Morning Report: Fed Day

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 3139 3.25
Oil (WTI) 58.99 -0.24
10 year government bond yield 1.84%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.98%

 

Stocks are flattish as we await the FOMC decision. Bonds and MBS are flat as well.

 

Mortgage applications increased 3.8% from a week earlier, according to the MBA. The purchase index dropped 0.4%, while the refi index rose 9%. Interest rates rose one basis point.

 

The FOMC decision is set for 2:00 pm EST. Given that the Fed is on the sidelines for a while, there shouldn’t be anything market moving in it.

 

Consumer prices rose 0.3% in November, according to the BLS. Higher shelter and energy prices drove the increase. The index was up 2.1% on an annualized basis. Ex-food and energy, the index was up 0.2%. These numbers were a hair higher than street expectations.

 

The first time homebuyer is returning, according to the Genworth First Time Buyer report.  The rebound in the third quarter was driven primarily by falling interest rates and increasing home affordability. Supply constraints, particularly at the affordable price points have been the issue. “The first-time homebuyer market rebounded this quarter and although the rebound was modest compared with the number of first-time homebuyers a year ago, and a quarter behind the broad rebound, it was a strong rebound from the previous quarter allowing first-time homebuyers to make up some lost ground,” said Tian Liu, Genworth Mortgage Insurance Chief Economist.

 

The report noted that repeat buyers (read move-up buyers) have increased as well. The lack of move-up buyers has depressed housing mobility, which may have been driven by lack of home equity from purchases made during the bubble years. Given the change in the house price indices over the past 10 years, negative equity is less of an issue than it was a few years ago.

 

Interestingly,  the number of first-time homebuyers this quarter was comparable to the peak of the last housing boom in 2005 and 2006, and only modestly below the peak levels of 1999 and 2000. Still, the Millennial generation is bigger than Gen X by a large margin, so there should be more room to run here.

 

quarterly sales to first time homebuyers

Morning Report: Fannie and Fred are preparing for their IPO

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 3138 3.25
Oil (WTI) 58.87 -0.14
10 year government bond yield 1.82%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.98%

 

Stocks are up as we head into the FOMC meeting. Bonds and MBS are flat.

 

The FOMC will meet today and tomorrow, with the interest rate announcement expected Wednesday at 2:00 pm. The Fed Funds futures are predicting no change in rates. That doesn’t necessarily mean the markets will ignore what is going on, as subtle changes in language can have out-sized effects on the markets. One such word is “symmetric.” The word symmetric refers to the Fed’s 2% inflation target, and how much they will tolerate inflation above that target. The Fed desperately wants to avoid the low inflation / low growth trap that evolved in Europe and Japan, and is signalling to the markets that they will allow inflation to run above 2% for an extended period of time.

 

The Fed will also be watching the overnight repurchase market, to ensure we don’t have another situation like late September where overnight rates spiked over 10%. This was due to a shortage of cash in the market. While this sort of thing doesn’t affect mortgage lending directly, it does raise the cost of borrowing for MBS investors, which can cause them to sell these securities to raise cash. That flows through to rate sheets. While the shortage caught the Fed flat-footed in September, they have been discussing the issue, so hopefully we don’t see another replay at the end of this month.

 

Fannie and Freddie are tightening the restrictions for their Home Ready and Home Possible programs. Previously, borrowers with incomes at the Area Median Income (AMI) were qualified for these 3% down programs; now they will be limited to borrowers at 80% of the AMI. This is all part of the strategy to reduce Fan and Fred’s overall risk prior to setting them free. Note that they are currently interviewing banks to handle the IPO, which will be somewhere between $150 billion and $200 billion. This would dwarf the record for the largest IPOs in history – Saudi Aramco and Alibaba – by over 6x.

 

Despite a glut of McMansions in some areas, Toll Brothers beat estimates and forecasted a strong 2020.  The company noted demand increased throughout the year, and the recent weeks have been stronger than the prior quarter, which is encouraging given that typically you see a slowdown this time of year. Douglas C. Yearley, Jr., Toll Brothers’ chairman and chief executive officer, stated: “Fiscal 2019 ended on a strong note. Building on steady improvement in buyer demand throughout the year, our fourth quarter contracts were up 18% in units and 12% in dollars, and our contracts per-community were up 10% compared to one year ago. Through the first six weeks of fiscal 2020’s first quarter, we have seen even stronger demand than the order growth of fiscal 2019’s fourth quarter. This market improvement should positively impact gross margins over the course of fiscal 2020.”

 

Small business optimism grew in November, according to the NFIB. Recession worries faded into the background, and impeachment remains little more than a curious albeit boring sideshow, similar to the Clinton impeachment saga which had zero effect on the markets. Improving labor conditions were a big driver, with 26% of firms planning on raising compensation in the coming months – the highest in 30 years. (BTW, this is music to the Fed’s ears). It looks like the drag from the 2017-2018 rate hikes are behind us, and the headwind has turned into a tailwind courtesy of the recent rate cuts.

 

Productivity declined in the third quarter as output increased 2.3% and hours worked increased 2.5%. Unit labor costs increased by 2.5%.

Morning Report: Fed Week

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 3144 -6.25
Oil (WTI) 58.59 -0.64
10 year government bond yield 1.81%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.98%

 

Stocks are slightly lower as we head into a Fed Week. Bonds and MBS are up.

 

There are two big events this week: the FOMC meeting on Tuesday and Wednesday and the spate of new Chinese tariffs expected to take effect at the end of the week. We will get some interesting economic data in productivity, inflation and retail sales, but with the Fed on the sidelines trade and overseas markets will be driving interest rates.

 

The Fed Funds futures are predicting no changes to interest rate policy at the meeting this week. The June 2020 futures are predicting a roughly 50/50 chance of another rate cut.

 

The average size of a first-time homebuyer’s mortgage was $231,974 for the first 3 quarters of 2018 and was up 4.2% on a YOY basis.

 

first time mortgage size

 

Interesting stat courtesy of the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies: annual household growth over the next 10 years is expected to be 1.2 million per year. With housing starts around the same level, we are not taking into account functional obsolescence and deterioration.

 

Is a homeowner who sells his house via iBuyers (think Zillow and Opendoor) leaving money on the table? Turns out the average discount to market value is about 1.3%. The typical fee charged an iBuyer is around 7%. So the total costs is 8.3%. Compare that to using traditional realtors and paying 6%, along with the expense of showing the home, etc. Essentially the seller is paying for convenience, which is a non-contingent offer in a week, with no showing necessary. In this case the fee is about 2.3%, which represents the additional fee of 1% the iBuyer charges along with the 1.3% market value discount.

 

Paul Volcker, the Fed Chairman who slayed the 1970s inflation dragon has passed away.

Morning Report: Blowout jobs report

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 3148 22.25
Oil (WTI) 57.99 -0.44
10 year government bond yield 1.85%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.94%

 

Stocks are higher after a blowout jobs report. Bonds and MBS are down.

 

Jobs report data dump:

  • Nonfarm payrolls up 266,000
  • Unemployment rate 3.5%
  • average hourly earnings up 0.2% MOM / 3.1% YOY
  • Employment-population ratio 61%
  • Labor force participation rate 63.2%

Huge surprise in payrolls given the ADP report only had 67,000. The unemployment rate of 3.5% is the lowest in 50 years. About the only blemish was the small downtick in the labor force participation rate. Note that manufacturing payrolls increased smartly.

 

What does this mean for the bond markets? Nothing since the Fed is on hold, probably through the 2020 election. It also might mean that the rate cuts of earlier this year are beginning to take effect and the drag from the 2018 tightening cycle is behind us.

 

Note that the makeup of the 2020 FOMC voting members will be more dovish than 2019. Eric Rosengren and Esther George – two hawks that dissented against rate cuts – rotate off the board next year. In their place, we will be getting Neel Kahskari and Robert Kaplan. Neel Kashkari is considered one of the most dovish members of the FOMC. Will it make much of a difference? Probably not, although the bar for increasing interest rates will be adjusted upward accordingly.

 

Interesting chart: the median age of US homebuyers since 1980. It has increased from 32 to 47 over that period. Half of that increase came from the Great Recession. Much of this is explained by the muted presence of the first time homebuyer, who has been about 30% of sales as opposed to their historical 40%.

 

median age of us homebuyer

Morning Report: Jumbo loans remain cheaper than conventional loans

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 3120 8.25
Oil (WTI) 58.69 0.24
10 year government bond yield 1.81%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.94%

 

Stocks are higher this morning on optimism for a trade deal. Bonds and MBS are down.

 

China maintained that tariffs must be cut if there is to be a phase 1 deal before new tariffs go into effect December 15. Chinese officials said the two sides remain in close communication.

 

Despite the weak ADP print yesterday, other labor market indicators look healthy. Outplacement Firm Challenger Gray and Christmas reported that announced job cuts fell 11% MOM and 13% YOY to 44,569. Tech was the biggest sector this month however retail is the leader for the year. Year-to-date, companies have announced 556,000 job cuts versus 1.2 million planned hires. Note that Challenger and Gray only looks at press releases, not actual cuts. Separately, initial jobless claims fell to 203,000 for the holiday-shortened week.

 

The service sector continued to expand, albeit at a slower rate in November, according to the ISM survey. Employment plans accelerated, while production decelerated. “Tariffs are impacting prices for a broad array of products used in the delivery of services and completion of projects for our clients. Upward pressure is impacting suppliers and their pricing to customers. We are seeing no relief from our customers, so we’re being negatively impacted by tariff-driven price increases. Numerous suppliers report looking for alternative manufacturing/supply locations outside of China, but with limited or no success so far.” (Management of Companies & Support Services)

 

The government has ended the limits on VA mortgages, which means veterans can borrow as much as their incomes and credit allow. So theoretically veterans can buy million dollar homes with no money down.

 

Mortgage credit increased in November, according to the MBA, especially in the jumbo space. “Most notably, the jumbo index climbed to yet another record high, as investors increased their willingness to purchase loans with lower credit scores and higher LTV ratios,” said Joel Kan, MBA Associate Vice President of Economic and Industry Forecasting. “Additionally, the government index saw its first increase in nine months, driven by streamline refinance programs.”

 

Speaking of jumbos, the spread between 30 year conforming loans and jumbos remained negative this year, which means jumbo rates are less expensive than conforming rates. This is odd given that conforming loans are government guaranteed and jumbos are not. The spread did rise a bit this year, largely driven by staffing issues. Still, what is going on? According to CoreLogic, an “increase in GSE guarantee fee, a reduction in the GSE funding advantage, and portfolio lenders’ desire to hold jumbo loans explain much of the variation in the jumbo-conforming spread.” The issue of portfolio lenders could be translated to: banks are subsidizing jumbo loans because they are interested in the cross-selling opportunities, especially wealth management services. 

 

jumbo conforming spread.PNG

Morning Report: Payroll Growth weak

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 3104 13.25
Oil (WTI) 57.39 1.54
10 year government bond yield 1.75%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.91%

 

Stocks are higher this morning on trade optimism. Bonds and MBS are flat.

 

Mortgage Applications fell 9.2% last week, which contains an adjustment for the Thanksgiving holiday. Purchases increase 1% while refis dropped 16%. Despite the 30-year fixed rate remaining unchanged at 3.97 percent, mortgage applications fell last week, driven down by a 16 percent drop in refinances. Purchase applications were up slightly but declined 24 percent from a year ago. This week’s year-over-year comparisons were distorted by Thanksgiving being a week later this year.”

 

The economy added 67,000 jobs in November, according to the ADP Employment report. The markets are looking for 180,000 new jobs in Friday’s employment situation report, so there is a big disconnect. “In November, the labor market showed signs of slowing,” said Ahu Yildirmaz, vice president and co-head of the ADP Research Institute. “The goods producers still struggled; whereas, the service providers remained in positive territory driven by healthcare and professional services. Job creation slowed across all company sizes; however, the pattern remained largely the same, as small companies continued to
face more pressure than their larger competitors.”

 

Realtor.com forecasts the 2020 market. Punchline: more of the same, where there is strong demand for housing and supply remains low primarily because builders are reluctant and boomers are content to age in place. “After the housing crash in 2008, which wiped out quite a few builders, those who remained have largely focused on higher-end developments with bigger profit margins. Although they’re finally showing signs of a shift toward building more entry-level homes, faced with overwhelming demand, it will take a few years for a significant number to come to market.”

Morning Report: Construction spending disappoints

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 3092 -21.25
Oil (WTI) 55.39 -0.54
10 year government bond yield 1.78%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.98%

 

Stocks are lower this morning on negative trade talk out of the White House. Bonds and MBS are up, following German Bund yields lower.

 

Home Prices rose 3.5% YOY in October, according to CoreLogic. “Nationally, over the past year, home prices are up 3.5% with the rate of growth accelerating from September into October,” said Frank Martell, president and CEO of CoreLogic. “We expect home prices to rise at least another 5% over the next 12 months. Interestingly, this persistent increase in home prices isn’t deterring older millennials. In fact, 25% of those surveyed anticipate purchasing a home over the next six to eight months.” CoreLogic conducted a survey with RTi Research regarding to consumer-housing sentiment and found that millennials are largely unconcerned about qualifying for a mortgage.

 

Construction spending disappointed in October, falling 0.8% on a MOM basis and rising 1.1% on an annual basis. Residential Construction fell 0.9% on a monthly basis and was up only 0.5% year-over-year. Despite the lousy number, the National Association of Realtors is optimistic that homebuilding will step up in 2020. “This housing cycle is definitely unique in the sense that it’s been a decade and we’re not back to normal in terms of home building,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist. “Many small-time builders are still out of the game. It was small-time builders in the aggregate that built many more homes than the big builders, and they’ve hesitated to get back in, even though it appears there is a money-making opportunity….All the factors that contribute to higher home sales like the job situation are terrific, and of course mortgage rates are critical to buying a home and those are favorable,” Yun said.” Note that construction loans increased 0.8% in the third quarter.

 

The Fed is considering raising its inflation target above its 2% target, according to the Financial Times. The idea (called the “make-up” strategy) would be to temporarily raise the target level if inflation comes in below 2% (the current target). The Fed fears deflation more than inflation, and has been utterly vexed by their inability to push inflation up to their target rate. This would be a signal to the markets that the Fed intends to keep rates lower for longer, although many members are worried about communication issues with the markets.

 

HUD has put out a request for information regarding affordable housing development, specifically which laws, regulations or administrative practices are inhibiting building. “Owning a home is an essential component of the American Dream. It is imperative that we remove regulatory barriers that prevent that dream from becoming a reality,” said HUD Secretary Ben Carson, who is also Chairman of the White House Council on Eliminating Regulatory Barriers to Affordable Housing. “Through this request, communities across the country will have the opportunity to identify roadblocks to affordable housing and work with State, Federal, and local leaders to remove them.”

 

 

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