The 30-year U.S. Treasury bond hit an all-time low on Friday as investors fled riskier assets and sought the safe haven of U.S. government-guaranteed debt. The causes for concern were weak overseas manufacturing data and ongoing uncertainty in handicapping how the coronavirus (now named “COVID-19”) will affect economic growth in the coming months. Should this virus become more of a problem, interest rates will plunge. For now, no one knows how this virus will evolve, but to date, it appears to not be as deadly as biologically similar infections.
Earlier in the week, bond yields held firm even after hotter than expected PPI and Core PPI inflation readings.
Home buying season should be a good one with interest rates remaining low for the foreseeable future. Supply and affordability will be the bigger issue, especially in the more expensive coastal markets. Building permits surged but housing starts fell which should put even more pressure on short term supply concerns.
With rates near historic all-time lows, we continue to believe that locking-in is the right course of action. The wild card is the potential threat that the coronavirus will have on global productivity. For now, that risk is low, but it may change. If the virus becomes an international pandemic, expect the U.S. 10-year Treasury to touch 1% or lower.
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!
The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC), as expected, lowered short term lending rates by .25%. The effect on equity and bond markets was muted as the 10-year Treasury closed right under 1.73% for the week. Stocks closed down a touch on Friday. The Fed also opined on the state of the U.S. economy and confirmed that the job picture was good, inflation was under control, and that the worry was on manufacturing data which has slowed considerably. However, given the strength of consumer spending and the small uptick in wage inflation, the Fed does not seem to see a looming recession on the horizon.
Further supporting the no recession thesis, there has been a rise in housing permits and good data on existing home sales. With 7 million-plus more job openings than people available to fill them, we agree that the recession fear narrative was maybe overdone. However, by late Friday, China cut off talks early with the U.S. on trade discussions, and if the U.S. and China negotiations on a trade agreement turn south, the disruption could be big enough to push the world into a recession. Also, worth noting is the fact that most developed countries besides the U.S. are not experiencing great economic growth. For the moment, the U.S. remains the envy of the world.
Regarding interest rates, we continue to believe a sub 2.000% 10-year Treasury is a gift to borrowers and that loan programs should be locked-in at these levels. The low rates have definitely spurred buying in the higher-priced coastal markets as borrowers are able to qualify for more home which is also a positive sign for our domestic economy.
The “Sell in May and Go Away” theory is on full display as stocks endure a tough week of trading to the benefit of lower bond yields. The main culprits are ongoing trade tensions with China and strong rhetoric from President Trump concerning Mexico. The U.S. will begin imposing tariffs on Mexican goods coming to the U.S. until Mexico applies stricter measures to help halt the illegal immigration crisis. This surprised the market on Thursday. Adding to the volatility is a slower growing global economy, negative interest rates on German and Japanese government debt, and fears of a potential recession. All of these factors have helped push U.S. Treasury yields to a many months low even against the backdrop of strong consumer confidence, a 3.1% GDP 1st quarter reading, and a fairly decent first-quarter earnings season. For the moment, it certainly is a tale of two stories with the “fear trade” winning.
Mortgage rates are also benefiting from lower rates and low inflation readings, but not as much as U.S. Treasuries. We continue to advise borrowers to take advantage of this very low rate environment as it would not take much to push yields higher should some positive comments come out of Washington or Beijing concerning trade talks.
Bond yields dropped precipitously and global stocks were volatile as tensions rose over the U.S.-China trade talks, which has dampened investor expectations of a near-term resolution between the world’s two biggest economies. Further pushing yields lower was the ongoing Brexit non-resolution which has forced Theresa May’s resignation. Finally, Europe continues to stall under a huge debt burden and the unintended consequences of negative bond yields which have done little to spur economic growth.
The U.S. economy remains strong, so part of the low-interest rate story has to do with how low bond yields are across the pond and in Japan. Many European bonds trade at or below zero. With unemployment near a 50-year low, tame inflation readings are the other major story that has placed a ceiling on domestic yields. Bonds traded this past week at a near a 17-month low.
Housing has rebounded from a poor 4th quarter, but high prices continue to weigh on prospective buying decisions. Locally, our own real estate market has seen a strong increase in applications as the busy season is upon us and interest rates on multiple product types are very attractive.
With the 3-month 10-year Treasury curve inverting, we will continue to monitor the bond market closely for recession clues. A prolonged inversion of short-term against long-term yields is a respected indicator of a looming recession. However, for the moment, we believe the U.S. economy is performing well and interest rates this low should be locked-in at these levels; the 10-year Treasury is trading under 2.30% as of Thursday, May 23, 2019.
In a volatile week on Wall Street, bonds have traded well with the 10-year Treasury note touching 2.350% for the week. Market strategists have had to react to both tough trade talk on China by the Trump administration, as well as elevated tensions with Iran in the Middle East in directing trades this week. Traders flight to quality investments benefited high-quality bond yields such as government-guaranteed and A-paper mortgage debt with yields moving slightly lower but within a tight band.
Back home, the U.S. economy is humming, job growth is robust, and inflation is tame as evidenced by GDP expanding at a 3.2% annual pace in the first quarter. Unemployment touched a 50-year low and year-over-year CPI is running at 1.9%. This begs the question “why are rates so low?” The answer probably lies in long-term economic growth forecasts as well as fears of a looming recession given the potential for an elongated trade negotiation with China and anemic economic growth out of Europe and Japan. Continue to keep an eye on the 2-10 Treasury spread as signs of looming trouble ahead. For the moment, the spread is around 19 basis points and rebounding from the 9 basis point spread just a short while ago. Treasury inversions are one of the most reliable indicators of a recession and need to be taken seriously when they occur.
Home sales have rebounded due to both the time of year as spring is an important home buying season enhanced by the low-interest rate environment. Our feeling remains that the economy is strong and rates should be higher. However, we have no magic ball and so for the moment, we continue to advise clients to lock-in interest rates at these highly attractive levels.
U.S. consumer prices rose moderately in April but less than expected. Low inflation readings will keep a lid on bond yields, as well as reinforce the Fed’s position keeping short-term lending rates unchanged for the rest of the year. With inflation in check, some are opining for the Fed to lower interest rates. We tend to disagree and believe a wait-and-see position by the Fed is wiser, as there are some indicators that inflation may pick up and that ultimately these low inflation readings may be transitory.
In other important news, trade talks fell apart this week with China. This resulted in higher tariffs being placed today on Chinese goods imported into the U.S., which will likely lead to retaliation from China sometime in the near future. How these negotiations go is anyone’s guess, but the consensus is that a deal will be struck eventually. However, there is always a chance that negotiations could fall apart and a full-blown trade war will occur, or that these negotiations will drag on much longer than expected. Those fears, while remote, have helped push long-dated treasury bonds lower in what is known as a “flight to quality.” The trade tensions also dented equities this week as analysts reassess the effects of ongoing trade tensions on future economic growth and corporate earnings.
Low rates do benefit our borrowers and have spurred both a good home buying season, as well as our clients who have refinanced into lower rates. With the 10-year Treasury note trading under 2.500%, we remain biased toward locking in interest rates. Should the U.S. strike a trade deal with China, we could easily see rates move up from here.
A better than expected April jobs report is further evidence of the “Goldilocks scenario” that our economy continues to flourish in – albeit one that complexes many financial experts. With no near-term threat of inflation as well as improving data on productivity and manufacturing, the U.S. is experiencing the greatest recovery in many of our lifetimes. Today’s job report supported the current administration’s belief that the combination of lowered taxes and less restrictive regulation would stimulate the entrepreneurial spirit of American business owners. It is hard to argue against this position at the moment.
There were 263,000 jobs created in April, well above estimates of 180,000 to 200,000. The unemployment rate fell to an almost 50-year low at 3.60% (WOW!). With wage inflation coming in lower than expected, bonds reacted favorably to this report and stocks surged.
Setting aside the myriad of potential issues impacting the market, which include Brexit, the 2020 election, and China-US trade tension, the talk for the moment is the near-perfect market conditions of the U.S. is economy right now. As a rising stock market is a strong vote of confidence for U.S. consumption, we are seeing an increase in home buying activity as well as other financing activity. With rates still not too far off historical lows, it should be a good home buying season.
With the 10-year Treasury range-bound, we are biased toward locking in rates given the positive economic reporting and comments from the Fed this week about their concerns that inflation may be transitory.
Declining mortgage rates have spurred refinance activity, as well as increased the probability of a strong spring home buying season. With inflation in check and the Fed on pause, interest rates should remain attractive for the foreseeable future. However be on the alert as rates may have bottomed and hit resistance in moving lower after rallying greatly since the beginning of the year.
Fears of global economic activity slowing continue to weigh on bonds. The recent drop in rates has pushed several wealthy nations debt to trade at zero % or below. In the U.S., the 10-year Treasury bond briefly dropped below 2.4% this week and the 3 month to 10-year Treasury yields inverted, a potential ominous signal of a looming recession should the inversion hold. An inverting yield curve has predicted most recessions and the inversion is the result of fears of economic growth globally as well as a lack of inflation. These fears will keep investors on their toes and may create a more volatile rate environment in the coming months.
Given that we believe most of the concerns we’ve mentioned are priced in, we are biased toward locking in rates at these very attractive levels. Any unexpected good news could move rates up higher quickly.
The highly anticipated Fed meeting this past Wednesday did not disappoint. The Fed went “max dovish” in their policy statement by stating no more rate hikes for 2019 and possibly only one rate hike in 2020. Many market watchers actually believe the next Fed move in interest rate policy will be lower, a far cry from just this past December where the Fed believed that two more rate hikes were likely for 2019. Less understood but equally important was the Fed’s timeline on the end of the balance sheet run-off, which will be ending later in the year.
Bonds responded as expected as both government and mortgage bond yields fell precipitously. Stocks responded with caution, falling Wednesday, rallying Thursday, and as of the time of this post, falling hard on Friday.
What’s next? The big question being asked is what does the Fed see that others don’t with such a quick shift in policy. Low rates will help borrowers buy new homes, cars, refinance debt, and also aid corporations, but the return of low rates due to the fear of either a brewing U.S. recession or quickly slowing European, Japanese, and the Chinese economies is quite worrisome. Longer-dated German bunds have gone negative for the first time in quite a while, and our own 10-year U.S. Treasury bond is trading at 2.45%, well below the 3.25% seen just a couple of months ago.
For those who qualify, low rates are another bite at the apple, which will help boost the spring buying season, as well as spur refinances, which will result in more savings or more disposable cash flow to buy other items, so in that sense we are grateful to the Fed.
Should the U.S. avoid recession (keep an eye on the flattening yield curve), rates at today’s levels are very attractive, but should the U.S. slip into a recession, expect rates to fall lower. At the moment, we are in a wait-and-see mode on rate direction and would not be surprised if rates were headed lower.