Morning Report: Awaiting the FOMC minutes 10/11/17

Vital Statistics:

Last Change
S&P Futures 2545.8 -2.8
Eurostoxx Index 389.4 -0.8
Oil (WTI) 50.9 -0.1
US dollar index 86.5 -0.1
10 Year Govt Bond Yield 2.35%
Current Coupon Fannie Mae TBA 102.875
Current Coupon Ginnie Mae TBA 103.938
30 Year Fixed Rate Mortgage 3.9

Stocks are lower this morning as we await the FOMC minutes. Bonds and MBS are flat.

There were 6.1 million job openings at the end of August, little changed from the prior month. The quits rate (which is a number the Fed watches closely) was unchanged at 2.1%. The quits rate is a leading indicator for wage growth.

Chicago Fed President Charles Evans said yesterday that a December hike is not a sure thing, and that he hoped for an “honest discussion” on whether it was time to hike rates again. He said the Fed should not treat the 2% inflation target as a ceiling, and should be comfortable with higher than 2% inflation given that it has undershot the target for so long. He was also bullish on the economy in general: “Global growth has really solidified,” which has helped the U.S. economy, he said. “I suspect the wage story is improving.”

The FOMC minutes will be released at 2:00 PM EST today. They probably won’t be market-moving, although we could see some adjustment in the December rate hike probabilities, which currently stands at a 93% chance of a rate hike.

Mortgage applications fell 2.1% last week as purchases fell .1% and refis fell 4%. Mortgage rates increased 4 basis points to 4.16%.

Donald Trump plans to adjust his tax reform plan over the next few weeks. With Democrats uniformly in opposition, Republicans have a narrow path to get this across the line. The issue with the tax plan is that it could raise taxes for people in the $50k-$150k range who live in high tax states. There are enough Blue State Republicans in the House to kill it. In the Senate, Trump has a strained relationship with Bob Corker and John McCain, which means he has no margin for error. Rand Paul has also said that any tax hikes on middle and upper middle class incomes is unacceptable. Tax reform is looking like a long shot, especially since 2018 will be all about posturing for midterms.

Blackrock’s Larry Fink said that his biggest fear is an over-aggressive Fed. He considers this to be a low-probability event, however. His fear is that we could see an inversion of the yield curve, which happens when longer-term interest rates are lower than shorter term interest rates. Historically, that has been a recessionary signal. It is more than a theoretical possibility: the yield curve almost always flattens during a tightening cycle, and the technical mechanics of unwinding QE also would encourage the curve to flatten. What does that mean for mortgage rates? Probably nothing, but at the margin it would favor 30 year fixed rate mortgages over ARMs.

CoreLogic estimates that 172,000 homes could be at risk from the wildfires in Napa and Santa Rosa. Mother Nature has made life miserable for servicers this fall, however the effects probably won’t begin to be felt until the end of the year.

Canada is trying to figure out what to do with their housing bubble. The median house price in Vancouver is currently at 1.6 million (or about 20x income). To put that number into perspective, the US bubble peaked at 4.8x. Vancouver’s market is probably tied most closely to China’s and will burst once that one does.

Be kind, show respect, and all will be right with the world.

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