|US dollar index||88.0||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||3.52|
Stocks are lower this morning on no real news. Bonds and MBS are flat
Mortgage Applications fell 1.3% last week as purchases fell 2% and refis fell 1%. Considering that the 10 year bond yield picked up 17 basis points last week, those are surprisingly good numbers, however there could be comparison issues with the 4th of July week.
Brexit has created some winners and losers in the real estate business. Winners: those in the mortgage origination business and borrowers who benefit from lower mortgage rates. Losers: high-end developers who rely on foreign money and the private label securitization market, which needs higher yields to attract interest in non-guaranteed paper.
Strategist Komal Sri-Kumar, who has been right as rain about the rally in Treasuries this year (when everyone else was predicting higher yields) has an eye-popping forecast for the 10 year: 90 basis points. He sees global growth slowing and believes inflation will be nowhere to be found.
On the other side of the trade, SocGen believes fair value in the 10 year is 1.95%, and sees a 1% chance of the 10 year hitting 1.1% this year. Their original model was looking for high 2%. In fact, most strategists were looking for 2.75% of so on the 10 year by the end of the year. No one can make heads or tails of the bond market right now.
We obviously have a bubble in sovereign debt, and the world is assuming inflation and growth are never, ever coming back. In other words, it is just another “its different this time” argument. IDTT are the 4 deadliest words in investing. Will it end with a cataclysmic top like we had in stocks in 2000 and residential real estate in 2006? Who knows? The last time we had interest rates this low was the 1930s under the gold standard. Today, we have negative rates under the PhD standard. This is uncharted territory and isn’t in the economics textbooks.
What will be the catalyst to get growth and inflation growing again? It should be housing. Household formation was depressed during the Great Recession and has been coming back. Housing starts are still lagging, however. Throw in obsolescence and you have a housing shortage, which is driving up prices. That pent-up demand is going to get released as the Millennials age, and that is going to push housing starts up to where they should be, around 2 million units a year. Compare housing starts to household formation over the past few years.
Tim Duy, a very smart Fed-watcher suggests the Fed doesn’t have the room to raise rates given that the yield curve is flattening. A flat yield curve (where long-term rates are close to short term rates) is generally bad for the economy, especially the banking system. He suggests that the process of normalization start with shrinking the Fed’s balance sheet. Since the Fed cut rates to zero first, and then instituted quantitative easing, the Fed should undo quantitative easing first and then raise rates. In fact they are doing the opposite. The first step would be to stop re-investing maturing proceeds and let the debt run off. Ideally, the Fed should be hitting bids in the Treasury market, selling overpriced paper, but they have to figure out how to offset the contractionary effect it will have on the money supply.