Category Archives: Mortgage

Are Bonds Sending A Signal?

Michael Lebowitz previously penned an article entitled “Face Off” discussing the message from the bond market as it relates to the stock market and the economy. To wit:

“There is a healthy debate between those who work in fixed-income markets and those in the equity markets about who is better at assessing markets. The skepticism of bond guys and gals seems to help them identify turning points. The optimism of equity pros lends to catching the full run of a rally. As an ex-bond trader, I have a hunch but refuse to risk offending our equity-oriented clients by disclosing it. In all seriousness, both professions require similar skill sets to determine an asset’s fair value with the appropriate acknowledgment of inherent risks. More often than not, bond traders and stock traders are on the same page with regard to the economic outlook. However, when they disagree, it is important to take notice.”

This is an interesting point given that despite the ending parade of calls for substantially higher interest rates, due to rising inflationary pressures and stronger economic growth, yields have stubbornly remained below 3% on the 10-year Treasury.

In this past weekend’s newsletter, we discussed the current “bullish optimism” prevailing in the market and that “all-time” highs are now within reach for investors.

“Currently, the “bulls” remain clearly in charge of the market…for now. While it seems as if much of the “tariff talk” has been priced into stocks, what likely hasn’t as of yet is rising evidence of weakening economic data (ISM, employment, etc.), weakening consumer demand, and the impact of higher rates.

While on an intermediate-term basis these macro issues will matter, it is primarily just sentiment that matters in the short-term. From that perspective, the market retested the previous breakout above the March highs last week (the Maginot line)which keeps Pathway #1 intact. It also suggests that next weekwill likely see a test of the January highs.

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/SP500-Chart3-080318%20%281%29.png?itok=aOPYMJ1K

“With moving averages rising, this shifts Pathway #2a and #2b further out into the August and September time frames. The potential for a correction back to support before a second attempt at all-time highs would align with normal seasonal weakness heading into the Fall. “

One would suspect with the amount of optimism toward the equity side of the ledger, and with the Federal Reserve on firm footing for further rate increases at a time where the U.S. Government is about to issue a record amount of new debt, interest rates, in theory, should be rising.

But they aren’t.

As Mike noted previously:

“Given our opinions on the severe economic headwinds facing economic growth and steep equity valuations, we believe this divergence poses a potential warning for equity holders. Accordingly, we thought it appropriate to provide a few graphs to demonstrate the ‘smarter’ guys are not on board the growth and reflation train.”

In today’s missive, we will focus on the “price” and “yield” of the 10-year Treasury from a strictly “technical”perspective with respect to the signal the bond market may be sending with respect to the stock market. Given that “credit” is the “lifeblood” of the Government, corporate and consumer markets, it should not be surprising the bond market tends to tell the economic story over time.

We can prove this in the following chart of interest rates versus the economic composite of GDP, inflation, and wages.

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/Rates-GDP-Composite-080618.png?itok=lcRcPHyd

Despite hopes of surging economic growth, the economic composite has remained in an elongated nominal range between 40 and 60 since 2011. This stagnation has never occurred in history and is a function of the massive interventions by the Government and the Federal Reserve to support economic growth. However, now those supports are being removed as the Federal Reserve lifts short-term borrowing costs and reduces liquidity support through their balance sheet reinvestments.

As I said, credit is the “lifeblood” of the economy. Think about all the ways that higher rates impact economic activity in the economy:

1) Rising interest rates raise the debt servicing requirements which reduces future productive investment.

2) Rising interest rates will immediately slow the housing market taking that small contribution to the economy away. People buy payments, not houses, and rising rates mean higher payments.

3) An increase in interest rates means higher borrowing costs which leads to lower profit margins for corporations. 

4) The “stocks are cheap based on low interest rates” argument is being removed.

5) The massive derivatives and credit markets are at risk. Much of the recovery to date has been based on suppressing interest rates to spur growth.

6) As rates increase so does the variable rate interest payments on credit cards. 

7) Rising defaults on debt service will negatively impact banks.

8) Many corporate share buyback plans and dividend issuances have been done through the use of cheap debt, which has led to increases corporate balance sheet leverage.

9) Corporate capital expenditures are dependent on borrowing costs. Higher borrowing costs lead to lower CapEx.

10) The deficit/GDP ratio will begin to soar as borrowing costs rise sharply. The many forecasts for lower future deficits will crumble as new forecasts begin to propel higher.

I could go on, but you get the idea.

So, with the Fed hiking rates, surging bankruptcies for older Americans who are under-saved and over-indebted, stumbling home sales, inflationary prices rising from surging energy costs, what is the 10-year Treasury telling us now.

Short-Term

On a very short-term basis, the 10-year Treasury yield has started a potential-topping process. Given that “yield” is the inverse of the “price” of bonds, the “buy” and “sell” signals are also reversed. As shown below, the 10-year yield appears to be forming the “right shoulder” of a “head and shoulder” topping formation and is currently on a short-term “buy” signal. Such would suggest lower yields over the next couple of months.

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/Rates-Weekly-080618.png?itok=astGcYCm

The two signals above aren’t a rarity. The chart below expands this view back to 1970. There have only been a few times historically that yields have been this overbought and trading at 3 to 4 standard deviations above their one-year average.

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/Rates-Weekly-Crisis-080618.png?itok=8OuknfhB

The outcome for investors was never ideal.

Longer-Term

Even using monthly closing data, which smooths out volatility to a greater degree, the same message appears. The chart below goes back to 1994. Each time yields have been this overbought (remember since yield is the inverse of price, this means bonds are very oversold) it is has signaled an issue with both the economy and the markets.

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/Rates-Monthly-SP500-080618-Crashes.png?itok=8bs9_JzH

Again, we see the same issue going back historically. Also, notice that yields are currently not only extremely overbought, they are also at the top of the long-term downtrend that started back in 1980.

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/Rates-Monthly-SP500-080618.png?itok=gJpuxCHG

Even Longer Term

Okay, let’s smooth this even more by using quarterly data closes. again, the picture doesn’t change.

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/Rates-Quarterly-SP500-080618-Crashes.png?itok=32JtcmDe

As I noted yesterday, the economic cycle is extremely advanced and both stocks and bonds are slaves to the full market cycle.

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/Historical-Recoveries-Declines-080518.png?itok=qWOsFTAd

“The “full market cycle” will complete itself in due time to the detriment of those who fail to heed history, valuations, and psychology.”

Of course, during the late stage of any market advance, there is always the argument which suggests “this time is different.” Mike made an excellent point in this regard previously:

“Given the divergences shown between bond and equity markets, logic says somebody’s wrong. Another possibility is that neither market is sending completely accurate signals about the future state of the economy and inflation. It is clear that bond traders do not buy into this latest growth narrative. Conversely, equity investors are buying the growth and reflation narrative lock, stock and barrel. To be blunt, with global central banks buying both bonds and stocks, the integrity of the playing field as well as normally reliable barometers of market conditions, are compromised.

This divergence between bond and equity traders could prove meaningless, or it may be a prescient warning for one or both of these markets. Either way, investors should be aware of the divergence as such a wide gap in economic opinions is unusual and may portend increased volatility in one or both markets.”

While anything is certainly possible, historical probabilities suggest that not only is “this time NOT different,” it will likely end the same way it always has for investors who fail to heed to bond markets warnings.

Source: ZeroHedge

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Wells Fargo Agrees To Pay $2.09 BIllion Penalty For Mortgage Loan Abuses

The Justice Department announced that embattled Wells Fargo, which has seen its name feature in virtually every prominent banking scandal in the past year, will pay a civil penalty of $2.09 billion under the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act of 1989 (FIRREA) based on the bank’s alleged origination and sale of residential mortgage loans that it knew contained misstated income information and did not meet the quality that Wells Fargo represented.

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/how%20low%20can%20fargo%20go_4.jpg?itok=_1tXYpFC

According to the DOJ, investors, including federally insured financial institutions, suffered billions of dollars in losses from investing in residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS) containing loans originated by Wells Fargo.

“Abuses in the mortgage-backed securities industry led to a financial crisis that devastated millions of Americans,” said Acting U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California, Alex G. Tse. “Today’s agreement holds Wells Fargo responsible for originating and selling tens of thousands of loans that were packaged into securities and subsequently defaulted. Our office is steadfast in pursuing those who engage in wrongful conduct that hurts the public.”

“This settlement holds Wells Fargo accountable for actions that contributed to the financial crisis,” said Acting Associate Attorney General Jesse Panuccio. “It sends a strong message that the Department is committed to protecting the nation’s economy and financial markets against fraud.”

The United States alleged that, despite its knowledge that a substantial portion of its stated income loans contained misstated income, Wells Fargo failed to disclose this information, and instead reported to investors false debt-to-income ratios in connection with the loans it sold.

Wells Fargo also allegedly heralded its fraud controls while failing to disclose the income discrepancies its controls had identified. The United States further alleged that Wells Fargo took steps to insulate itself from the risks of its stated income loans, by screening out many of these loans from its own loan portfolio held for investment and by limiting its liability to third parties for the accuracy of its stated income loans.

Wells Fargo sold at least 73,539 stated income loans that were included in RMBS between 2005 to 2007, and nearly half of those loans have defaulted, resulting in billions of dollars in losses to investors.

Wells Fargo stock dipped on the news, and is now back to unchanged on the day.

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/2018-08-01%20%283%29.jpg?itok=sIzxfghb

Source: ZeroHedge

Consumer Credit Expansion Continues During Q1, 2018

https://www.newyorkfed.org/medialibrary/media/images/v4/press_center/home-prices-homeownership-and-housing-wealth.jpg?h=320&w=640&la=en

Total Household Debt Rises for 15th Straight Quarter, Led by Mortgages, Student Loans

Just Released: New York Fed Press Briefing Highlights Changes in Home Equity and How It’s Used

Household Debt And Credit Report Q1, 2018

Remarks at the Economic Press Briefing on Homeownership and Housing Wealth

A Close Look at the Decline of Home Ownership

 

Understanding The Interest Rate Headwind Facing Housing

There are a large number of public and private services that measure the change in home prices. The algorithms behind these services, while complex, are primarily based on recent sale prices for comparative homes and adjusted for factors like location, property characteristics and the particulars of the house. While these pricing services are considered to be well represented measures of house prices, there is another important factor that is frequently overlooked despite the large role in plays in house prices.

In August 2016, the 30-year fixed mortgage rate as reported by the Federal Reserve hit an all-time low of 3.44%. Since then it has risen to its current level of 4.50%. While a 1% increase may appear small, especially at this low level of rates, the rise has begun to adversely affect housing and mortgage activity. After rising 33% and 22% in 2015 and 2016 respectively, total mortgage originations were down -16% in 2017. Further increases in rates will likely begin to weigh on house prices and the broader economy. This article will help quantify the benefit that lower rates played in making houses more affordable over the past few decades. By doing this, we can appreciate how further increases in mortgage rates might adversely affect house prices.

Lower Rates

In 1981 mortgage rates peaked at 18.50%. Since that time they have declined steadily and now stands at a relatively paltry 4.50%. Over this 37-year period, individuals’ payments on mortgage loans also declined allowing buyers to get more for their money. Continually declining rates also allowed them to further reduce their payments through refinancing. Consider that in 1990 a $500,000 house, bought with a 10%, 30-year fixed rate mortgage, which was the going rate, would have required a monthly principal and interest payment of $4,388. Today a loan for the same amount at the 4.50% current rate is almost half the payment at $2,533.

The sensitivity of mortgage payments to changes in mortgage rates is about 9%, meaning that each 1% increase or decrease in the mortgage rate results in a payment increase or decrease of 9%. From a home buyer’s perspective, this means that each 1% change in rates makes the house more or less affordable by about 9%.

Given this understanding of the math and the prior history of rate declines, we can calculate how lower rates helped make housing more affordable. To do this, we start in the year 1990 with a $500,000 home price and adjust it annually based on changes in the popular Case-Shiller House Price Index. This calculation approximates the 28-year price appreciation of the house. Second, we further adjust it to the change in interest rates. To accomplish this, we calculated how much more or less home one could buy based on the change in interest rates. The difference between the two, as shown below, provides a value on how much lower interest rates benefited home buyers and sellers.

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/1-house-inflation.png?itok=naYdkoxQData Courtesy: S&P Core Logic Case-Shiller House Price Index

The graph shows that lower payments resulting from the decline in mortgage rates benefited buyers by approximately $325,000. Said differently, a homeowner can afford $325,000 more than would have otherwise been possible due to declining rates.

The Effect of Rising Rates

As stated, mortgage rates have been steadily declining for the past 37 years. There are some interest rate forecasters that believe the recent uptick in rates may be the first wave of a longer-term change in trend.  If this is, in fact, the case, quantifying how higher mortgage rates affect payments, supply, demand, and therefore the prices of houses is an important consideration for the direction of the broad economy.

The graph below shows the mortgage payment required for a $500,000 house based on a range of mortgage rates. The background shows the decline in mortgage rates (10.00% to 4.50%) from 1990 to today.

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/2-pay-per-mtge.png?itok=FaM3amlH

To put this into a different perspective, the following graph shows how much a buyer can afford to pay for a house assuming a fixed payment ($2,333) and varying mortgage rates. The payment is based on the current mortgage rate.

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/3-payments.png?itok=QlXlfTjL

As the graphs portray, home buyers will be forced to make higher mortgage payments or seek lower-priced houses if rates keep rising.

Summary

The Fed has raised interest rates six times since the end of 2015. Their forward guidance from recent Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting statements and minutes tells of their plans on continuing to do so throughout this year and next. Additionally, the Fed owns over one-quarter of all residential mortgage-backed securities (MBS) through QE purchases. Their stated plan is to reduce their ownership of those securities over the next several quarters. If the Fed continues on their expected path with regard to rates and balance sheet, it creates a significant market adjustment in terms of supply and demand dynamics and further implies that mortgage rates should rise.

The consequences of higher mortgage rates will not only affect buyers and sellers of housing but also make borrowing on the equity in homes more expensive. From a macro perspective, consider that housing contributes 15-18% to GDP, according to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). While we do not expect higher rates to devastate the housing market, we do think a period of price declines and economic weakness could accompany higher rates.

This analysis is clinical using simple math to illustrate the relationship, cause, and effects, between changes in interest rates and home prices. However, the housing market is anything but a simple asset class. It is among the most complex of systems within the broad economy. Rising rates not only impact affordability but also the general level of activity which feeds back into the economy. In addition to the effect that rates may have, also consider that the demographics for housing are challenged as retiring, empty-nest baby boomers seek to downsize. To whom will they sell and at what price?

If interest rates do indeed continue to rise, there is a lot more risk embedded in the housing market than currently seems apparent as these and other dynamics converge. The services providing pricing insight into the value of the housing market may do a fine job of assessing current value, but they lack the sophistication required to see around the next economic corner.

Source: ZeroHedge

Highest Mortgage Rates In 8 Years Unleash Bidding Wars, Home Buying Frenzy

Yesterday when looking at the latest MBA Mortgage Application data, we found that, as mortgage rates jumped to the highest level since 2011, mortgage refi applications, not unexpectedly tumbled to the lowest level since the financial crisis, choking off a key revenue item for banks, and resulting in even more pain for the likes of Wells Fargo.

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/2018-05-16_5-09-36.jpg

Today, according to the latest Freddie Mac mortgage rates report, after plateauing in recent weeks, mortgage rates reversed course and reached a new high last seen eight years ago as the 30-year fixed mortgage rate edged up to 4.61% matching the highest level since May 19, 2011.

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/30Year%20freddie%20mac.jpg?itok=OzIa9_LI

But while the highest mortgage rates in 8 years are predictably crushing mortgage refinance activity, they appears to be having the opposite effect on home purchases, where there is a sheer scramble to buy, and sell, houses. As Bloomberg notes, citing brokerage Redfin, the average home across the US that sold last month went into contract after a median of 36 only days on the market – a record speed in data going back to 2010.

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/redfin%20days%20market.jpg?itok=jLXe8kQO

To Sam Khater, chief economist of Freddie Mac, this was a sign of an economy firing on all cylinders: “This is what happens when the economy is strong,” Khater told Bloomberg in a phone interview. “All the higher-rate environment does is it either causes them to try and rush or look at different properties that are more affordable.”

Of course, one can simply counter that what rising rates rally do is make housing – for those who need a mortgage – increasingly more unaffordable, as a result of the higher monthly mortgage payments. Case in point: with this week’s jump, the monthly payment on a $300,000, 30-year loan has climbed to $1,540, up over $100 from $1,424 in the beginning of the year, when the average rate was 3.95%.

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/median%20sale%20price%20refin.jpg?itok=E_RTfL65

As such, surging rates merely pulls home demand from the future, as potential home buyers hope to lock in “lower” rates today instead of risking tomorrow’s rates. It also means that after today’s surge in activity, a vacuum in transactions will follow, especially if rates stabilize or happen to drop. Think “cash for clunkers”, only in this case it’s houses.

Meanwhile, the short supply of home listings for sale and increased competition is only making their purchases harder to afford: according to Redfin, this spike in demand and subdued supply means that home prices soared 7.6% in April from a year earlier to a median of $302,200, and sellers got a record 98.8% of what they asked on average.

Call it the sellers market.

Furthermore, bidding wars are increasingly breaking out: Minneapolis realtor Mary Sommerfeld said a family she works with offered $33,000 more than the $430,000 list price for a home in St. Paul. The listing agent gave her the bad news: There were nine offers and the family’s was second from the bottom.

For Sommerfeld’s clients, the lack of inventory is a bigger problem than rising mortgage rates. If anything, they want to close quickly before they get priced out of the market — and have to pay more interest.

“I don’t think it’s hurting the buyer demand at all,” she said. “My buyers say they better get busy and buy before the interest rates go up any further.”

Then again, in the grand scheme of things, 4.61% is still low. Kristin Wilson, a loan officer with Envoy Mortgage in Edina, Minnesota, tells customers to keep things in perspective. When she bought a house in the early 1980s, the interest on her adjustable-rate mortgage was 12 percent, she said.

“One woman actually used the phrase: ‘Rates shot up,’” Wilson said. “We’ve been spoiled after a number of years with rates hovering around 4 percent or lower.”

Of course, if the average mortgage rate in the America is ever 12% again, look for a real life recreation of Mad Max the movie in a neighborhood near you…

Source: ZeroHedge

 

Mortgage Refi Applications Plunge To 10 Year Lows As Fed Hikes Rates

On the heels of the 10Y treasury yield breaking out of its recent range to its highest since July 2011, this morning’s mortgage applications data shows directly how Bill Gross may be right that the economy may not be able to handle The Fed’s ongoing actions.

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/mortgageinflation1.png?itok=dV-X18sj

As Wolf Richter notes, the 10-year yield functions as benchmark for the mortgage market, and when it moves, mortgage rates move. And today’s surge of the 10-year yield meaningfully past 3% had consequences in the mortgage markets, as Mortgage News Daily explained:

Mortgage rates spiked in a big way today, bringing some lenders to the highest levels in nearly 7 years (you’d need to go back to July 2011 to see worse). That heavy-hitting headline is largely due to the fact that rates were already fairly close to 7-year highs, although today did cover quite a bit more distance than other recent “bad days.” 

The “most prevalent rates” for 30-year fixed rate mortgages today were between 4.75% and 4.875%, according to Mortgage News Daily.

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/2018-05-16_5-18-48.jpg?itok=JaYsBRcs

And that is crushing demand for refinancing applications…

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/2018-05-16_5-09-36.jpg?itok=6saBh_HY

Despite easing standards – a net 9.7% of banks reported loosening lending standards for QM-Jumbo mortgages, respectively, compared to a net 1.6% in January, respectively.  

According to Wolf Richter over at Wolf Street, the good times in real estate are ending…

The big difference between 2010 and now, and between 2008 and now, is that home prices have skyrocketed since then in many markets – by over 50% in some markets, such as Denver, Dallas, or the five-county San Francisco Bay Area, for example, according to the Case-Shiller Home Price Index. In other markets, increases have been in the 25% to 40% range. This worked because mortgage rates zigzagged lower over those years, thus keeping mortgage payments on these higher priced homes within reach for enough people. But that ride is ending.

And as Peter Reagan writes at Birch Group, granted, even if rates go up over 6%, it won’t be close to rates in the 1980’s (when some mortgage rates soared over 12%). But this time, rising rates are being coupled with record-high home prices that, according to the Case-Shiller Home Price Index, show no signs of reversing (see chart below).

case-shiller home price index

So you have fast-rising mortgage rates and soaring home prices. What else is there?

It’s not just home refinancing demand that is collapsing… as we noted yesterday, loan demand is tumbling everywhere, despite easing standards…

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/C%26I%20loan%20demand_0.jpg?itok=jkH8NimE

But seriously, who didn’t see that coming?

Source: ZeroHedge

Bond Bear Stops Here: Bill Gross Warns Economy Can’t Support Higher Rates

Having thrown in the towel on his bond bear market call two weeks ago, Janus Henderson’s billionaire bond investor Bill Gross now believes that the most recent bearish bond price (rise in yields) will stop here as the economy cannot support higher yields.

As Gross said two weeks ago, yields won’t see a substantial move from here.

“Supply from the Treasury is a factor in addition to what the Fed might do in terms of a mild, bearish tone for U.S. Treasury bonds,” Gross told Bloomberg TV.

“I would expect the 10-year to basically meander around 2.80 to perhaps 3.10 or 3.15 for the balance of the year. It’s a hibernating bear market, which means the bear is awake but not really growling.”

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/2018-05-03_7-29-30.jpg

Since then, yields have tested the upper-end of his channel and are breaking out today to their highest since 2011 (10Y)…

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/2018-05-15_5-48-50_1.jpg?itok=fFNyLeBx

and back to their critical resistance levels (30Y)…

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/2018-05-15_5-50-55_0.jpg?itok=s6Hc1rhv

And now Gross is out with a pair of tweets (here and here) saying that the record bond shorts should not get too excited here…

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/2018-05-13_9-26-13.jpg?itok=hqAROAA1

Bill Gross thinks they won’t be right. He highlights the long-term downtrend over the past 30-years, which comes in a 3.22%.

“30yr Tsy long-term downward yield trend line for the past 3 decades now at  3.22%, only ~4bps higher than today’s yield.”

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/2018-05-15_8-39-58.jpg?itok=aNdSRwTH

“Will 3.22% be broken to upside?” he asks.

“I don’t think so. The economy can’t support yields higher than 3.25% for 30s and 10s, nor 3% for 5s.

Continuing hibernating bond bear market is best forecast.”

Asa ForexLive also notes, if he’s right it doesn’t necessarily mean the US dollar will reverse right away but it would be a good sign for stocks and would limit how far the US dollar might run.

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/2018-05-15_8-44-38.jpg?itok=MS3UBYGJ

So, will Gross be right? Is this latest spike all rate-locks on upcoming IG issuance? And will this leave speculators with a record short position now wondering who will be the one holding the greatest fool bag by the end of the year…

Well worth your time to hear what geo-economic consultant Martin Armstrong has to say.

Source: ZeroHedge