Stocks are lower this morning on bad export numbers out of China. Bonds and MBS are up.
The US Labor Market Conditions Index fell in February, This is a relatively new index created of 19 different labor market indicators. Not sure what caused the recent drop in the index, as most of the big indicators are positive. Perhaps the disappointing wage growth in the last jobs report is causing it. Certainly the labor market does not seem to be the worst in four years..
Consumer credit rose by $10.5 billion in January, the lowest in a year. Lower levels of credit card debt drove the deceleration.
Small Business Optimism hit a 2 year low, according to the NFIB. Worryingly, job creation fell for the first time in quite a while, as small businesses shed about .12 workers per firm. The difficulty in finding qualified workers also fell in importance, although it is still elevated. Washington remains the biggest impediment, with taxes and red tape occupying the #1 and #2 concerns for small business. The report summed it up this way: “Overall, a “ho hum” outcome, confirming that the small business sector is not headed up with any strength, just treading water waiting for a good reason to invest in the future.”
The big drop in interest rates has bumped up the refinanceable population to 6.7 million borrowers from 5.2 million last month, according to Black Knight Financial Services. An additional 15 basis point drop in rates would add another 2.1 million borrowers. This data is based on mid-February numbers, with a FHLMC 30 year rate of 3.65%. Just another reason why 2016 might be a little better than expected.
Foreclosure activity continues to fall, according to CoreLogic. Foreclosure inventory is down 21.7% to 456,000 homes, and completed foreclosures fell 16% in January. Serious delinquencies also fell to 1.2 million mortgages, the lowest since 2007. Foreclosure activity is making the home price recovery more durable: “The improvement in distressed properties continues across the country in every state which is contributing to the lack of stock of available homes and resulting price escalation in many markets,” said Anand Nallathambi, president and CEO of CoreLogic. “So far the trend toward lower delinquency and foreclosures has been immune from shocks from such things as the collapse in oil prices attesting to the durability of the housing recovery.”