President Trump today said to expect an announcement about tax cuts in two to three weeks. Mortgage rates moved a little higher after the comment. There are two reasons why tax cuts are viewed as negative for mortgage rates. The first is that tax cuts increase the wealth of the affected individuals or businesses, leaving them with more money to spend. This added spending boosts economic activity, which increases the outlook for future inflation. Mortgage rates rise as expected future inflation rises, since higher inflation further erodes the value of a mortgage’s future cash flows. The second is that tax cuts increase the budget deficit, at least initially. This means that the government has to issue more Treasury bonds to fund the deficit. The added supply reduces the value of Treasuries and similar bonds, including mortgage-backed securities (MBS). A decline in MBS prices leads to higher mortgage rates.
This week, a major influence on U.S. mortgage rates will be the “Brexit vote on Thursday. It is very difficult to predict the effect on the global economy if the UK were to leave the European Union or whether it would lead to similar votes in other countries. Due to the economic uncertainty which would result, a vote for the UK to exit the EU is expected to be positive for U.S. mortgage rates, while a vote to remain would be negative. As each new poll shifts the odds, investors react immediately. This increases daily volatility, as investors factor the expected outcome into asset prices. For example, the latest poll showed greater support to remain, and mortgage rates have moved higher today.
After holding the federal funds rate near zero for seven years, the Fed announced a rate hike of 25 basis points, as widely expected. This was the first rate hike since June 2006. Investors are now asking what the pace of future rate hikes will be. According to the Fed statement, Fed officials expect that economic conditions will warrant only "gradual" increases in rates. The statement also noted that the Fed does not expect to reduce its holdings of MBS and Treasuries any time soon. Investors were pleased that the Fed does not appear to be in any rush to tighten monetary policy, and MBS prices and stocks moved a little higher. Want to see live MBS prices on the go? Check out the new look of www.mbsquoteline.com from your mobile device. All features optimized for your device. | Questions call 800-627-1077
Fed day is coming up on Thursday. The Statement will be released at 2:00 ET, and Fed Chair Yellen’s press conference will follow at around 2:30 ET. Fed members appear divided about raising the federal funds rate at this meeting. Investor expectations are mixed as well. With no apparent consensus, whatever the Fed decides will likely cause a significant reaction in the markets. More important than the decision about hiking rates may be what investors learn about the Fed’s view of the economy and how that may influence future Fed policy. What impact will this Fed meeting have on mortgage rates? The answer is not at all clear. It will depend on how the Fed’s decision and comments alter investors’ outlook for future Fed policy.
One reason that mortgage rates are so low is the expectation that the ECB will begin to buy sovereign bonds, similar to the recently completed US quantitative easing (QE) program. Economic growth in Europe has stalled, and QE is one of the most powerful tools available to the ECB to help boost growth. The expected added demand for bonds from the ECB has caused bond yields around the world to decline. However, ECB officials are divided about QE, and the decision keeps getting pushed farther into the future. Notably, the Germans are opposed. At Thursday's press conference, ECB President Draghi appeared to take another small step in favor of QE. Draghi said that the ECB intends to increase the size of its balance sheet and that it would do so even without unanimous consent. However, he also deflated hopes for quick action by saying that the ECB would not consider QE until the end of the first quarter of 2015. The net impact of his comments was a small improvement in mortgage rates.
Freddie Mac reported that average mortgage rates fell in the week through November 21, with 30-yrs hitting 4.22%, from 4.35% the prior week. While the survey results are released on Thursday, the timing of the data collection means that the data better reflects changes from Monday to Monday or Tuesday to Tuesday than Thursday to Thursday each week. The Primary Mortgage Market Survey (PMMS) is sent on Monday with a response due back by Wednesday. Most responses are completed and submitted on Monday or Tuesday. The responses are averaged and the results are released on Thursday. The survey results, therefore, reflect the average rate and points borrowers were being offered on Monday and/or early Tuesday. Changes in the market since Monday/Tuesday can make the published data misleading when compared to rates and points actually being offered on Thursday. This week, mortgage rates have increased substantially since the survey period earlier in the week. If the survey were conducted this morning, the results for 30-yr rates would show an increase of about 5 basis points from last Thursday.
What is likely to happen to mortgage rates tomorrow after the Fed statement is released? The best answer is that it will be extremely volatile. The majority view is that the Fed will begin to taper its bond purchase program, but the reaction in the mortgage market will depend on the details. The first question is the size of the reduction. Investors expect the Fed to cut its monthly purchases from $85 billion to around $70 billion. It is also uncertain how the reduction will be split between MBS and Treasuries. We would not be surprised if the Fed cut only Treasury purchases and left MBS purchases unchanged, since several Fed officials have stated that MBS purchases provide a greater boost to the economy than Treasury purchases. In addition, it will be important to hear how the Fed plans to determine future reductions. Of course, there is no guarantee that the Fed will announce a taper on Wednesday at all. Investors have taken positions based on their expectations for the Fed statement, and there likely will be a large reaction tomorrow afternoon following its release.
Freddie Mac reported that average mortgage rates rose in the week through June 27, with 30-yrs hitting 4.46%, from 3.93% the prior week. This was the largest weekly increase in 26 years. While the survey results are released on Thursday, the timing of the data collection means that the data better reflects changes from Monday to Monday or Tuesday to Tuesday than Thursday to Thursday each week. The Primary Mortgage Market Survey (PMMS) is sent on Monday with a response due back by Wednesday. Most responses are completed and submitted on Monday or Tuesday. The responses are averaged and the results are released on Thursday. The survey results, therefore, reflect the average rate and points borrowers were being offered on Monday and/or early Tuesday. Changes in the market since Monday/Tuesday can make the published data misleading when compared to rates and points actually being offered on Thursday. This week, mortgage rates have improved substantially since the survey period earlier in the week. If the survey were conducted this morning, the results for 30-yr rates would be 20 to 25 basis points lower.
Our special guest on the Lykken-on-Lending blog talk radio show today was Doug Duncan, the Chief Economist for Fannie Mae. Doug provided his thoughts on the economy, housing, Europe, and inflation, but the most interesting comments had to do with his answer to a question asking how he would characterize what will happen in 2012. Doug answered by directing the listeners to a Fannie Mae research paper entitled 2012 – Year of the Political Economy. This paper can be found on the Fannie Mae web site at http://www.fanniemae.com/portal/about-us/media/financial-news/2012/5609.html. Doug explained that 2012 will be very heavily effected by the number of regulations just added to the books, as well as the many new regulations to be issued in the months to come. The consequence of the huge number of new regulations is UNCERTAINTY. He estimates that uncertainty will cost the economy 1% in Gross Domestic Product or $500 to $750 billion in 2012, effecting both the consumer and businesses. Click PLAY to listen to the podcast of this week’s BlogTalkRadio/Lykken on Lending with Dave Lykken and MBSQuoteline's Joe Farr: Listen to internet radio with David Lykken on Blog Talk Radio MBSQuoteline supplies the essential market information necessary for effective decision making [...]
Greece has experienced the worst debt troubles of any European nation, and its debt burden is clearly unsustainable. European officials and bondholders both want to avoid a default, so they have been negotiating a "voluntary" agreement to reduce Greece's debt burden by 50%. As usual, though, the sticking point for the two sides is price. In the case of bonds, this means the yield on the new bonds. Bondholders want the highest possible yield. A higher yield means higher debt payments, however, and Greece will require financial aid from the IMF and other European Union countries to make the payments. A default would trigger many costs and raise the level of uncertainty for investors, possibly raising yields for other European countries, which gives bondholders some leverage. On the other hand, if the Greek government defaults, there is little reason to give bondholders anything. The lack of progress has caused a flight to safety, which has helped relatively safer investments, including US mortgage-backed securities (MBS). Mortgage rates are largely determined by MBS prices, and a "messy" deal or a default would likely cause US mortgage rates to move lower. If bondholders agree to a deal at a yield which Greece can [...]