Stocks are lower this morning as markets adjust to Brexit. Bonds and MBS are up.
Here is the summary of the financial market reaction to Brexit: Stocks down, Treasuries up, US dollar up, Gold up, but other commodities down. Fed Funds futures pricing in no more interest rate hikes this year. In many ways, markets were discounting #Bremain in the week or so heading up to the vote, so in many cases, they merely gave back those moves. Friday was volatile, with 3-sigma moves seen in 23 currencies, 30 sovereign bonds, and and 28 stock market indices.
What does Brexit mean to the European financial markets? The banks got crushed on Friday, and part of that is due to widening sovereign spreads. Brexit caused a yield divergence between the German Bund and the PIIGS (Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece, and Spain) bonds. Greek spreads widened out 89 basis points to 8.65%. German bond yields fell 14 basis points to -5 basis points. While yields on the PIIGS are still low, they could become an issue going forward.
The biggest risk to the US is any sort of financial contagion. The tell will be the performance of the European and UK banks. Note Italy is considering injecting 50 billion euros into its banking system. The PIIGS are behaving this morning, but that will be something to watch.
Brexit has put the Fed in a box. The slowing economy in China plus the issues with Brexit have pretty much put them on the sidelines for now. In fact, the Fed Funds futures are beginning to price in the possibility of a rate cut. The bottom line is that rates will be lower for longer. FWIW, Bill Gross thinks the upside is limited in US bonds. While Brexit will probably dampen global growth slightly, it shouldn’t be a catalyst to push the US into a recession. The biggest beneficiaries will be tourists who want to visit the UK this summer. The biggest losers will be US manufacturers who compete with UK manufacturers and become less competitive due to the sell-off in the pound. In other words, the economic fall-out to the US will probably be pretty limited. Perhaps US stocks were looking for a reason to sell off, but the effect of Brexit on US corporate earnings should be pretty small.
In terms of the mortgage markets, the TBA market (which sets mortgage rates) really didn’t have much of a move on Friday. Ginnie II 3.5s were up about 1/4 of a point, which is more or less normal volatility. Fannie TBAs were up 3/8 of a point, which again is more or less normal volatility. Historically, TBAs have lagged movements in the bond markets, and days like Friday absolutely annihilate people who hedge MBS interest rate risk. So, while their portfolio goes up in value, their interest rate hedges lose a lot more than their book gains, so it ends up pressuring TBA pricing, which in turn prevents mortgage rates from moving as low as you think they should go. If the 10 year stays right here, expect mortgage rates to catch up only gradually over a week or even two. Note that the Bankrate US 30 year fixed rate mortgage had been lagging the moves downward in rates already, even before the big move on Friday. It dropped 11 basis points on Friday.
Construction wages are rising faster than the rest of the industry, however they are really just playing catch-up. It will make new houses marginally more expensive, however falling mortgage rates will cushion the blow.