Morning Report: Ben Carson will run HUD 12/5/16

Vital Statistics:

Last Change
S&P Futures 2200.0 8.0
Eurostoxx Index 341.6 2.2
Oil (WTI) 52.2 0.5
US dollar index 91.3 0.0
10 Year Govt Bond Yield 2.41%
Current Coupon Fannie Mae TBA 103
Current Coupon Ginnie Mae TBA 104
30 Year Fixed Rate Mortgage 4.14

Markets are higher this morning on no real news. Bonds and MBS are down.

Slow news day, for the most part.

The week after the jobs report is usually pretty data-light and this week is no exception. Today is the last day of Fed-Speak until the FOMC meeting next week. Bonds will probably be driven more by overseas developments than anything going on the US.

The Markit PMI Services index slipped in November to 54.6 from 54.8 the month before. The ISM Non-Manufacturing PMI improved as well to a strong reading of 57.2.

Donald Trump will nominate Dr. Ben Carson as the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Carson is expected to reverse the Obama Administration’s aggressive enforcement of fair housing laws, including the use of disparate impact. Suffice it to say, fair housing is going to take a backseat to reforming the GSEs and the mortgage market.

Tight credit remains a driving factor in today’s mortgage market as credit is loose for some people at the high end and tight for everyone else. In fact, PIMCO estimates that between 1 and 1.4 million people who were eligible for a mortgage in 2002 (before the big subprime explosion) are unable to get a mortgage today under the new rules and regulations. The knock on effects (like tight inventory and lackluster homebuilding) remain as headwinds to the economy as a whole. This not only includes mortgage credit to borrowers, but also bank credit to small homebuilders etc.

Bond funds continue to experience withdrawals in the biggest bond bust since the Taper Tantrum.

Morning Report: Home Prices within 1% of peak 11/28/16

Vital Statistics:

Last Change
S&P Futures 2206.0 -58.0
Eurostoxx Index 340.9 -1.6
Oil (WTI) 47.0 0.9
US dollar index 91.7 -0.1
10 Year Govt Bond Yield 2.33%
Current Coupon Fannie Mae TBA 103
Current Coupon Ginnie Mae TBA 104
30 Year Fixed Rate Mortgage 4.14

Investors return to the markets after the Thanksgiving holiday contemplating a re-litigation of the 2016 Presidential election. Bonds and MBS are up.

Green Party candidate Jill Stein is requesting a recount in PA, MI, and WI. Donald Trump took to Twitter to condemn the effort and alleged that “millions” of votes were fraudulent. The Clinton campaign is keeping its distance but will watch to make sure outside players aren’t interfering with the process. If she manages to turn all 3 states, then she could win. One question that has come up has been whether Russia could have hacked the voting machines. That possibility looks unlikely.

Since the election, bank stocks have increased their market caps by $300 billion. The bet is that a roll-back of regulation will increase profits.

The highlight of the week will be the jobs report on Friday. The Street is looking for 170k jobs added, an unemployment rate of 4.9% and an increase in average hourly earnings of 0.2%.

The FOMC minutes from the early November meeting were a non-event, and the FOMC is definitely setting the stage for a December hike: “Most participants expressed a view that it could well become appropriate to raise the target range for the federal funds rate relatively soon, so long as incoming data provided some further evidence of continued progress toward the Committee’s objectives.” In fact, a “few” participants wanted a hike at the November meeting. The December FOMC meeting is in two weeks.

The FHFA raised the conforming limit from 417k to $424k. This was the first increase in 10 years. They also increased the high balance conforming limit to $636k.

Home Prices rose 0.1% in September and are up 5.4% YOY. Home prices are now within a percent of their peaks from June 2006.

Black Friday saw more shoppers, but less spending than in the past. About 154 million bought something in a store or online over the weekend, but they only spent about $289 as opposed to $300 a year ago. The National Retail Federation attributed the drop in spending to deep discounts offered by retailers. Black Friday online purchases were up 22% YOY.

Morning Report: Jeb Hensarling for Treasury? 11/18/16

Vital Statistics:

Last Change
S&P Futures 2184.0 -0.5
Eurostoxx Index 339.4 -1.2
Oil (WTI) 45.5 0.1
US dollar index 91.3 0.1
10 Year Govt Bond Yield 2.28%
Current Coupon Fannie Mae TBA 103
Current Coupon Ginnie Mae TBA 104
30 Year Fixed Rate Mortgage 4

Stocks are flat this morning on no real news. Bonds and MBS are down.

Bonds are ending their worst two week run in 25 years as the 10 year bond yield increased almost 50 basis points. Strategists are suggesting that the 10 year will be in the 2.5% – 2.75% range a year from now if Donald Trump manages to get his infrastructure spending plan and tax cut. The US dollar continues to strengthen as well.

So far, it looks like Jeb Hensarling is in the mix to take over as Secretary of the Treasury for Donald Trump. Note he is a politician, not a Wall Streeter. In fact, the banks believe he is a bit of an obstacle for getting real reform. Hensarling is generally viewed as not a friend of the big banks, and he really isn’t that interested in their input. Hensarling does have a plan to reform Dodd-Frank, which would include scrapping the Volcker Rule (which prohibits proprietary trading), reining in the CFPB, eliminating caps that banks can charge merchants for debit card transactions, and reforming the SIFI (systemically important financial institutions) rules. The big banks will need to raise a lot of capital in order to have more latitude however, as his bill requires a 10% capital cushion. Citi, for example, is at 7.4%, which means the banks would need to raise hundreds of billions in new equity capital.

The glory days of the CFPB are numbered. A court ruling that prevents the director from being fired and the potential for a business-friendly Trump Director has made it possible for a bipartisan consensus that the director be replaced with a 5 person committee, and that it be subject to Congressional appropriations. At least one expert believes that will slow down the agency and probably cut its enforcement actions in half. As of right now, if you are a graduate of a top law school and have an interest in financial regulation, the CFPB is the hot place to be.

Bottom line: we could get some regulatory relief, however it will be at the margin and probably not a wholesale change from what we have now. Will it be enough to get the private label securitization market back? So far I have not seen anything with respect to required equity tranches etc, so it is hard to tell. The only name for HUD I have heard is Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, who is fighting HUD on zoning issues and affordable housing mandates.

After rising for several years, average home sizes are falling, as construction moves away from focusing in the high end to starter homes.

Morning Report: Potential Dodd-Frank reform 11/14/16

Vital Statistics:

Last Change
S&P Futures 2164.5 3.0
Eurostoxx Index 338.2 0.7
Oil (WTI) 42.7 -0.7
US dollar index 90.2 0.5
10 Year Govt Bond Yield 2.20%
Current Coupon Fannie Mae TBA 103
Current Coupon Ginnie Mae TBA 104
30 Year Fixed Rate Mortgage 3.89

Stocks are up modestly this morning on no real news. Bonds and MBS are up again.

No economic data this morning, but we will have some Fed-speak in the afternoon.

About $1.2 trillion in wealth was wiped out in the bond market last week as yields soared in response to the Trump victory. The yield on Treasuries increased by 37 basis points last week. Bonds are reacting to (a) the potential inflation from a big infrastructure spending program, and (b) the potential for reduced trade and increased protectionism. Yields are now at highs we haven’t seen since January.

Richmond Fed President Jeff Lacker said that if Trump enacts a large fiscal stimulus plan, it might cause the Fed to move faster than the markets anticipate. Lacker will be a voting member in 2018.

One of the first jobs the new administration will tackle is to reform Dodd-Frank. The biggest piece of that will be to reform the CFPB, by making it subject to the Congressional appropriation process and to replace a single director with a bipartisan board. Banking stocks have been rallying since the election. Other rules would center around capital requirements and stress tests, which would mainly affect the smaller banks that don’t have massive derivatives portfolios or international operations, in an attempt to ease the regulatory burden on them. Democrats might attempt to filibuster any reform if it goes too far, but there probably is enough common ground in the Senate to make some sort of reform possible.

Could Donald Trump end up facing the nemesis of Bill Clinton’s first administration – the bond vigilante? Certainly if you take his promises at face value: a big uptick in spending with a massive tax cut, then you might see the creature that has been in hibernation since the early 90s resurface.

Morning Report: Will the late teens resemble the early 80s? 11/10/16

Vital Statistics:

Last Change
S&P Futures 2167.5 7.0
Eurostoxx Index 340.7 0.9
Oil (WTI) 44.9 -0.3
US dollar index 89.3 0.4
10 Year Govt Bond Yield 2.09%
Current Coupon Fannie Mae TBA 103
Current Coupon Ginnie Mae TBA 104
30 Year Fixed Rate Mortgage 3.75

Stocks are higher this morning as the markets come to grips with a Trump presidency. Bonds and MBS are down.

Strangely, the 2 year bond is trading at 90 basis points, while the consensus is that we should be getting 2 more rate hikes by late 2018. This is even more surprising given the action in the 10 year. A poll of economists and strategists indicates that the Fed will still raise rates in December. Given the market action since Trump won, the Fed has every excuse to do so.

Trump will not ask for Janet Yellen’s resignation. That said, she probably won’t get re-nominated when her term expires in 2018. Donald Trump has been critical of Fed policy, insisting that rates should be higher than where they are now.

After an appeals court ruling, President Trump could fire CFPB Director Richard Cordray.

Mortgage Applications fell 1.2% last week as purchases rose 1% and refis fell 3%. The average interest rate for a 30 year fixed conforming mortgage rose 2 basis points to 3.77%.

Initial Jobless Claims fell to 254k last week as employers continue to hang onto their workers.

The conventional wisdom that a Trump victory would be stock bearish, bond bullish, and dollar bearish turned out to be dead wrong, at least initially. Stocks were destroyed in the wee hours of Wednesday morning, and then had a massive turnaround during the day. Legendary investor Carl Icahn probably singlehandedly cleaned up the sellers overnight, pouring $1 billion into S&P 500 futures. He was probably up about 6% on that trade by noon.

The overall feel to the tape is “risk on” and investors are definitely selling bonds to buy stocks. Financials, Pharma, and construction stocks led the charge. Surprisingly the homebuilder ETF (XHB) underperformed. Ultimately a Trump presidency should be bullish for housing, so I am surprised at the stock action.

The more I think about it, the more I believe the Trump presidency will most closely resemble the early Reagan Administration economically. Reagan took over after a long period of economic underperformance and shocks to the economy. Early in his administration, the Fed was tightening while fiscal policy loosened. I think that dynamic is going to play out here, as the government cuts taxes, deregulates, and spends on infrastructure while the Fed methodically raises interest rates off the zero bound. Ultimately the Fed has an easier job here, as they don’t have the raging inflation problem and any recession will probably be more mild since we are already at full employment. I don’t see a deep recession like 81-82 in the cards, however we are certainly in uncharted territory with monetary policy worldwide. The biggest difference is that that the early 80s ended a secular bear market in bonds that began in the 50s. This time around, we are ending a secular bull market in bonds that started in the early 80s. Note that we are also probably at the beginning of a secular bull market in stocks, just like the early 80s.

10 year long term.PNG

An “independent”, agenda-setting bureaucracy 10/24/16

There is an op-ed article today in the WSJ, unfortunately behind the firewall, that unwittingly lays bare the unconstitutionality of the regulatory state as it currently exists in the US. The article was written by former Chairman of the SEC, Arthur Levitt Jr., and is ostensibly a critique of Senator Elizabeth Warren’s call for current SEC Chairman Mary Jo White to be removed for failing to implement a “rule” regarding corporate political donations that Warren favors. Levitt correctly calls out Warren for improperly trying to influence the SEC’s “agenda”, but his reasoning reveals the mindset of these unelected bureaucrats and how shamelessly unmoored from the Constitution the regulatory state has become.

Levitt says:

No rule—no matter how merited—is worth the damage that would be caused if the SEC were compelled by political intimidation to write it. That’s not how good regulations emerge, and what’s worse, it would poison the regulatory process for all time. The moment the SEC loses its ability to set its own agenda is the moment it loses its ability to protect the investing public.

The SEC does not operate as a pass-through entity for Congress, merely following congressional direction. Rather, it’s an independent agency, and its chairman is empowered to set the agenda for the agency’s work. This agenda takes shape in many forms—rule makings, speeches and enforcement actions—and must be set by the chairman, not Congress. This is by design.

Say what? The “agenda” of unelected bureaucrats agency “must be” set by themselves and not by the elected members of Congress? Perhaps Levitt would like to point out where in the Constitution such bureaucrats have been granted this rather awesome power. Contrary to what Levitt seems to think, that the SEC is supposed to operate as a “pass-through” entity for Congress, following its direction, is the only way it can operate that would justify its existence.

Levitt goes on to say:

That’s not to say the agency should be free from congressional oversight. Throughout its history, politicians from both parties have sought to influence its work. That’s to be expected, and a good regulator welcomes outside views, especially those coming from elected leaders who write the laws the SEC implements. Ultimately, Congress holds the power to pass laws requiring agency action; and that option is available to Sen. Warren.

But Congress must respect the SEC’s independence, and thus freedom, to focus on a fixed agenda. Once confirmed to lead the SEC, its chairman has a singular goal: To meet the agency’s mandate to protect investors, facilitate capital formation, and ensure fair and orderly markets.

Well, isn’t that generous. Good regulators should “welcome” the “outside” views of elected representatives, the very people who are actually empowered by the Constitution to write legislation.

Levitt is of course correct to inform Warren that if she wants to impose a new law, Congress has the power to do exactly that through actual legislation. But it is precisely the vaguely defined regulatory “mandate” that Levitt himself embraces which allows the likes of Warren to think that she can impose new laws without the hassle of actually going through the constitutional process.

This is an excellent example of how pervasive and shameless the undemocratic, unconstitutional mindset that typifies the regulatory bureaucracy has become.

(This link may or may not work to get the article…not sure: http://on.wsj.com/2e3zIc8)

Morning Report: Home prices rise 5% 9/27/16

Vital Statistics:

Last Change
S&P Futures 2142.2 2.0
Eurostoxx Index 338.6 -1.0
Oil (WTI) 44.8 0.5
US dollar index 86.4 -0.2
10 Year Govt Bond Yield 1.56%
Current Coupon Fannie Mae TBA 103.3
Current Coupon Ginnie Mae TBA 104.2
30 Year Fixed Rate Mortgage 3.47

Markets are lower this morning on no real news. Bonds and MBS are up small.

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton had their first debate last night. Early polls are showing Hillary won, however the debates went up against Monday Night Football, so the sample is going to skew female. Major media outlets are declaring the winner based on their ideological leanings: Bloomberg says Hillary won, and the WSJ says that Trump won. Did the debate change anyone’s vote? We’ll see, but my suspicion is that people’s minds are more or less made up at this point.

Global bonds have been rallying, but the US 10 year hasn’t been following suit. The German Bund is now back at -15 basis points. Meanwhile, Blackrock is advising caution in Treasuries as the Fed starts hiking rates. Global central banks are selling Treasuries, which is putting pressure on yields.

Tim Duy says December is a good bet for another tightening, but next year’s voting members will skew more dovish than the current FOMC.

Home prices were flat month-over-month and are up 5% for the year, according to the Case-Shiller home price index. The real estate indices are beginning to show a slowdown in home price appreciation. Until we start seeing wage inflation, real estate prices will be stretched versus incomes. The labor market continues to send mixed signals.

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