Morning Report: Toll disappoints and the government targets VA cash-outs

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 2657 -42
Eurostoxx index 346.51 -7.2
Oil (WTI) 51.46 -1.45
10 year government bond yield 2.90%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 4.83%

 

Stocks are lower this morning as the global sell-off continues. Bonds and MBS are up.

 

While stocks are moving lower, the big news these days is the bond market rally. What appeared to be window-dressing last Friday (a sub 3% yield on the 10-year) has just kept going. A lot of market commentators have been scrambling to come up for a reason. Trade tensions make a convenient, if unsatisfying explanation. China and the US have reached an agreement to cool things off for 90 days, which should be good news. Economic data has been strong, and while we have had some slightly dovish comments out of the Fed, it is nothing dramatic. It feels like a major asset allocation trade out of equities into fixed income, but who or why is anyone’s guess. In other words, this could be just random noise, and therefore temporary. Note that 2s/10s (the difference in yield between the 10 year and the 2 year) got to single digits. Historically such behavior would signal a slowdown, but the Fed’s footprint in the Treasury market wasn’t so large before.

 

The business press is pushing out all sorts of “recession imminent?” articles, but if you read the ISM report on manufacturing, you will see nothing of the sort. New orders, production, and employment are all at historically very strong levels. The business press mirrors the mainstream media, and they are talking their ideological book a little.

 

In terms of MBS trading, they lagged the move big-time. On Tuesday, where yields touched 2.88% we saw only a couple of investors re-price for the better. So, all of those LOs who were running scenarios hoping to see an improvement were disappointed. TBAs did increase by 6 or 7 ticks, but the aggregators largely ignored it.

 

Construction spending fell 0.1% MOM in September, but was up almost 5% YOY. Residential construction fell 0.5% MOM and rose about 1.7% YOY. Lodging and office construction were up high / mid teens YOY, but resi (42% of total construction spending) continues to lag.

 

Speaking of resi construction, Toll Brothers reported a big drop in orders (down 13% in units / 15% in dollars). The cancellation rate jumped from 7.9% to 9.3%. Toll was one of the first builders to recover from the slowdown, making big bets on luxury urban apartments along with their traditional McMansion fare. California is the problem area, which  is being hit by higher prices, higher rates, diminished foreign demand and new tax treatment. The whole sector was smacked, with the homebuilder ETF down about 5%. The XHB is down about 25% from its mid January levels.

 

XHB chart

 

Mortgage applications rose 2% last week as purchase activity rose 1% and refis rose 6%. Mortgage rates dropped about 4 basis points.

 

The VA is taking a closer look at predatory behavior in VA lending. From the Federal Register on November 30:

“VA is concerned that certain lenders are exploiting cash-out refinancing as a loophole to the responsible refinancing Congress envisioned when enacting section 309 of the Act. VA recognizes there are certain advantages to a veteran who wants to obtain a cash-out refinance, and VA has no intention of unduly curtailing veterans’ access to the equity they have earned in their homes. Nevertheless, some lenders are pressuring veterans to increase artificially their home loan amounts when refinancing, without regard to the long-term costs to the veteran and without adequately advising the veteran of the veteran’s loss of home equity. In doing so, veterans are placed at a higher financial risk, and the lender avoids compliance with the more stringent requirements Congress mandated for less risky refinance loans. Essentially, the lender revives the period of subprime lending under a new name.”

The government has already dealt with the serial refinancings by adding new seasoning requirements for loans to be eligible for standard Ginnie MBS, but that was about protecting MBS investors. This is different. For many veterans, it may sound like a great deal to be able to lop 50 bucks off your monthly payment and maybe get to skip a month or two, but that 3.3% funding fee is expensive, even though you get to finance it. If you are doing a VA cash-out to refinance credit card debt, it amounts to an expensive debt consolidation loan, though the drop in your rate and the tax treatment does offset that a bit.

 

 

Morning Report: Durable Goods Orders increase

Vital Statistics;

Last Change
S&P futures 2836.5 -4.75
Eurostoxx index 388.69 1.55
Oil (WTI) 69.2 -0.1
10 Year Government Bond Yield 2.96%
30 Year fixed rate mortgage 4.62%

Stocks are lower after fAANG leader Facebook reported a slowdown in revenues. The stock is under severe pressure this morning, having traded down 24% last night. Bonds and MBS are flat.

As expected, the ECB kept rates unchanged and reiterated their plan to end QE this year. German Bunds are down in Europe, which is pulling US rates higher as well.

Durable goods orders rose 1%, which was lower than expected. Capital Goods orders rose 0.6%, which is better than expected. May numbers were revised upward as well. Capital Goods Orders are a proxy for business capital expenditures and it looks like we are breaching the $68 billion level where we have historically stalled out.

capital goods spending

Initial Jobless Claims rose from a 48 year low to 217,000.

The US and the EU have come to an agreement on trade, where the Europeans will import more soybeans and LNG in exchange for an easing in auto tariffs. Euro automakers are up big this morning. They still have to come to an agreement on steel and aluminum tariffs however. Still it is good news for the markets and takes some of the pressure off.

PulteGroup reported strong earnings that beat consensus estimates. Revenues increased 25% and we saw margin expansion. New orders were only up 3%, however. Despite their strong growth, Pulte sold some land and bought back a lot of stock. Given the deceleration in new orders, it raises the question if they are sensing that the market is slowing down a little. With affordable land hard to come by, selling inventory and buying back stock in lieu of investing more in the business is a cautionary sign.

Maxine Waters (who will lead the House Financial Services Committee if Democrats take the House) said that reforming the GSEs will be a priority  Both liberals and conservatives would like to see the government less involved in residential real estate finance, and there is broad agreement on the model they would like to see. The problem is that there doesn’t appear to be the demand from private capital to pick up the slack, at least not yet. The private label securitization market is still a shadow of its former self and there are many governance issues that need to be solved before we see the buy side increase their appetite.

The FHFA announced that it will not make a decision about updating the credit scoring model and instead will continue to come up with new rules. Consumer advocates have complained that FICO scores are preventing some credit-worthy borrowers from accessing mortgages. Separately, Jeb Hensarling sounded like he is being considered to replace Mel Watt.

New rules intended to prevent the serial refinancing of VA IRRRLs are creating problems for some VA loans that were originated prior to the law change. These loans are not eligible for Ginnie Mae multi-issuer pools, which effectively “orphans” them. As a result, these loans are going to be illiquid and will probably trade at scratch and dent levels, exposing some originators to big losses.

Morning Report: Productivity revised downward

Vital Statistics:

Last Change
S&P futures 2755.25 3.75
Eurostoxx index 386.61 -0.28
Oil (WTI) 65.11 -41
10 Year Government Bond Yield 2.95%
30 Year fixed rate mortgage 4.54%

Stocks are higher this morning as trade negotiations continue with China. Bonds and MBS are down.

Italian bond yields are higher this morning, but so far the market seems to have concluded that this will not snowball into a larger European problem. That said, continuing issues in Italy will provide at least a marginal bid for Treasuries.

Mortgage applications rose 4% last week as purchases and refis rose the same amount. Grazie.

Nonfarm productivity was revised downward to 0.4% from 0.7% in the second estimate for first quarter productivity. Output increased 2.7% and hours worked increased 2.3%. Unit Labor Costs were revised upward from 2.8% to 2.9%. Compensation increased 3.3% and productivity increased 0.4%. Since productivity increases drive standard of living improvements and wage gains, this somewhat explains the anemic wage growth we have been seeing. These numbers are going to concern the Fed a little, given that it might increase inflationary pressures, at least at the margin. Productivity is notoriously hard to measure however, so it carries with it a lot of uncertainty. The theme of the US post-crisis has been low productivity.

productivity

Freedom mortgage was penalized for serial VA refinancings. As part of their punishment, they are no longer allowed to issue mortgages into multi-issuer pools, which will severely reduce the number of potential investors for their paper. This is a temporary restriction, and they could be out of the doghouse as soon as next year. A couple of other lenders – Sun West and NewDay also were penalized.

Wells has sold its branches in the Rust Belt to Flagstar Bank. They will continue their presence in mortgage lending, commercial and wealth management however.

The FTC and DOJ held a hearing on the potential competition issues between the Zillow and Redfin online real estate duopoly. It also covered in more general terms the effects of companies like Zillow and Redfin on the brokerage model in general. Will technology end the need for a realtor? Perhaps for the experienced and professional buyer, but probably not for everyone else. Fees could be affected though.

Steve Mnuchin urged President Trump to exempt Canada from steel and aluminum tariffs. While tariffs are in general counterproductive, it is important to remember the US has much lower tariffs than our trading partners.

tariffs

The media discovers FHA lending. And no, FHA lending is not the same as the no-no loans of the subprime days.