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…

18 Responses

  1. San Francisco was probably affected by a disappointing IPO market.

    I don’t understand how that market can possibly justify the home prices there. Or, frankly, why so many people with money (and people with just-enough-money who otherwise live lives of debt and penury just so they can pay overinflated rent or mortgage prices).

    And San Francisco, predictably, blames the businesses that pay the taxes and provide the jobs for the people who pay the rest of the taxes:

    A “human feces” map is maintained for San Francisco. It’s everywhere.

    Who wouldn’t want to pay a $700 for a nice 1 bedroom, 1 bath bungalow with a view of the nearby homeless encampments pleasingly obscured?

    I mean, it’s a nice house, but, you know, folks can poop on the street but you’ll literally get arrested for eating a sandwich on the BART platform.

    Since San Francisco won’t prosecute car burglaries and have basically given the “all clear” for criminals to break your car windows and help themselves to the content, don’t keep anything of value in here!

    Car burglary map, last 30 days:

    In October, 2,348 vehicle break-ins were reported, or roughly 75 per day.

    The sad part is the folks who help vote people in to create that environment then, reasonably, decide to move to nicer places so they can ruin those as well. I


    • I always suspected that a lot of the demand for SF real estate was coming from Chinese real estate speculators. Not all of it, of course, but enough to move the needle.

      Haven’t been there in years, but I always loved it, almost as much as NYC.


  2. Sure, I believe it.


    • Really? The pollsters want to go through this again? Maybe the assumption is that it’s safe enough this far out to attempt to “create a narrative”?


    • Wait, I know. Everybody they polled lives in Atlanta. That would explain those results.


      • They say the conducted the poll with registered voters from across the state–yet they don’t provide any more information about the locations of who they called. Also, 70% of the calls were made to cellphone numbers and 30% to landlines, which I suggest skews the numbers when it comes to likely voters.

        The poll was “weighted” for race, age and sex but it doesn’t say how or what the weighting did to the numbers.

        If you go to the cross tabs, the number of voters polled who voted for Trump in 2016 that plan to vote for him again is 91%. I don’t think that number comports with the idea that Trump will lose Georgia in 2020.


    • Vox of all places actually notes that Trump’s support is being undercounted in the polls.

      “For somewhat mysterious reasons, a huge gap has opened up in the demographics of who is willing to answer pollsters’ questions with better-educated people much more likely to take surveys.”

      It’s not mysterious. It’s virtue signalling on the part of the people who hate Trump and the people who support Trump are sick of having to justify it to people like the pollsters.


      • Uh-oh. Matthew Yglesias may be in from some stern inner-company Slack chastisement from veering from the accepted narrative. Too many mistakes like that and the Ministry of Truth will unperson him.

        All you’d have to do in a poll like that to skew the data is oversample urban areas, oversample one gender, or weight something incorrectly (such as how you classify likely voters, for one thing).

        And thus far the reporting on it doesn’t really mention the stat that 91% of Trump voters plan on voting for Trump again (and it was similar for not supporting the impeachment inquiry). I find it hard to reconcile that number with the “Georgia supports impeachment and wants to vote a straight Democratic ticket” vibe from the other reporting on it.

        The bad news for optimistic Democrats is that the fine print on the poll contains a sentence that should be a huge red flag to contemporary consumers of political polling: The data are weighted based on race, age and sex to accurately reflect the demographics of the state.

        That’s exactly what I said! I could write for Vox. So clearly, I need to re-examine my life and see what I’m doing wrong.

        The most basic idea of polling is that you can get a pretty good idea of what a population of several million people thinks by asking a sample of just a few hundred of them.

        This has always been my problem with polling–I think most of the time, the samples are too small. My other problem with polling is, of course, the wording of questions. Oh, and my other problem with polling (historically, anyway) was the dependence on publicly available phone data. I think this could still be a problem. Take those three vectors and you get Hillary Clinton with a 98% chance of winning in 2018.

        For somewhat mysterious reasons, a huge gap has opened up in the demographics of who is willing to answer pollsters’ questions with better-educated people much more likely to take surveys.

        Conservatives and Republicans often don’t like to openly express their opinions to people in public, and I think #CancelCulture has actually made that a lot worse. When the entertainment-media complex is constantly telling you you are an awful person for feeling like a conservative or identifying as a Republican, you begin to feel kind of like a a gay guy in the 1950s–you’re still gay, but you just don’t talk about it to most people in most contexts.

        I don’t think the reasons are mysterious. Younger conservatives, single Trump voters, people doing well in a career dominated by liberals–they aren’t going to want to tell pollsters what their actual opinions are. I have been called once in my life for a political poll–back when I had a land line and lived in an apartment–and shared my conservative opinions with the pleasant young lady who was asking me questions. But the entire time I felt uncomfortable. What was this attractive-sounding young woman thinking of me? I don’t remember at this point, but I expect my answers were much softer than what I might have said to the same questions on, say, a message board.

        And I think it’s probably tough to weight for reluctance to express your actual opinions, or to know if someone has decided who to vote for, but is saying they are undecided because they just don’t want to tell you they’ve made up their mind already.

        National opinion polling, which is available in large quantities from well-known pollsters who do proper weighting, makes it pretty clear that Trump is unpopular nationwide and would likely lose the popular vote were the election held tomorrow.

        You need a poll for that? You’d definitely need to weight such polls for the outlier status of California.


      • Daily Kos talks about Trump’s polling with African Americans. Declares nothing to worry about here.

        From the comments:

        Real Clear Politics polling averages for Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania:

        Biden beats Trump by 5.7 in WI; Biden beats Trump by 7.7 in MI; Biden beats Trump by 7.3 in PA

        Sanders beats Trump by 2.7 in WI; Sanders beats Trump by 7.3 in MI; Sanders beats Trump by 5.4 in PA

        Warren beats Trump by 1 in WI; Warren beats Trump by 3 in MI; Warren beat Trump by 1.7 in PA

        Given pre-election polling had Clinton at +3.2 at RCP for 2016, they had best go Biden.

        Also from the comments:

        How much will voter suppression laws affect these numbers? Obviously they are more rampant now than in 2010 and 2014. Even more than in 2016

        All those voter suppression laws everywhere. Because, obviously, people would always vote for open borders, gun confiscation, taxing churches, suppressing speech, prosecuting thoughtcrimes, and $53 trillion in taxes, if just given a chance.

        I know I’m being Captain Obvious here, but having recently been through a Presidential election that brutally punctured all of my optimism about the electorate, I’m a bit skittish about relaxing on any aspect of voter turnout.

        I, too, am so disappointed the country is full of people thinking their own thoughts and having their own opinions rather than being forced to conform to what I think they should think and feel. What kind of shithole country are we living in?


      • That being said, I’m not sure the African American vote will be great for the Democrats. I expect they will get 90% of the African Americans who show up to vote.

        I think the ability of many of candidates to motivate Obama-levels of engagement is sorely lacking, however. I don’t see any of them broadly winning over the electorate, and I don’t think the primaries have helped the Democrats with African Americans, many of whom are not fans of gun confiscation or a lot of trans-activism. They aren’t excited about old rich white men, either, so I’m guessing African American participation rates will be lower (which will be blamed on voter suppression, naturally, not the Democrats inability to appeal to blue collar African Americans).

        Again, I think Biden is their best bet there. But he’s not going to get Obama-levels of engagement either. But he can probably pull out Barack and have him talk him up, which would definitely help.


  3. The Obama’s got a $65 million book advance on their book from Penguin/Random House. $65 million. That’s kind of unprecedented, not just for presidential memoirs, but for books, period.

    Vox explains why this happened in true Ministry of Truth fashion:

    It’s a move that signals the publishing industry’s faith in the enduring value of a book from the Obamas — and the belief that if Barack Obama’s memoir is good enough, it might become a genuine American classic.

    Uh-huh. It might have something to do with Obama’s advocacy of common core and the financial benefit to Pearson (which owns 25% of Penguin Random house, not mentioned in the Vox article) or it might not.

    Not sure if those dots connect, but there is this:

    The Obama administration didn’t create the Common Core. It was launched in 2008 by a bipartisan coalition of governors and philanthropists, and it had a laudable goal: to create a rigorous set of curriculum standards that could be shared across all 50 states. To support the effort, Obama invested $350 million to develop new tests tied to these standards. Many of the tests were produced by for-profit companies like Pearson.

    Which I assume is where the “Obama gave Pearson $350 million and got a $65 million book deal in return” meme that’s going around came from.

    But it seems some skepticism is in order. Given how political books generally sell, $65 million is a lot of money for two unwritten books, and more per book than any book deal in history, I think.

    A rundown of all the biggest book deals:

    I’m sure congress is going to get right on investigating this potential presidential quid pro quo.


  4. So does anyone think the left moved the needle at all today?


    • I wasn’t paying attention, actually. I figure anything important will be covered here or by No Agenda and I’ll catch up then. 😉

      My guess is that “moving the needle” is a hard lift. Everyone is in their tribe and even a lot of independents have probably made up their mind, one way or another, by this point. Changing minds is just not likely to happen, I don’t think.


    • Brent:

      So does anyone think the left moved the needle at all today?

      I have to admit I didn’t pay any attention to it. I don’t think that Schiff has any credibility, and I view the whole circus as just a show rather than an actual investigation.

      Having said that, I am often amazed at the things that influence people, so I would never guess at how effective this whole charade will be.


      • If they have any chance of moving the needle, it has to be now, since Cocaine Mitch will be making the rules in the Senate. If they don’t do it now, it is over.

        Not that I really thought 20 Republican Senators were going to convict over this.


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