Market Commentary 11/12/21

Consumers are starting to voice displeasure with inflation over important items such as food and gas, amongst many other costs. It is hard to say whether inflation will be transitory (the experts keep redefining what transitory means).  Some goods such as used cars and lumber are falling in price, while other goods will come down in price as the supply chains open up. However, with a shrinking able work population, wage inflation is stickier and the cost of hiring employees is rising.  You are hearing stories of businesses offering 20 per hour for entry-level jobs, as well as, investment banks offering over 300,000 for young investment banking associates who graduate near the top of their class. With rents rising and a tight housing market, it feels inflation will be with us longer than the Fed expected.

So why haven’t long bonds risen? Well, that is a tough question to answer. The Fed controls short-term rates by moving up or down the Fed Funds rate. Typically, longer-duration bonds are not controlled by the Fed. However, some bond analysts believe that the Fed is buying long-dated bonds which have kept rates lower than they should be. Others believe that the Fed will need to act quickly in raising short-term rates and in doing so, potentially harm the economic recovery. Therefore the next couple of monthly inflation readings will likely determine where interest rates move. It will be difficult to argue that inflation is transitory should the readings continue to come in “hot.”  This week’s CPI readings were remarkable and at the highest since 1991. There has never been a time where inflation was running this hot and interest rates this low.   

Real estate remains a great hedge against inflation, especially with such limited supply in the market. While prices can’t go up at this clip forever, historically low-interest rates are keeping affordability in the housing sector reasonable. Most people finance home purchases and are comfortable with the monthly debt payments. The growing number of non-traditional banks and mortgage companies are helping the higher-priced markets by accommodating borrowers with unique situations (those with hard-to-understand financials or originating from a foreign country). Insignia Mortgage remains very busy placing jumbo loans for these borrowers who are looking for a piece of the California dream.

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Market Commentary 10/1/21

It was another volatile week on Wall Street as bond yields drifted higher and then fell. Inflation remains elevated and Covid-19 continues to wreak havoc on the supply chain and logistical delivery of goods which is a big deal given a great majority of the U.S. economy is consumer-driven.  

There was some very good news on the pandemic this morning as Merck announced very positive results from its oral antiviral treatment for Covid. Perhaps the threat of Covid will soon be behind us we all look forward to a return to a more normal way of life.  

Congress is grappling with two major spending bills: one aimed at infrastructure and the other focused on societal benefits. Both packages are enormous and should be carefully thought out. The debt-to-GDP ratio is already highly elevated. Each side of the aisle bears responsibility for spending through the years, but now, we are talking about trillions upon trillions of dollars of debt. It will be interesting to see how the bond market responds to the bill’s (or bills’) passage. For now, bond traders have not been bothered about these proposals, and some might argue the way bonds are responding, these bills may not pass or they may end up quite diluted. 

Core inflation came in at over a 25-year high this morning. Fed Chairman Powell spoke about his frustration with the ongoing inflation problem but reiterated that the Fed believes inflation will temper in the coming months as the supply chain issues are smoothed out. While we certainly hope inflation does not run hotter for longer, there are some signs that inflation is not going away anytime soon. Once businesses raise prices, these prices remain intact absent a major recession. Also, wage inflation is trending nationwide as many businesses have raised their minimum wages and even offering signing bonuses to attract employees. Powell has the confidence of bond traders still or yields would have spiked this morning after this inflation report came out.  

The alternative mortgage market remains very busy. As a leading broker of niche mortgage products in California, we are helping many self-employed borrowers, foreign buyers, and real estate investors obtain financing with attractive interest rates and terms. Our new CDFI program, which does not require a borrower to provide income or employment records, has been especially helpful. These loan amounts are good for up to $3 million and interest rates start in the low 4-percent range for interest-only.

06_12_2020_blog

Market Commentary 6/12/20

Stocks sold off hard this week following a strong rally last week which had been ignited by a better than expected May jobs report. Thursday of this week (June 11, 2020) was a risk-off day that shook the equity markets as the market digested sobering comments by the Fed chair regarding the economic recovery combined with regional upticks in Covid-19 infection rates. Yet there is a positive takeaway in yesterday’s brutal pull-back. After a dramatic rise over the past several weeks in stocks, sharp sell-offs washed out speculators and may help prevent a bubble. Lately, there has been a lot of chatter about speculators profiting by betting on de facto bankrupt companies whose prices in some instances have surged more than 100% in a single day.  

Friday morning provided some relief to equities with a partial rebound. This is a welcome sign that Thursday’s sell-off was not the beginning of a deep sell-off. Treasury and mortgage rates fell as money moved into the safe haven of government-guaranteed bonds. The Fed’s stimulus operations will continue indefinitely which will keep interest rates very low and will also entice investors into more risky assets such as stocks, high yielding debt, and real estate. 

The Fed is committed to propping up the markets as we work through the process of getting our economy back on track. No doubt this will take time but there are some encouraging signs of a nascent economic recovery. However, the economy remains very fragile.

Currently, mortgage rates are low and may go lower. Lenders are slowly gaining the confidence underwriting files a bit more generously. Housing supply is in our main market, Southern California, and buyers are re-entering the market. These are all welcome signs that the worst may be behind us. Continue to expect mortgage rates to be priced favorably, especially on higher loan-to-value loan transactions, but perhaps not quite as well one would expect. Once banks have a better handle on the direction of deferred payment, we believe pricing overall will improve even further. Keep an eye on infection rates, manufacturing data, and consumer confidence. If these data points move favorably, interest rates on mortgages will price sharper in the coming months.      

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Marketing Commentary 4/24/20

This week saw better performing U.S. equity and public debt markets as day to day volatility subsided. The Fed and Treasury continue to step up to provide liquidity as Covid-19 has put most of the country on a standstill. Mortgage rates remain elevated against their historical benchmark of U.S. treasuries, and underwriting standards continue to tighten. Despite all this, our lending relationships are working very hard to close transactions. The job picture is awful, but that is expected as are poor earnings reports from U.S. public companies. There is no fixed or agreed-upon timetable for a return to normalcy, but we are seeing some U.S. cities and foreign countries start the process of normalization with a focus on social distancing. Oil fell below zero as demand for this commodity is low and storage is full.  We are watching auto sales, oil prices, and weekly unemployment for clues as to what to expect next. The only thing for sure is that no one knows for sure.

It is vital in this market to have strong lending relationships and that is what Insignia Mortgage was built around. Whether borrowers are looking for non-QM loans, bridge loans, investment property loans, or traditional financing, our team members are structuring transactions with our lenders day in and day out and securing financing for our borrowers on purchases and refinances. Rates are fair, and turn-times are manageable. 

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Market Commentary 4/17/20

The details of reopening our economy are still in flux. State governors are taking the lead and will coordinate their efforts for optimal results in that arena. Equity markets responded positively on Friday to some positive news from our biotech sector on cutting-edge coronavirus treatments. While we are a long way from a normally functioning economy, any and all positive news on how we can start to get back to work is welcomed. Expect April economic data to be horrific. The hope remains in a May re-opening of the economy safely and gradually. Look for a tick up in auto sales both new and used as a signal that we are returning to normalcy.

A national shutdown is a black swan event that is rarely accounted for in investment or lending assumptions. The pandemic has caused great suffering with unemployment expected to hit somewhere between 15% and 30% near-term, with a recovery thereafter. It is no easy task for lenders to navigate an environment where income is on hold, liquid reserves have been hit hard, and appraised values are expected to be lower, not higher in the foreseeable future. This is why lending rates are priced higher than what borrowers are expecting, which seems contradictory in this environment. The link between U.S. government and mortgage spreads has untethered as portfolio lenders (the only lenders in the jumbo mortgage space) demand a higher premium for elevated risk levels.

Portfolio banks are where deals can be done quickly and with certainty and this is where Insignia Mortgage shines. Our lending relationships for residential transactions are fully functional and while guidelines have been pulled back, you can expect reasonable purchase and refinance applications to close. Interest-only loans are still available as are cash-out up to 60% to 70% loan-to-value deals. We anticipate interest rates to gradually move lower as economic activity is ramped up along with the assumption that the virus curve declines as the economy opens.

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Market Commentary 1/24/20

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.

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Market Commentary 12/6/19

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! 

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Market Commentary 7/26/19

U.S. economic growth remains solid and better than many economists thought was possible just a few years ago, though it’s still below the White House’s goal of 4% growth.  However, our strong U.S. economy is halting the move to lower yields as all eyes are fixed on the action-packed economic calendar next week which includes the Core PCE reading, the Fed meeting, and the July jobs report.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) reported that Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the second quarter of 2019 rose 2.1%, down from 3.1% in Q1 though a surge in consumer and business spending. This pushed the personal consumption expenditures index higher by 4.5%, the best since Q4 2017. Recent tariffs and a global economic slowdown stunted growth somewhat in Q2 though a GDP with a 2% handle is still solid.

2nd quarter earnings proved better than expected as stocks continue to trade well on the good earnings coming out of some of the world’s biggest companies.  Interest rates remain low and consumer and business confidence remains high. With the Fed set to lower the short-term lending rates between .25% and .5%, fears of recession have been taken off the table for the time being.

With a resilient U.S. economy and the unemployment rate under 4%, we continue to appreciate long-term interest rates around 2%, but also watchful of a move higher in interest rates here in the U.S. if inflation ticks up.  However, one could argue that the U.S. economy does not need lower rates given the ongoing positive economic trends. Only time will tell if gloomier days are on the horizon given the slowdowns of the other major world economies.

It’s hard to time the bottom of the market, but with rates this good, we are biased towards locking.

July-12-blog

Market Commentary 7/12/19

The prospect of lower rates has propelled the purchase of riskier asset classes such as equities. U.S. equities hit all times highs this week with the S&P index surpassing the 3,000 mark. 

Fed Chairman Powell spoke Wednesday and Thursday with Congress and all but assured the markets that there will be a .25% point decrease in the Fed Funds rate later in the month.  Market forecasters have already baked this rate increase into their investment strategies, but Chairman Powell used the visit to drive home the point.

Even with the prospect of lower short term rates, longer-dated Treasury bonds have moved higher with the all-important 10-year Treasury yield rising from below 2.00% to over 2.10% this past week.  This steeping of the yield curve is a good sign and has put to the side recession concerns for the moment. An increase in the CPI reading this week also put pressure on bond yields. So long as the inflation readings do not get too hot, a little inflation is another positive indicator of a good economy.

Economic readings remain a mixed bag of good and bad. Consumer confidence remains high, and unemployment remains at historic lows. Both are positives.  However, some key manufacturing and other producer related reading are starting to show signs of a slowdown.  Also weighing on the direction or long term growth are the ongoing trade negotiations with China and their uncertain outcome.

With respect to the mortgage market, rates continue to remain at very attractive levels and are spurring purchases and refinances in both the residential and commercial marketplace.  We continue to be biased toward locking-in loans at these levels as bank profitability remains under pressure due to the flattened yield curve. However, we do believe interest rates will remain low and do not foresee a big move up in rates in the near future.

June-28-blog 2019

Market Commentary 6/28/19

In what has become a tale of two different forecasts on the state of the U.S. economy, bond yields continue to test multi-year lows as stocks continue to climb the wall of worry. With all eyes on the G-20 summit and if a trade deal or path to a trade deal can be worked out, interest rates are stuck and equities grind higher.  The outcome of this summit has the potential to move bond and equity markets in a big way, as well as the structure of our global economy. Also of concern is the slowing of corporate earnings, the decline in manufacturing data, and the move lower in consumer and business confidence (although readings still are high but off of higher levels). 

Lack of inflation, as indicated by the Fed’s favorite inflation reading, the May core PCE reading, was unchanged at 1.60%. Low inflation serves as a benefit to bond yields and is yet another reason the Fed may bring down short-term lending rates at their next meeting. However, it is important to note that future price reductions in short-term lending facilities have already been priced in by “Mr. Market.” With the middle of the yield curve beginning to steepen from recent levels (although parts of the curve still remain inverted and should serve as a warning sign of heightened recession risk), absent a very big unforeseen negative event such as major bank default or big slowdown in economic activity, interest rates may be near the bottom in the U.S and both individuals and corporations are taking advantage of these lower rates via the surge in loan application and corporate bond deals.

The savings in monthly mortgage payments is a positive sign for consumer spending as those savings can be used to buy other goods and services. Lower rates also make home buying more affordable assuming it is not offset by a price increase. Considering the health of the U.S. economy in relation to the plunge in bond yields, we continue to be biased toward locking-in interest rates at these extremely accommodative levels.