Stocks are flattish after the Employment Cost Index comes in lower than expected. Bonds and MBS are flat
The Employment Cost Index rose 0.2% in the second quarter, the lowest increase since BLS started keeping track, which began in 1982. On a 12-month basis, employment costs are up 2%. This number includes salaries and benefits, so we still have wage inflation barely keeping up with inflation in general. Given the low ECI and falling commodity prices in general, the Fed has an excuse not to move in September. Bonds rallied hard on the announcement.
Note that in 1982, the US was in the worst recession since the Great Depression. This was the recession caused by Paul Volcker’s tightening to conquer 1970s inflation. It also corresponded to the first wave of globalization, where US industry had to deal with international competition for the first time since WWII. Given that we are 5 years into an expansion, that number sticks out like a sore thumb.
The ECI is just another demonstration of the strange state of affairs in the US labor market. People who have jobs are keeping them, as demonstrated by the multi-decade lows in initial jobless claims and the low unemployment rate. Job openings are at the highest since BLS started keeping track in 2001. The labor force participation rate is the lowest since the late 1970s and wage inflation is the lowest since 1982. Definitely a perplexing environment for the Fed to navigate.
Lost in the GDP data from yesterday, GDP growth was revised downward from 2.3% to 2% for the years 2011-2014. Apparently the government overestimated what government spending was during those years. Kind of funny, actually.
The Chicago Purchasing Manager’s index rose to 54.7 in July from 49.4.
Consumer Confidence slipped slightly in July, according to the University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Survey. The current conditions index rose while the expectations index fell. The number of people who say their household financial situation is worse than a year ago ticked up to 29%. Interesting to say the least, given that these consumer confidence indices often are influence by gasoline prices and those have been falling as oil has been taken to the woodshed.
Speaking of oil prices, both Exxon-Mobil and Chevron reported weaker than expected numbers this morning, and both stocks are getting whacked. Surprisingly, D.R. Horton (who has a lot of TX exposure) has not seen any evidence of this hitting homebuyer demand.
Chart: West Texas Intermediate:
Ocwen missed earnings estimates and the stock is down about 16% on the open. The UPB of its servicing portfolio fell 26% to $322 billion. They unveiled a new plan to cut costs as their assets fall.
The House Financial Services Committee passed a “hold harmless” period for TRID, which basically says the CFPB won’t be able to enforce TRID and impose penalties until Feb 1 2016, provided the issuer is making a good-faith effort to comply with the regulation. There is a competing bill in the Senate which would have a shorter period, ending on Jan 1. The CFPB has already delayed the implementation once.