|US dollar index||90.9||0.2|
|10 Year Govt Bond Yield||2.43%|
|Current Coupon Fannie Mae TBA||102.1|
|Current Coupon Ginnie Mae TBA||103.2|
|30 Year Fixed Rate Mortgage||4.19|
Stocks are flat this morning as earnings continue to roll in. Bonds and MBS are down.
Existing home sales fell 2.8% in December to an annualized rate of 5.49 million, according to the NAR. This caps off 2016 as the best year for existing home sales since 2006. The median home price was $232,200, up 4% YOY. Tight inventory remains a problem, with inventory dropping to a record low of 1.65 million homes for sale. This represents a 3.6 month supply, which is well below the 6.5 month supply which represents a balanced market. NAR estimates that housing starts need to be at 1.5 – 1.6 million to keep up with demand and demographic changes, which are historically normal levels. We have been at recessionary levels for the past 8 years. After recoveries, it is not unusual to see starts approaching 2 million. The first time homebuyer accounted for 32% of sales – historically that number is closer to 40%.
Ben Carson has his work cut out for him in terms of easing the regulations that are preventing home construction. Many regulations are local, however which the Federal Government can’t really do much about.
Manufacturing is improving in January according to the flash PMI.
The US dollar hit a 6 week low after Treasury Secretary nominee Steve Mnuchin said a too-strong dollar could hurt the economy. The response was to a written question about a hypothetical 25% rise in the value of the dollar, so don’t read too much into it. That said, the early indication is that the Trump administration wants to talk down the dollar a little. That ultimately will make imports more expensive and exports cheaper however it is unclear what it means for Fed policy. That will depend on a lot of things, particularly whether wages increase or not.
The new administration is going to begin to tackle a re-negotiation of NAFTA within the next 30 days. Here are the different negotiation points. Essentially, Canada wants to stay out of the way, and Mexico wants to keep tariffs out of the equation. Separately, Trump will meet with automotive executives today. It is important to remember that trade barriers weaken the economy by definition, assuming that trading partners retaliate with tariffs of their own. This could lop 25-50 basis points off GDP, which will have implications for the Fed and their tightening plans. If Trump imposes new tariffs, and our trading partners retaliate with tariffs of their own, we will need some sort of fiscal stimulus to offset that drag. If that happens, expect the Fed to go more slowly, which which should be beneficial for interest rates. A lot of moving parts for sure, but uncertainty keeps the Fed on the sidelines. Separately, Trump also officially pulled the US out of the TPP, which probably wasn’t happening anyway.
Any sort of change in trade policy could be accomplished either directly via tariffs or hidden in corporate tax reform. Congress prefers to go the latter route, and that also ensures that any sort of stimulus via the tax code is married to trade barriers.
One of Trump’s first acts was a regulatory freeze, which gives the incoming administration time to review any last-minute edicts from Obama administration. This is something that pretty much every incoming president does, especially if there is a change in party. The MIP reduction probably fell under this freeze, so it may well survive, depending on the state of the FHFA insurance fund and FHA delinquency rates.
Despite all of the uncertainty in Washington, economic confidence is at a post-recession high, according to Gallup. Current conditions and the outlook both improved, making this a little more durable. Confidence goes a long way towards improving the economy and can prove to be elusive.
As the economy strengthens, Fed officials are now thinking about what to do with their $4.5 trillion of Treasuries and MBS, which are a legacy of the QE days. As of now, they are re-investing maturing proceeds to maintain their assets at approximately $4.5 trillion. Normalization of monetary policy certainly includes returning the balance sheet to its pre-QE levels of under $1 trillion, but that may turn out to be a 2018 event.
iServe’s own Mike Macari, Chief Communications Officer, wrote an article for the Scotsman’s Guide with John McDade, discussing VA loans, and why they are so important to our country.
Employment for residential construction remains healthy, according to the NAHB. The number of open construction jobs was 184k in November, according to the JOLTs report, however hiring is seasonal. That number peaked at 225k in July. The spring selling season is just around the corner, beginning in early / mid February. Getting homebuilding back to a sense of normalcy would go a long way towards improving the economy for both buyers and workers.