Morning Report: LIBOR’s replacement debuts next week 3/26/18

Vital Statistics:

Last Change
S&P futures 2636.75 38.75
Eurostoxx index 368.03 2.21
Oil (WTI) 65.81 -0.07
10 Year Government Bond Yield 2.85%
30 Year fixed rate mortgage 4.46%

Stocks are higher this morning on optimism that a trade war with China can be averted. Bonds and MBS are down.

We will have a short week, with the bond market closed on Friday. On Thursday, we will have an early close. There will be a lot of Fed-speak this week, although not much in the way of market-moving reports.

Economic growth picked up in February according to the Chicago Fed National Activity Index. Production and employment-related indicators drove the increase.

San Francisco Fed Chairman John Williams is the front-runner to replace William Dudley at the New York Fed. Policy-wise he is considered a centrist, although not necessarily a markets guy. He is a long-term macro sort of guy – he doesn’t keep a Bloomberg terminal on his desk – which makes him somewhat of an odd pick to run the NY Fed which is all about markets.

Speaking of the NY Fed, it is set to launch its replacement for LIBOR next week – the SOFR (or secured overnight funding rate). Regulators are looking for a replacement for LIBOR after it was found that banks were manipulating it in order to help their own proprietary positions. LIBOR is a reference rate for many adjustable rate mortgages, as well as lines of credit so its replacement will affect the mortgage industry. The big difference between the two is that LIBOR is set based on the forecast of bankers, while SOFR will be based on actual transactions in the money markets. This makes it much less susceptible to manipulation.

Bond market observers will be watching as the Fed auctions off almost $300 billion in paper this week, with the biggest 2 year auction since 2014. Amid weakening demand for US Treasuries, the results could buffet rates a bit. Note China has threatened to stop buying US Treasuries in response to tariffs.

Mortgage banking profits fell in the fourth quarter to $237 a loan from $929 in the third quarter. This was the lowest reading since Q1 when it hit $224. Higher costs and decreasing volumes drove the decrease. Margins also fell as banks cut margins in a more competitive environment. 56% of the firms in the study reported positive pre-tax profit in the quarter, down from 77% in the prior quarter.

California is mulling a new idea to increase the supply of homes on the market, by giving a tax break to people 55 and older who downsize and move to a new county. Many homeowners are reluctant to move because they will get hit with higher property taxes on the new property.

%d bloggers like this: