Morning Report – Where’s the beef? 9/3/14

Markets are stronger this morning as tensions ease in Ukraine. Bonds and MBS are down small.

The ISM New York Index fell to 57 from 68, while factory orders rose 10.5%.

Luxury builder Toll Brothers reported earnings this morning. The luxury end of the market is doing just fine, with deliveries up 53% in dollars and 36% in units. ASPs increased 12% to 732k. Net signed contracts fell however, and the average price for signed contracts increased only 1.4% year-over-year, Perhaps we have seen the point where buyers are finally balking at higher prices.

Mortgage Applications rose .2% last week. Purchases fell 1.5% while refis rose 1.4%. Refis are back up to 57% of total number of loans.

Part of the reason why purchases are slipping is due to seasonality, however mortgage rates have not been falling with Treasury rates. The average 30 year fixed rate mortgage has been stuck in the same 4.1% to 4.2% range for the past 3 months, while the 10 year has rallied from 2.6% to 2.34%. The last time rates were this low, the average 30 year fixed rate mortgage was 3.93%. I think there are two things going on here – first I think banks view this move in rates as being driven by overseas events and therefore temporary. Second, I think that lenders are taking more risk than they were a year ago, which means higher rates on average.

Have you noticed that chocolate bars are getting smaller? That your “pint” is no longer a pint at your local watering hole? Welcome to shrinkflation, a state of affairs where companies maintain the same price, but give you a little less. We saw this movie before in the 1970s and 1980s, which was captured quite eloquently in Wendy’s “Where’s the Beef” ad campaign. This actually started in the 1970s, and shows that inflation can take two forms – price increases and quantity (or quality) decreases.

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