Mortgage Rates Still Attractive Even With Blow Out CPI Data
This was a wild week for market participants. Inflation readings were hotter than expected but really not a surprise given the massive amount of liquidity sloshing around and the economy experiencing growing pains as the U.S. reopens. Retail sales were strong, but not the blowout number many thought we would see. Perhaps this is a sign that consumer spending will slow in the coming years, which would help rein in inflation on product goods. The argument for goods inflation being transitory is that you can only buy so many new appliances, or upgrade your home throughout the year. Demand has been pushed forward due to the pandemic but now that households are stocked up on goods (think new Apple computer or a dishwasher), there will be some period of time before consumers need to replenish big-ticket items. However, costs to operate a business are up, as are prices for food and gas. Core material prices such as copper and lumber have risen hurting lower-income earners the most.
At the same time, wage inflation is also picking up, which is something the Fed policymakers want to see. It is unclear why there are so many job openings. Some reasons for people not taking better-paying jobs, especially on the lower end, could include stimulus payments that equal lower-end wages, child care challenges, and of course, the fear of taking on a risky more public-facing job while Covid remains a risk. The result of all of this is mass job openings for restaurant workers, retail sales, trucking, etc. Many employers are offering cash bonuses in efforts to hire. Margins are being squeezed which is forcing businesses to not only raise pay but also prices.
With all of the volatility in the marketplace this week, the 10-year Treasury bond has only moved up slightly. For the moment, bond traders are following the Fed’s expectation that inflation is transitory. One hot CPI report does not make a trend, but watch out below should the next few CPI reports confirm an uptrend in inflation. It remains to be seen if the Fed can have it both ways and can keep inflation on goods and services from running too hot while pushing up wage inflation. This is no small task and I have my doubts that it will happen.
Now is the time to take advantage of very attractive rates on mortgages. At some point as the pandemic fades into the rearview mirror, the Fed will need to adjust its ultra-monetary policy and interest rates will rise. The good news is that lenders are very hungry for business, and harder to place loan scenarios that have many options with fair to attractive rates and terms. In a world starved for yields, mortgages have been a great source of income for banks, insurance companies, and the government.