Morning Report: Awaiting the Fed 12/13/17

Vital Statistics:

Last Change
S&P Futures 2667.8 0.0
Eurostoxx Index 391.3 -0.4
Oil (WTI) 57.7 0.5
US dollar index 87.3 0.0
10 Year Govt Bond Yield 2.42%
Current Coupon Fannie Mae TBA 102.531
Current Coupon Ginnie Mae TBA 103.591
30 Year Fixed Rate Mortgage 3.88

Stocks are flat as we await the FOMC decision today at 2:00 pm. Bonds and MBS are up on a weaker-than-expected CPI number.

The FOMC decision is set to be released around 2:00 pm EST. The Fed is almost certainly going to hike by 25 basis points, but the economic forecasts and the fed funds forecasts (the dot plot) will be the focus. The language of the statement will come into play as well, but the dot plot will be the first thing traders will look at. Loan officers, be careful locking around then.

Mortgage applications fell 2.3% last week as purchases fell 1% and refis fell 3%. The 10 year bond yield inched up and mortgage rates hit their highest levels since March.

Prices at the consumer level rose 0.4% in November and are up 2.2% YOY. Ex-food and energy, they rose 0.1% MOM and 1.7% YOY. The Fed prefers to focus on the personal consumption expenditure index, not CPI. Energy prices rose smartly in November, and accounted for about 3/4 of the increase in the index. The core rate was a touch below expectations.

The House and Senate continue to work on reconciling their tax bills. It looks like the final compromise will result in a corporate tax rate of 21%, a mortgage interest cap of $750k, lowering the top rate to 37%, and setting the pass-through rate at 23%. Congress hopes to vote on a bill early next week, before Democrat Doug Jones, who won in Alabama last night, takes his seat.

If the mortgage interest deduction cap falls to $750,000 it probably shouldn’t make that big of a difference for home prices, and certainly not at the lower price points. Remember, the median house price in the US is about 1/3 of that number. But the bedroom communities of some of the bigger cities could see a softening, especially at the top end.

The lack of affordable housing is a critical problem in this country, and many advocates are worried about tax reform. Affordable housing is largely driven by tax benefits, and those benefits are a function of tax rates. Lower tax rates, and the value of the tax benefits fall. A second issue is that commodity prices are rising, which increases construction costs. Lumber is up almost 15% from the beginning of the year, and OSB products are up 30%.

Homeowners’ equity increased by 1.3 trillion over the past year ending in September, as the value of the housing assets rose to $24.2 trillion and outstanding mortgage debt rose to $10 trillion. Homeowner’s equity as a percentage of home value is pretty much back to pre-crisis levels. It has been mainly driven by home price appreciation, not decreasing mortgage debt, however.

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