Morning Report: GDP disappoints 7/29/16

Vital Statistics:

Last Change
S&P Futures 2160.5 -4.0
Eurostoxx Index 340.2 1.0
Oil (WTI) 40.9 -0.2
US dollar index 86.8 -0.9
10 Year Govt Bond Yield 1.49%
Current Coupon Fannie Mae TBA 103.3
Current Coupon Ginnie Mae TBA 104.2
30 Year Fixed Rate Mortgage 3.51

Stocks are lower this morning after the advance estimate for 2Q GDP came in well below expectations. Bonds and MBS are up.

The advance estimate for second quarter GDP came in at +1.2%, which was well below the 2.5% survey estimate. The first quarter number was revised downward to 0.8%. Stronger consumer spending offset weak business investment. Consumer spending rose 4.2% while business investment fell 2.2%. The core personal consumption expenditures index rose at 1.7% ex food and energy, which is still below the Fed’s target rate. The economy has definitely taken a turn slower over the past 3 quarters.

GDP bar chart

The employment cost index rose 0.6% in the second quarter, according to the BLS. Compensation costs were up 2.3% YOY as salaries rose 2.4% and benefit costs rose 2%. Comp costs had been running at a 2% clip for the past year, so this number is actually a pretty big jump.

The homeownership rate fell to a 50 year low last quarter, hitting 62.9% which was last seen in the mid 60s. We don’t have data before that. Some of the increase in the homeownership rate was due to social engineering that began with the Clinton Administration, so maybe the heights were somewhat artificial, however it probably does have room to rebound, and that represents pent-up demand. I keep harping on this, but the big reason why GDP is so weak is because housing construction is still well below normalcy. Increasing housing construction would help with the affordability issue, which has been a driver of the decline as well as putting people to work. Unfortunately builders don’t have the confidence to break out of their 1.1 million – 1.2 million start range we have been stuck in for the last year.

homeownership rate NAD

Consumer sentiment slipped in June, according to the University of Michigan.

Morning Report: The Fed stands pat 7/28/16

Vital Statistics:

Last Change
S&P Futures 2159.5 -1.0
Eurostoxx Index 341.6 -1.2
Oil (WTI) 42.0 0.1
US dollar index 87.5 -0.2
10 Year Govt Bond Yield 1.56%
Current Coupon Fannie Mae TBA 103.3
Current Coupon Ginnie Mae TBA 104.2
30 Year Fixed Rate Mortgage 3.52

Stocks are lower this morning after the FOMC statement yesterday. Bonds and MBS are down small.

The FOMC statement from yesterday was relatively upbeat about the economy, but gave none of the signals that a September rate hike would be in the cards. They noted that May’s exceptionally weak jobs report was offset by the improvement in June. There was none of the “risks to the economy balanced” “risks to the economy tilted to the upside” language that would have been taken as a signal that they were contemplating a September hike. Note historically the Fed has tried to stay out of the way during election years, particularly in September, for fears of appearing political. With inflation well contained, they will probably maintain that posture. No reason not to.

There wasn’t much reaction to the statement yesterday. Stocks had been down on the day, rallied on the announcement and then suffered a late day sell-off that took them right back to where they were pre-announcement. The two year bond yields fell 2 basis points and the 10 year fell 4. The Fed Funds futures are now pricing in a 100% chance of a rate hike by next year this time.

Initial Jobless Claims rose to 266k last week. Consumer comfort was flat.

Where is the most expensive place to buy a starter home? Honolulu, where the income required to buy a starter home is over 6 figures and the median income is somewhere around $75k. Unsurprisingly, the West Coast dominates the unaffordable area. On the other side of the coin, if you make just over minimum wage, you can afford a starter home in Pittsburgh.

Meanwhile, here are the top 20 hottest real estate markets in July this year, according to Realtor.com. Interesting mix of West Coast high flyers and Rust Belt bottom fishing..

Open Secrets 7/27/16

Open Secrets is a great tool. Come for the lobbying disclosure reports. Stay to see the DNC selling seats on boards and commissions.

Leaks show DNC asked White House to reward donors with slots on boards and commissions

Morning Report: FOMC decision due at 2:00 pm EST 7/27/16

Vital Statistics:

Last Change
S&P Futures 2168.3 5.0
Eurostoxx Index 343.8 2.5
Oil (WTI) 42.8 -0.2
US dollar index 88.0 0.2
10 Year Govt Bond Yield 1.56%
Current Coupon Fannie Mae TBA 103.3
Current Coupon Ginnie Mae TBA 104.2
30 Year Fixed Rate Mortgage 3.53

Markets are calm ahead of the FOMC decision this afternoon. Bonds and MBS are up small.

The FOMC decision is set to come out around 2:00 pm EST today. Beware of locking around that time. Since there is no press conference scheduled, the odds of a rate hike are extremely low. Investors will parse the language of the statement closely. Note the next time Janet Yellen speaks will be in late August at Jackson Hole, so markets will have all sorts of time to fret without any sort of real input from the Fed.

Mortgage applications fell 11% last week as purchases fell 3% and refis fell 15%. Rates rose 2 basis points last week, but they increased 17 basis points the week before.

Durable Goods orders fell 4% MOM and are down 6.4% YOY. Ex transportation they were down .5% MOM and 3.6% YOY. Capital Goods orders fell as well. For all the talk about an acceleration in the economy, these numbers are a warning sign.

Pending Home sales rose 0.2% last month. Tight inventory remains a problem, and the increase was mainly due to the Northeast which doesn’t have the inventory problem we see on the West Coast. Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist had this to say: “With only the Northeast region having an adequate supply of homes for sale, the reoccurring dilemma of strained supply causing a run-up in home prices continues to play out in several markets, leading to the last two months reflecting a slight, early summer cooldown after a very active spring,” he said. “Unfortunately for prospective buyers trying to take advantage of exceptionally low mortgage rates, housing inventory at the end of last month was down almost 6 percent from a year ago,1 and home prices are showing little evidence of slowing to a healthier pace that more closely mirrors wage and income growth.”

Lost in all the focus on falling / negative bond yields is the rise in LIBOR. LIBOR is a short-term rate that is the basis for lots and lots of financial products, from everything to auto loans to ARM mortgages. New money market regulations have been pushing up LIBOR. The explanation is really inside-baseball sort of stuff, but just be aware as this does affect ARM pricing.

LIBOR

Just one more note on ARMS – in this interest rate environment, where long term rates are steady / falling and short term rates are rising – ARMs are unattractive for borrowers. If there are any borrowers out there who still have ARMs now is the time to refi to a 30 year fixed rate mortgage.

Fannie Mae has announced changes to its 3% down HomeReady program.

Changes that go into effect immediately include:

  • Income limits have been raised to 100 percent of area median income (AMI) in all areas except for low income market tracts which have no limit. The company says this will expand access to affordable credit and also make it easier for lenders to determine eligibility for the loans.
  • The occupant borrower will now be allowed to own other residential properties.
  • Homeownership education courses that fulfill the HomeReady mortgage requirement have been expanded to include one-on-one pre-purchase advising from HUD-approved providers. Fannie Mae will offer lenders a $500 credit to encourage borrowers to take advantage of this option. Homebuyer education will continue to be available through Framework, Fannie Mae’s education partner.

The requirement for homeownership education has been removed for limited cash-out refinances and borrowers for loans secured by two- to four-unit properties will no longer be required to take landlord education although homeownership education will remain a requirement.

  • The Seller Guide announcing the above changes also noted that Fannie Mae expects to make additional enhancements later this year, including:
  • Allowing a maximum loan-to-value up to 97 percent on limited cash-out refinance transactions in Desktop Underwriter (DU) if the existing mortgage is owned or securitized by Fannie Mae.
  • Expanding current HomeReady eligibility for buydowns and adjustable-rate loans to include three- to four-unit properties.

Adding additional incentives for the one-on-one homeownership counseling implemented with the current changes.

The strange, strange world of jumbo lending in the Bay Area. Lenders are now taking into account stock and stock option compensation for determining whether a borrower can afford a mortgage. In a place where the median house price is $1.13 million, lenders have to get creative in finding ways to get working stiffs into a home. I guess if real estate prices and the stock market continue to hit new highs, everything is okay until the music stops.

Speaking of crazy lending, car loans are the new subprime, with 8 year car loans at mortgage rates. As investors reach for yield, they inevitably take more risk. That said, fears of this causing a 2008 style calamity are overblown. Residential real estate bubbles are a fundamentally different animal than this sort of thing.

If you missed the Democratic Convention last night, here is the cliff notes version:

DNC convention.PNG

Morning Report: New Home Sales climb 7/26/16

Vital Statistics:

Last Change
S&P Futures 2163.0 -0.3
Eurostoxx Index 341.8 2.0
Oil (WTI) 42.5 -0.6
US dollar index 88.1 0.2
10 Year Govt Bond Yield 1.56%
Current Coupon Fannie Mae TBA 103.3
Current Coupon Ginnie Mae TBA 104.2
30 Year Fixed Rate Mortgage 3.53

Markets are flattish on no real news. Bonds and MBS are up small.

New Home Sales rose to 592k in June, much higher than the Street expectation. The median new home price rose 6.1% YOY to $306,700. There is about 4.9 month’s worth of inventory right now, compared to 5.1 months in May.

Consumer confidence slipped in June to 97.3 from 97.4.

Home prices continued to appreciate in May, according to the Case-Shiller Home Price Index. “Home prices continue to appreciate across the country,” says David M. Blitzer, Managing Director and Chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices. “Overall, housing is doing quite well. In addition to strong prices, sales of existing homes reached the highest monthly level since 2007 as construction of new homes showed continuing gains. The SCE Housing Expectations Survey published by the New York Federal Reserve Bank shows that consumers expect home prices to continue rising, though at a somewhat slower pace.”

The FOMC starts its meeting today, and we will get the decision tomorrow around 2:00 pm. Here is a good take on how to parse the FOMC statement. The key will be the characterization of the economy in the first paragraph. If the Fed notes an improvement in the economy since June, then that could be interpreted as a step towards hiking in September.

Is wage growth beginning to pick up?  One key will be the employment cost indicator, which will be released on Friday. The ECI was depressed in the second quarter of 2015, so we should get a mid 2% YOY comparison. Is that enough to convince the Fed that inflation is returning to their 2% target? Possibly, but the Fed has said they are going to let the labor market run hot for a while. Don’t forget, even if the Fed hikes rates 25 basis points this year, monetary policy is still at emergency-level accommodation. Note that many indicators are showing that the economy is recovering well, and the doves will be on the defensive at some point.

Interesting article about how it is so hard to make affordable housing affordable. Trying to build in an urban area and hold rents down to $500 a month is impossible without government subsidies. Regulatory issues like open space set asides also do not help. This is also an issue with starter homes, especially in high cost urban areas on the West Coast. By the time you build and comply with all the regulations, you are looking at a $500k + price tag, which is way out of the range of the typical first time homebuyer.

Morning Report: Fed week 7/25/16

Vital Statistics:

Last Change
S&P Futures 2167.0 -0.3
Eurostoxx Index 341.8 2.0
Oil (WTI) 43.5 -0.7
US dollar index 88.1 0.2
10 Year Govt Bond Yield 1.57%
Current Coupon Fannie Mae TBA 103.3
Current Coupon Ginnie Mae TBA 104.2
30 Year Fixed Rate Mortgage 3.53

Stocks are flattish this morning on no real news. Bonds and MBS are flat as well.

The big event this week will be the FOMC meeting on Tuesday and Wednesday. The Fed will probably stand pat, however it will be interesting to see how Brexit is treated. The markets have become much more sanguine about the event and the Fed Funds futures have reacted accordingly.

The other thing to watch with the Fed is their stance on QE, and re-investing maturing proceeds back into the market. The Fed’s buying has supported the mortgage market and their exit would cause mortgage rates to rise at the margin.

The Democratic National Convention opens today after a WikiLeaks document dump over the weekend. It shows the Clinton campaign coordinated with the DNC (which is supposed to be neutral) to undermine Bernie Sanders’ campaign. It also showed how much the media gets its marching orders straight from the Democratic Party. Debbie Wasserstein-Schultz resigned from her position as head of the DNC and immediately joined the Clinton campaign. Protesters are gathering in 100 degree heat in the City of Brotherly Love.

Morning Report: Home prices are stretched versus incomes again 7/21/16

Vital Statistics:

Last Change
S&P Futures 2173.0 9.0
Eurostoxx Index 339.4 2.0
Oil (WTI) 44.9 -0.2
US dollar index 88.0 0.2
10 Year Govt Bond Yield 1.62%
Current Coupon Fannie Mae TBA 103.3
Current Coupon Ginnie Mae TBA 104.2
30 Year Fixed Rate Mortgage 3.52

Markets are higher this morning after the ECB hinted at further stimulus down the road. Bonds and MBS are down.

The Fed Funds futures are now pricing in a 47% chance of 1 more rate hike this year. That probability was 20% about 10 days ago. That is what has been driving the 10 year yield back up.

We have a bunch of economic data this morning.

Existing home sales rose 1.1% to an annual pace of 5.57 million, according to the NAR. This is up 3% YOY, and is the highest level since February 2007. All regions except the Northeast reported an increase. The median home price rose 4.8% to $247,700. This puts the median home price to median income ratio at 4.3x, which is extended versus its historical range of 3.2x – 3.6x. Of course interest rates are influencing this as well, but it looks like home prices are beginning to run a little too far, too fast. Below is a chart of incomes versus home prices, indexed back to 1975. This doesn’t really speak to bubble behavior – it speaks to the caution out of the homebuilders who are reluctant to add supply. The current inventory of houses for sale is about 4.6 month’s worth, while a balanced market is about 6.5 months.

 

Median house price to median income indexed

 

Initial Jobless Claims slipped 1,000 to 253k last week. We should be seeing an increase given this is the season for re-tooling factories, however we aren’t, and we are hitting all-time lows for initial jobless claims, which goes back to the 1960s. To put it in perspective, the last time initial jobless claims were around these levels, we had a military draft.

House prices rose 0.2% month-over-month in May and are up 5.2% YOY, according to the FHFA House Price Index. The East Coast continues to lag while the Left Coast is still hitting high single digit YOY appreciation. The index as a whole has recouped all of the losses from the real estate bust. Remember, the FHFA House Price index only looks at houses with a conforming mortgage, so it ignores the extremes of both ends of the spectrum – distressed and jumbo.

The Philly Fed index fell to -2.9 while the Chicago Fed National Activity Index rebounded to +.15. The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index slipped again to 42.9, while the Index of Leading Economic Indicators rose to 0.3%.

PulteGroup announced earnings this morning, beating estimates and announcing a new value creation plan. They will buy back up to $1.5 billion in stock over the next 18 months, and reduce land investment. This is a bit of a surprise given that revenues increased 41%, and average selling prices increased 11%. Pulte has been targeting the first time homebuyer pretty aggressively, and given the pent-up demand, they probably should be investing in the business instead of buying back stock.

D.R. Horton also announced this morning, with earnings coming in line with expectations. Revenues increased 9% and earnings increased 13%.

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