Morning Report: Jerome Powell says rates are going nowhere for a while.

Vital Statistics:

 

  Last Change
S&P futures 3770 -21.3
Oil (WTI) 52.74 -0.74
10 year government bond yield   1.10%
30 year fixed rate mortgage   2.88%

Stocks are lower this morning as we kick off earnings season. Bonds and MBS are up.

 

Retail Sales dropped 0.7% in December. This was well below expectations. Ex-gasoline and autos, sales fell 2.1%. This shows the economy is moving in the wrong direction, and I suspect we will see economists take down their estimates for fourth quarter US GDP growth. Separately, the University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index fell in January.

 

Industrial Production rose 1.6% while manufacturing production rose 0.9%. Capacity Utilization rose to 74.5%. We still have a lot of wood to chop to get back to pre-COVID levels here as well.

 

Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said that “now is not the time” to discuss tapering bond purchases. “Now is not the time to be talking about exit,” from the $120 billion in government securities the Fed is buying each month, Powell said in a web symposium with Princeton University. “A lesson of the Global Financial Crisis is be careful not to exit too early, and by the way try not to talk about exit all the time…because the markets are listening.” ”The economy is far from our goals…and we are strongly committed…to using our monetary policy tools until the job is well and truly done.” He went on further to say that the goal is to get the labor economy back to where it was pre-pandemic. The focus for that will be on lower-wage employment and wage growth.

Bottom line: mortgage rates are probably not going to get away from us for a while. A easy non-legislative way to put money in people’s pockets is to allow them to refinance their mortgage at a lower rate. With 32 million borrowers out there able to save 75 basis points on their rate, it will take years to do all of those loans, given industry capacity constraints. Powell knows this, and unless inflation magically appears from out of the blue, rates are staying low.

 

The FHFA will not leave conservatorship in the near term. There was talk of the Trump Administration letting them go, but that was always a long shot. FWIW, I do not see the Biden Administration releasing them either – if anything I could see them reinstituting the profit sweep and getting a whole slew of new affordable housing mandates.

 

 

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