Victoria Cottle

Victoria Cottle

Market Snapshot By Sigma Research – Wednesdays Report

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

In Asia last night more US treasury selling, by the time Europe opened a little buying. By 8:00 this morning the 10 yr note was better by 12/32 and mortgage prices were up 12/32 (.37 bp). At 8:30 two data points; Nov consumer price index was right on, up 0.1% overall and +0.1% with food and energy removed, yr/yr overall +1.1%, yr/yr core +0.8%. The NY Fed Empire State manufacturing index jumped from -11.14 in Nov to +10.57 with estimates of an increase of 3.0; new orders jumped to 2.60 frm -24.38, employment component at -3.41 frm +9.09. The past two two months the NY manufacturing reports have been so volatile we don’t give it much attention; any index over zero is considered growth, under zero contraction. Some immediate selling on the data but by 9:00 treasuries and mortgages were holding better.
At 9:15 Nov industrial production expected up 0.3%, increased 0.4%. Nov factory usage increased to 75.2% the highest utilization in almost two years. Economic data continues to exceed forecasts.
At 10:00 the Dec NAHB housing market index was expected at 17 frm 16 in Nov; was unchanged at 16. That it wasn’t better has added a little increase in prices of treasuries and mortgages.
Yesterday the 10 yr note hit 3.50% briefly before backing down to close at 3.46%, mortgage prices were slammed again yesterday, down 39/32 (-128 bp). Mortgage rates have increased 100 basis points over the past four weeks. Interest rates climbing as rapidly as they have is confirmation that the end of inordinate low rates is over. Markets are increasingly more optimistic that 2011 economic growth will be stronger than what had been expected. Expectations until a couple of weeks ago were for GDP growth in 2011 to be 3.0%, now the consensus is for growth to be at 4.0% and a decline in the unemployment rate from the present 9.8% to 8.7% by the end of 2011. The extension of the Bush tax cuts, the 2.0% cut in workers contribution to social security will put more cash in consumers’ pockets. Also driving rates higher, the end of safety moves generated by issues in Europe and in the US and Congress’s unwillingness to cut federal spending. The $858B tax cut bill now moving through Congress is yet one more Christmas tree filled with earmarks (pork), politicians can’t do anything that doesn’t end up in more unnecessary spending. The fiscal budget bill also moving through Congress is hung with earmarks driven by Democrats and with not a lot of strong resistance from Republicans. Investors in fixed income are not willing to hold low rate treasuries with the deficit increasing, inflation concerns, and a better economic outlook.
The MBA today released its Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey for the week ending December 10, 2010. The Market Composite Index, a measure of mortgage loan application volume, decreased 2.3% on a seasonally adjusted basis from one week earlier. On an unadjusted basis, the Index decreased 2.7% compared with the previous week. The Refinance Index decreased 0.7% from the previous week. This is the fifth straight weekly decline for the Refinance Index. The seasonally adjusted Purchase Index decreased 5.0% from one week earlier. The unadjusted Purchase Index decreased 8.6% compared with the previous week and was 16.6% lower than the same week one year ago. The four week moving average for the seasonally adjusted Market Index is down 4.7%. The four week moving average is up 2.6% for the seasonally adjusted Purchase Index, while this average is down 6.8% for the Refinance Index. The refinance share of mortgage activity increased to 76.7% of total applications from 75.2% the previous week. The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages increased to 4.84% from 4.66%, with points increasing to 1.34 from 0.94 (including the origination fee) for 80% loans. This is the highest 30-year fixed-rate observed in the survey since the beginning of May 2010. The average contract interest rate for 15-year fixed-rate mortgages increased to 4.21% from 3.98%, with points increasing to 1.28 from 0.97 (including the origination fee) for 80% loans. This is the highest 15-year fixed-rate observed in the survey since the beginning of June 2010.
So far so good today; the bond and mortgage markets are holding slight gains after the 10 yr note touched 3.50% yesterday. Will it hold for now? Hard to say, the market has resisted any attempt to rally on short-covering even though it remains extremely oversold technically. Any improvement in rate however will not be much given the underlying fundamentals of the increasing economic outlook for 2011. End of yr selling that usually occurs in Dec may not be over. It is highly unlikely that any rebound will be sufficient enough to change the bearish trend.

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