Morning Report: Regulatory relief proposals 4/17/17

Vital Statistics:

Last Change
S&P Futures 2329.3 -1.8
Eurostoxx Index 380.6 -1.3
Oil (WTI) 52.8 -0.3
US dollar index 89.9  
10 Year Govt Bond Yield 2.22%
Current Coupon Fannie Mae TBA 102.78
Current Coupon Ginnie Mae TBA 104
30 Year Fixed Rate Mortgage 3.98

Stock futures are largely flat this morning as many overseas investors are on holiday. Bonds and MBS are flat as well.

Bond yields have broken decisively to the downside over the past week as international tensions escalate. North Korea’s failed missile launch, combined with developments in Syria have sent bonds and gold higher. The 10 year yield is at the lowest level since mid-November.

While international tensions have certainly played a part in the bond rally, weak retail sales and inflation data have as well. The Fed Funds futures are now factoring a less-than-50% probability of a June rate hike, down from a 2/3 probability only a week ago.

Business conditions softened in New York State last month after the Empire State Manufacturing Survey fell after two unusually strong months. We are starting to see bottlenecks in the supply chain. Employment rose.

Homebuilder sentiment slipped slightly in April, however sentiment remains strong.

Jamie Dimon of JP Morgan took aim at regulations in his annual letter to stockholders. He was especially critical of the FHA’s use of the False Claims Act to hammer lenders who commit unintentional clerical errors but had no intention of committing fraud. This has caused FHA lending (which is the only game in town for subprime borrowers) to become restricted, especially at the big banks. He also called for new uniform standards for mortgage servicing. The cost of servicing delinquent loans has skyrocketed, and this has caused lenders to further restrict credit. JPM estimates that $1 trillion in additional lending could have increased GDP by half a percentage point.

Rep David Kustoff penned an editorial at CNBC calling for a reform of Dodd-Frank, especially in how it affects smaller community banks. The regulatory burden that was imposed on the system is more easily borne by the JP Morgans and the Wells Fargos of the world than it is by the smaller banks who are the lenders to small business. There is a general bipartisan consensus in DC that something needs to be done to give the smaller lenders some relief, however the political environment is so entrenched and partisan that it is hard to imagine much getting done legislatively.

The MBA sent its proposals to the Senate. The first one includes a request for more clarity from the CFPB, while the second includes a suggestion to widen the QM safe harbor to all loans that satisfy the QM rule and to increase the ceiling for small loan status under QM to $200k from just over $100k now. The remainder of the suggestions largely concern capital requirements for banks and servicing.

Median house prices rose 7.5% to $273,000 according to RedFin. Sales growth was also up a strong 8.9%. Inventories were down 13%, however. The typical home went under contract within 49 days, which is pretty fast for a March. The average sale to list price was 93.7%, which was a decrease. Perhaps the bidding wars in the hottest markets are cooling off a bit. Note this statement by a real estate agent:

“As a seller’s agent, the first thing I do when I receive an offer is ask who the lender is. The best offers come from buyers who are pre-approved by a local lender with a strong reputation for speed and reliability. If I’ve worked with the lender before and know they can fund the loan and close on time, I am sure to highlight that for my client.” — Tiffany Aquino, Redfin Agent in Woodbridge, VA

The Fed is assembling its plan to shrink its portfolio of Treasuries and mortgage backed securities, and may actually begin the process this year. The Fed currently owns just under $2 trillion in mortgage backed securities, and we could see that number cut in half over the next decade, according to a paper released in January. The big question for MBS holders is whether they will stop reinvesting maturing proceeds all at once or whether they will phase that in. Given that QE didn’t materially affect MBS spreads when it was implemented, it is hard to imagine tapering re-investments will make much of a difference either.

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