Morning Report: FOMC minutes mildly bearish for bonds 2/22/18

Vital Statistics:

Last Change
S&P Futures 2704.0 5.3
Eurostoxx Index 378.5 -2.6
Oil (WTI) 61.8 0.1
US dollar index 83.8 -0.1
10 Year Govt Bond Yield 2.92%
Current Coupon Fannie Mae TBA 103.591
Current Coupon Ginnie Mae TBA 103.688
30 Year Fixed Rate Mortgage 4.4

Stocks are higher this morning on no real news. Bonds and MBS are down.

The FOMC minutes were surprisingly upbeat on the economy, which pushed up bond yields yesterday afternoon. The part that got everyone’s attention:

“A number of participants indicated that they had marked up their forecasts for economic growth in the near term relative to those made for the December meeting in light of the strength of recent data on economic activity in the United States and abroad, continued accommodative financial conditions, and information suggesting that the effects of recently enacted tax changes—while still uncertain—might be somewhat larger in the near term than previously thought. Several others suggested that the upside risks to the near-term outlook for economic activity may have increased. A majority of participants noted that a stronger outlook for economic growth raised the likelihood that further gradual policy firming would be appropriate.” (emphasis mine)

Separately, Bullard and Quarles cited the strength in the economy and the need to continue to raise interest rates.

This language caused some strategists to increase their forecast to 4 hikes this year from 3. Surprisingly, the Fed Funds futures reacted in an opposite manner on the minutes, but reversed course later to become unchanged on the day. The 10 year treasury sold off throughout the day, and hit 2.94% in the late afternoon.

Part of the movement in bonds is being driven by Europe. European governments have been increasing their bond issuance at the same time the European Central Bank is decreasing its demand for paper. The market for government bonds is a global market, and if there is excess supply, it will hit interest rates across the board. This is why you will sometimes see bonds move lower without any particular catalyst. The catalyst may exist, however it is something overseas that the US business press is either ignoring or covering lightly.

Initial Jobless Claims fell to 222,000 last week. We remain at lows not seen since the Vietnam War and the days of the military draft. Still have yet to see widespread wage inflation however. Until that happens, the Fed will go slowly.

The Index of Leading Economic Indicators improved in January, increasing 1%. It will be interesting to see if February’s number is affected by the recent stock market volatility.

Interesting map from GeoFred which shows the economic growth in different parts of the country. The thing that jumps out at me is how bad the NY-NJ-CT area is. I guess the fact that that area is somewhat levered to the financial industry is an issue, although I wonder how much of it is due to people who have been fleeing high taxes, though if that was the case you would expect to see it in CA as well and you don’t.

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