Morning Report: Fannie takes up growth estimates

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 3331 11.25
Oil (WTI) 57.78 -0.64
10 year government bond yield 1.78%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.88%

 

Stocks are higher this morning on strong earnings out of IBM. Bonds and MBS are flat.

 

Home prices rose 0.2% MOM / 4.9% YOY according to the FHFA House Price Index. We are seeing growth pick up in New England and the Middle Atlantic, which have been laggards since the bubble burst.

 

Mortgage applications fell by 1.2% last week as both purchases and refis fell slightly. “Mortgage applications dipped slightly last week after two weeks of healthy increases, but even with a slight decline, the total pace of applications remains at an elevated level,” said Joel Kan, MBA Associate Vice President of Economic and Industry Forecasting. “The purchase market has started 2020 on a strong note, running 8 percent higher than the same week a year ago. Refinance applications remained near the highest level since October 2019, as the 30-year fixed rate was unchanged at 3.87 percent, while the 15-year fixed rate decreased to its lowest level since November 2016.”

 

Kathy Kraninger of the CFPB apparently sent a letter to Congress last week discussing the “QM patch” and recommending that regulators move away from debt-to-income ratios and use alternative measures as a way to determine ability to re-pay. The CFPB indicated that it does intend to extend the QM patch for a short while as the industry adapts to the new rules. The QM patch (which allows loans with DTIs over 43% to qualify for safe harbor provided they are saleable to Fannie and Fred) is set to expire in January 2021. The MBA made a statement on the proposal: “MBA appreciates CFPB Director Kathy Kraninger’s intention to temporarily extend the GSE patch and move away from the use of a standalone debt-to-income ratio,” Broeksmit said. “MBA has urged the Bureau to eliminate the use of DTI ratios as a standalone threshold in the QM definition, which would also remove the need to use the rigid, outdated Appendix Q methodology for calculating borrower income and debt. We look forward to working with the Bureau, and other stakeholders, on the proposed rule.”

 

Fannie Mae is out with a prediction that 2020 will be a good year for housing. Given Friday’s 1.6 million housing starts number, 2019 ended on a strong note – the highest in 13 years. While we have become accustomed to housing starts around 1.3 million since the bust, that is well below normalcy. In booms, it is not unusual to top 2 million. Fannie took up their GDP estimate a hair from 2.3% to 2.4%. In addition, they expect rates to remain stable. Origination volume is expected to moderate about 5% to $2.06 trillion, with purchase volume increasing 8% and refi volume falling 25%. Note that Realtor.com thinks there is a 4 million unit shortage right now.

 

 

Morning Report: Blowout housing starts number

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 3315 -7.25
Oil (WTI) 57.83 -0.74
10 year government bond yield 1.79%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.88%

 

Stocks are lower this morning as US investors return from a 3 day weekend. Bonds and MBS are flat.

 

Housing starts hit a 13 year high, rising to a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 1.6 million. This is up 17% from November and 41% above a year ago. The caveat: the uncertainty around this number is pretty high, so it might get revised downward next month. That said, we have heard from the builders that they are seeing high traffic and no seasonal slowdown. Housing has been the missing link from the post-crisis recovery, and there clearly is unsatisfied demand. If this is the year we finally see homebuilding begin to meet demand, then current GDP estimates for 2020 are way too low. Note Larry Kudlow just laid a marker: GDP growth will hit 3% this year. Compare this to the current estimates of 1.2% – 2%.

 

housing starts

 

It should be a relatively quiet week, although Davos is going on, which means lots of CNBC interviews in the snow. The theme seems to be environmental this year. We don’t have much in economic data (nothing market-moving at least) and no Fed-Speak. We will get some housing data, with the FHFA House Price index and NAR’s existing home sales report tomorrow.

 

Job openings fell to 6.8 million in November, according to the JOLTS survey. While this is below the 7 million openings we have become accustomed to, it is still quite elevated and speaks to a robust labor market. The quits rate remained at 2.3%. Job openings fell in manufacturing, which is probably related to Boeing’s 737 woes.

 

US home sales prices rose 6.9% in December, according to Redfin. Falling interest rates have boosted home affordability, which is translating into higher prices

 

Redfin price chart

Morning Report: Mortgage purchase applications the highest in a decade

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 3282 -5.25
Oil (WTI) 58.13 0.04
10 year government bond yield 1.79%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.87%

 

Stocks are lower this morning as China and the US sign a Phase I deal on trade. Bonds and MBS are up.

 

Note we will have some Fed-speak later this morning.

 

Trump characterized his Phase I deal with China as a “big, beautiful monster” and encouraged farmers to buy bigger tractors. China is agreeing to purchase an additional $200 billion of US goods over the next two years, which represents about half of the US trade deficit. Energy, agricultural, and industrial exports are all set to increase, while the US will cancel new tariffs on cellphones and laptops. Some other tariffs will be reduced while others will remain in place.

 

Mortgage applications increased 30% last week as purchases rose 16% and refis rose 43%. This was the first week after the holidays, so there is probably are some weird adjustments playing out. Rates fell 4 basis points to 3.87%. Most notably, purchase activity increased 8% from a year ago and is at the highest level since October 2009.  A few homebuilders specifically mentioned on their earnings calls that they are seeing no season slowdown this year. At any rate, the Spring selling season is just around the corner. Note that while we are at a 10 year high on the purchase index, we are still well below bubble levels

 

MBA purchase index

 

Inflation at the wholesale level remains below the Fed’s target, with the headline producer price index up 0.1% MOM and 1.3% YOY. Ex-food and energy, it rose 0.1% and 1.1%. While the producer price index is not the preferred inflation index for the Fed, it confirms we are still not seeing much in the way of inflationary pressures.

 

 

Morning Report: Bank earnings coming in

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 3287 -2.25
Oil (WTI) 58.63 0.54
10 year government bond yield 1.84%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.88%

 

Stocks are flattish as we await the China trade deal and earnings season begins in earnest. Bonds and MBS are flat.

 

Inflation remains under control, and more or less where the Fed would like it. The Consumer Price Index rose 0.2% MOM and 2.3% YOY. Ex-food and energy it rose 0.1% MOM and 2.3% YOY.

 

JP Morgan reported better than expected earnings this morning driven by higher bond trading revenue. Origination volume increased to $33 billion, up 3% on a sequential basis, which is impressive given the seasonality of the mortgage business. On a YOY basis, it almost doubled. Full year origination volume increased 32% to $105 billion. Servicing took a bite however as prepayment speeds increased. Overall, home lending revenue was down 5% compared to the 4th quarter a year ago as negative servicing valuations offset increased production income. JPM stock is up about a buck pre-open.

 

Wells reported earnings that missed expectations driven largely by litigation expenses. Mortgage origination volume rose sequentially to $60 billion in the quarter, and servicing was revalued upward from the 3rd quarter. Production income was flat at 1.21%. The stock is down about 3.5% pre-open.

 

Small business optimism dipped a touch in December, according to the NFIB. “Owners are aggressively moving forward with their business plans, proving that when they’re given relief from the government, they put their money where their mouth is, and they invest, hire, and increase wages,“ said NFIB Chief Economist William Dunkelberg. “What really matters to small business owners are issues directly impacting their bottom lines. Currently, their biggest problem is finding qualified labor, surpassing taxes or regulations.” A net 29% of small businesses reported increasing compensation, an a net 24% plan on increasing comp in the next two months. That said, any sort of profit pressures are coming from weak sales, not increased costs.

 

Delinquenices hit a 20 year low in October, according to CoreLogic. 30 day DQs fell from 4.1% to 3.7% YOY. The foreclosure rate fell from 0.5% to 0.4%. Separately, CoreLogic reported home prices grew 3.3% in October. “Home price growth builds homeowner equity and reduces the likelihood of a loan entering foreclosure,” said Frank Nothaft, chief economist with CoreLogic. “The national CoreLogic Home Price Index recorded a 3.3% annual rise in values through October 2019, and price growth was the primary driver of the $5,300 average gain in equity reported in the latest CoreLogic Home Equity Report.”

 

 

Morning Report: Protests in Iran

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 3277 12.25
Oil (WTI) 59.13 0.04
10 year government bond yield 1.85%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.88%

 

Stocks are higher this morning as we anticipate a phase 1 trade deal with China this week. Bonds and MBS are flat.

 

Earnings season kicks off this week with the major banks all reporting. JP Morgan, Wells, and Citi all report tomorrow. We will get inflation data, retail sales and housing starts this week as well. With the Fed on hold for the moment (and probably through the election), economic data will become less of a market-mover unless it is way out the expected range. Neel Kashkari thinks the next move for the Fed could be a rate cut. “If I were to guess the next rate move, my guess (on) the balance of risks, is that it will be down and not up.” The Fed funds futures agree, handicapping a better-than-50% chance that rates will get cut this year.

 

fed funds futures

 

Iran admitted shooting down an airliner by mistake over the weekend, which has shifted the focus from the US killing a military leader. It looks like there are major protests in Tehran right now. So far, we are not seeing any big effects in the oil market, although North America uses a different benchmark than the rest of the world.

 

HousingWire lays out some predictions for 2020. One big one refers to recruiting. As of 11/24, originators could officially move from a bank to a non-bank or another state and keep originating mortgages while they wait for the new license. This will almost certainly make recruiting for non-banks easier.

 

Mortgage credit availability decreased in December by 3.5%, according to the MBA. “Credit availability fell in December after three months of expansion, driven by drops in both conventional and government supply,” said Joel Kan, MBA Associate Vice President of Economic and Industry Forecasting. “Perhaps most noteworthy was a 6 percent drop in government credit supply because of changes to the Veterans Administration loan program, which eliminated loan limits for certain borrowers as of Jan 1, 2020. This likely prompted many investors to remove VA programs in high cost counties from their offerings. There was also a reduction in streamline refinance programs, as slightly higher rates slowed the refinance market at the end of 2019.”

Morning Report: Meh jobs report

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 3280 4.25
Oil (WTI) 59.52 0.04
10 year government bond yield 1.85%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.88%

 

Stocks are higher as it looks like hostilities are cooling between the US and Iran. Bonds and MBS are down.

 

Jobs report data dump:

  • Nonfarm payrolls + 145,000
  • Unemployment rate 3.5%
  • Labor force participation rate 63.2%
  • Average hourly earnings up 0.1% / 2.9%

Overall a meh report. Nothing special. Manufacturing payrolls fell by 12,000 which sort of meshes with the weak ISM report. Wage growth remains positive but below the sort of levels we were seeing a few months ago.

 

Initial Jobless Claims fell to 214,000 last week. No other economic data today, but we do have a lot of Fed-speak.

 

Want to give a compliance officer a heart attack? Go after a negative review on Yelp by trashing the borrower’s credit profile. Mount Diablo Lending was fined $120,000 for doing just that – “Your credit report shows 4 late payments from the Capital One account, 1 late from Comenity Bank which is Pier 1, another late from Credit First Bank, 3 late payments from an account named SanMateo. Not to mention the mortgage lates. All of these late payments are having an enormous negative impact on your credit score.” Note: credit profiles are confidential information, and your company should have procedures to protect it. Getting into a tiff with a declined borrower on Yelp is not a good way of going about that.

 

Remember when Quicken and United Wholesale got into a pricing war about this time last year? Well, it looks like Quicken just signed a 4 year contract with the NFL to be its exclusive mortgage sponsor. “Over the years we’ve been a brand and a company that likes to do big epic things,” Casey Hurbis, chief marketing officer for Quicken, said in an interview.

 

Corporate CEOs and consumers have differing views on the economy. CEOs think a recession in 2020 is the biggest risk, while almost all CFOs see the economy slowing next year. If you look at the chart below, CEO confidence is about where it was going into 2009, which quite simply makes no sense.

 

CEO confidence

 

 

Morning Report: December jobs come in hotter than expected

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 3239 3.25
Oil (WTI) 61.57 -1.04
10 year government bond yield 1.82%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.88%

 

Stocks are slightly higher this morning despite an Iranian rocket attack last night. Bonds traded as high as 1.7% overnight before falling back to more or less unchanged levels.

 

The ADP jobs report came in stronger than expected, at 202,000. November’s weak reading was also revised upward. Note nonfarm payrolls are expected to come in at 164,000 on Friday, so there may be some upside.

 

Mortgage applications were largely unchanged during the holiday period, with the composite index falling 1.5%. Refis fell by 8% while purchases increased by 5%. “Mortgage rates dropped last week, as investors sought safety in U.S. Treasury securities as a result of the events in the Middle East, with the 30-year fixed mortgage rate declining to its lowest level (3.91 percent) since early October,” said Mike Fratantoni, MBA Senior Vice President and Chief Economist. “Despite lower rates, refinance volume decreased these last two weeks, and we expect that it will slowly trail off in the first half of 2020 as long as mortgage rates remain in this same narrow range. Homeowners would need to see a sharp drop in rates to reinvigorate the refinance wave seen in 2019.”

 

While the ISM manufacturing index was weak in December, the non-manufacturing index definitely was not. One quote from a builder: “Weather and the holiday season have had an impact on residential new construction sales and production. While demand is outstripping supply in the housing market, business is down due to global trade insecurity causing affordability, labor and cost pressures.” (Construction). Given the weakness in lumber prices, I am not sure how trade is affecting construction. If anything, the issue is labor.

 

Speaking of homebuilding, Lennar reported 4th quarter earnings that surpassed analyst expectations. Rick Beckwitt, Chief Executive Officer of Lennar, said, “During the fourth quarter, the basic underlying housing market fundamentals of low unemployment, higher wages and low inventory levels remained favorable. Against this backdrop, our homebuilding gross margin in the fourth quarter was 21.5%, while our focus on making our homebuilding platform more efficient resulted in an SG&A percentage of 7.6%, an all-time, fourth quarter low. In addition, our financial services business performed extremely well with fourth quarter earnings of $81.2 million, an all-time, quarterly high.” Revenues increased 9% as deliveries rose 13% and average selling prices fell 3% (as Lennar focuses more on the entry-level market where the demand is strongest).

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