begins with the stock market bubble and ends with the real estate bubble. Granted the late 90s growth was also influenced by a boom in productivity, but that ended soon after. I always find it interesting that central bankers believe “too much money chasing too few goods” (i.e. inflation) is a monetary phenomenon, but “too much money chasing too few assets” (i.e. asset bubbles) is not.

Morning Report: Personal incomes and spending rise

Vital Statistics:

Last Change
S&P futures 2811 7.75
Eurostoxx index 391.64 0.72
Oil (WTI) 69.72 -0.41
10 Year Government Bond Yield 2.95%
30 Year fixed rate mortgage 4.62%

Stocks are higher as earnings continue to come in. Bonds and MBS are up on news that the Bank of Japan will continue to hold down rates.

Personal spending and personal income rose 0.4% in June, according to BEA. Inflation remains under control with the PCE price index up 2.2% YOY and the core rate up 1.9%. The income and spending numbers were in line with expectations, and the inflation numbers were a touch below. Good news for the bond market as we start the FOMC meeting. Separately, another strong number out of the Chicago PMI.

personal income

The employment cost index rose 2.9% in the second quarter with wages and salaries increasing 2.9%. Benefit costs increased 2.9%.

Punch line: wages and salaries up 2.9%, inflation up 2.2% – we are seeing real wage growth despite all the stories in the press that wages are stagnant.

Home prices rose 6.4% in May according to the Case-Shiller home price index. San Francisco, Seattle and Las Vegas all reported double-digit gains. All MSAs are beginning to correlate a little tighter, with the spread between fastest and smallest falling to 10 percentage points, which is much smaller than the 25 ppts we saw during the bust years and the 20 ppt average since 2001. My guess is that this is a function of the improving job market in the Midwest and working through the last of the foreclosure inventory in the Northeast.

Mission creep out of the GSEs? Some Republican congressmen are calling foul as Fannie and Fred started a pilot program where they buy low downpayment loans and pair them with MI from Arch. Many in Congress would like to see Fannie and Freddie reduce their footprint in the mortgage market, not increase it. The FHFA has justified this move as necessary to perform their affordable housing mission. This will be a constant partisan battle, between Republicans who are alarmed by the fact that the US taxpayer bears the majority of the credit risk in the US mortgage markets and Democrats who are alarmed by the lack of affordable housing.

Young people are shunning construction jobs. The share of younger (under 24) workers in the construction industry has fallen 30% since the bubble days. The number of workers in the industry has fallen as well – from 11.7 million in 2006 to 10.2 million 10 years later. The typical construction job stays open for 39 days nationally, and many builders are hiring ex-cons to meet demand. The obvious answer would be for builders to raise pay to attract people, but what do you do if you are in the starter home business? Between higher wages and regulatory costs, your starter home might be unaffordable to people with the starter income. Note the industry has promised to train 50,000 workers over the next 5 years, but this is a drop in the bucket.