May-17-blog

Market Commentary 5/17/19

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.

May-10-blog

Market Commentary 5/10/19

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.  

May-3-blog

Market Commentary 5/3/19

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.

Apr-26-blog

Market Commentary 4/26/19

A strong GDP reading of 3.2% for the first quarter of 2019 has allayed concerns about a slowing U.S. economy. This result was well above the expected reading of 2.8%. Report highlights include a decline in inflation, which pushed bond yields lower, as well as strong economic data and retail sales. One point of caution within the report regarded built-up inventories. This first quarter build-up may be followed by a decrease later in the year, possibly creating a drag on later GDP readings.

In further good news this week, housing has picked up. This was expected given the time of year and the nice drop in interest rates.

With continued good news on the U.S. economy, important inflations readings next week, and the 10-year Treasury note trading at around 2.500%, we remain biased toward locking-in rates at these levels. However, we do acknowledge that there are many geopolitical and economic issues around the world that could push yields lower in the coming months. 

Apr-19-blog

Market Commentary 4/19/19

The U.S. economy continues to chug along, at least that’s the consensus for the moment. With consumer and business sentiment still going strong, along with a recent surge in retail sales, low inflation and near full employment, the overall picture of the economy is good.  

The Fed hitting the pause button earlier this year on raising rates and running off the balance sheet has certainly helped investor confidence as evidenced by the rise in equities. In addition, mortgage applications amongst other finance activities have improved due to the pause in short term rate increases by the Fed. Finally, the steeping of the yield curve has put to rest rumors of recession talk as several top bank economists see no signs of a recession, near-term.

For the moment, we are in a “Goldilocks Environment” with an economy that is neither running too hot nor too cold. As a result, the spring home buying season should be a good one.

Even as other parts of the world are experiencing a slow-down, it is hard to bet against the U.S. and all of the opportunity that this country has to offer its citizens. However, risks remain in Europe, and in our negotiations with China and North Korea, as well as the massive government debt burdens.  These economic and geopolitical risks are capping our rates back home as the German 10-year Bund is trading in negative territory juxtaposed to US Treasuries which are trading above 2.50%.

Given the drift up in the 10-year U.S. Treasury from around 2.39% to 2.54%, we believe rates are range-bound.  We can see rates continue to drift higher if the U.S. economy continues to stay strong and stocks continue to rise.

Feb-23-blog

Market Commentary 2/15/19

U.S. equities traded well again this week in response to positive headlines that China and the U.S. will continue to negotiate tariffs, as well as the anticipation of an agreement on a new spending bill which will be signed today, and tame inflation readings. Even with some concerns about slowing global earnings growth, the threat of a global slowdown and or recession, and a poor reading of domestic retail sales for the fourth quarter, for the moment equities continue to push these worries aside. We think a lot of the excitement about equities has to do with the Fed’s pause in both rate hikes and balance sheet reduction. Risk on trading is now in full effect as market participation works under the assumption short-term interest rates will remain low both domestically and abroad. Home buyers are returning to the marketplace enticed by low interest rates and price declines. By all accounts, the U.S. economy is robust as mortgage applications rebound and consumers continue to feel good about their future prospects. With bonds, too much good news is bad, and we continue to feel compelled to advise clients that with the 10-year Treasury under 2.700%, we believe locking-in is advisable.

Feb-8-blog

Market Commentary 2/8/19

Global yields continue to move lower benefitting borrowers in a significant way.  Domestically, the so-called “Powell Put” has helped equities rise as traders have greater confidence in bidding on riskier investments.

The 10-year Treasury is trading under 2.65% which is making mortgage rates ultra attractive again and from what we can see, increased loan volume greatly.  While our domestic rates are low, rates are even lower across the pond. In fact, there are hints that the European Central Bank might soon lower short rates in the face of a slowing European economy, Brexit confusion, and looming Italian debt concerns.  Add a deflationary Japan and a slowing China economy to the mix, and therein lies the reason our domestic rates while low are actually quite high in relation to the rest of the developed world.

No big economic news this week, but next week will be important with multiple inflation reports coming out.  If inflation remains tame, we could see rates move lower.  Should we get a surprise higher on inflation, rates will adjust quickly.  The Fed calmed markets late last month as they confirmed rates increases and the Fed balance sheet reduction was not on auto-pilot. A hot inflation reading could challenge those statements, especially with a booming U.S. economy, and historically low unemployment.

Home buyers are taking advantage of these low rates, and with a drop in home prices, we are seeing greater activity from buyers.  We remain biased toward locking-in rates at these low levels (to be fair, levels we thought we would not revisit again for quite some time).

Jan-18-blog 2019

Market Commentary 1/18/19

The effects of the partial government shutdown

Interest rates are drifting higher as the damage caused by last month’s brutal volatility washes out and the focus returns back to earnings, the economy, global trade, and inflation.  

We will learn more about earnings in the coming weeks, but it has been a mixed bag so far. With respect to the economy, the U.S. economy remains strong, but across the pond, Europe’s economy appears to be slowing along with China. The global economic slowdown is a big concern and is partly responsible for the drop in interest rates that took hold late last year and continued into 2019. Counteractively, a slowing economy could be good for stocks as it will keep the Fed from raising rates.  

Secondly, the effects of the government shutdown (if it continues), will become a drag on future confidence readings and overall GDP if it’s not resolved soon. However, keep in mind, Wall Street loves political gridlock and the surge in the stock market is evidence of this.

Thirdly, there are rumors that the U.S. and China are working together on a trade deal. Stocks are higher on this news and bonds have sold off a touch as the risk of an all-out trade war subside.

Finally, inflation remains in check even with full employment here in the U.S. This is a big positive for bond yields along with the Fed clearly stating their intention to remain patient.  

With the recent upward trend in stocks, and, the 10-year Treasury Bond trading below 2.80% yield, we remain biased toward locking-in interest rates given recent events.   

Dec-28-blog

Market Commentary 12/28/18

After a gloomy start to the week, U.S. equities rallied significantly to the delight of traders and investors. While the equity markets are poised to close lower for the year, a strong rally on the day after Christmas stock rally and a follow up positive close took some risk off the table with respect to if “Mr. Market knew something the rest of us didn’t”. Part of the recent volatility can be attributed to year-end tax selling, but the violent moves appear to be the result computer-driven algorithmic trading. Volatility is usually a benefit to bonds, and given the strong economic data and low unemployment rates throughout the year, we are glad to report the 10-year Treasury is well under 2.82%. Around the developed world, interest rates remain accommodative as both China’s and Europe’s economy show signs of slowing. Whether or not a recession is on the horizon is debatable, but low rates appear to be needed to keep the global economy moving forward.

With inflation in check, a volatile stock market, the threat of ongoing trade tensions with China, as well as a partial government shutdown, we see interest rates remaining low for the first few months of the year. This reprieve in interest rates should be a boon for home buyers who were worried about rising interest rates and a slowing housing market. Banks are fighting hard for home loans and we look forward to helping our borrowers and referral partners in the coming year find the best loan they can.

market commentary blog image 12/21/18

Market Commentary 12/21/18

As the end of the year quickly approaches, market volatility has spiked and fear over a slowing economy, global trade tensions, and a government shutdown have taken most major global stock indexes into bear market territory. Long-dated bonds have traded (as expected) higher as the flight to quality has pushed 10-year Treasury yield to under 2.80%. Parsing out the negative news stories that continue to be the focus of concern lately, it is important to remember that our economy remains strong, employment remains at historical lows, and inflation is contained. However, for the moment, the markets are focused on negative headlines, and stocks are getting beaten down.

In economic news this week, the most anticipated Fed meeting in years ended as we predicted. The Fed raised overnight lending rates by .25%, and while the Fed comments were dovish with respect to anticipated future Fed hikes, the market wanted more. The lack of the so-called “Powell putt” to soothe the markets increased selling throughout the week. However, if the Fed focuses on the data, we don’t foresee 3 or 4 rate hikes next year.

The Fed’s favorite gauge of inflation, the Personal Consumption Expenditure (PCE), came in as expected on Friday, yet another reason to support not raising rates any time soon.

In housing, buyers and sellers are working well together to make a deal and lenders remain committed to closing loans, a major source of revenue for most non-money center banks.