Stocks are higher this morning after Chinese markets rallied to almost unchanged after an early swoon. Bonds and MBS are down.
Mortgage Applications rose 11.3% last week as purchases rose 4.1% and refis rose 16.8%. The 30 year fixed rate mortgage was steady at 4.08%. While the bond market has been pretty volatile, TBAs have been much more steady, tending to fade the moves of the bond market. This means you might see a big drop in the 10 year yield, hope to lock at a great rate, only to find that rates are lower, but not as much as the big move in Treasuries would suggest.
The ADP jobs report showed payrolls increasing by 190,000 jobs, which is less than forecast. July was revised lower as well. The Street is forecasting an increase of 218,000 in the official report on Friday.
After a couple big quarters, unit labor costs fell in the second quarter by 1.4%. This number tends to be volatile, as does productivity. The Fed pays close attention to these numbers.
The ISM New York Index fell pretty dramatically in August, from 68.8 to 51.1. The 68.8 reading was unusually good, while the 51.1 reading was unusually bad.
Factory orders rose 0.4% in July, lower than the 0.9% forecast. Ex-transportation, factory orders fell 0.6%.
Productivity rebounded in the second quarter to an annualized rate of 3.3%. Overall, productivity growth has been in a downtrend for the past dozen years or so. This is one reason why wage inflation has been so hard to come by – productivity growth has been declining. Take a look at the chart below. You can see productivity flatlining around 2% in the 1980s, then a big acceleration in the 1990s as the personal computer goes from a glorified typewriter to an indispensible tool on everyone’s desk. That continues into the early 00s as the internet helps business become more productive. Finally, you see the decline as the PC and Internet phenomenons become played out. While the mainstream media mocked Jeb Bush for talking up the importance of productivity, he was right.
Is “quantitative tightening” the new buzzword? Not yet, but as central banks worldwide begin to let go of some of their reserves, it may become more common. For the past two decades, central banks (especially China) have been accumulating reserves as they manage their trade balances and their currencies. The net effect has been a bid under Treasuries and a release of money into the system. As China slows, this is reversing as they sell Treasuries to support their currency. When they sell Treasuries, they put pressure on US interest rates and the withdrawal of liquidity acts like a tightening. Punch line: this is the second-order effect of the global slowdown – you might see upward pressure on interest rates, a rising dollar, and a withdrawal of liquidity. This would compound the effect of any Fed tightening. Which means a bumpier road ahead as the Fed pursues normalization. This might explain why the Fed has chosen to not sell (and even to keep re-investing) its portfolio of Treasuries and MBS that it bought during QE.
As world markets recover from last week’s bloodbath, the probability of as Sep rate hike is increasing.
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