Morning Report: Are we headed into a recession?

Vital Statistics:

Last Change
S&P Futures 2443.0 -9.8
Eurostoxx Index 374.4 -1.5
Oil (WTI) 47.7 0.3
US dollar index 86.1 0.3
10 Year Govt Bond Yield 2.20%
Current Coupon Fannie Mae TBA 103.09
Current Coupon Ginnie Mae TBA 103.97
30 Year Fixed Rate Mortgage 3.89

Stocks are lower this morning after Donald Trump threatened to shut down the government over a wall. Bonds and MBS are up small.

Mortgage Applications dipped half a percent last week as purchases fell 2% and refis rose 0.3%. The average rate on a 30 year fixed was unchanged, while jumbos dropped 5 basis points. Mortgage rates are back at the lows of November 2016.

New Home Sales slipped to 571,000 in July, which was lower than expectations.

For all the talk about Millennials wanting to stay in cities, many are beginning to move to the suburbs. I guess it was only a matter of time. That age cohort is now the biggest group in the housing market. They are starting later than previous generations, however and the median age for a first time homebuyer is 33, which has been inching upward for decades. So, for all the handwringing articles about this generation being reluctant to buy houses, it turns out that they are pretty much like every generation before them: preferring to live in urban areas until they get married and have kids. That said, they are largely renters for the moment, as a combination of a dearth of starter homes and high student loan debt keeps them from buying. Eventually builders will realize there is an opportunity in starter homes, but as of now they are remaining lean and are stymied by regulation and a lack of skilled labor.

Several investment banks are warning that we are approaching the tail end of the expansion and are heading for another recession. They note that global correlations (in other words markets all moving together) has broken down and is back at levels we saw back in 2005. They also cite the fact that companies that beat earnings estimates are not seeing the sort of pop we are used to seeing. We also could be seeing a downturn in profits just as equity valuations reach stretched levels. FWIW, the fact that we are not seeing inflation provides some comfort. Most recessions in the past were driven by an overheating economy (low unemployment, high resource utilization) which caused inflation and tightening from the Fed. We aren’t seeing that at all today – in fact the fear is that inflation is too low. The Fed has been increasing rates not to slow the economy, but to eliminate some of the distortions caused by rates sitting at the zero bound. While you can’t rule out some sort of black swan event (some sort of shock that comes out of left field) the imbalances that usually precede Fed-driven recessions simply aren’t there at the moment, aside from a low unemployment number.

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