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Rates Flat on Limited Economic Data

| June 23rd, 2017 | Comments Off on Rates Flat on Limited Economic Data

Mortgage interest rates were mostly flat on the week as economic data was limited. Of note, May Existing Home Sales, the April FHFA House Price Index, and May New Home Sales were stronger than expected. The FHFA House Price Index was up 0.7% month over month and 6.8% year over year. The median sales price for Existing Home Sales was $252,800 and $345,800 for New Home Sales. Weekly Jobless Claims and May Leading Economic Indicators were in line with expectations. Congress is working on changes to health care and the tax code. In Europe, the Eurozone Manufacturing PMI was better than expected but the Services PMI was weaker than expected. In Saudi Arabia there is a new Crown Prince which may lead to increased tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average is currently at 21,412, up slightly on the week. The crude oil spot price is currently at $43.07 per barrel, down almost $2 per barrel on the week. The Dollar strengthened versus the Euro and Yen on the week.

Next week look toward Monday’s Durable Goods Orders, Tuesday’s Case-Shiller Home Price Index and Consumer Confidence Index, Wednesday’s International trade and Pending Home Sales Index, Thursday’s final look at Q1 GDP and Jobless Claims, and Friday’s Personal Income and Outlays, Chicago Purchasing Managers Index, and Consumer Sentiment Index as potential market moving events.


| June 23rd, 2017 | Comments Off on MORTGAGE CREDIT NEWS BY LOUIS S. BARNES

Financial markets are in a most peculiar place: standstill. This last week extended the June freeze: the 10-year T-note this week traded between 2.19% and 2.14%, mortgages not moving at all, very close to 4.00%; and the S&P500 stayed between 2435 and 2447.

The period of exceptionally low volatility goes all the way back to March. Are markets stalled because there is no news, or is there no news because markets are stalled?

Financial markets change prices to reflect changed facts and expectations, usually economic ones but also local politics and geopolitics — and of course the old, mindless force of rebalancing more buyers than sellers or vice-versa. That’s a lot of nuthin’ happenin’.

We must look back eight months to find at the last big action, the huge jump in long-term interest rates which coincided with the election, the 10-year T-note in just six weeks from 1.78% to 2.60%, mortgages from 3.75% to 4.375%. That move peaked again in March and has slowly fizzled since. Stocks have had no fizzle, just a seemingly endless succession of new-record highs until the recent flats.

Long quiet periods are almost always an illusion that nothing is happening. Tension always builds during quiet markets, whether we can see it or not. Fabled market advisor Bob Farrell articulated ten rules of trading, one of the few sets of wisdom quoted too often. Farrell’s Rule #4: “Rapidly rising or falling markets usually go further than you think, but they do not correct by going sideways.”

If we don’t know why we have gone flat, it’s a reach to guess at the next move, up or down — but it will be one of the two, and the longer we stay flat, the more violent.

Instead of predicting, or embracing boom or doom and then finding supporting evidence, ask “What has changed?” In what ways did the world or nation change to create flatness, and see if shedding that light provides hints for what’s coming.

Start big. As a global economic matter, nothing substantial has happened since last fall  with the possible exception of soft prices for oil, which in itself has little net effect, hurting some, benefiting others. Since US frackers are the swing producers, oil can’t crash below the frackers’ minimum price, which is close to $40/bbl and where we are. Nothing is underway to hurt oil demand.

Global politics break into direct economic impact, and “geopolitics,” the all-time euphemism for risk of war. Seven-and-a-half billion people are busy with all sorts of things, but in the last year only two big changes: the potential for Brexit chaos, and the sudden weakness in Britain’s government. These twin uncertainties are enough to freeze anything.

Nothing much has changed in Asia. Japan festers on, China tries to rationalize its economy via top-down control but nothing new.

Geo-political risks are rising in the Middle East as the US reduces its hyper-exposure. The muscle-flexing by an economically deteriorating Saudi Arabia is unsettling, but all actors in the area still suppress big conflicts in favor of noise. Smart, too. Russia’s ambitions are limited by economic distress, and the embarrassing exposure of its mischief-making.

So far, so good. Dull markets reflect a dull outside world.

The action is here in the US. In utmost political delicacy, trying not to offend: US government has moved from nearly 20 years of gridlock to something like decapitation. It may last, and it may not. Lasting: each political party is split, radical wings preventing bi-partisan action, and the Republican majority too thin to act while the party is so divided. The wild card is of course the president, ineffective in the first six months but capable of dramatic action at any time. Possible: the government moves on without the president, in limited ways but enough to keep the trains running on time.

The agenda is in the hands of the White House and the Republican leaders in Congress. They have been stalled, entangled in in trivia like the travel ban and off-point upsets in the Oval Office, and the agenda itself is prone to stall because it has only minority national public support. Congress may become un-stuck at any moment. The most immediate marker: health care. If Congress cannot deliver a substitute for Obamacare, it will have even more trouble with the other big items, tax reform, tax cuts, infrastructure, and regulatory relief.

Decapitation causes no particular economic harm, but an open-ended stall would tend to unwind the post-election market moves, especially belief in economic stimulus. Much as I believe in basic US economic health, and the Fed’s intention to raise interest rates (modestly), if health care fails in Congress next week the market reaction will be down, more likely mortgages and long-term interest rates than stocks.

If Congress and the White House suddenly begin to find traction, that will support both rates and stocks.

———- ———-

The 10-year T-note in the last year. Hardly moving at all, but the movement is down:

The 2-year T-note has stopped its rise, halting expectations of the next Fed hike:

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| June 15th, 2017 | Comments Off on Premier Mortgage Group Weekly Mortgage News

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Credit News by Lou Barnes – December 2, 2016

| December 2nd, 2016 | Comments Off on Credit News by Lou Barnes – December 2, 2016

The interest-rate fever has broken for the moment. The 10-year T-note touched a two-year high yesterday at 2.45%, mortgages 4.25%. Both improved a bit today despite news which should have pushed them higher: good November jobs, ISM manufacturing index to an 18-month high, and an improbable OPEC deal and oil $50+.

We may get a pause at these levels, even improve a bit more, but the overall move up is not over. We might be rescued by a new mess in Europe or China or Japan, but there is no predicting or waiting for those.

Why did the bond market blow up on the day after the election? It’s possible to argue (weakly) that the move was already underway and the election triggered the next step. But, a straight-line 10-year run from 1.85% to 2.45%…? That’s the election.

And the Fed. Embedded in this bond wreck is a sudden repricing of the Fed’s intentions. Again, it’s possible to argue (weakly) that the bond market had defied the Fed for four years, and got caught. However, we now have a better set of fingerprints, both from the market and Trump: the election did this, and has more to do.

The first fingerprint, dramatic in the charts below: the 2-year T-note has also blown up. 2s are the best Fed weathervane. If you’re trading 2s and get wrong the trend in the overnight cost of money, you won’t be trading 2s for long. “Domino’s” on the roof of your car. On election-eve, 2s traded 0.80%; yesterday, 1.15%.

Pre-election many thought the Fed would tighten gradually, but that foreign buyers and a dim global economy would hold long-term bonds down — “yield curve flattening,” the spread between 2s and 10s narrowing. Not. The whole curve has jumped, and steepened, a forecast of both a faster-farther Fed and inflation.

Treasury Secretary-designate Steve Mnuchin — “Munchkin,” now and forevermore — is another Goldman escapee, who ran their MBS desk. His entire focus is pushing growth to “3%-4%.” And he’s going to privatize Fannie and Freddie.

All economies have speed limits. Add labor-force growth to productivity, and you get the rate of non-inflationary GDP growth. In our case roughly 1% plus 1% equals 2%. Push tax cuts or spending, and any excess growth just adds to inflation. To raise the speed limit, raise productivity and/or immigration. Raising productivity is a long and hard mission involving education and carefully targeted investment in a world drowning in excess investment. Immigration? With these guys in charge?

If the new administration intends to push growth at double capacity, the Fed must react, come faster-farther. That theory matches market fingerprints.

The cruel aspect: these stimulus plans are unlikely to boost growth much. Regulatory relief will be nice, but not “USA Unchained.” Lower corporate tax rates and repatriation of old earnings will not goose investment unless there are profitable opportunities — and those prospects have been so poor that companies have borrowed oodles of cash just to buy-back their own stock. Banks will not gush loans just because Dodd-Frank gets clipped. Banks will be more profitable, but lending requires borrowers with reason to borrow. Wing-nut financial theologies like privatizing Fannie will hurt. Voucherizing ObamaCare will frighten households, as will the threat to Medicare.

Poor prospects for stimulus or not, the Fed will have to pre-empt the potential hazard from the binge. Brace for tweets threatening Yellen.

All of that said, Trump has one asset which might break all of the rules for the better. Action! Do things. The presidency has been inert since Clinton’s first term, twenty long years, and The Donald will hit the ground in a whirlwind like none since the two Roosevelts and Reagan. He already has: the Carrier jobs deal is technically a waste, just a subsidy of the “saved” jobs by consumers and Indiana, foolishness the same whether pushed by Democrats and unions or the Tea Pots. Far better: retraining and outplacement, which adds to productivity.

But the theater! Carrier was a tremendous inspiration for the nation. Sometimes theater beats bean-counting. No matter how crazy he is, action feeds good spirits.

———- ———-

The 2-year T-note in the last 90 days. Something in the election forced instant re-pricing of the Fed’s intentions:

The 10-year T-note, five years back. There is no substantial technical “chart support” here except the double-top at the end of 2013. We are at risk for another half-percent increase, and soon:

Of course, “it’s the economy, stupid.” The Chicago Fed’s national index has been slipping for two years:

The Atlanta Fed’s spooky-relaible GDP tracker is all over the place in the 4th quarter. Growth may already be up-trending, 2.5%+, which would require quicker Fed action even without Trump stimulus:

The ECRI until it’s first-ever false-recession call in 2011 had been the most-reliable indicator for 45 years. I am suspicious of its red-hot value now:


Credit News by Lou Barnes – November 18, 2016

| November 18th, 2016 | Comments Off on Credit News by Lou Barnes – November 18, 2016

The US 10-year T-note is rising in yield again, now 2.35%, up a half-percent since election day. Mortgages are rising accordingly, close to 4.125%.

Did Donald Trump do that? We have some recent experience with black swan events, but not with a bird sporting an orange comb-over.

Part One: A global move up in long-term bond yields began in summer. The low for Japan’s 10-year on July 27 was -0.29% (note minus signs); on US election day it had risen to -0.064%. The German 10-year bottomed at -0.19% on July 8; by election day it had risen to 0.21% — almost as big an increase as the US 10-year after election day. Donald Trump had nothing to do with that. Since election day those two bonds have moved little and ours caught up.

That global rise was caused by the ECB and BOJ both confirming intent to push inflation up, continuing to buy IOUs from the market, but will cease pushing down long-term rates. Each central bank runs QE of $80 billion per month, but buying short-term paper. The BOJ will hold its 10-year at 0%, but the ECB has made no commitment to hold down long-term yields. The Club Med bellwethers, Portugal-Spain-Italy also saw their bond yields jump a half-percent before our election. The era of Japanese and German yields falling and ratcheting down the US 10-year has ended.

Part Two: The Fed. For four years the US bond market has defied the Fed’s hold-us-back threats and gotten away with it. In bonds and baseball, you can look really stupid if you get caught leaning.

US core PCE inflation is still running about 1.7%. Why would anyone buy US 10s at the rate of inflation? As above, if you thought foreign central banks would go ever-deeper negative. Or if you thought that some new economic nosedive here or overseas would push us into deflation or widespread debt default.

You got away with it while the Fed held the cost of money to 0.25% from 2008 until last December’s first hike to .50%. And you got away with betting the Fed would delay the second hike, and that the future slope of hikes would be excruciatingly low. Suddenly you’re behind: the Fed will go to .75% on December 14th, and authentic signs of wage growth mean that the Fed is an even-money bet to hike .25% every 90 days in 2017. That would put the Fed funds rate at 1.75%, and a really dumb idea to own 10-year bonds at 1.75%.

Part One and a bit of Part Two were coincident with the election, not caused by it.

Part Three is all The Donald. But, before sailing into that, the rules: Trump’s character issues are off limits. In the best American tradition, he gets a clean slate and should be evaluated on what he does now.

Markets don’t like uncertainty. We know that. But, holders of bonds especially will trade to protect themsleves from policies hurtful to them. The term, “Bond Vigilantes” dates to the 1980s — any government adopting inflationary policy will be punished by Vigilante selling, raising yields until they break the policy. An entire generation of bond-investing retirees were ruined by irresponsible US policy in the 1970s and early ‘80s, but there were too few bonds outstanding for rising yields to force policy reversal. Bill Clinton was the first to acknowledge that his spending dreams were limited by the Vigilantes, and his acceptance of discipline led to the splendid 1990s.

Trump’s plans as advertised in the election campaign are absurd. The Fed has good reason to believe that the non-inflationary US GDP speed limit is 2%. Try to force faster growth and the Fed and Vigilantes will shut you down. Try to replace Yellen & Co with agreeable money printers, and the Vigilantes alone will wreck you.

Will long-term rates continue to rise? We can hope for temporary downward corrections and a low cycle-top if Trump offers strong support for Yellen, and for budget discipline. Without that, this is going to get uglier. The housing market is the most vulnerable to the Vigilantes. We can tolerate mortgages rising through the fours, but crest 5.00% and the posse will shoot their man right out of his saddle.

———- ———-

The US 10-year T-note in the last year. Our bottom coincided with the Germany-Japan one, and just accelerated after election day:

The US 2-year T-note in the last two years, which captures the false alarm one year ago when 2s began to price-in a series of Fed hikes. Now it’s not a false alarm.

Wages are not moving much, yet, but it sure looks as though a long bottom was set, 2008-2014, and a new trend is underway to which the Fed must react — not abort, but remove stimulus.


Credit News by Lou Barnes – November 11, 2016

| November 11th, 2016 | Comments Off on Credit News by Lou Barnes – November 11, 2016

Now put all of the other stuff aside, and consider the wreck in the bond market. Ignore stocks. In this circumstance they have neither predictive nor economic power. The signals and economic effects are all in bonds.

On the morning of Election Day, the 10-year T-note traded 1.83%. The day after: it opened at 1.95% and closed the day at 2.07%. Thursday: 2.15%, the highest since January. Today, a holiday. Thank heavens. Mortgages have barely held 4.00%.

The two obvious questions: Did Trump’s election really do this? And how far does it have to run? Quick answer to the latter: in the “Taper Tantrum” after Bernanke announced the end to QE, the 10-year ran from 1.60% to 3.00% in a straight line.

An upward move in long-term rates began this June, after the 10-year’s 1.37% revisit to the all-time low. The move up has been gradual, but steepening. Everyone saw the bearish signs, but with little inflation, a non-accelerating economy, the Fed arguing about a single .25% rate hike, and the world a mess, what’s to worry? The bond market had been defiant of all Fed threats for four years, and gotten away with it.

But, back there in late summer when “President Trump” was an unthinkably bad joke (not in all of the US, as we have learned, but in global markets) — something else was up. The BOJ and ECB in different ways but simultaneously acknowledged that a near-decade of zero-percent rates had failed to ignite global economies, and that the experiment with negative rates had been a counterproductive bust.

The last resort of the central banks: punt to fiscal stimulus. Spend and borrow and the central banks will monetize (more). Encourage inflation to rise (less in the US), and higher rates, and bet the spending will boost economies more than higher rates hurt.

We have tried this before. The epic precursor was Reagan’s first year, the first modern experiment with “supply side” tax cuts and massive deficits. That “voodoo” idiocy occupied the rest of Reagan and all the way to Clinton with tax increases to repair the damage. We voodooed again in Dubya’s first year, and ever since have pasted together tax increases in trade for spending ceilings.

Each time the economy got more temporary growth from spending than it lost from higher rates, but this world is different. This world is drowning in overcapacity and faces unprecedented global aging. I don’t know anything beneficial in higher inflation or rates. New spending (no matter on what) will tend to wash right out of the patient.

It’s going to happen, though. Trump’s election was a catalyst for a tectonic move already underway. Global markets look like ours, rates and commodity prices spiking.

But, why? Little in US politics has changed. Trump got the same number of votes as Romney, but was elected because the Obama majority in 2012 did not turn out for Hillary. Sure, some who voted for Trump had not voted for Romney, and vice-versa, but quibbling. Congress has the same balance — and imbalance among Republicans.

Two things changed on Tuesday (economic things). First, Mr. Trump is a do-er. We have not had a do-er since Bill Clinton, and before that, Ron Reagan. Dubya was a foreign policy do-er, unfortunately. Obama never discovered the difference between thinking and talking about thinking, and doing. Markets for fifteen years have been in a comfortable and predictable cocoon of gridlock. On Tuesday we set a new pool table, and broke the racked balls with a howitzer.

Limiting the extent of change ahead: Mr. Trump will soon discover how hard it is to get anything done (Jack Kennedy’s lament). And another difficulty: before he’s inaugurated, someone will show to him the real budget numbers, the un-funded out-year explosion in entitlement spending which will confine any tax cuts or new spending.

The second change: Trump brings with him sudden and fantastic uncertainty about the Fed. Yellen, Vice Chair Fischer, and supporting governor Tarullo have barely a year left in their terms. Of seven governor seats, two have been empty because of Senate obstruction. Thus in a year Trump will install five of the seven. And their plans…?

Every aspect of this is disturbing to bonds, and that means SELL.

———- ———-

The 10-year T-note in the last week. Cause and effect are impossible to deny:

The 10-year in the last year. Note that this week it blew right through five months of solid support in springtime at 1.85%:

The 10-year five years back. Note the all-time low in 2012, and then the Taper Tantrum. We did fall back down out of that tree, but nearly touched 5.00% for mortgages, and it required time, a slow US economy, and the deepening mess overseas:

The 2-year T-note is the best of all Fed predictors. Its relatively calm reaction this week is the one indicator that the bond market is overdone:

Credit News by Lou Barnes – November 4, 2016

| November 4th, 2016 | Comments Off on Credit News by Lou Barnes – November 4, 2016

Long-term rates have dropped to a two-week low, the 10-year T-note to 1.77% and mortgages again close to 3.50%.

Pushing down on those rates: Tuesday anxiety. No avoiding it. Oh, oil has crashed back to $44/bbl, removing inflation fear. Five minutes at $50/bbl and the world tried to sell all at once. Today’s job data supports a Fed hike in December, but that’s priced-in. The hikes after that are not.

Tuesday. A Democrat hosting an election-night party told the NYTimes he would have on duty a licensed mental health professional, in case of the unthinkable. Meaning no offense to Trump supporters, the narrowing in this week’s polls have global financial markets in the silent-screaming bejabbers.

Trump has made it through two weeks without a suicidal moment, leaving Clinton exposed. Cigar-store Indians are more exciting. “Wooden” is an insult to trees.

Many in the US fear Clinton, and more Obama-ism. Perhaps with reason. Trump-fear is different, little to do with policy. All other Trump negatives aside, he seems to think he’s running to be our Putin. Trump has always been ultra-litigious, misusing the legal system to his benefit; and sees our President as a giver of orders, blind to separation of powers. That’s the stuff of constitutional crisis, his greatest risk.

Back away, a long, long way away.

In 1920 Cyril Hume re-told an old China fable as a short story, “The Shout.” A new census revealed to the Emperor that his subjects counted in the hundreds of millions. Impressed by their numbers (and his own importance) he gave the order that at noon on a given day every one of his subjects would simultaneously shout his greatness. The sound would shake the world, cause hurricanes, and uproot forests and cities!

On the day at the appointed time the Emperor and his courtiers ascended a plateau to hear the roar but to be safe from the damage. As the last grains of sand fell through the Emperor’s hourglass, he looked at the fair Chinese valley below him.

Then, “high and thin and very clear came the voice of a shepherd boy on the slope below, ‘Long live His S’rene Highness Th’emprer-a China!’ Far down in the valley, a sheep bleated. A bee droned heavily past the Emperor’s ear, circled his head, and winged swiftly away into the bright air, his buzzing growing thinner, thinner. One of the courtiers laughed suddenly. Then the whole court broke into roars of uncontrolled merriment.” The enraged Emperor threatened all with death.

Few of us are as important as we think of others or ourselves.

This week’s Fed meeting concluded with no action, but two regional presidents dissented (again), insisting on immediate rate-hikes. Ms. George, Ms. Messer… you have been heard, your point made in private. Grandstanding detracts, always.

One definition of political extremism: to demand action which will never attract a majority, and if denied inflict paralysis on everyone. Both political wings are guilty; the Left defending entitlement overreach and rapid social change, the Right attempting to roll back eighty years of progress, to a world which never was.

FDR attempted to pack the Supreme Court while Democrats held a near-absolute Congressional majority, and his own party objected. Republicans have a new solution: un-pack the Court. Refuse new nominees until all are dead. Then no problem.

In the grand scheme, Trump and Clinton will pass into history faster than we imagine, and doing less harm. Either will have the same opportunity: speak sharply to both partisan wings. If we intend to have a nation we must suppress our extremes.

If Tuesday brings Trump, a bad day for markets. Perhaps very bad. Then markets will watch his transition team and appointees. Reagan was a shock to the system, but a few superb subordinates quickly quieted anxiety (and quieted the poor ones). Trump has never been seen in the company of people like the Bakers, James and Howard.

The same watch for Clinton, but without the explosion. Will it be more down-the-nose, professorial condescension, and futile Left-pressing? Or deals across the aisle?

———- ———-

The 10-year T-note in the last year. Depending on Tuesday it may take months for the real trend to reveal itself, but given the condition of the outside world, neither the Fed nor 10s are likely to go very far:

The 2-year T-note if ready for a December hike:

The Atlanta Fed GDP Tracker is starting out hot for the 4th quarter, just as it for the 3rd before fainting:

The usually reliable ECRI has at last nosed over, but still describes an economy stronger than it probably is:

The link to the full text of “The Shout” follows. By the way, the author also wrote the screenplay for the 1956 sci-fi masterpiece, “Forbidden Planet.”

Click here for "The Shout"

Credit News by Lou Barnes – October 28, 2016

| October 28th, 2016 | Comments Off on Credit News by Lou Barnes – October 28, 2016

Long-term interest rates rose this week, pushed by two forces: first — ick — some good economic news, the bane of all in the bond market, and second by policy change underway at the ECB and BOJ.

The definitive 10-year T-note has reached a ticklish spot, 1.85%, low-fee mortgages just above 3.50%. If 10s break above 1.90%, the next stop is 2.25% and mortgages about 4.00%.

Good news pushes rates up for fear of inflation and Fed tightening. The “good” this week is thin (hence my belief in the role of foreign central banks, addressed below), but good is here: 3rd quarter US GDP jumping 2.9% is splattered all over web headlines this morning, but wildly exaggerated. If we strip out all the weird parts of a massive report — a big build of inventories, soybean exports(!), shaky housing, healthy business spending but the weakest by consumers in a year — the real figure is about 2%. Perhaps most important, the Fed-favorite “core personal consumption expenditure” measure of inflation slipped from 1.8% annualized in the 2nd quarter to 1.7%.

The central banks. For years our 10-year T-note has followed the 10-year bonds of Germany and Japan, which have fallen in yield as the ECB and BOJ have bought them all, creating negative interest rates. “Bought them all” — actually, more than all: the BOJ has bought Japan’s debt at double the rate of issuance; and since Germany has a balanced budget, issuing no net-new bonds, and the ECB’s QE must include each EU nation’s bonds pro-rata to GDP, the ECB must pry German bonds from existing holders.

Both of these central banks have acknowledged in the last two months the failure of negative interest rate policy, “NIRP,” and have diminished bond-buying in their zones. Thus yields on those bonds have risen and pushed ours up: German 10s today are positive 0.169%, and Japan’s are barely negative at 0.045%. Both have risen the roughly quarter-percent which ours have gained.

NIRP and its cousin, ZIRP (“Z” for zero) have been opposed by a Wall Street passel of stuck pigs, squealing at the harm done to their investment clients and cash savers (nevermind the benefit to stocks), and blaming our non-recovery on the Fed because rates are too low. Right. And I suppose pigs get fat from not eating.

However, NIRP and ZIRP have harmed banks and especially insurance companies. This harm is gradual sandpapering, not near-term critical. If N-ZIRP were producing economic benefit — forcing banks to lend and consumers to spend — the ECB and BOJ should continue. But there is no evident benefit.

To back away from bond-buying does have evident risk. One of the counters to people so critical of central banks since 2008: you don’t like the result, but how bad would it have been without QE? Just because N-ZIRP does not seem to have helped does not mean its removal will help.

If the ECB and BOJ are departing QE, what’s next? (Cue crickets.)

Next appears to be to punt. We’ve tried all that we can. Nobody likes the last thing we tried. So we need help from other arms of government. Fiscal stimulus! Spending!! All of the Lefties drool at that. Infrastructure! Pork barrel goodies — useless, but goodies — for every political locale, US and Europe. It’s worked so well in Japan and China that they should do more and we should join them. Uh-huh.

Of course there is no more money to spend. Idiots think that because rates are so low that governments can sell an infinite quantity of bonds. The only buyer for that kind of operation: the central banks. More QE, just without N-ZIRP. Hope that new spending will create sustainable economic growth fast enough that tax revenue will rise enough to pay interest on all the debt, old and new. And that no one will notice the heaps of debt already too big to be serviced by any conceivable new revenue.

As you might imagine, this line of stimulus thought is disturbing to bond investors. No matter how the central banks accommodate new pork, investors can lose faith in the end game. Pigs get fat, and hogs are bacon.


The 10-year T-note is now in up-trend. Chart “support” in the 1.85%-1.90% February-June range is clear. Break through that going up… no support for a long way up:


The 2-year T-note is gradually giving in to the prospect of sustained tightening after the likely .25% in December:


This is the Chicago Fed’s national economic index, a pain to read but the tail since 2014 is easy to find. The main thing: no acceleration worthy of Fed interception:


Some market-watchers are having fun at the expense of the Atlanta Fed and its GDP Tracker predicting a 2.1% 3rd quarter versus the 2.9% actual today from the Department of Commerce. Trust the Tracker:


Rates Increase Slightly on Positive Economic Data

| October 28th, 2016 | Comments Off on Rates Increase Slightly on Positive Economic Data

Mortgage interest rates increased slightly on the week as economic data was mostly stronger than expected. Economic data stronger than expected included the August Case/Shiller Home Price Index, the August FHFA Home Price Index, the September Trade Deficit, September Durable Goods Orders, September Pending Home Sales, and the first look at Q3 GDP. Q3 GDP was up 2.9% on expectations of 2.5%. Economic data weaker than expected included the October Consumer Confidence Index, September New Home Sales, weekly jobless claims, and the University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index. It’s unlikely that the Fed will increase the Fed Funds rate at its November FOMC meeting but markets are expecting a rate increase at the December FOMC meeting. The Treasury auctioned $88 billion of 2 Year Notes, 5 Year Notes, and 7 Year Notes, which were met with mixed demand. In the Eurozone, October Manufacturing PMI and Services PMI were both better than expected.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average is currently at 18,233, up about 90 points on the week. The crude oil spot price is currently at $49.50 per barrel, down over $1 per barrel on the week. The Dollar weakened versus the Euro and strengthened versus the Yen on the week.

Next week look toward Monday’s Personal Income and Outlays, Tuesday’s ISM Manufacturing Index and Construction Spending, Wednesday’s FOMC Meeting Announcement, Thursday’s Jobless Claims, Factory Orders, and ISM Services Sector Index, and Friday’s employment report for October and International Trade report as potential market moving events.

Credit News by Lou Barnes – October 21, 2016

| October 21st, 2016 | Comments Off on Credit News by Lou Barnes – October 21, 2016

Long-term rates slid suspiciously this week — still in-range, but an up-trend based on Fed threats has stopped dead.

Markets got little new data to chew on, core CPI if anything dipping (up only 0.1% in September), housing starts and sales continuing a slow-ish pattern. Many in markets mention a trading pause caused by politics, an intake of breath waiting for the conclusion of this strange year. Anxiety that The Donald might actually be elected is now gone altogether but replaced by concern that the Democrats might sweep Congress. For whatever reason, strangely quiet.

In the cacophony of market “analysis” out there, I cannot too-strongly recommend reading the Fed’s own commentary. Not from its regional banks, but the Chair, the Vice Chair, and Governors. This week Vice-Chair Stanley Fischer delivered a beauty, which among other things should embarrass the regional hawk-flock into silence.

Fischer described his use of the Fed’s massive econometric model (FRB/US, “FER-bus”) to isolate the economic variables responsible for our underperforming economy, and to quantify the effect of each variable. Fischer knows as well as anyone the limitations of the model, has no illusions, but as shaky as it has been in overall economic prediction, it does have utility in isolating variables.

Along the way in the discussion of slow-variables, Fischer laid out the whole debate inside the Fed. And the high-probability conclusion.

Fischer found four elements of drag: a slower economy is itself a source of future drag; then demography, workforce and aging; lower investment; and last a slower outside world. How to quantify, and translate into Fed policy? Central to Fed thinking is the “long-term real equilibrium rate of interest, known as r* — “r-star.” Previous to the last few years, r* was thought to be about 4% — 2% for the real cost of money plus 2% for the Fed’s inflation target. r* is higher when the economy is naturally hotter or inflationary, lower in times like these.

Everyone at the Fed would like to “normalize” rates. The argument is about the location of normal. The hawks have grudgingly knocked their r* value down to about 3.5% (shown in the quarterly scattergram, “the damned little dots”), while the group near the Chair sees a value no higher than 2.50%.

FRB/US provided a numeric value to each of the components of drag, minus 1.20% for slow, minus 0.75% for demographics, minus 0.60% for investment shortfall, and minus 0.30% for overseas conditions — and Fischer acknowledged the probability of overlap and tried to adjust for it. Total: 2.85%.

If we begin with 4% as r* and then haircut it by 2.85%, we get 1.15% as the target for the neutral Fed policy rate. The Fed is in a band now of .25%-.50%. Fisher was asked a couple of weeks ago to compare the risks of not tightening enough from accommodative policy to over-tightening. Now we know the basis for the soft smile which accompanied his answer: “We’re not that accommodative now.”

On Fischer’s math, the Fed has only about .75% worth of hikes ahead to reach normal — normal for current-era conditions. That feels right. The hawks argument is based on inertia (normal must be where it used to be), mis-thinking that tightening is what central banks are supposed to do, and misunderstanding central banking as a form of sadism. We’ll soon see if any hawk has a rebuttal to Fischer.

Meanwhile, the world overseas continues to support Fischer (I think its effects are buried in the general-drag minus-1.20% in addition to the isolated minus-0.30%). China reported its most-recent quarterly GDP growth: a 6.7% gain. How odd. Exactly the same as in each of the prior two quarters. We have a fair idea where Japan’s economy is, really, and Europe’s. Of China we know only that its growth is fanciful, and dependent on unsustainable credit and subsidy.

Hunch: the recent rise in mortgage and other long-term rates is not a trend-changer, and is as likely to reverse as to continue upward.


The 10-year T-note in the last year. Holding under 1.85% is important:


The 2-year T-note is consistent with Fischer, little or no Fed ahead, far into 2017:


I had not noticed the deepening weakness in the apartment market. Maybe just over-building, maybe an economic indicator, but either way will undercut the housing market and the future economy:


The best that can be said about Q3 GDP: the Atlanta forecast did not fall (more) this week:


The ECRI has a fabulous track record going back to the 1960s, save one false call of recession in 2011. And maybe now, saying the economy is in full-scale boom. When a other forecast should we question?


The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter took this shot of the final resting place of Europe’s Schiaparelli $1.5-billion Mars lander. In the emlargement on the righthand side, below, the lower red circle surrounds the lander’s parachute. The upper one marks the one thing we know for sure: when the retro-rocket fails on a half-ton lander, you get a very big hole in the ground, visible from space. The same is going to happen to one of the forecasts above: