Markets Rethink Inflation Amidst Fed Pivot
The quote “this too shall pass” may be apropos for the strain of higher inflation, higher interest rates, and increased volatility is having on all of us. For the mortgage market, it is an arm-wrestling match with interest rates, each day, in real-time.
Unfortunately, our instinct has been that once inflation is left to run hot for longer, it infects all aspects of the economy and does not retreat quickly. We opined recently that we were concerned Fed Chairman Powell’s press conference in early February was way too optimistic about the pace of cooling inflation. Also odd was the Fed’s belief that financial conditions were nearing a neutral level of tightening while most economists were seeing financial conditions ease up again. All of this has now come home to roost with CPI, PPI, January jobs report, and PCE, all of which came in hotter than expected. It is now widely believed that the Fed will need to raise interest rates further while also holding rates higher for longer to ensure inflation is wrung out of the system.
Financial Reality: Recession, Rates, & The Grind
Regardless of the popular belief that rates will continue to rise for a longer period, we suspect that the economy may be in a recession. As a result, the higher cost of living is impacting spending, which may come through in the data sooner than later. Mortgage rates are certainly making it harder for borrowers to qualify for home loans as well as purchase or refinance commercial properties. Bank liquidity remains tight, credit card balances are soaring, and high-risk auto loans are rolling over. All are signs that the consumer is under pressure. The lagging effects of monetary policy take time and the thinking is that the jumbo rate hikes from last year take about 9 months to work their way into the system. Should the economy fall into an official recession, the Fed will be forced to lower rates. At what point the Fed rate hikes break something is unknown, but we are no longer in a low-interest rate market as interest has returned to a normal level.
Our motto is that you must live in the world you are in, and not the one you want. Applying this to real estate means working much harder for much less, and seeing deals come and go. Again, we are of the firm belief that many prospective buyers are actively looking for a discount on the price to overcome the big increase in monthly mortgage payments. We are starting to see signs of more favorable negotiations between buyers and sellers, which is encouraging. For the deals that big banks refuse to fund, local banks are doing whatever they can to make common sense decisions on successfully closing such deals. The reinstatement of a busy market will take time. For now, it remains a grind.