Morning Report: Existing Home Sales fall 8/24/17

Vital Statistics:

Last Change
S&P Futures 2447.0 5.5
Eurostoxx Index 375.8 1.8
Oil (WTI) 47.7 0.3
US dollar index 86.1 0.1
10 Year Govt Bond Yield 2.19%
Current Coupon Fannie Mae TBA 103.09
Current Coupon Ginnie Mae TBA 103.97
30 Year Fixed Rate Mortgage 3.89

Stocks are higher this morning on no real news. Bonds and MBS are flat.

Today starts the Fed conference in Jackson Hole. No major speeches are planned for today, however Janet Yellen speaks tomorrow. There is the possibility of some volatility around then. The big question will be whether Yellen is nominated for another term or will she be replaced when her term expires next year. National Economic Council Chairman Gary Cohn is the name most mentioned as a replacement. Donald Trump criticized the Fed’s low interest rate policy while on the campaign trail, but it will be interesting to see if he nominates a hawk. Most politicians prefer doves when push comes to shove.

Initial Jobless Claims fell to 234k last week. The labor market remains strong as companies hang on to their workers.

Existing home sales fell 1.3% in July, according to NAR. This is up 2.1% YOY, but is the lowest number of 2017. Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, says the second half of the year got off on a somewhat sour note as existing sales in July inched backward. “Buyer interest in most of the country has held up strongly this summer and homes are selling fast, but the negative effect of not enough inventory to choose from and its pressure on overall affordability put the brakes on what should’ve been a higher sales pace,” he said. “Contract activity has mostly trended downward since February and ultimately put a large dent on closings last month.” The median house price was $258,300 which is up 6.2% YOY. Unsold inventory is down to 4.2 month’s worth, from 4.8 months a year ago.

What are the most active real estate markets right now? Colorado Springs, Chicago, and Reno. Least active? San Francisco, where the average house price is now over a million. Much of the Northeast is cold as well. What makes a market active? Access to both good jobs and affordable homes.

Big money managers are swapping corporate debt for mortgage backed securities, particularly subprime MBS from before the crisis. Corporate debt simply got too expensive, and MBS got too cheap. The supply of subprime MBS has been shrinking however as loans get paid off, and non-agency MBS outstanding are about 25% of what they used to be. For fixed income managers, MBS have outperformed most everything this year. The appetite for MBS paper is encouraging, as it would open up the origination business to more outside-the-box product and allow credit to be extended to borrowers who have been more or less shut out of the market post-crisis.

A reduction in the mortgage interest deduction is on the table as part of tax reform. The talk is that the cap would drop from $1 million to $600k or so. Toll Brothers CEO Doug Yearley said reducing the MID would be bad policy and would discourage homeownership. Of course Toll is in the McMansion business, so he is talking his book a little. Bob Shiller thinks the effect would be de minimus as it would only affect something like 4% of taxpayers.

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