Morning Report: Productivity Rises 12/6/16

Vital Statistics:

Last Change
S&P Futures 2207.5 3.0
Eurostoxx Index 343.2 2.0
Oil (WTI) 50.7 -1.1
US dollar index 91.0 0.0
10 Year Govt Bond Yield 2.39%
Current Coupon Fannie Mae TBA 103
Current Coupon Ginnie Mae TBA 104
30 Year Fixed Rate Mortgage 4.11

Stocks are lower this morning on no real news. Bonds and MBS are up.

Non-farm productivity improved to 3.1% in the third quarter, breaking out of a long slump. Unit labor costs increased 0.7%. Note that productivity and costs have been kind of oscillating around the zero point for the past several years. This is why wage growth has been going nowhere. New policies in terms of regulatory relief and tax reform could help improve productivity according to St. Louis Fed Head James Bullard.

Donald Trump has been discussing a potential 35% tariff on good imported from companies that offshore jobs. Not sure if this is even going to be legal, let alone legislatively possible. Tariffs are generally good for no one, except perhaps union workers. The last time we had a cocktail of tariffs and Fed tightening (1930), the economic result was nothing to write home about. While Reagan did impose tariffs against Japan, the results were mixed at best.

Economic confidence improved markedly in November, according to Gallup and is now at post-crisis highs. It will be interesting to see whether this translates into higher holiday spending. Separately, it could bode well for the Spring selling season, which is just around the corner (basically starts around Super Bowl Sunday).

economic confidence gallup.PNG

Luxury homebuilder Toll Brothers announced better than expected numbers this morning. Deliveries were up 29% in dollars and 22% in units, however we are seeing a moderation in inflation. Average selling prices rose 5.5% to $834k, which is well below the double-digit ASP inflation we have been seeing, especially at the high end. They discussed the Millennials and how they are targeting them: “With the millennial generation now entering their thirties and forming families, we are starting to benefit from the desire for home ownership from the affluent leading edge of this huge demographic wave. In FY 2016, approximately 22% of our settlements included one primary buyer thirty-five years of age or under. (emphasis mine). We are currently courting these customers with our core suburban homes, urban condos and rental apartment properties. We are also introducing a new product line, T|Select by Toll Brothers, which incorporates the elegance and style of a higher-end Toll Brothers home but with fewer structural options, a quicker delivery time and a slightly lower price.”

Home prices rose 1.1% MOM and are up 6.7% YOY, according to CoreLogic. The coasts remain largely overvalued, while the interior is mainly undervalued.

While rising rates are creating worries in the mortgage banking sector of the economy, banks have been on a tear since the election, outperforming the S&P 500 by 11 percentage points. This means the Street is forecasting a big increase in credit and profitability which should offset some of the doom and gloom amongst mortgage bankers. The “tell” will be the return of the private label securitization market, and the follow-on return of the first time homebuyer. Shops that focus on purchase activity should be optimistic about the future.

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