Morning report: complacency reigns 5/9/17

Vital Statistics:

Last Change
S&P Futures 2397.5 2.5
Eurostoxx Index 396.1 2.0
Oil (WTI) 46.4 -0.1
US dollar index 90.5  
10 Year Govt Bond Yield 2.39%
Current Coupon Fannie Mae TBA 102.6
Current Coupon Ginnie Mae TBA 103.81
30 Year Fixed Rate Mortgage 4.05

Markets are flattish on no real news. Bonds and MBS are flat as well.

Bond yields have been moving higher after the French election. Given that the result was not really a surprise there shouldn’t be too much in the way of follow through, but Euro bonds are selling off, which will translate into rising yields in the US on the relative value trade.

Job openings were flat in March at 5.74 million, which was slightly above estimates. The quits rate, which is a key indicator was up slightly YOY at 2.4% or about 3.1 million workers.

Small Business Optimism slipped in April, according to the NFIB Small Business Optimism Index. We are still at historically high readings, but the dimming prospect of tax reform in DC has hit the future expectations components of the index. The bright spot was hiring, as firms added .19 workers on average in April. 33% of respondents reported job openings they could not fill, which is the highest since 2000. Finding quality workers is a significant concern for many employers, although sales and regulatory issues are the biggest problems.

Radian’s Green River unit, which provides broker price opinions on residential real estate is the subject of a SEC probe. The feds are looking to see if BPOs were inflated on some bond deals where the interest was paid from the REO to rental trade. BPOs are cheaper than appraisals and are based on “drive by” evaluations. Many bond ratings agencies haircut BPO values in their assessments. If it turns out BPOs are inflated, it will probably have a dampening effect on bonds used to finance the activity. The plus side is that if private equity firms begin to unwind the trade, it will add some much needed supply to the market, especially at the lower price points.

Seriously delinquent loans and and foreclosure rates continue to fall, according to CoreLogic. The past due percentage dropped to 5%, the lowest level in 10 years. This is a decline from 5.5% a year ago. While rates have dropped nationally, they remain elevated in New York and New Jersey as well as some Mid-Atlantic states. We are seeing the biggest increases in the oil states.

Fannie and Freddie are looking at lending to borrowers with manufactured homes. FHFA needs to approve the program which is intended to increase credit to low-income borrowers, especially in rural areas.

The Fannie Mae Home Sentiment Index increased in April. Respondents are more constructive on real estate prices and the stability of their job situation, which was the catalyst to push the index up. The number of people who though now was a good time to buy increased by 5 percentage points. Respondents are also forecasting a 3% increase in home prices over the next 12 months.

5 things your appraiser wishes you knew. A big one is that the return on some home improvement projects are relatively low. A new kitchen will help, but you will be lucky to see a fraction of that expenditure translate into a higher home price. Pools are even worse. The biggest one? Finishing a basement. Most appraisers aren’t allowed to even count that square footage so that investment is valueless, at least as far as the appraisal is concerned.

Fear in the market is the lowest since 1993. The VIX index, which measures the price of options protection has been in the single digits lately. Does that portend anything? The old saw is “VIX is low, time to go. When VIX is high, time to buy.” VIX can stay low for extended periods, so the first part of that adage probably isn’t the greatest advice. Earnings growth has generally been good so far, which supports markets.

Want to really measure complacency in the market? Remember the PIIGS (Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece, and Spain) which were the ne’er do wells of the European sovereign market? You can now lend money to the Greek government for the princely rate of 5.5%. They peaked at 27% or so. That said, German Bund continues to experience higher yields, and you can now get 44 basis points for tying up your money with Angela Merkel for the next 10 years. Gotta pay her 66 for two though.

The mortgage interest deduction is being targeted by the left, who claim it increases inequality. This debate will get interesting as it creates an unusual alliance between limited government flat tax types, and social justice types. IMO, the mortgage interest deduction is simply too popular to eliminate but we could see a cap on it, which would probably hit homes at the high end the most.

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