Morning Report: Strong payrolls offsets trade volatility 4/4/18

Vital Statistics:

Last Change
S&P futures 2576 -38
Eurostoxx index 365.5 -3.53
Oil (WTI) 62.56 -0.95
10 Year Government Bond Yield 2.75%
30 Year fixed rate mortgage 4.41%

Stocks are lower this morning on trade war fears. Bonds and MBS are up.

While the drop in the futures is pretty dramatic, the market is basically just giving back the end-of-day ramp yesterday after the Administration said there is nothing imminent with Amazon. We are coming out of a long period of low volatility in the stock market, and volatility begets volatility. The silver lining is that Treasuries love stock market volatility, so they stand to benefit at the margin.

Mortgage Applications fell 3.3% last week as purchases fell 2% and refis fell 5%. “Heading into the holiday weekend, mortgage application volume fell a bit both for purchase and refinance volume,” said MBA Chief Economist Mike Fratantoni. “Mortgage rates were little changed for the week, despite the increase in financial market volatility. Potential homebuyers may be a little rattled by the swings in the stock market the past few weeks, but the job market continues to strengthen, which should power demand through the spring season. The main uncertainty remains whether enough listings will be available to meet this demand.”

Factory orders increased 1.2% in February, a bit lower than the Street estimate of 1.7%.

The ISM Non-Manufacturing Index dipped in March to 58.8 last month. Interesting comment from a builder: “The unbelievable amount of market volatility in construction-related materials that started with lumber continues with the tariffs on steel and aluminum. Accurate, long-term planning has become incredibly difficult, as distributors that historically held costs for at least 30 days are now, in some cases, committing to only seven days, as prices can change drastically in that time.”(Construction). Increasing housing starts has been a manana story forever, and it looks like that might be the case again this year.

Street estimates for Friday’s payroll number might be too low, at least if you look at the ADP number, which came in way stronger than expected at 241,000. The Street is looking for an increase of 175k in Friday’s report. While the ADP number doesn’t track the BLS number as tightly as you think it should (it actually tracks the revised number, not the preliminary one), it does indicate that trade issues haven’t affected employment, at least not yet. Manufacturing payrolls increased by 29k (strongest in 3 years), but remember that there are winners and losers in a trade war with China. For every steelworker, there are many more who work for a manufacturer that uses steel as an input. Construction employment was up smartly as well.

Wilbur Ross said that the US may end up negotiating with China on trade. In other words, all of this is simply a negotiating tactic.

Regardless of the payroll number, the main focus is wage inflation these days, so even if you get a big payroll number you might not see much of a reaction in the bond market if average hourly earnings are only up a little (consensus is 0.3% MOM / 2.7% YOY). Higher wages are fighting to chart below, which is the employment-population ratio. The most striking feature is how dramatic the Great Recession was. Most of the 30 increase in the ratio which was driven by women entering the workforce was given back.

employment to population ratio

The Fed has a model which looks at demographics and that ratio, which predicts a drop in the ratio due to the retirement of the baby boomers. In fact, that model shows that we are much closer to full employment than the chart above suggests.

Lennar reported first quarter earnings this morning. It it hard to read too much into the numbers: there are tax charges from tax reform and a partial quarter for the CalAtlantic deal, so the increases in orders, backlog, average selling prices, etc aren’t really comparable to other builders. Lennar also launched a second multi-family fund, while it is looking to sell Rialto, its commercial real estate arm.

San Francisco Fed Chairman John Williams has been nominated to take over the NY Fed. This makes him Vice Chairman of the FOMC as well.

Vehicle sales rebounded last month, which should boost Q1 GDP estimates.

Spotify went public yesterday without the services of an investment bank. Not sure that we are quite ready to write the epitaph for investment banking, but this is a big deal.

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