Morning Report: More Trump Trouble 5/17/17

Vital Statistics:

Last Change
S&P Futures 2386.3 -10.8
Eurostoxx Index 394.6 -1.4
Oil (WTI) 49.0 0.3
US dollar index 89.2 -0.3
10 Year Govt Bond Yield 2.29%
Current Coupon Fannie Mae TBA 102.875
Current Coupon Ginnie Mae TBA 103.938
30 Year Fixed Rate Mortgage 4.04

Stocks are lower as the White House gets embroiled in yet another scandal. Bonds and MBS are up.

Donald Trump has been hit with two damaging press reports over the past two days. The first one claims that he shared classified information with Russian diplomats. The second one is that he urged then FBI director James Comey to drop the investigation of Michael Flynn. The first story (if true) is probably not a crime, however the second one (again, if true) strays close to obstruction of justice. Note that both stories rely on hearsay from anonymous sources – basically some guy heard something from some other guy that Trump said this or that – and WaPo / NYT reported it. Suffice it to say, if this was about anyone else, these stories probably wouldn’t have seen the light of day with such flimsy evidence. Doesn’t mean the stories are not true, but the story’s credibility is falling predictably along partisan lines. That probably won’t change until we have some names to go with the story.

What does this mean for the markets? As I said yesterday, the Trump reflation trade is dead. Nothing is going to get done legislatively in this Congress, unless it can get pushed through on party lines, and GOP moderates are no sure thing. So far the GOP establishment has not sided with Democrats and the press against Trump (they can’t stand either), but their support is getting thinner and thinner. I suspect the next shoe to drop will be a high profile resignation, like Rex Tillerson, or Wilbur Ross, neither of whom needs this amateur hour headache. And that could be the “all-clear” signal for wavering Republicans to jump ship and turn their backs on the White House.

The dollar is beginning to take notice, and is down again today. The bond market continues to rally, and I suspect one of the most crowded trades on the Street (short bonds) is going to get painful. Remember the pre-election bond yield was 1.81%. The stock indices are being supported by a few mega-cap stocks which makes it vulnerable to a sell-off. Remember the old saw “Sell in May and go away?” Might be good advice this year.

Here is a chart of the Dow Jones Industrial Average for 1974, the year of Watergate:

DJIA 1974

Of course take that chart with a grain of salt. In 1974, the US economy was still reeling from the 1973 oil crisis, so markets were vulnerable to begin with. Second, if you sold the market during the Clinton impeachment kerfuffle you would have been killed (at least for a year or so), but then would have been correct. Note the Clinton impeachment didn’t make a bit of difference to the Fed, which kept hiking rates. That could be a difference this time around, especially if the economic data starts turning down.

Mortgage Applications fell 4.1% last week as purchases fell 3% and refis fell 6%. The refi share of mortgage apps hit a 9 year low at 41.1%. You can see below a chart of the MBA refinance index, which has been crushed since Brexit last June.

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