|US dollar index||91.9||0.1|
|10 Year Govt Bond Yield||2.48%|
|Current Coupon Fannie Mae TBA||101.2|
|Current Coupon Ginnie Mae TBA||103.1|
|30 Year Fixed Rate Mortgage||4.19|
Stocks are up as we prepare for the inauguration. Bonds and MBS are down.
Should be a quiet day for bonds as there are no economic data.
Janet Yellen spoke yesterday at Stamford and stressed the Fed was not behind the curve, and we still have some slack in the labor market. However, she said it was prudent to undo some of the accomodation so that we don’t have to move too quickly later. She also said the economic outlook was clouded due to uncertainty out of Washington. While Trump can sand down the edges of the regulatory state, he has a problem legislatively with Democrats in complete opposition, and a tenuous relationship with Republicans.
A partial explanation for the weakness in the high end of the real estate market can be explained by new Chinese capital controls. The Chinese government has instituted capital control to prevent an outflow of yuan. Foreign real estate was a big beneficiary of that capital, so expect to see more weakness in the high-priced markets like San Francisco, NYC, Seattle, and Denver.
Trump Treasury Secretary nominee Steve Mnuchin testified in front of Congress yesterday, and largely escaped unscathed. He called for a reform of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, however he said he did not support “recap and release.” He also said that any sort of “border tax” would be targeted at companies that offshore manufacturing and then sell back into the US. The hearing got testy at times, with Sen Pat Roberts (R-KS) suggesting that Sen Ron Wyden (D-OR) take a valium. Democrats zeroed in on his role with IndyMac and purported foreclosure abuses.
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac tumbled during the testimony, however they also lost a lawsuit that could have have explained the fall as well. Both were down 5% after being up for the day. Both stocks have more than doubled since the election on optimism that Donald Trump would support some sort of change in how the government treats these stocks. Currently, the government owns 79.9% and all profits from the company go directly to Treasury.
In terms of other takeaways from Mnuchin’s testimony, he supports bringing the CFPB into the appropriations process, would like to tweak the Volcker rule (which prohibits proprietary trading) to eliminate the negative effects it is having on market liquidity, to ease the regulatory burden on small banks, and to bring back a “21st century” Glass-Steagall law, whatever that means.
Glass Steagall was implemented during the Great Depression because investment banks were putting busted underwritings (i.e. underwritten bonds they couldn’t sell to the public) on the balance sheets of their captive commercial banks and insurance companies at par in order to hide the losses. Glass Steagall ended this practice by requiring all of these transactions to be arm’s length. Fast forward to 2007, the crisis wasn’t caused by JP Morgan the investment bank stuffing bad paper on Chase the commercial bank’s balance sheet. For what its worth, the US is the only country on the planet that separates investment banking and commercial banking, or even draws a distinction between the two. Everywhere else, it is just called “banking.” Indeed, the reason Glass-Steagall was repealed in the first place was that reason: Wall Street investment banks like Morgan Stanley and Goldman couldn’t compete with foreign banks because they had to fund their balance sheets at LIBOR while the foreign banks could borrow at much lower deposit rates. As the derivatives business expanded in the 1990s, “Wall Street” was becoming Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, Nomura, and Barclay’s.
The Mortgage Bankers Association was out with a statement yesterday, speculating that the change in FHA MIP could be reversed by Ben Carson’s HUD. “”Based on recent testimony and political pushback, we believe there is a strong chance the most recent MIP reduction… may be one of the rollback actions taken soon after President Trump takes office.” Carson has said he would study how the change would affect the insurance fund, but hasn’t indicated whether he supports the change or not.
Note that we did see a rally in the Ginnie II higher coupon MBS yesterday despite a rough day for bonds otherwise. You can see in the chart below how Ginnie 4.5s (black line) outperformed Fannie 4.5s (blue line). Expect to see higher volatility in the higher note rates for FHA and VA loans as this plays out.
Negative equity is becoming less of a problem as home prices continue to rise. During 2016, 1 million homes regained positive equity, leaving only 2.2 million homes with negative equity. While we are still well above the bubble years in terms of negative equity, we have fallen markedly from the peak of 15.1 million homes in 2010. As houses regain positive equity, it will create refinance opportunities which will help offset the effect of higher rates. It will also increase mobility, which is one of the reasons why we have a low unemployment rate, but have so many workers still on the sidelines. They can’t move to where the jobs are because they are trapped in a home with negative equity they can’t sell.