Morning Report: What does the flattening yield curve mean? 11/13/17

Vital Statistics:

Last Change
S&P Futures 2572.5 -7.0
Eurostoxx Index 384.9 -3.8
Oil (WTI) 56.9 0.1
US dollar index 87.7 0.0
10 Year Govt Bond Yield 2.38%
Current Coupon Fannie Mae TBA 102.875
Current Coupon Ginnie Mae TBA 103.938
30 Year Fixed Rate Mortgage 3.95

Stocks are lower this morning after General Electric cut its dividend in half. Bonds and MBS are up.

We will have a lot of data this week, along with a plenty of Fed-Speak. None of the data should be all that market-moving, but watch the inflation numbers on Tuesday and Wednesday. We will also get housing starts and industrial production.

Many market participants are watching the slope of the yield curve and warning that it could be indicating a recession ahead. The slope of the yield curve is most often measured by the difference between the 10 year bond and the 2 year bond (the 2s-10s spread). The 10 year rate is usually higher than the 2 year rate, but that relationship can move around a lot, especially when the Fed is active. Most are using comparisons from the beginning of the year, which is somewhat exaggerated by the initial post-election jump in rates. The Trump Reflation Trade turned out to be relatively short-lived, and it exaggerated the slope of the yield curve. That said, we have typically seen a curve flattening during tightening regimes. Some participants are predicting the curve could invert next year, if the Fed can’t get inflation to rise. But supposedly the fast money is playing the yield curve flattening trade and this is one of the biggest trades on the Street.

One effect of a flattening yield curve will be to make the early payment pickup in ARMS less dramatic than it otherwise would be. ARMS are based off of LIBOR, while the 30 year rate is based more on the 10-year. If LIBOR is rising relative to the 10 year (which you would expect to see in a flattening yield curve environment) then borrowers would be better off refinancing out of an ARM and into a 30 year fixed. In a tough environment, this can be a way to get some loans in the door, along with the FHA to conventional without MI refi.

Tax reform will influence the shape of the curve as well. If tax reform doesn’t get done this year, it probably is doomed for the immediate future, as midterm elections will dominate 2018. One strategist sees a 15% correction in the stock market if tax reform doesn’t get done. Expectations for a corporate tax cut boosted the S&P 500 by 20% this year. Note that earnings have been increasing for the S&P 500 as well, so that provides support for valuations. Look at the chart below: The blue line is the absolute level of the S&P 500, while the orange line is earnings per share. Granted, the stock market theoretically looks at forward earnings and not contemporaneous or past earnings, but as long as earnings keep rising, the stock market

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