Mortgage Rates Fall, Recession Fears Rise

The trade imbroglio between the political powers that be in Washington and the political powers that be in the rest of the world continues to weigh on market sentiment. Market participants remain cautious. Heightened uncertainty has kept many of them bottled up in haven investments. 

 

U.S. Treasury securities (long-term securities in particular) remain the favored haven. Yields on the longer-end of the curve have eased. The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note has drifted closer to 2.8%. The yield is down 15 basis points over the past two weeks. 

 

Mortgage rates have also drifted lower, though the drift has been less pronounced than the drift on the 10-year note. The range still holds at 4.625%-to-4.75% for the prime 30-year conventional loan. Rate quotes hold near the lower end of the range these days. 

 

Given the unlikely scenario of any participants in the trade imbroglio retreating, many market participants will remain bottled up in their haven. This suggests to us that mortgage rates are unlikely to burst out of their range to move higher. Floating to save a few basis points appears a reasonable risk to accept in this market. 

 

The story is different on the short-end of the yield curve. There, yields continue to rise. 

 

This shouldn’t be unexpected. The Federal Reserve exerts most of its influence on the short-end of the yield curve when it raises its federal funds rate (the overnight lending rate among commercial banks). The prospect of additional increases in the fed funds rate has kept yields on the short-end of the curve on an upward trajectory. 

 

Yields on the short-end of the curve rising while yields on the long-end of the curve fall have induced another worry — an impending recession. Market participants are worried that the yield curve could invert. Short-term yields could rise above long-term yields. 

 

The worry isn’t unfounded. The yield curve has been a reliable recession predictor. Nine of the past 10 recessions have been preceded by an inverted yield curve. When the yield curve has inverted, the subsequent recession occurred 12-to-18 months later. 

 

The spread between the yield on the two-year U.S. Treasury note and the 10-year U.S. Treasury note is scrutinized most. The spread between the two securities has contracted to 30 basis points.  The spread was 50 basis points at the start of the year. The spread was 90 basis points a year ago. 

 

So what’s the cause?

 

Market participants will buy long-term debt if they anticipate a recession. They buy the long-term debt because they anticipate the Fed will change course: It will lower the fed funds rates to counter the recession. The price of long-term debt rises more than short-term debt when interest rates are cut. Market participants anticipate booking a capital gain.

 

That said, it’s still mostly good for now. But if the economic costs associated with the trade imbroglio accumulate, it might not be less good a year from now. 

 

 

This Trend Is No Longer Our Friend

 

We are 10 years removed from the bursting of the housing bubble. Prices have recovered, and then some. Home prices at the national level are at an all-time high. They continue to gain altitude. 

 

CoreLogic reports that prices in its home price index were up 7.1% year over year in May. The year-over-year gains have ranged between 5% and 7% each month over the past five years. That the latest price increase is at the high-end of the range this late into the recovery is somewhat extraordinary. 

 

Supply remains the issue. We have a dearth of it. Unfortunately, the dearth will continue into the foreseeable future. The soaring costs of principal building materials will hinder housing supply growth. 

 

Random-length lumber prices are up 44% from a year ago. CME futures contracts are up about 52% for the same period. Lumber prices tend to peak this time of year and then bottom in the autumn months. This time could be different. This year, lumber is saddled with a 20.8% tariff applied to imported Canadian lumber. Canada has historically been a key supplier of lumber to the U.S. housing market. 

 

Housing costs will likely rise further because of the 25% tariff applied to imported steel and the 10% tariff applied to imported aluminum. Higher costs will impede new-home construction, which is unfortunate. If housing needs anything, it needs more new-home construction. It needs slower home-price appreciation.

Posted in Industry Update | Leave a comment

Fed Raises Interest Rates: What Does it Mean to Us?

Fed Raises Interest Rates: What Does it Mean to Us?

Federal Reserve officials came and went this past week. Before they went, they raised the target range on the federal funds rate to 1.75%-to-2.00%. The range was lifted 25 basis points (a quarter of a percentage point) above the previous range.

The increase was really a non-event. Most market watchers expected the Fed to raise the range. The Fed followed the script and raised the range for the second time (in 25-basis-point increments) this year.

Another increase is all but assured. The odds are rising that two more increases could occur before the end of the year.

The federal funds rate is an overnight lending rate for commercial banks. It’s a base rate and an important interest rate. The federal funds market, to which the federal funds rate applies, works this way.

Commercial banks maintain reserves with the Federal Reserve. Commercial banks maintain reserves to meet reserve requirements set by the Fed. The reserves serve as a base for generating loans. They also serve as a means to clear financial transactions. When checks written against a bank are presented, the bank must have the money to honor the checks.

On any particular day, some banks have a surplus of reserves, others have a deficit. A market arises for banks to lend excess reserves to banks with a deficit of reserves.

Short-term lending rates respond immediately to changes in the federal funds rate. Long-term rates respond with a lag, if they respond at all. The Fed can raise the federal funds rate and short-term interest rates can rise above long-term interest rates if long-term interest rates don’t respond. In this case, the yield curve inverts, which can signal a recession.

Long-term interest rates will respond if the Fed raises the federal funds rate to hold consumer-price inflation in check. Consumer-price inflation is a key variable in long-term interest rates.

The Fed increased its inflation outlook last week. It projects consumer-price inflation to run at 2.1% annually for 2019 and 2020. Consumer-price inflation runs hotter than 2.1% now.

The May reading of the Consumer Price Index shows inflation running at a 2.8% annualized rate. It hasn’t run this hot in six years. The good news is that the credit-market response has remained muted. The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note moved a couple basis points higher.

We saw a slight increase in mortgage rates this past week. Quotes at the national level on a prime 30-year conventional loan remain ensconced between 4.625% and 4.75%. Quotes have crept closer to the 4.75% boundary.

Is this as good as it gets going forward?

All signs point to a rising-interest-rate environment. Reprieves are always possible. That said, to float on the prospect of a reprieve is more of a gamble and less of an analytical decision.

Did Warren Buffett Call a Market Top in Housing?

USG Corp., the largest maker of drywall, recently announced that it will be acquired by Germany-based Knauf for $7 billion. The acquisition was given the green light by Berkshire Hathaway, which owns 28% of USG’s outstanding shares.

Berkshire Hathaway has served as Warren Buffett’s investment vehicle for the past 50 years. Warren Buffett is the most acclaimed investor in the past 50 years. Buffett buys when others are selling. He sells when others are buying. No investor has employed the strategy to greater wealth-generating success.

Buffett scooped up his USG ownership position during the financial crisis 10 years ago in a deal that valued USG at less than $1 billion. When the Knauf acquisition closes, Buffett’s USG investment will net him around $2 billion, nearly seven times his original investment.

USG has prospered with the new-home market. Drywall is an obvious input to a new home. Buffet has the knack for buying low and selling high. More than a few commentators have connected the dots. They have publicly speculated if Buffett is selling USG near a market top in housing.

We’re more sanguine on Buffett’s sale. USG has performed only “okay” since the housing recovery. It reported $2.9 billion in annual sales in 2011. It reported $3.2 billion last year. That’s only 1.7% annualized growth. Buffett simply received an offer too good to refuse on what is really a middling business.

Berkshire Hathaway still owns $23 billion worth of Wells Fargo stock. Wells Fargo is the largest mortgage originator in the country. No Wells Fargo shares have been sold.

In other words, it’s still all good with housing.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Fed Raises Interest Rates: What Does it Mean to Us?

Fed Raises Interest Rates: What Does it Mean to Us?

Federal Reserve officials came and went this past week. Before they went, they raised the target range on the federal funds rate to 1.75%-to-2.00%. The range was lifted 25 basis points (a quarter of a percentage point) above the previous range.

The increase was really a non-event. Most market watchers expected the Fed to raise the range. The Fed followed the script and raised the range for the second time (in 25-basis-point increments) this year.

Another increase is all but assured. The odds are rising that two more increases could occur before the end of the year.

The federal funds rate is an overnight lending rate for commercial banks. It’s a base rate and an important interest rate. The federal funds market, to which the federal funds rate applies, works this way.

Commercial banks maintain reserves with the Federal Reserve. Commercial banks maintain reserves to meet reserve requirements set by the Fed. The reserves serve as a base for generating loans. They also serve as a means to clear financial transactions. When checks written against a bank are presented, the bank must have the money to honor the checks.

On any particular day, some banks have a surplus of reserves, others have a deficit. A market arises for banks to lend excess reserves to banks with a deficit of reserves.

Short-term lending rates respond immediately to changes in the federal funds rate. Long-term rates respond with a lag, if they respond at all. The Fed can raise the federal funds rate and short-term interest rates can rise above long-term interest rates if long-term interest rates don’t respond. In this case, the yield curve inverts, which can signal a recession.

Long-term interest rates will respond if the Fed raises the federal funds rate to hold consumer-price inflation in check. Consumer-price inflation is a key variable in long-term interest rates.

The Fed increased its inflation outlook last week. It projects consumer-price inflation to run at 2.1% annually for 2019 and 2020. Consumer-price inflation runs hotter than 2.1% now.

The May reading of the Consumer Price Index shows inflation running at a 2.8% annualized rate. It hasn’t run this hot in six years. The good news is that the credit-market response has remained muted. The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note moved a couple basis points higher.

We saw a slight increase in mortgage rates this past week. Quotes at the national level on a prime 30-year conventional loan remain ensconced between 4.625% and 4.75%. Quotes have crept closer to the 4.75% boundary.

Is this as good as it gets going forward?

All signs point to a rising-interest-rate environment. Reprieves are always possible. That said, to float on the prospect of a reprieve is more of a gamble and less of an analytical decision.

Did Warren Buffett Call a Market Top in Housing?

USG Corp., the largest maker of drywall, recently announced that it will be acquired by Germany-based Knauf for $7 billion. The acquisition was given the green light by Berkshire Hathaway, which owns 28% of USG’s outstanding shares.

Berkshire Hathaway has served as Warren Buffett’s investment vehicle for the past 50 years. Warren Buffett is the most acclaimed investor in the past 50 years. Buffett buys when others are selling. He sells when others are buying. No investor has employed the strategy to greater wealth-generating success.

Buffett scooped up his USG ownership position during the financial crisis 10 years ago in a deal that valued USG at less than $1 billion. When the Knauf acquisition closes, Buffett’s USG investment will net him around $2 billion, nearly seven times his original investment.

USG has prospered with the new-home market. Drywall is an obvious input to a new home. Buffet has the knack for buying low and selling high. More than a few commentators have connected the dots. They have publicly speculated if Buffett is selling USG near a market top in housing.

We’re more sanguine on Buffett’s sale. USG has performed only “okay” since the housing recovery. It reported $2.9 billion in annual sales in 2011. It reported $3.2 billion last year. That’s only 1.7% annualized growth. Buffett simply received an offer too good to refuse on what is really a middling business.

Berkshire Hathaway still owns $23 billion worth of Wells Fargo stock. Wells Fargo is the largest mortgage originator in the country. No Wells Fargo shares have been sold.

In other words, it’s still all good with housing.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Higher Interest Rates for Everyone

Higher Interest Rates for Everyone

Arrivederci.
That’s all we can say to the lower mortgage rates that breezed by in May. Mortgage rates moved notably higher over the past week. The prime 30-year fixed-rate conventional loan led the brigade. It reclaimed the 4.625%-to-4.75% range it had abandoned for lower terrain last month.

We explained last week why mortgage rates had moved lower. Market participants were edgy over the crisis du jour – the prospect of Italy leaving the European Union. Market participants are prone to extrapolate: If Italy leaves, then France and Germany leave and the 20-year-old Euro-integration experiment goes kaput. Call it “catastrophization” on steroids.

Market participants are also prone to “toddlerism.” The Italy “crisis” held the market’s attention for as long as a jangling set of keys holds a toddler’s attention. It didn’t hold it for long.

Italy was a deflationary event. Bond yields fell as bond prices rose. Mortgage borrowers who locked a week ago were the beneficiaries of the deflationary event.

The tide has since turned. Market participants are now fixated on a new set of jangling keys – an inflationary event.

The European Central Bank could announce that it will end quantitative easing (QE) within the next week. The European Central Bank’s version of QE involves asset purchases that inject new money into the banking system. If QE ends, money supply growth will slow. The corollary will be rising interest rates. At least that’s what market participants anticipate. Yields on sovereign debt in Germany, Spain, and Italy all rose over the past week.

And why is the European Central Bank willing to engage rising rates? Inflation.

The European Central Bank’s QE asset purchase program is scheduled to run through September, but a rise in Eurozone consumer-price inflation (CPI) to 1.9% on an annualized rate in May has helped set the stage for the great unwind. Investors sell bonds when they anticipate rising interest rates. Bond prices fall, yields rise. That’s been the case in Europe.

Our central bank, the Federal Reserve, has already engaged rising interest rates (also due to rising inflation).

Indeed, we expect the Fed to announce another increase – 25 basis points – in the federal funds rate this Wednesday. Traders in fed funds rate futures contracts are betting a 93% chance that the rate will be increased. They’re betting there is an 84% chance of at least one more fed funds rate increase before the end of the year. They’re betting there is a 40% chance of two more increases before the end of the year.

The impetus since January has been for interest rates to rise, and they have. The impetus is for interest rates to continue to rise. With the Europeans now favoring rising interest rates, the impetus has strengthened (both here and abroad) over the past week.

We expect that we’ll see 5% rate quotes on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage sooner than later. We wouldn’t be surprised to see them before the end of summer.

More Expensive, Easier to Get
Borrowers jumped on the mortgage-rate reprieve that occurred over the waning days of May. The Mortgage Bankers Association reported a 4% increase in purchase activity in its latest weekly survey. Given the recent spike in rates, a lesser number associated with purchase activity will likely be reported in the next survey.

A mortgage might be a little more expensive going forward. The good news is that mortgage availability continues to increase. CoreLogic recently surveyed the landscape and finds that it really is easier to qualify for a mortgage these days. The trend has been toward loosening underwriting standards for some time.

Fannie May began accepting mortgages with LTV ratios up 97% in 2014. Freddie Mac followed in 2015. The debt-to-income ration was raised to 50% last summer for loans Fannie Mae buys.

The FICO score has been the one constant. It has held at 755 on average for a conforming conventional mortgage. The average was 705 in 2001. It spiked higher and has held higher since the 2008-2009 recession. Given the strong outlook on jobs and economic growth, the FICO score could be the next variable Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac review for easing.

We expect the trend of easing underwriting standards to continue. We expect it to continue with the prudence shown since the recession.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Higher Interest Rates for Everyone

Higher Interest Rates for Everyone

Arrivederci.
That’s all we can say to the lower mortgage rates that breezed by in May. Mortgage rates moved notably higher over the past week. The prime 30-year fixed-rate conventional loan led the brigade. It reclaimed the 4.625%-to-4.75% range it had abandoned for lower terrain last month.

We explained last week why mortgage rates had moved lower. Market participants were edgy over the crisis du jour – the prospect of Italy leaving the European Union. Market participants are prone to extrapolate: If Italy leaves, then France and Germany leave and the 20-year-old Euro-integration experiment goes kaput. Call it “catastrophization” on steroids.

Market participants are also prone to “toddlerism.” The Italy “crisis” held the market’s attention for as long as a jangling set of keys holds a toddler’s attention. It didn’t hold it for long.

Italy was a deflationary event. Bond yields fell as bond prices rose. Mortgage borrowers who locked a week ago were the beneficiaries of the deflationary event.

The tide has since turned. Market participants are now fixated on a new set of jangling keys – an inflationary event.

The European Central Bank could announce that it will end quantitative easing (QE) within the next week. The European Central Bank’s version of QE involves asset purchases that inject new money into the banking system. If QE ends, money supply growth will slow. The corollary will be rising interest rates. At least that’s what market participants anticipate. Yields on sovereign debt in Germany, Spain, and Italy all rose over the past week.

And why is the European Central Bank willing to engage rising rates? Inflation.

The European Central Bank’s QE asset purchase program is scheduled to run through September, but a rise in Eurozone consumer-price inflation (CPI) to 1.9% on an annualized rate in May has helped set the stage for the great unwind. Investors sell bonds when they anticipate rising interest rates. Bond prices fall, yields rise. That’s been the case in Europe.

Our central bank, the Federal Reserve, has already engaged rising interest rates (also due to rising inflation).

Indeed, we expect the Fed to announce another increase – 25 basis points – in the federal funds rate this Wednesday. Traders in fed funds rate futures contracts are betting a 93% chance that the rate will be increased. They’re betting there is an 84% chance of at least one more fed funds rate increase before the end of the year. They’re betting there is a 40% chance of two more increases before the end of the year.

The impetus since January has been for interest rates to rise, and they have. The impetus is for interest rates to continue to rise. With the Europeans now favoring rising interest rates, the impetus has strengthened (both here and abroad) over the past week.

We expect that we’ll see 5% rate quotes on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage sooner than later. We wouldn’t be surprised to see them before the end of summer.

More Expensive, Easier to Get
Borrowers jumped on the mortgage-rate reprieve that occurred over the waning days of May. The Mortgage Bankers Association reported a 4% increase in purchase activity in its latest weekly survey. Given the recent spike in rates, a lesser number associated with purchase activity will likely be reported in the next survey.

A mortgage might be a little more expensive going forward. The good news is that mortgage availability continues to increase. CoreLogic recently surveyed the landscape and finds that it really is easier to qualify for a mortgage these days. The trend has been toward loosening underwriting standards for some time.

Fannie May began accepting mortgages with LTV ratios up 97% in 2014. Freddie Mac followed in 2015. The debt-to-income ration was raised to 50% last summer for loans Fannie Mae buys.

The FICO score has been the one constant. It has held at 755 on average for a conforming conventional mortgage. The average was 705 in 2001. It spiked higher and has held higher since the 2008-2009 recession. Given the strong outlook on jobs and economic growth, the FICO score could be the next variable Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac review for easing.

We expect the trend of easing underwriting standards to continue. We expect it to continue with the prudence shown since the recession.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Why alternative mortgages are a smart choice.

Why alternative mortgages are a smart choice.

Traditionally, mortgages in the U.S. are financed by banks that also operate other lines of business, like offering deposit accounts and insurance products. But today, the American homebuyer is anything but traditional, and they are looking to lenders other than banks to fill the gap. Fortunately, financial institutions continue to create innovative mortgages that fit the diverse needs of borrowers, rather than forcing consumers to conform to rigid standards. The end result is more people with the financing to afford the home they need, rather than being shut out of homeownership entirely.

The trend away from banks and toward nontraditional lenders is a very recent development that is reshaping the financial landscape in the U.S. This can be seen in a snapshot of the top U.S. mortgage lenders by market share in 2011 compared to 2016. In 2011, 50 percent of all home financing was underwritten by the five biggest banks in the nation. Just five years later, six of the top 10 mortgage lenders by volume were considered nonbank lenders that focus on home loans almost exclusively.

Explaining the shift in the mortgage market

Why are more homebuyers choosing alternative lenders over traditional banks? Much of the shift has to do with the increasingly strict standards that banks adhere to when vetting mortgage applications. Prospective homebuyers are now expected to have stellar credit scores, high income and significant net worth already established before being approved for a traditional loan. However, this is not the financial reality for millions of Americans. It’s also not because excluded borrowers can’t afford a home – alternative mortgages are designed for self-employed individuals whose income may be inconsistent from month to month. They often work better for families that have imperfect credit for one reason or another and just need a second chance. Ultimately, these loans are well-suited to the countless prospective homeowners who lie just outside the margins of conforming mortgage options.

Innovation in the home lending sphere has not been limited to application requirements or loan terms, either. Many alternative mortgage lenders are succeeding because they simply make the process of getting a loan easier and less stressful. Traditional banks are not known for their efficiency, and the result for mortgage applicants is a long, drawn-out process of signing paperwork and enduring waiting periods. On the other hand, new mortgage lenders have taken the market by storm purely on the basis of the superior service and support they provide. That helps explain why alternative mortgage lenders have overtaken a significant portion of the U.S. home lending market in just five years, approaching almost half of all mortgages originated by volume.

Just like the process of actually purchasing a home, you have plenty of options at your disposal when it comes to choosing a mortgage. Speak to the professionals at New Penn to learn more about how innovative lending solutions can help you afford the perfect home.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Why alternative mortgages are a smart choice.

Why alternative mortgages are a smart choice.

Traditionally, mortgages in the U.S. are financed by banks that also operate other lines of business, like offering deposit accounts and insurance products. But today, the American homebuyer is anything but traditional, and they are looking to lenders other than banks to fill the gap. Fortunately, financial institutions continue to create innovative mortgages that fit the diverse needs of borrowers, rather than forcing consumers to conform to rigid standards. The end result is more people with the financing to afford the home they need, rather than being shut out of homeownership entirely.

The trend away from banks and toward nontraditional lenders is a very recent development that is reshaping the financial landscape in the U.S. This can be seen in a snapshot of the top U.S. mortgage lenders by market share in 2011 compared to 2016. In 2011, 50 percent of all home financing was underwritten by the five biggest banks in the nation. Just five years later, six of the top 10 mortgage lenders by volume were considered nonbank lenders that focus on home loans almost exclusively.

Explaining the shift in the mortgage market

Why are more homebuyers choosing alternative lenders over traditional banks? Much of the shift has to do with the increasingly strict standards that banks adhere to when vetting mortgage applications. Prospective homebuyers are now expected to have stellar credit scores, high income and significant net worth already established before being approved for a traditional loan. However, this is not the financial reality for millions of Americans. It’s also not because excluded borrowers can’t afford a home – alternative mortgages are designed for self-employed individuals whose income may be inconsistent from month to month. They often work better for families that have imperfect credit for one reason or another and just need a second chance. Ultimately, these loans are well-suited to the countless prospective homeowners who lie just outside the margins of conforming mortgage options.

Innovation in the home lending sphere has not been limited to application requirements or loan terms, either. Many alternative mortgage lenders are succeeding because they simply make the process of getting a loan easier and less stressful. Traditional banks are not known for their efficiency, and the result for mortgage applicants is a long, drawn-out process of signing paperwork and enduring waiting periods. On the other hand, new mortgage lenders have taken the market by storm purely on the basis of the superior service and support they provide. That helps explain why alternative mortgage lenders have overtaken a significant portion of the U.S. home lending market in just five years, approaching almost half of all mortgages originated by volume.

Just like the process of actually purchasing a home, you have plenty of options at your disposal when it comes to choosing a mortgage. Speak to the professionals at New Penn to learn more about how innovative lending solutions can help you afford the perfect home.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment