Market Commentary 1/7/22

Fed Signals Rates Will Rise In 2022 With Inflation Running At 30 Year Highs

It has been a forgettable start to 2022 for the U.S. financial markets, and more specifically, for many tech companies and bond investors. While the last several weeks of 2021 were quite volatile, Wednesday’s hawkish release of the Fed minutes crushed many stocks and also shook the bond market.

Inflation is now a major concern for the Fed. Friday’s Job Report, which contained both positive and negative elements about the employment picture, reinforces the belief that the U.S. economy is near full employment. The current unemployment rate stands at 3.90% with many million job openings still remaining. Wages continue to increase running above many expectations, but, these wage increases are not keeping pace with consumer inflation and this is what the Fed is worried about.

Housing demand remains robust. Should interest rates continue to rise, housing demand and housing affordability will be impacted. However, with the housing supply still too low, housing demand should not dip too much. Lumber will be important to watch as it has quietly gone back up to a 7-month-high. Increased labor costs for construction workers are also a concern along with supply chain issues. Higher rates will force builders to work on keeping costs down on new home builds. It is too early to tell what could happen but homebuilder stocks have not traded well to start the year even as demand is strong.

Another hot CPI report is expected for December, which is due out next week.  While the market is already pricing in the likelihood of ongoing inflation, interest rates will be under continued pressure as both PPI and CPI inflation readings run at 30-year highs. We don’t recommend sitting around waiting for interest rates to abate or the Fed to pump large-scale stimulus into the economy in response to the Omicron outbreak.  Borrowers who have not taken advantage of the ultra-low rate environment still have some time to lock in very attractive interest rates. For those borrowers with complex financials, Insignia Mortgage has several local banks and credit unions willing to work closely with us to approve loans that larger institutions simply won’t take the time to underwrite. Interest-only products are abundant, as are mortgages for second homes and investment properties.

07_02_2021_blog

Market Commentary 7/2/21

Bond Yields Dip On June’s Jobs Report

A better than expected June jobs report was met with a small bond rally. While the headline numbers were good, the bond market response to the report suggests bond traders may be expecting a slowing economy in the months ahead. However, given the Fed’s involvement in the markets, true price discovery has been subdued as the Fed gobbles up over $120 billion of dollars of bonds each month. Also helping to push bond yields lower was a bond-friendly print on hourly wage increases which increased less than expected. Inflation is the arch-enemy of bonds and if wage inflation proves to be transitory that would be good for keeping bond yields lower for longer.  

This Fed-friendly jobs report may allow the Fed to keep ultra-accommodative monetary policies in place longer. The equities market will respond favorably, especially high-beta long-duration tech stocks. There is some concern that the Fed has hurt homeownership as ultra-low rates have pushed many housing markets up to record levels, making it very difficult for first-time home buyers and lower-income buyers to gain access to the housing market. 

With rates under 1.500% on the 10-year Treasury, we continue to recommend taking advantage of this. We’re in a uniquely fortunate period where you can lock in an interest rate lower than printed inflation. Times like this don’t last forever.

06_18_2021_blog

Market Commentary 6/18/21

Fed Talks Of Tapering Drives Rates Lower – Go Figure

The Fed’s shift in policy acknowledged inflation is running hotter than expected. They also confirmed that the tapering of the Covid emergency policy responses was met with big inter-week swings in interest rates and increased volatility in equities. We will see if this change in Fed policy will create the so-called “Taper Tantrum” that we witnessed the last time the Fed tried to unwind its ultra-easy fiscal policies. However, with the 10-year Treasury around 1.500%, interest rates are still very attractive. This ultra-low interest rate environment has encouraged prospective buyers of all assets (stocks, real estate, crypto) to take on more risk either by buying real estate at elevated prices, purchasing stocks over bonds, or hedging dollar depreciation by buying alternative assets.   

A lack of housing supply continues to nudge prices higher. However, affordability is becoming a big problem. If interest rates move up, there will need to be an adjustment in the supply and demand equation, and home prices will be under pressure. We are starting to see appraisals unable to come in at value on certain purchases. With the pandemic waning, perhaps buyers will not be so eager to stay in escrow, especially if the home does not appraise.  

Non-QM or alternative lending is really picking up steam. Lenders are pushing products out to the non-traditional borrower in a manner I have not seen in many years. Thankfully, lenders are keeping the loan to values reasonable so borrowers still have real skin in the game. Loans to foreign nationals, no income verification loans, and asset-based loans are all back with a vengeance. Insignia is placing loans with many lenders and are closing transaction up to $15 MM with very low-interest rates and interest only. The search for yield is driving the products and it will be interesting to see what happens if interest rates rise.