Morning Report: Lumber prices continue their upward trajectory

Vital Statistics:

S&P futures4,145-10.8
Oil (WTI)63.750.37
10 year government bond yield 1.6%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.18%

Stocks are down this morning on overnight weakness in equity markets. Bonds and MBS are down small.

The number of loans in forbearance fell another 16 basis points last week to 4.5% of servicers’ portfolios. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac loans fell to 2.44% while FHA fell to 6.16%.

Given the investment limits on non-owner occupied loans, non-QM lenders are stepping in to fill the void. It is important to understand that the GSE’s issue with these loans is philosophical, not risk-related. In other words, these investor loans are profitable – that isn’t the issue. This restriction was put in place by Mark Calabria, the current director of FHFA. This is driven by a belief that the government should be supporting first time homebuyers, and helping people get on the first rung of homeownership. It shouldn’t be in the business of helping professional real estate investors.

That said, the limits on high-risk loans (high LTV / low FICO) are being driven by risk concerns. FWIW, if these limits stay in place, I think the high risk stuff is going to go to FHA, while the investor stuff will go to non-QM.

Western Alliance reported strong first quarter numbers, with EPS up 130% YOY to $1.90 per share. The acquisition of Amerihome closed and the bank intends to portfolio a bunch of Amerihome (and presumably Galton) non-QM loans on its balance sheet. The stock has been on a tear, more than tripling over the past year.

Interesting study results out of Fannie Mae regarding remote work. Respondents reported that remote work improved productivity and reduced operating costs. That said, collaboration did seem to suffer. 79% of lenders prefer a hybrid model, where some employees work remotely and some work on-site.

I think the big takeaway from COVID and remote work is that a big source of friction in the economy – the need for workers to be located near their place of work – is disappearing. This should help drive productivity increases in the economy, which is what drives improving standards of living. If you look at the latest NFIB Small Business Sentiment Survey, finding qualified workers remains the biggest concern for small business. The ability to source workers from all over the country will help alleviate that issue.

Note that productivity has always been notoriously hard to measure, and in these days of “free” internet applications it is 10x worse. How do you put a price on your personal data? It isn’t monetary, but it isn’t worthless either. Since productivity and inflation are intertwined, this will become a more important issue going forward.

Speaking of inflation, consumer products giant Proctor and Gamble announced that it will increase prices in September. It appears that prices of paper products is driving the increases. Kimberly-Clark also announced it will increase prices in June.

Speaking of inflation, lumber continues to spike. It is trading now at $1,347. Users of lumber had delayed orders in hopes that prices would fall, and that didn’t happen. Now everyone is competing for supply.

26 Responses

  1. “Minneapolis law enforcement pledges ‘de-escalation’ should protests follow Chauvin verdict as tactics draw scrutiny

    By Kim Bellware and Marisa Iati
    April 19, 2021 at 10:19 p.m. EDT

    MINNEAPOLIS — As protests against police violence roil a suburb and jurors deliberate in the trial of former Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin, law enforcement here sought Monday to show solidarity with community activists and emphasize that they intend to prioritize de-escalation in the coming days.

    “Our goal is de-escalation and non-confrontation at all chances,” Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz (D) told reporters.”

    This should work well.


  2. Mark – a legal question. I thought the charges that were brought against Chauvin were mutually exclusive and he could only be convicted of one since they were all for the same act and which one depended on the level of culpability that the jury determined.

    Clearly that’s wrong, but I’m curious of the legal rationale for convicting someone of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter for the single act.


    • Good question jnc. I was wondering the same thing myself.

      Edit: The NYT tries (and fails, in my view) to answer the question.

      It says that “The separate acts the jury had to find Mr. Chauvin committed also seem compatible with one another.” But to me the point is that there were no “separate acts”. There was a single act that is being characterized in three different ways.


      • They could have gotten a conviction on murder 1. And treason. And that they didn’t try is because they are racist!


        • Biden on the verdict:

          Today, a jury in Minnesota found former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin guilty on all counts in the murder of George Floyd last May. It was a murder in full light of day and it ripped the blinders was off for the whole world to see the systemic racism the vice president just referred to. There’s systemic racism that’s a stain on our nation’s soul.”

          Trump got hell for labeling another country a “shit hole”. Biden trashes his own nation – without evidence, as they say – and he gets celebrated.


        • Well, it is what President Harris feels.


        • Biden articulates (as did Shapiro, from the other side, in his analysis) that the real charge was not in the docket—Chauvin was charged with being symbolic of America’s foundational racism and white supremacy. Biden is merely acknowledging that Chauvin was convicted of America being congenitally and irredeemably racist.


    • In MN these must be considered “lesser included” charges. The jury instruction will [or should] have been clear on this point. If the jury disregarded an instruction here there would be either grounds for appeal or not, depending on MN Code of Crim Procedure, and what sort of jury error is fatal.

      At sentencing I would not think all the verdicts could stack, in any case. In Texas only the topline verdict would form a basis for sentencing because lesser included means those lesser verdicts are rolled in, not added onto.


    • I had the same thought. I also think the state has an obligation to pick a charge and go with it.


      • The state did pick it preferred charge. The defense offered its preferred charge[s] as well.


        • I guess I’m disputing the idea that one can be guilty of both murder and manslaughter for the same act.

          i don’t see i could vote to convict on all 3. if it was one of the charges, that means it by definition could not be the other 2.


        • Traditionally “lesser included” meant the same elements of the act of the crime were present to support any of the charges. But there could be different levels of culpability. For example, To be reckless, one had to first be careless or negligent or grossly negligent. But simple negligence did not require a finding of recklessness. There are not “greater included” crimes, only lesser included ones. In this case, the top finding implies the lesser findings, whether they had been made or not.

          Here, the top line was not intentional murder, according to what I have read – just a more reckless level of negligence. In Texas, a murder with malice aforethought conviction does not include a murder without malice aforethought conviction. However, a murder without malice aforethought conviction could include a negligent homicide conviction. I took the top line in MN to be equivalent to TX “murder without malice”.


        • If they did it that way NoVA, then I suspect what the result would be is three separate trials.


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