Mortgage Bankers Association
"The world has changed," explains the 27-year old daughter of David Stevens - CEO of the Mortgage Bankers Association. Despite her father's constant 30-year pitch of the merits of homeownership - and knowing full well that rates are low, rents are high, and owning a home 'builds wealth' - Sara Stevens is not buying. After watching "cousins and other family members go through pretty tough situations in 2008 and 2009," her skepticism is broad-based as Bloomberg reports, t’s more than the weight of student loans, an iffy job market and tight credit -- even those who can buy are hesitant. As Bloomberg so eloquently concludes, when even the cheerleader-in-chief for housing can’t get a rah-rah out of his daughter, you know this time is different.
The topic of the false recovery in the US housing market has seldom been far from these pages but it seems both the mainstream media and the actual businesses on the ground are seeing that extrapolating dead-cat-bounces and easy-money bubbles (once again) ends in tears. As WSJ reports, mortgage lending declined to the lowest level in 14 years in the first quarter as homeowners pulled back sharply from refinancing and house hunters showed little appetite for new loans, the latest sign of how rising interest rates have dented the housing recovery. The decline shows how the mortgage market is experiencing its largest shift in more than a decade as an era of generally falling interest rates that began in 2000 appears to have run its course... and the marginal potential refinancer has hit their limit.
"Either way you look at it, it's time for the Fed to stop inflating housing assets, and stop buying mortgages" is how Alex Pollock introduces the following live streamed event by AEI. With speakers such as Chris Whalen we suspect, as the moderator explains, they will explain why "financial markets never seem to grow smarter when it comes to real estate."
It was about a year ago when we noted a core component of the US housing non-recovery: the time to sell foreclosed homes had just hit a record of 400 days across the nation. Fast forward to today when even the last traces of the lie that sustained the housing recovery myth are being swept away, and we get the following article from Bloomberg titled "Foreclosures Surging in New York-New Jersey Market." The good news (according to some): thousands of people could live mortgage free for years until the bank delays obtaining the keys to the foreclosed property. This was money which instead of going to the mortgage owner, would instead go to buy Made in China trinkets and gizmos and otherwise keep the US retail party humming. Which brings us to the bad news: the party - retail and otherwise - is ending, as courts and banks finally catch up with inventory levels on both sides of the foreclosure pipeline, and those who lived for years without spending a dollar for the roof above their head are suddenly forced to move out and allocated the major portion of their disposable income toward rent.
The divergence between the NAHB index and other housing indicators has continued to suggest that sentiment was “getting ahead of itself" and as Citi's Tom Fitzpatrick warns would suggest that the qualitative nature of the overall housing recovery is less robust than one would like. Housing should pause/consolidate possibly even for most of this year as the weather argument that is trotted out by so many commentators does not seem to hold up to even a basic examination with the worst data coming from the West Coast. Simply put, Citi warns, we think housing sentiment got carried away as it did into 1994 and 1998 post the housing/savings and loan crisis of 1989-1991.
Not a word about soaring prices and higher rates that have pushed median-priced homes beyond the reach of hardworking Americans
Those of our readers focused on the state of the housing market will undoubtedly remember this chart we compiled using the data from the largest mortgage originator in the US, Wells Fargo. In case there is some confusion, as a result of rising interet rates (meaning the Fed is stuck in its attempts to push rates higher), the inability of the US consumer to purchase houses at artificially investor-inflated levels (meaning housing is now merely a hot potato flipfest between institutional investors A and B), and the end of the fourth dead-cat bounce in housing (meaning, well, self-explanatory), the bank's primary business line - offering mortgages - is cratering. So what is a bank with a limited target audience for its primary product to do? Why expand the audience of course. And in a move that is very much overdue considering all the other deranged aspects of the centrally-planned New Normal, in which all the mistakes of the last credit bubble are being repeated one after another, Reuters now reports that the California bank "is tiptoeing back into subprime home loans again."
First hint of what happens when the heavily subsidized industry is being encouraged to try to stand on its own wobbly feet.
So are you going to be among the few, the proud, the surprised Sell Side analysts?
When we actually start the Q3 earnings cycle for financials, watch for the word “surprise” in a lot of news reports and analyst opinions
Investors need to stop listening to the happy talk coming from the economists, and start focusing on what banks and other lenders are saying and doing operationally to adjust for the mortgage market of 2014 and beyond.
- Syrian Rebels Hurt by Delay (WSJ), U.S. seeks quick proof Syria ready to abandon chemical weapons (Reuters)
- Lavrov Brings Acerbic Pragmatism to Syria Meet With Kerry (BBG)
- Five years after Lehman, risk moves into the shadows (Reuters)
- U.S. shares raw intelligence data with Israel, leaked document shows (LA Times)
- Japan to raise sales tax, launch $50 bln stimulus (AFP) - so 1) lower debt by sales tax, then 2) raise debt through stimulus.
- Blackstone’s Hilton Files for $1.25 Billion U.S. Initial Offer (BBG)
- Second Life Bankers Thrive in Dubai as Boutiques Boost Fees (BBG)
- Brussels probes multinationals’ tax deals (FT)
- Wall Street's Top Cop: SEC Tries to Rebuild Its Reputation (WSJ) ... and fails
- Tablet sales set to overtake PCs (FT)
- The end of angst? Prosperous Germans in no mood for change (Reuters)
"In the last week of June, the dollar value represented by ARM applications accounted for 16 percent of mortgage requests, the highest share since July 2008, two months before Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. collapsed, according to Mortgage Bankers Association in Washington." Oops.
And so the wealth effect shifts into reverse. Fewer people can afford mortgages, so home prices stop rising, making homeowners feel less rich. Stock prices stop rising (or, like today, start going down) and the record number of people who have been buying on margin see their exciting gains melt away. They feel both less rich and suddenly very stupid. Most of them will spend less, and the recovery will stop in its tracks. Which means it’s time to think about the next big announcement...
The diminishing returns of the Fed's quantitative easing are very evident in the latest WFC results.