Morning Report: Risk off feel on North Korea missile launch 8/29/17

Vital Statistics:

Last Change
S&P Futures 2431.3 -12.5
Eurostoxx Index 367.6 -4.7
Oil (WTI) 46.6 0.0
US dollar index 85.1 -0.1
10 Year Govt Bond Yield 2.11%
Current Coupon Fannie Mae TBA 103.33
Current Coupon Ginnie Mae TBA 104.21
30 Year Fixed Rate Mortgage 3.84

Stocks are lower on news that North Korea fired a missile over Japan. Bonds and MBS are up.

Pre-open, the 10-year bond is trading at 2.11%, the lowest level of 2017 and we are back at immediate post-election levels. Remember, on the day of the election, the 10 year was trading around 1.83%, so we could still have further to fall in rates. The Great Trump Election Reflation simply isn’t going to happen, though the Administration still intends to pivot to tax reform. The trader in me thinks we test the 1.83 level at some point.

Home prices rose 0.1% MOM and are up 5.7% YOY according to the Case-Shiller Home Price Index. The Case-Shiller index has been lagging the FHFA index, which indicates that there might be some issues at the high end of the market. The FHFA index only looks at homes with a conforming mortgage, so jumbos and all-cash sales are excluded.

Consumer confidence rose again in August to 122.9. The present situation component of the index hit a 16 year high, as we are back to mid 2001 levels.

Tax reform won’t be a slam dunk, but there could be a possibility for a bipartisan deal. Democrats might be willing to trade a carbon tax for an income tax cut, but that might be too tough of a deal for Republicans to stomach. A repatriation holiday for overseas corporate earnings is another possibility, however Democrats will certainly want some sort of strings attached to the repatriation break to ensure the funds don’t simply go to buybacks and dividends, which is what happened last time we did one. Perhaps a deal could be found if there is a stipulation that some percentage of the savings be applied to worker compensation and training.

A drop in the cap for the mortgage interest deduction is also something being considered, however that is such a politically risky issue that I doubt anyone does anything about it. The main beneficiaries are the wealthy and the upper middle class, and the upper middle class is really the third rail of politics. Liberals may hate the distribution of the benefits, but they probably won’t go to the mat for it. Why? It isn’t indexed for inflation, so the cap will hit more and more people simply due to home price appreciation. As a practical matter, the cap is declining 6% a year.

Fannie Mae Chief Economist Doug Duncan looks at the implications of the Fed ending QE. He believes that it will increase MBS spreads, which means that mortgage rates will rise more than you would typically expect when rates rise, and fall less than you would expect when rates fall. FWIW, I think any effect would be minor: it certainly was when QE was actually happening. He also speculates that tapering will affect Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac spreads more than Ginnie spreads due to the differing capital treatment for banks. This means that FHA and VA loans will be relatively more attractive to a borrower than a Fannie or Freddie loan. The GSEs have also been ordered to reduce their balance sheets to a set level, so they won’t automatically absorb that lost demand.

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