Mortgage Rates Ease As Economy Shows Signs of Slowdown
Market pain remains the theme. There are simply too many variables to consider for anyone to know what is going to happen in the economy. The UK shocked markets this week when conflicting policy decisions by different parts of the government caused bonds to soar. In addition, the Pound plunged and pension funds cried for help as their treasury positions got smoked. Losses from the UK pensions were magnified due to leverage. Back here in the US, still the best place to invest by far, markets remain rocky. The bond market is back in charge of the direction of equities, real estate, and all other asset classes. Want to see where the world is headed? Continue to watch the 10-year Treasury for a sign. Should it move above 4.000%, there is the expectation pain for the markets will be even more exacerbated. Hopefully, it can find some footing under 3.500%- 3.750%. This would help bring the fear premium out of mortgage and other debt markets. While financing costs remain high, it does not benefit the economy for activity to crawl to a halt. As historical events like the Great Financial Crisis of 2008 and Covid 2020 have shown, it is hard to restart the economic machine once it’s stopped.
Has Inflation Reached Its Peak?
The Fed’s favorite inflation gauge, the PCE, came in hotter than expected yet again. However, markets shrugged off this bad news as bonds and equities early on in the trading session, but markets fell apart in the afternoon. This may be a sign that we have reached peak inflation as this report did not cause the market to panic. Our internal conversations with clients support the notion that the economy is slowing. Business owners are starting to hunker down, retail sales of luxury items are slowing (a sign that even the rich are beginning to worry), restaurants seem much less busy and the residential and commercial real estate markets are materially slower.
With negativity at 2008 levels across financial markets, perhaps we are nearing the end of the damage to the economy and markets. It is hard to tell, but valuations have certainly come in. A reasonable bottom in the S&P may be approaching (3,200 – 3,400). The Fed will continue to tighten, but, the pace with which they have gone so far may justify a pause or slow down to .25 -.50 bp increases over the coming year-end meetings. This column previously advocated rate hikes and was not excited about ongoing stimulus or other money giveaways, all of which are of course inflationary. However, the Fed message is clear now, and doing too much too quickly to combat inflation may unnecessarily damage the fragile global financial system. We think the Fed, like us, is seeing the economy weaken and confidence deteriorate to the point that inflation will subside.