Morning Report: Shutdown day 1/19/18

Vital Statistics:

Last Change
S&P Futures 2799.3 3.0
Eurostoxx Index 400.2 1.4
Oil (WTI) 63.0 -0.9
US dollar index 84.4 0.0
10 Year Govt Bond Yield 2.62%
Current Coupon Fannie Mae TBA 102.375
Current Coupon Ginnie Mae TBA 103.25
30 Year Fixed Rate Mortgage 4.03

Stocks are higher this morning as we head into the deadline to keep the government open. Bonds and MBS are flattish.

Consumer sentiment slipped in early January, according to the University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment survey. The reading fell to 94.4 from 97 in December.

The House passed a 1 month continuing resolution yesterday and all eyes turn to the Senate, where Democrats are demanding action on immigration in exchange for a vote to keep the lights on. If they can’t come to a deal, the government will shut down at midnight. This will be a little different than it was during the Obama years: Obama wanted the public to feel the pain of the government shutting down, so he made it as visible as possible. Trump is going to do the exact opposite. National Parks will still be open, although the rangers will be off duty. Tax transcripts were held up the last time the government shut down, so hopefully everyone planned accordingly.

So far, the markets are treating the drama in DC as a sideshow. The US dollar, bond yields, and stock prices don’t care. The 10 year is trading right at technical support right now, so if it breaks through that level, technical analysts are thinking the next level is 3%.

Are credit scores preventing people from getting mortgages? Some are arguing that the old FICO scores are outdated and the GSEs should open up credit scores for competition. There is always the fear that competing credit scores will create a race to the bottom, where the most lax score wins, but that is probably overblown. Most originators won’t touch the lowest permissible scores to begin with, so changing the number will probably only result in them changing their overlays to maintain the same credit profile as before.

They say all real estate is local, and from what we have seen prices are rising rapidly. Are there pockets of weakness still? In fact there are, in the super-rich bedroom community of Greenwich, CT. Last quarter, prices fell at high end by almost 14%, the most since 2008 when Lehman Brothers collapsed. Sellers are tired of waiting years to get the price they want, and are finally getting realistic about the new market conditions. One estate, which was originally listed at $65 million ended up going for $21 million. The bottom line for Greenwich is that the financial industry, which really supported the area, has changed and probably isn’t coming back to pre-bubble levels. This also explains Connecticut’s budget issues as well – the rich communities in Fairfield County largely supported the state.

Labor shortages are starting to push up wages, especially for skilled workers. Yesterday’s initial jobless claims number was the lowest in 45 years. The markets and the Fed are forecasting 3 rate hikes this year. The risk is probably that this estimate is too low. The markets have been bumping up their March forecast. which currently stands at a 73% chance of a 25 basis point rate hike, up from 61% a month ago.

The CFPB made its budget request for the first quarter, and the number is…. $0.00. The agency has $177 million in the bank (so to speak) and has a budget of $145 million, so they aren’t asking for any more money.

The Senate is working on a housing reform plan that would wind down Fannie and Fred and replace them with up a large number of private guarantors with a catastrophic government backstop. The Senate differs from FHFA here – FHFA wants a small number of guarantors to operate under a regulated utility model to prevent a race to the bottom, while the Senate envisions no limit. One other big change – the elimination of affordable housing goals, which will be replaced with incentives. This will almost certainly anger liberals, who were able to kill housing reform in 2014 over that exact issue.

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