Tag Archives: Mortgage rates

Are Bonds Headed Back To Extraordinarily Low Rate Regime?

The U.S. 10-Year Treasury Yield has dropped back below the line containing the past decade’s “extraordinarily low-rate” regime.

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Among the many significant moves in financial markets last fall in the aftermath of the U.S. presidential election was a spike higher in U.S. bond yields. This spike included a jump in the 10-Year Treasury Yield (TNX) above its post-2007 Down trendline. Now, this was not your ordinary trendline break. Here is the background, as we noted in a post in January when the TNX subsequently tested the breakout point:

“As many observers may know, bond yields topped in 1981 and have been in a secular decline since. And, in fact, they had been in a very well-defined falling channel for 26 years (in blue on the chart below). In 2007, at the onset of the financial crisis, yields entered a new regime.

Spawned by the Fed’s “extraordinarily low-rate” campaign, the secular decline in yields began a steeper descent.  This new channel (shown in red) would lead the TNX to its all-time lows in the 1.30%’s in 2012 and 2016.

The top of this new channel is that post-2007 Down trendline. Thus, recent price action has 10-Year Yields threatening to break out of this post-2007 technical regime. That’s why we consider the level to be so important.”

We bring up this topic again today because, unlike January’s successful hold of the post-2007 “low-rate regime” line, the TNX has dropped back below it in recent days. Here is the long-term chart alluded to above.

https://i1.wp.com/www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/images/user3303/imageroot/2017/04/17/20170420_bonds_1.jpg

And here is a close-up version.

https://i2.wp.com/www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/images/user3303/imageroot/2017/04/17/20170420_bonds_2.jpg

As can be seen on the 2nd chart, the TNX has just broken below several key Fibonacci Retracement levels near the 2.30% level – not to mention the post-2007 Down trendline which currently lies in the same vicinity. Does this meant the extraordinarily low-rate environment is back?

Well, first of all, the Federal Reserve only sets the overnight “Fed Funds” rate – not longer-term bond yields (at least not directly). So this is not the Fed’s direct doing (and besides, they’re in the middle of a rate hiking cycle). Therefore, the official “extraordinarily low-rate” environment that the Fed maintained for the better part of a decade is not coming back – at least not imminently. But how about these longer rates?

Outside of some unmistakable influence resulting from Fed policy, longer-term Treasury Yields are decided by free market forces. Thus, this return to the realm of the TNX’s ultra low-rate regime is market-driven, whatever the reason. Is there a softer underlying economic current than what is generally accepted at the present time? Is the Trump administration pivoting to a more dovish posture than seen in campaign rhetoric? Are the geopolitical risks playing a part in suppressing yields back below the ultra low-rate “line of demarcation”?

Some or all of those explanations may be contributing to the return of the TNX to its ultra low-rate regime. We don’t know and, frankly, we don’t really care. All we care about, as it pertains to bond yields, is being on the right side of their path. And currently, the easier path for yields is to the downside as a result of the break of major support near 2.30%.

Source: ZeroHedge

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Fed Announced They’re Ready To Start Shrinking Their 4.5T Balance Sheet ― Prepare For Higher Mortgage Rates

Federal Reserve Shocker! What It Means For Housing

The Federal Reserve has announced it will be shrinking its balance sheet. During the last housing meltdown in 2008, it bought the underwater assets of big banks.  It has more than two trillion dollars in mortgage-backed securities that are now worth something because of the latest housing boom.  Gregory Mannarino of TradersChoice.net says the Fed is signaling a market top in housing.  It pumped up the mortgage-backed securities it bought by inflating another housing bubble.  Now, the Fed is going to dump the securities on the market.  Mannarino predicts housing prices will fall and interest rates will rise.

Mortgage Rates Will Rise When The Fed Backs Away From Buying Mortgage Bonds

The Federal Reserve’s oft-forgotten policy of buying mortgage-backed securities helped keep mortgage rates low over the last several years.

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The monthly housing market reports I publish each month became bullish in late 2011 due to the relative undervaluation of properties at the time. I was still cautious due to weak demand, excessive shadow inventory, the uncertainty of the duration of the interest rate stimulus, and an overall skepticism of the lending cartel’s ability to manage their liquidations.

In 2012, the lending cartel managed to completely shut off the flow of foreclosures on the market, and with ever-declining interest rates, a small uptick in demand coupled with a dramatic reduction in supply caused the housing market to bottom.

Even with the bottom in the rear-view mirror, I remained skeptical of the so-called housing recovery because the market headwinds remained, and the low-interest rate stimulus could change at any moment. Without the stimulus, the housing market would again turn down.

It wasn’t until Ben Bernanke, chairman of the federal reserve, took out his housing bazooka and fired it in September 2012 that I became convinced the bottom was really in for housing. Back in September, Bernanke pledged to buy $40 billion in mortgage-backed securities each month for as long as it takes for housing to fully recover. With an unlimited pledge to provide stimulus, any concerns about a decline in prices was washed away.

In addtion to buying new securities, the federal reserve also embarked on a policy of reinvesting principal payments from agency debt and mortgage-backed securities back into mortgages — a policy they continue to this day.

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Everyone Is Suddenly Worried About This U.S. Mortgage-Bond Whale

by Liz McCormick and Matt Scully, February 5, 2017

Almost a decade after it all began, the Federal Reserve is finally talking about unwinding its grand experiment in monetary policy.

And when it happens, the knock-on effects in the bond market could pose a threat to the U.S. housing recovery.

Just how big is hard to quantify. But over the past month, a number of Fed officials have openly discussed the need for the central bank to reduce its bond holdings, which it amassed as part of its unprecedented quantitative easing during and after the financial crisis. The talk has prompted some on Wall Street to suggest the Fed will start its drawdown as soon as this year, which has refocused attention on its $1.75 trillion stash of mortgage-backed securities.

While the Fed also owns Treasuries as part of its $4.45 trillion of assets, its MBS holdings have long been a contentious issue, with some lawmakers criticizing the investments as beyond what’s needed to achieve the central bank’s mandate. Yet because the Fed is now the biggest source of demand for U.S. government-backed mortgage debt and owns a third of the market, any move is likely to boost costs for home buyers. …

In the past year alone, the Fed bought $387 billion of mortgage bonds just to maintain its holdings. Getting out of the bond-buying business as the economy strengthens could help lift 30-year mortgage rates past 6 percent within three years, according to Moody’s Analytics Inc.

It’s difficult to imagine that losing a buyer of that magnitude wouldn’t cause prices to fall, thereby raising yields and mortgage interest rates.

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The surge in mortgage rates is already putting a dent in housing demand. Sales of previously owned homes declined more than forecast in December, …, according to data from the National Association of Realtors.

People are starting to ask the question, “Gee, did I miss my opportunity here to get a low-rate mortgage?”  …

While this may close the door on the opportunity to get a low rate, it opens the door on the opportunity to get a low price.

People can only afford what they can afford. If their payment stretches to finance huge sums like they do today, then prices get bid up to that equilibrium price level. If their payment finances a smaller sum, like they will if mortgage rates rise, then prices will need to “adjust” downward to this new equilibrium price level.

I wouldn’t count on a big drop. Prices are sticky on the way down, particularly without a flood of foreclosures to push them down. Today’s owners with low-rate mortgages won’t sell unless they really need to, and lenders would rather can-kick than cause another foreclosure crisis, so any downward movement would be slow.

As prices creep downward, rents and incomes will rise offsetting some of the pain, and those buyers that are active will substitute downward in quality to something they can afford. It’s a prescription for low sales volumes and unhappy buyers and sellers. The buyers pay too much, and the sellers get too little.

https://i0.wp.com/ochousingnews.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/fed_taper_stimulus.pngNevertheless, the consequences for the U.S. housing market can’t be ignored.

The “Fed has already hiked twice and the market is expecting” more, said Munish Gupta, a manager at Nara Capital, a new hedge fund being started by star mortgage trader Charles Smart. “Tapering is the next logical step.”

As the federal reserve tapers its purchases of mortgage bonds, it opens up this market to private investment. Perhaps money will flow out of 10-year treasuries into mortgage-backed securities for a little more yield. It’s also possible that Congress will reform mortgage finance and remove the government guarantee from these securities, making them less desirable.

It’s entirely possible that the yield on the 10-year treasury will drop this year. Higher short term rates and a strengthening economy means the US dollar should appreciate relative to other currencies, attracting foreign capital. Once converted to US dollars, that capital must find someplace to invest, and US Treasuries are the safest investment providing some yield. If a great deal of foreign capital enters the country and buys treasuries, yields will drop, and mortgage rates may drop with them. Rising mortgage rates are not a certainty.

For now, the federal reserve will keep buying mortgage-backed securities, but the messy taper is on the horizon. Apparently, when it comes to boosting housing, Yellen plans to stay the course.

Source: OC Housing News

The Mortgage-Bond Whale That Everyone Is Suddenly Worried About

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◆ Fed holds $1.75 Trillion of MBS from quantitative easing program

◆ Comments spur talk Fed may start draw down as soon as this year

Almost a decade after it all began, the Federal Reserve is finally talking about unwinding its grand experiment in monetary policy.

And when it happens, the knock-on effects in the bond market could pose a threat to the U.S. housing recovery.

Just how big is hard to quantify. But over the past month, a number of Fed officials have openly discussed the need for the central bank to reduce its bond holdings, which it amassed as part of its unprecedented quantitative easing during and after the financial crisis. The talk has prompted some on Wall Street to suggest the Fed will start its drawdown as soon as this year, which has refocused attention on its $1.75 trillion stash of mortgage-backed securities.

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While the Fed also owns Treasuries as part of its $4.45 trillion of assets, its MBS holdings have long been a contentious issue, with some lawmakers criticizing the investments as beyond what’s needed to achieve the central bank’s mandate. Yet because the Fed is now the biggest source of demand for U.S. government-backed mortgage debt and owns a third of the market, any move is likely to boost costs for home buyers.

In the past year alone, the Fed bought $387 billion of mortgage bonds just to maintain its holdings. Getting out of the bond-buying business as the economy strengthens could help lift 30-year mortgage rates past 6 percent within three years, according to Moody’s Analytics Inc.

Unwinding QE “will be a massive and long-lasting hit” for the mortgage market, said Michael Cloherty, the head of U.S. interest-rate strategy at RBC Capital Markets. He expects the Fed to start paring its investments in the fourth quarter and ultimately dispose of all its MBS holdings.

Unprecedented Buying

Unlike Treasuries, the Fed rarely owned mortgage-backed securities before the financial crisis. Over the years, its purchases have been key in getting the housing market back on its feet. Along with near-zero interest rates, the demand from the Fed reduced the cost of mortgage debt relative to Treasuries and encouraged banks to extend more loans to consumers.

In a roughly two-year span that ended in 2014, the Fed increased its MBS holdings by about $1 trillion, which it has maintained by reinvesting its maturing debt. Since then, 30-year bonds composed of Fannie Mae-backed mortgages have only been about a percentage point higher than the average yield for five- and 10-year Treasuries, data compiled by Bloomberg show. That’s less than the spread during housing boom in 2005 and 2006.

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Talk of the Fed pulling back from the market has bond dealers anticipating that spreads will widen. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. sees the gap increasing 0.1 percentage point this year, while strategists from JPMorgan Chase & Co. say that once the Fed actually starts to slow its MBS reinvestments, the spread would widen at least 0.2 to 0.25 percentage points.

“The biggest buyer is leaving the market, so there will be less demand for MBS,” said Marty Young, fixed-income analyst at Goldman Sachs. The firm forecasts the central bank will start reducing its holdings in 2018. That’s in line with a majority of bond dealers in the New York Fed’s December survey.

The Fed, for its part, has said it will keep reinvesting until its tightening cycle is “well underway,” according to language that has appeared in every policy statement since December 2015. The range for its target rate currently stands at 0.5 percent to 0.75 percent.

Mortgage Rates

Mortgage rates have started to rise as the Fed moves to increase short-term borrowing costs. Rates for 30-year home loans surged to an almost three-year high of 4.32 percent in December. While rates have edged lower since, they’ve jumped more than three-quarters of a percentage point in just four months.

The surge in mortgage rates is already putting a dent in housing demand. Sales of previously owned homes declined more than forecast in December, even as full-year figures were the strongest in a decade, according to data from the National Association of Realtors.

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People are starting to ask the question, “Gee, did I miss my opportunity here to get a low-rate mortgage?” said Tim Steffen, a financial planner at Robert W. Baird & Co. in Milwaukee. “I tell them that rates are still pretty low. But are rates going to go up? It certainly seems like they are.”

Part of it, of course, has to do with the Fed simply raising interest rates as inflation perks up. Officials have long wanted to get benchmark borrowing costs off rock-bottom levels (another legacy of crisis-era policies) and back to levels more consist with a healthy economy. This year, the Fed has penciled in three additional quarter-point rate increases.

The move to taper its investments has the potential to cause further tightening. Morgan Stanley estimates that a $325 billion reduction in the Fed’s MBS holdings from April 2018 through end of 2019 may have the same impact as nearly two additional rate increases.

Finding other sources of demand won’t be easy either. Because of the Fed’s outsize role in the MBS market since the crisis, the vast majority of transactions are done by just a handful of dealers. What’s more, it’s not clear whether investors like foreign central banks and commercial banks can absorb all the extra supply — at least without wider spreads.

On the plus side, getting MBS back into the hands of private investors could help make the market more robust by increasing trading. Average daily volume has plunged more than 40 percent since the crisis, Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association data show.

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“Ending reinvestment will mean there are more bonds for the private sector to buy,” said Daniel Hyman, the co-head of the agency-mortgage portfolio management team at Pacific Investment Management Co.

What’s more, it may give the central bank more flexibility to tighten policy, especially if President Donald Trump’s spending plans stir more economic growth and inflation. St. Louis Fed President James Bullard said last month that he’d prefer to use the central bank’s holdings to do some of the lifting, echoing remarks by his Boston colleague Eric Rosengren.

Nevertheless, the consequences for the U.S. housing market can’t be ignored.

The “Fed has already hiked twice and the market is expecting” more, said Munish Gupta, a manager at Nara Capital, a new hedge fund being started by star mortgage trader Charles Smart. “Tapering is the next logical step.”

by Liz McCormick and Matt Scully | Bloomberg

China’s Holdings of US Treasuries Plunge at Historic Pace

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A toxic trifecta for bondholders.

China’s holdings of US Treasury securities plunged by a stunning $66.4 billion in November 2016, after having already plunged $41 billion in October, the US Treasury Department reported today in its Treasury International Capital data release. After shedding Treasuries for months, China’s holdings, now the second largest behind Japan, are down to $1.049 trillion.

At this pace, it won’t take long before China’s pile of Treasuries falls below the $1 trillion mark. It was China’s sixth month in a row of declines. Over the 12-month period, China slashed its holdings by $215.2 billion, or by 17%!

Japan’s holdings of US Treasuries dropped by $23 billion in November. Over the 12-month period, its holdings are down by $36.3 billion.

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But we don’t really know all the details. We only get to see part of it. This data is collected “primarily,” as the Treasury says, from US-based custodians and broker-dealers that are holding these securities. Treasury securities in custodial accounts overseas “may not be attributed to the actual owners.” These custodial accounts are in often tiny countries with tax-haven distinctions. And what happens there, stays there. The ones with the largest holdings are (in $ billions):

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The UK is on this list because of the “City of London Corporation,” the center of a web of tax havens.

Total holdings by foreign entities, including by central banks and institutional investors, fell by $96.1 billion in November. China’s decline accounted for 69% of it, and Japan’s for 24%.

This says more about China than it says about the US, or US Treasuries, though November was a particularly ugly month of US Treasuries, when the 10-year yield surged from 1.84% to 2.37%, spreading unpalatable losses among investors. This surge in yields and swoon in prices wasn’t ascribed to China’s dumping of Treasuries, of course, but to the “Trump Trade” that changed everything after the election.

But China’s foreign exchange reserves have been dropping relentlessly, as authorities are trying to prop up the yuan, while trying to figure out how to stem rampant capital flight, even as wealthy Chinese are finding ways to get around every new rule and hurdle. Authorities are trying to manage their asset bubbles, particularly in the property sector. They’re trying to keep them from getting bigger, and they’re trying to keep them from imploding, all at the same time. And they’re trying to keep their bond market duct-taped together. And in juggling all this, they’ve been unloading their official foreign exchange reserves.

They dropped by $41 billion in December to $3.0 trillion. They’re now down 25% from $4.0 trillion in the second quarter of 2014. That’s a $1-trillion decline over 30 months! What’s included in these foreign-exchange reserves is a state secret. But pundits assume that about two-thirds are securities denominated in US dollars (via Trading Economics):

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Japan and China remain by far the largest creditors of the US, and the US still owes them $2.16 trillion combined. But that’s down by $90 billion from a month earlier and down $251 billion from a year earlier. And it’s not because the US is suddenly running a trade surplus with them. Far from it. But it’s because both countries are struggling with their own unique sets of problems, and something has to give.

The fact that the two formerly-largest buyers of US Treasuries are no longer adding to their positions but are instead shedding their positions has changed the market dynamics. And both have a lot more to shed! This is in addition to the changes in the Fed’s monetary policy – now that the tightening cycle has commenced in earnest. And it comes on top of rising inflation in the US. These factors are forming a toxic trifecta for Treasury bondholders.

By Wolf Richter | Wolf Street

Mortgage Rates Poised For A Sharp Drop

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Short Covering Setup

  1. Belief in the Trump economy is extremely high.
  2. Treasury Shorts keep piling on even as yields decline.
  3. Those short from 3-4 weeks ago are already underwater.
  4. A very explosive short-covering setup is in play. All it takes is one very bad economic report and yields will plunge.

Treasury Bears Beware: Explosive Short-Covering Rally Coming Up

Treasury Specs Are So Short, It Is Now A 4 Sigma Event

Ongoing Lock/Float Considerations

  • Rates had been trending higher since hitting all-time lows in early July, and exploded higher following the presidential election
  • Some investors are increasingly worried/convinced that the decades-long trend toward lower rates has been permanently reversed, but such a conclusion would require YEARS to truly confirm
  • With the incoming administration’s policies driving a large portion of upward rate momentum, mortgage rates will be hard-pressed to return to pre-election levels until well after Trump takes office.  Rates can move for other reasons, but it would take something big and unexpected for rates to get back to pre-election levels. 
     
  • We’d need to see a sustained push back toward lower rates (something that lasts more than 3 days) before anything less than a cautious, lock-biased approach makes sense for all but the most risk-tolerant borrowers.  The beginning of 2017 may be bringing such a push, but there’s no telling how long it will last.

Excerpt from Mortgage News Daily

The Dramatic Impact Of Surging Rates On Housing In One Chart

https://martinhladyniuk.files.wordpress.com/2015/06/5273f-murrietatemeculabankruptcyattorneydavidnelsonpitfalls.jpg?w=233&h=156To visualize the impact the recent spike in mortgage rates will have on the US housing market in general, and home refinancing activity in particular, look no further than this chart from the October Mortgage Monitor slidepack by Black Knight

The chart profiles the sudden collapse of the refi market using October and November rates. As Black Knight writes, it looks at the – quite dramatic – effect the mortgage rate rise has had on the population of borrowers who could both likely qualify for and have interest rate incentive to refinance. It finds it was cut in half in just one month.

Some more details from the source:

  • The results of the U.S. presidential election triggered a treasury bond selloff, resulting in a corresponding rise in both 10-year treasury and 30-year mortgage interest rates
  • Mortgage rates have jumped 49 BPS in the 3 weeks following the election, cutting the population of refinanceable borrowers from 8.3 million immediately prior to the election to a total of just 4 million, matching a 24-month low set back in July 2015
  • Though there are still 2M borrowers who could save $200+/month by refinancing and a cumulative $1B/month in potential savings, this is less than half of the $2.1B/ month available just four weeks ago
  • The last time the refinanceable population was this small, refi volumes were 37 percent below Q3 2016 levels

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Which is bad news not only for homeowners, but also for the banks, whose refi pipeline – a steady source of income and easy profit – is about to vaporize.

It’s not just refinancings, however, According to the report, as housing expert Mark Hanson notes, here is a summary of the adverse impact the spike in yields will also have on home purchases:

  • Overall purchase origination growth is slowing, from 23% in Q3’15 to 7% in Q3’16.
  • The highest degree of slowing – and currently the slowest growing segment of the market – is among high credit borrowers (740+ credit scores).
  • The 740+ segment has been mainly responsible for the overall recovery in purchase volumes and in fact, currently accounts for 2/3 of all purchase lending in the market today.
  • Since Q3’15 the growth rate in this segment has dropped from 27% annually to 5% in Q3’16. (NOTE, Q3/Q4’15 included TRID & interest rate volatility making it an easy comp).
  • This naturally raises the question of whether we are nearing full saturation of this market segment.
  • Low credit score growth is still relatively slow, and only accounts of 15% of all lending (as compared to 40% from 2000-2006), the lowest share of purchase originations for this group on record.
    ITEM 2) The “Refi Capital Conveyor Belt” has ground to a halt, which will be felt across consumer spend. AND Rates are much higher now than in October when this sampling was done.

Source: ZeroHedge | Data Source