Stocks dipped and bond yields fell in a light economic news week, but nonetheless, it was a week filled with plenty of market-moving events. The fears of a new coronavirus out of China moved money from riskier assets into the safe haven of government bonds. Also, soft global PMI data helped to lower bond yields, which remained flat but may have bottomed.
Back here in the U.S., on the one hand, the consumer remains bullish as equity and real estate asset prices are at historical levels supported by a dovish Federal Reserve interest rate policy. While on the other hand, business leaders are skeptical and large scale purchases are soft.
With the U.S. economy expected to grow between 2.00% and 2.50%, the consensus is that it will continue to hum along and equity indexes will continue to reluctantly move higher. Some recent positives supporting that narrative include the Phase 1 U.S. – China trade deal and the expected signing of the USMCA agreement.
The strong consumer should bode well for a strong spring homebuying season so long as sellers don’t push prices back up in response to a very accommodative interest rate environment and strong demand. Interest rates are also spurring refinances as refinances lower monthly debt service payments and or cash-out refinances tap home equity to pay down more expensive debts.
With the 10-year Treasury bond set to close below 1.700%, our continued view is to take advantage of these near historically low rates. However, a “Black Swan” event such as this new virus that broke out in China could temporarily push U.S. bond yields much lower if government health officials cannot contain the spread of the virus. For perspective, very few people to date have been infected with this new virus, and the fears of widespread contagion are remote, as of this writing.
U.S. equities charged higher spurred on by low-interest rates, solid consumer sentiment, low unemployment, good corporate earnings, and the signing of the U.S.- China phase 1 trade deal. With the Dow likely headed to 30,000 and home builders accelerating construction starts, it appears the spring buying season should be favorable. Consumers feel flush as retirement plans swell and wages also move higher. All of this is positive for this year’s new and existing home sales. Keep an eye on prices. With such tight supply, we hope sellers don’t price new buyers out of the market given the strong consumer sentiment we are seeing.
The U.S. economy continues to be the best house on the block and with the Fed holding steady on its accommodative monetary policies we expect this Goldilocks environment to carry on for the near term. The presidential election could create volatility, but that won’t come in to play until the back half of the year. Interest rates remain attractive as the developed world is awash in low or negative-yielding debt, which has helped keep our own interest rates capped back home. However, inflation, which has been non-existent for the last decade, is showing signs of reviving. Should inflation move past Fed targets, we could see bond yields move higher and quickly. For now, most strategists have the 10-year Treasury yield pegged between 1.900 – 2.500%.
With that in mind, we continue to advise locking-in interest rates at these levels. It is a call we have been making for quite some time, but given the abundance of positive information hitting the markets, and the fact that the market has shrugged off negative-market-moving news so quickly, our feeling is interest rates have a greater chance of moving higher than lower. One interesting point: a study was recently completed that showed that negative interest rates have done little to boost economic activity in Europe and Japan. While I am not an economist, I have always thought that lending one dollar to get back less than the principal does not make much sense.
Bond yields flattened after a very tense week filled with heightened geopolitical tensions, as well as significant economic news. Rates dropped Wednesday after it was reported that Iran fired missiles at U.S.-occupied air bases in Iraq. Thankfully, no U.S. casualties were reported. The flight to safety was short-lived as the stock market rallied the day after the attack. Both the U.S. and Iran suggested that further escalations would be halted. Oil prices took a wild ride up and then quickly came back down as oversupply halted a surge in oil prices based on disruption fears surrounding the conflict.
On the economic front, weak manufacturing data was discounted due to the Phase One U.S. China trade deal being inked on January 15th. The all-important December jobs report was a bit lighter than expected, but overall not a terrible report. Unemployment remains at 3.5% and at a multi-decade low, and the U-6, or total employed, fell to 6.7%. The U.S. economy remains on solid footing and appears to be in what is often referred to as a “goldilocks” trend as the combination of low-interest rates, low unemployment, and low but stable economic growth increases our overall prosperity.
A surging stock market and low-interest rates should bode well for the coming spring home-buying season as potential homeowners feel flush. Inventory remains tight, but home builders are optimistic. With this in mind, we continue to advocate locking-in interest rates at these attractive levels. Many economic forecasts are factoring in higher inflation in the coming year, which would propel bond yields higher. Also, the overall global economy seems to be doing better and for now, any sign of a potential recession in 2020 has faded.
The U.S. equity markets traded at all-time highs on the last full trading week of the year. The market’s soaring prices were propelled to record levels by accommodative monetary policy, positive news on the U.S. – China trade deal, a strong consumer, and unwinding of recession fears. Final GDP 3rd quarter numbers were also released on Friday and were not revised, showing economic growth growing at a respectable 2.1%. Overall, the U.S. economy is in good shape and the recent stock market gains are a vote of confidence, supporting that narrative.
Homebuilders remain confident and housing starts surprised to the upside earlier in the year. Most economists had predicted the 10-year U.S. Treasury would end 2019 at above 3.000%. The plunge lower in rates (10-year U.S. Treasury currently at ~1.92%) has been a big factor in spurring home purchases and refinances, as well as underpinning the surge in equities and other asset prices. If rates remain low, we would expect the consumer to remain bullish and continue to spend on autos, homes, and other high-cost durable goods.
Banks remain aggressive on pricing and mortgage banks continue to serve the demand by self-employed borrowers who face challenges documenting their income. Rates are low and should be locked-in. Continued positive data both in the U.S. and abroad could lift rates higher. Then again, maybe they won’t.
Jobs, jobs, jobs, and more jobs! The November jobs report crushed expectations Friday morning, with job creation growing at the fastest clip in 10 months. The jobs report reinforces the thesis that the U.S. economy is on good footing, the U.S. consumer remains bullish, and that the recession fears have abated. The report followed other positive reports earlier in the week on housing, big-ticket purchases, and trade.
On the jobs front, the employment rate dropped to 3.500% with the addition of 266,000 new jobs blowing past the estimate of 182,000 new jobs. The U-6 reading, or total unemployed, fell to 6.90% from a reading last year of 7.6%. Wage growth grew year over year above inflation.
This combination of low rates, a strong consumer, and a strong workforce has created a “Goldilocks” environment. These numbers will keep the economy chugging ahead and work as a tailwind for the housing market heading into next year. As we have opined previously, interest rates remain attractive which provides more buying power for potential borrowers. For refinances, reduced mortgage payments free up money for other purchases. Our position on interest rates at these levels is to grab ’em while they are hot!
Bonds continue to trade in a sideways trend as more positive news is circulating from the White House on a possible trade deal with China. it’s anyone’s guess how the protests in Hong Kong will ultimately affect those negotiations.
With a U.S. election less than a year away, and with the Chinese economy slowing, our thinking is that both sides need a deal.
With the near-term fear of a recession off the table, equities are trading well and were boosted on Friday by upbeat manufacturing data from the November readings. A strong holiday spending season is forecast, which will benefit the economy while consumers, who make up 70% of the U.S. economy, gear up for the biggest spending season of the year.
Mortgage rates remain appealing and potential borrowers should take advantage of this ongoing low rate environment. In a speech this week, the Fed resisted the idea of “negative rates” as an effective monetary policy. Negative rates in other countries with developed economies have seen mixed results. We have often questioned the rationale of lending out a $1 today to only receive 90 cents in the future.
With the 10-year Treasury under 1.75%, our advice remains to continue to lock-in interest rates at these near all-time lows.
The Goldilocks environment helping to fuel the rise in U.S. equities remains intact. Encouraged by an accommodative and responsive Fed, a healthy consumer, and tame inflation, the equities market grinds higher, even as some manufacturing data suggest the economy may worsen.
In other positive news, there was an announcement from the White House that “Phase One” of the China trade deal is close to being signed. Taking all of these signals into account, the threat of a recession has been removed in the near-term horizon. In fact, should equities continue to shine, bond yields may very well rise as we head into the holiday season. The consumer feels good and is spending.
Interest rates remain at near historic lows, supporting our thesis that mortgage rates should be locked at these levels. For anyone who has monitored the markets over the long-term, a 10-year Treasury yield under 2.000% is essentially free money in real terms, once inflation is factored in. Jumbo mortgage rates, which price off of the 10-year Treasury, continue to offer borrowers attractive rates even as the economy points to continued growth.
Interest rates have been on a tear as of late with the 10-year Treasury note moving almost 50 basis points over the last several weeks. The move up in interest rates is due to both domestic and global influences.
Domestically, the job picture and consumer confidence remain strong, and some manufacturing indexes have picked up as of late removing the fears of a near term recession. Also, the Fed has been very responsive to the markets call for lower short term interest rates and their actions have steepened the yield curve. The stock market hasn’t helped the cause for lower rates as the “risk-on” trade has been in full bloom. Rounding out the case for higher interest rates is a positive commentary on phase 1 of the U.S.-China trade deal.
Globally, bonds have also risen as we’ve seen better-than-expected economic data out of Europe and prominent economists have opined that negative rates may be doing more harm than good. These factors have pushed yields higher.
Don’t be too alarmed as we don’t foresee interest rates running away from current levels with inflation readings still running under 2.00%. However, as we stated previously, our belief is that positive news on the economy could pull the 10-year Treasury to around 2.00%.
Mortgage applications have stalled due to interest rates moving higher. The low rate environment has put a floor on prices for sellers. Now with rates moving up, the question is how higher interest rates will affect home purchases in the coming months. Despite these trends, mortgage rates remain at very attractive levels, and we continue to advise locking-in.
In addition, we are adding a new program to our mix: bank statement loans starting at 4.25% for a 30-year fixed mortgage up to $3 million. Keep an eye out on our rates page for those details, or give us a call!
Insignia Mortgage’s co-founder and principal, Damon Germanides was recently interviewed by The Scotsman Guide’s chief reporter, Arnie Aurellano, to talk about how he became one of the country’s top loan originators. Damon reveals that working at his family’s beloved West Hollywood restaurant gave him the work ethic that underlies his success and fueled his entrepreneurial spirit.
Read the full Scotsman Guide interview.
A better-than-expected October Jobs Report capped off a robust week of economic news.
Positive earnings from America’s best companies for the third quarter reconfirmed that the U.S. economy remains the envy of the developed world and has the resilience to adjust to a difficult trading environment with China.
On Wednesday, the Fed lowered short-term interest rates in what may be the last of rate cuts for a while. However, the Fed’s actions the past few months have steepened the yield curve and pushed financing costs lower, helping to keep the ball rolling on economic expansion. While business investments are slowing, the job market and consumer confidence readings remain strong, and housing remains a tailwind for growth.
Across the pond, the fear of a chaotic October 31st Brexit was put to rest as well, at least for now. This is all positive for the market and potentially bad for bonds.
Capping off the week, the September Jobs Report was solid and better than expected with positive revisions to both August and September. The unemployment rate was a tick higher, up to 3.60% from 3.500%, wage inflation clocked in at 3% annually, and the Labor Force Participation Rate (LFPR) moved higher. In summary, it was a very good jobs picture for the U.S.
With so much good news to share, interest rates have been moving moderately higher, as predicted. Personally, we see no recession and can easily see the 10-year Treasury moving back up to near 2.000% given all the positive economic data recently released. Mortgage rates have been on the move as well. We continue to advise that locking-in rates at these levels is prudent, especially with interest rates still near historic lows.