Morning Report: Senate Resolution complicates trade negotiations

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 3111 -6.25
Oil (WTI) 55.69 -0.74
10 year government bond yield 1.74%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.96%

 

Stocks are lower this morning as tensions increase between China and the US over Hong Kong. Bonds and MBS are up.

 

The Senate passed a resolution last night supporting democracy for Hong Kong and urging China to not use violence to suppress the demonstrations. This will undoubtedly complicate trade negotiations, and will push the markets to more of a “risk-off” (stocks down, bonds up) posture. Bond yields are lower this morning, with the 10 year trading at 1.74%.

 

Mortgage Applications decreased by 2.2% last week on a seasonally adjusted basis as purchases rose 6.7% and refis fell 7.7%. Veteran’s Day influenced the numbers. “U.S. and China trade anxieties and protests in Hong Kong pulled U.S. Treasuries lower last week, and the 30-year fixed mortgage rate followed the same path, dipping below 4 percent,” said Joel Kan, MBA Associate Vice President of Economic and Industry Forecasting. “Despite lower rates, mortgage applications decreased 2.2 percent, driven by an 8 percent slide in refinance activity. Rates have stayed in the same narrow range of around 4 percent since July, so we may be starting to see the expected slowdown in refinancing as the pool of eligible homeowners shrinks.”

 

The retailers are announcing earnings and the markets are looking for indications of how this year’s holiday shopping season will shake out. Target and WalMart both announced strong earnings and took up their Q4 guidance. These two stocks are a bellwether for John Q Public’s spending habits.

 

The FOMC minutes will be out at 2:00 pm today. The minutes usually aren’t market-moving, but given the somewhat abrupt change in the Fed’s posture there is always the possibility that we could see some action. Just be aware when locking around that time.

 

 

 

 

Morning Report: Building Permits up big

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 3128 6.25
Oil (WTI) 56.29 -0.74
10 year government bond yield 1.81%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.94%

 

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

 

Housing starts came in a little light, at 1.31 million but the big news was the permits number, which rose to 1.46 million. This is up almost 15% compared to October 2018 and is the highest print since the bubble years. The action was in the Northeast and the South. Completions were up big as well, coming in at 1.26 million, which is up double digits compared to last month and a year ago.

 

building permits

 

The MBA reported that applications for new home purchases increased by 9% from September and by 31.5% from a year ago. “The new home sales market continues to be strong and was reinforced by October’s increase in applications for new home purchases,” said MBA Associate Vice President of Economic and Industry Forecasting Joel Kan. “At an annual pace of 791,000 units, our estimate of new sales has reached its highest level since the inception of our survey in 2012. Home builder sentiment remains close to 18-month highs, and housing starts and permits have increased for four straight months. These are promising signs for the housing market, as the rise in new and existing housing supply has led to slower home-price growth and improving affordability.”

 

While a couple data points don’t necessarily indicate a trend yet, we might finally start seeing new home construction begin to meet the pent-up demand out there. And if this is finally happening, GDP forecasts are probably too low.

 

The Home Despot reported disappointing third quarter earnings and lowered FY 2019 guidance. Comp store sales were up, but tariffs are taking a bite out of earnings. The stock is down 5% pre-open.

 

Home prices rose 5.4% in October, according to Redfin. “Low mortgage rates are propping up homebuyer demand and juicing prices, said Redfin chief economist Daryl Fairweather. “However, home sales have been slow to grow since there are so few homes for sale and not many new listings hitting the market, especially affordable ones. The market is split: It’s a seller’s market for moderately priced homes, but a buyer’s market for pricier homes.” 

 

 

Morning Report: Some forecasts for 2020

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 3116 -1.25
Oil (WTI) 57.29 -0.24
10 year government bond yield 1.82%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 4.00%

 

Stocks are flattish this morning as violence continues in Hong Kong. Bonds and MBS are flat as well.

 

Optimism for a trade deal with China waxes and wanes, and we had some conflicting reports this weekend. CNBC said that the government was disappointed in Trump’s reluctance to roll back tariffs, while the Chinese state media company said Beijing and Washington had constructive talks over the weekend.

 

The upcoming week has some real-estate related data with housing starts and existing home sales, but nothing much market moving. We will get the FOMC minutes on Wednesday, but the sense in the market is that the Fed is on hold for a while, and probably through the election.

 

The Fed said the US financial system “appears resilient” in its semiannual report on financial stability. “The current combination of very low credit spreads and high levels of indebtedness among risky nonfinancial corporates, including through leveraged loans, merits heightened vigilance,” Fed Governor Lael Brainard said in a prepared statement. “Over the medium term, the low-for-long environment and the associated incentives to reach for yield and take on additional debt could increase financial vulnerabilities.” They were also critical of cryptocurrencies, warning they could destabilize the system if implemented without regulation and oversight. Wasn’t the whole point of cryptocurrencies to have a medium of exchange that is beyond the reach of governments?

 

Predictions for 2020:  Rates will remain low, with Fannie Mae predicting the 30 year fixed rate mortgage will end up in a tight range around 3.5% – 3.6%. Home price appreciation will re-accelerate, with home prices rising 5.6% next year versus 3.5% this year. Inventory will remain tight, however especially at the lower price points. “While historically low rates increase buying power and make it more likely for potential buyers to attain their homeownership dream, they also increase the risk of a long-run housing supply shortage, which we predict will continue through 2020 and possibly intensify,” Kushi says. “As first-time buyers lock-in these historically amazing rates and existing owners refinance—in droves in recent months, everyone will stay put and not sell. Where’s the incentive?”

Posting This Because I Thought no one Would See It – Quoting Somin

Volokh Conspiracy readers may be interested to see videos of two panels I participated in at this year’s recently concluded Federalist Society National Lawyers Convention: “The Wisdom and Legality of Sanctuary Cities” and “Originalism and Constitutional Property Rights.”

In the sanctuary cities panel, I crossed swords with former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, among others, and explained why the Trump administration’s attacks on sanctuary cities violate constitutional limits on federal power, and have—fortunately—led to a long series of defeats in court, at the hands of both liberal and conservative judges. I also described why sanctuary jurisdictions have good policy and moral reasons for refusing to cooperate with some aspects of federal immigration enforcement, including the fact that involving local police in immigration enforcement undercuts ordinary law enforcement. Sanctuary jurisdictions are also justified in rejecting cooperation with federal deportation efforts, given the horrific abuses in its immigration detention facilities, and the government’s history of wrongfully detaining and deporting even US citizens.

At the property rights panel, I discussed and debated the original meaning of constitutional protections for property rights with distinguished takings scholars Tom Merrill (Columbia), Richard Lazarus (Harvard), and my George Mason University colleague Eric Claeys.  I argued that the original meaning of the Takings Clause requires judicial enforcement of tight limits on government power to take property for “public use,” a concept which should be given a narrow construction encompassing only publicly owned projects, while excluding most condemnations that transfer property to private parties. My talk was in large part based on my book The Grasping Hand: Kelo v. City of New London and the Limits of Eminent Domain.

On the property rights panel, I advocated what might be seen as a right-wing position (defending strong constitutional protection for property rights). On the sanctuary cities panel, I defended what is usually considered a  “left-wing” perspective on sanctuary cities. But, despite the seeming contradiction, I think there is actually an underlying coherence between the two positions: both advocate strong judicial enforcement of constitutional limits on government power, and both protect poor and vulnerable populations against the sometimes overwhelming power of the state.

Of course this year’s Federalist Society Convention will probably be best remembered for Attorney General William Barr’s seriously flawed speech extolling an extraordinarily broad theory of executive power. Among other things, he ignores the many ways in which executive power has grown far beyond the Founders’ design and argues for near-total judicial (and often also congressional) deference to the president on anything involving “foreign relations” and “exigent circumstances.” This is a misreading of the Constitution, and such deference has historically led to grave abuses of power. If time permits, I may have more to say on Barr’s speech later.

Morning Report: Retail Sales strong

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 3105 8.25
Oil (WTI) 56.59 -0.14
10 year government bond yield 1.84%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 4.00%

 

Stocks are up this morning on optimism for a trade deal. Bonds and MBS are flat.

 

Retail Sales increased 0.3% MOM and 3.1% YOY. in October. The control group, which strips out the volatile auto, gas, and building materials sectors) increased 0.3%. Apparel and big-ticket items like furniture and appliances were weak, however. Regardless, it is looking like this year’s holiday shopping season will be strong.

 

Dallas Fed President Robert Kaplan doesn’t see a recession in 2020 as strong consumer spending and a robust labor market provide a strong foundation to keep the economy going. Numerous Fed speakers – Powell, Williams, Kaplan, Clarida – have all expressed comfort with the current level of interest rates. As a general rule, the central bank is loath to do anything during an election year for fear of appearing political and wanting to help one candidate or another. This is especially true when one of the candidates is trying to influence Fed policy publicly. This means we probably won’t see any further action out of the FOMC until 2021. Long-term rates (and mortgage rates) will therefore be more influenced by overseas rates and any sort of inflation surprises in the US. FWIW, I think the Fed is exactly where they want to be, with a positively sloped yield curve, decent growth and tame inflation.

 

Mortgage delinquencies fell to a 25 year low, according to the MBA. The rate for 1 – 4 unit DQs fell to 3.97% in the third quarter, which was down 59 bps from the second quarter and 50 bps from a year ago. “Mortgage delinquencies decreased in the third quarter across all loan types – conventional, VA, and in particular, FHA,” said Marina Walsh, MBA’s Vice President of Industry Analysis. “The FHA delinquency rate dropped 100 basis points, as weather-related disruptions from the spring waned. The labor market remains healthy and economic growth has been stronger than anticipated. These two factors have contributed to the lowest level of overall delinquencies in almost 25 years.”

 

 

 

 

Morning Report: Fannie / Freddie sale by 2022?

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 3088 -6.25
Oil (WTI) 57.59 0.44
10 year government bond yield 1.83%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 4.00%

 

Stocks are lower this morning on weak overseas economic data. Bonds and MBS are up.

 

Initial Jobless Claims rose to 225k last week. We are still at extremely low levels historically. Jerome Powell will be testifying today at 10:00 am. Nothing earth-shattering came out of his testimony yesterday, although he pushed back on Trump’s suggestion that the Fed should cut rates below zero.

 

Inflation at the wholesale level came in a little hotter than expected, with the Producer Price Index rising 0.4%% MOM and 1.1% YOY. Ex-food and energy, it rose 0.3% MOM and 1.6% YOY. These readings are still well below what the Fed would like to see, which is inflation at 2%.

 

Mark Calabria said that Fannie and Fred could be ready to exit government conservatorship by 2022. “If all goes well, 2021, 2022 we will see very large public offerings from these companies,” Calabria said at an event sponsored by the American Association of Residential Mortgage Regulators and the Conference of State Bank Supervisors. “The consent decree will be able to give that window where they can go to market, do an offering and still operate under a way where we’ve got some prudential safeguards.” Fannie and Fred stock fell on the news. Fannie’s stock has been a trader’s dream, with plenty of volatility to play with.

 

FNMA chart

Morning Report: Jerome Powell to testify at 11:00 am today

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 3082 -9.25
Oil (WTI) 56.59 -0.24
10 year government bond yield 1.88%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 4.03%

 

Stocks are lower this morning after overseas weakness due to the protests in Hong Kong. Bonds and MBS are up.

 

Jerome Powell will testify in front of Congress at 11:00 am today. It probably won’t be market-moving, but you never know. With the Fed in a holding pattern and the 2020 election coming up, the central bank will probably fade into the background.

 

Inflation at the consumer level increased 0.4% MOM in October and 1.8% YOY, driven by increasing housing and medical costs. The core number (ex-food and energy) was up 0.2% MOM and 2.3% YOY. We will get wholesale inflation numbers tomorrow.

 

Mortgage applications increased 10% last week as purchases rose 5% and refis increased 13%. “Mortgage applications increased to their highest level in over a month, as both purchase and refinance activity rose despite another climb in mortgage rates,” said MBA Associate Vice President of Economic and Industry Forecasting Joel Kan. “Positive data on consumer sentiment and growing optimism surrounding the U.S. and China trade dispute, were behind last week’s rise in the 30-year fixed mortgage rate to 4.03 percent. Refinance applications jumped 13 percent to the highest level in five weeks, as conventional, FHA and VA refinances all posted weekly gains. With rates still in the 4 percent range, we continue to expect to see moderate growth in refinance activity in the final weeks of 2020.”

 

Bidding wars for real estate have hit a 10 year low, driven by flattening prices on the Left Coast. Nationally, the percentage of houses with bidding wars fell to 10.1%, a drop from 38% a year ago. This was almost certainly driven by home price appreciation failing to keep up with wage inflation, along with rising interest rates. San Francisco was probably affected by a disappointing IPO market. The supply / demand imbalance is still there however, so if interest rates remain at these levels, we could see bidding wars return when the spring selling season hits.

 

Google is getting into the banking business by offering checking accounts. As if Google doesn’t already know enough about us…

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