The Fed’s 5-year campaign to drive the 30-year mortgage rate from 6.5% to 3.3% has accomplished nothing except to touch off another of those pointless “refi” booms which enable homeowners to swap an existing mortgage for a new one carrying a significantly lower interest rate and monthly service cost. Such debt churning exercises have been sponsored repeatedly by the Fed since the S&L debacle of the late 1980s. The overwhelming evidence, however, is that America’s shop-till-they-drop consumers have finally dropped. But while peak debt means that the Fed’s entire 5-year money printing spree was destined to fail, it nevertheless has produced massive impacts - all of them bad or stupid. One of the most crucial is that it generated an artificial refi windfall to the Big Banks which now dominate the home mortgage business. And the profit windfall was a doozy. Now that financial results for Q1 2014 have been posted, the impact on Big Four financial results can actually be quantified. The four charts below on mortgage originations per quarter during the course of the Fed’s balance sheet expansion binge are the smoking gun.
It wouldn't be the first time the Fed has "stretched" the truth...
Not much to add here that we haven't already said before about the state of demand for housing by the ordinary American.
Futures are treading water once more now that Ukraine has stormed to center stage from the backburner after everyone was convinced Putin would let the situation cool off after annexing Crimea. Guess not. Adding the renewed geopolitical jitters to what has already been a beta stock bloodbath into a holiday shortened week assures some high volatility fireworks. Cautious sentiment was observed over in Asia (Nikkei 225 -0.36%) amid renewed fears that geopolitical tensions in Ukraine will flare up again following reports of exchange gunfire with pro-Russian militants. This sentiment carried over into the European session with stocks lower across the board (Eurostoxx50 -0.71%). EUR is lower after ECB’s Draghi said any further strengthening of the EUR would warrant further action by the ECB, including non-standard measures such as quantitative easing - it is amazing how frequently and often the Virtu algos still fall for Draghi's jawboning trick which has now become all too clear will never be implemented and certainly not if he keeps talking about it daily, as he does.
After tens of millions in legal fees, a river of negative press, and ripple effects to other local municipalities, we have U-turned and are back to where we started.
We asked this question a quarter ago following the quarterly results by Wells Fargo - America's biggest mortgage lender - but we never got an appropriate answer. So now that the data has been updated for the latest Wells mortgage origination and application numbers, we ask the question again: considering both mortgage originations and applications are crashing to levels not seen since the Lehman crisis, just what is wrong with this "housing recovery" picture?
After a selloff as violent as that of last night, usually the overnight liftathon crew does a great job of recovering a substantial portion of the losses. Not this time, which coupled with the sudden and quite furious breakdown on market structure, leads us to believe that something has changed rather dramatically if preserving investor confidence is not the paramount issue on the mind of the NY Fed trading desk. Nikkei 225 (-2.38%) suffered its worst week since March'11 amid broad based risk off sentiment following on from a lower close on Wall St. where the Nasdaq Biotech index suffered its largest intra-day decline since August 2011. Negative sentiment carried over into European session, with stocks lower across the board (Eurostoxx50 -1.17%) and tech under performing in a continuation of the recent sector weakness seen in the US. JP Morgan (JPM) due to report earnings at 7:00AM EDT and Wells Fargo (WFC) at 8:00Am EDT.
There is a reasonably quiet start to the week before we head into the highlights of the week including the start of US reporting season tomorrow, FOMC minutes on Wednesday and IMF meetings in Washington on Friday. On the schedule for today central bank officials from the ECB including Mersch, Weidmann and Constancio will be speaking. The Fed’s Bullard speaks today, and no doubt there will be interest in his comments from last week suggesting that the Fed will hike rates in early 2015.
While we have covered the various ways in which Americans are scraping by in the current feudal economy, from food stamps and disability fraud, to student loans and living in mom and pop’s basement, this reverse mortgage thing is a piece of the puzzle we have been missing. These mortgages are not insignificant either. According to Inside Mortgage Finance, originations were up 20% in 2013, hitting $15.3 billion. So when you see that older guy working the cashier at Wal-Mart and wonder to yourself how he is surviving, the answer may increasingly be a reverse mortgage. Oh, and since the FHA is originating many of these loans, you the taxpayer will be on the hook!
- Why did Yellen use criminals in her employment case studies? Hilsenrath explainz (Hilsenrath)
- GM avoided defective switch redesign in 2005 to save a dollar each (Reuters)
- Xuzhou Zhongsen Said to Avert Bond Default on Guarantor Aid (BBG)
- France's New Finance Minister Faces Fiscal Challenge (WSJ)
- The magic is gone: Draghi’s Attempt to Talk Down Euro Lost on Traders (BBG)
- Another John Kerry smashing success: U.S. Gambit on Mideast Peace Talks Falters (WSJ)
- Combat-Ready China Military Seen as Xi’s Goal in Graft Battle (BBG)
- Huge earthquake off Chile's north coast triggers tsunami (Reuters)
- Pressure rises on Gross as investors pull $3.1 billion from Pimco's flagship fund (Reuters)
Why is Citigroup not like any of the top four banks, including JPM, WFC, USB or BAC?
After tumbling overnight to just around 101.80, the USDJPY managed to stage a remarkable levitating comeback, rising all the way to 102.3, which in turn succeeded in closing the Nikkei 225 at the highs, up 1% after tumbling in early trade. The Shanghai Composite was not quite as lucky and as fear continue to weigh about a collapse in China's credit pipeline, the SHCOMP was down more than 0.8% while the PBOC withdreww even more net liquidity via repos than it did last week, at CNY 98 billion vs CNY 48 billion. That said, this morning will be the fifth consecutive overnight levitation in futures, which likely will once more surge right into the US market open to intraday highs, at which point slowy at first, then rapidly, fade again as the pattern has seemingly been set into algo random access memory. Which in a market devoid of human traders is all that matters.
For some inane reason, about a year ago, there was a brief - and painfully boring - academic tussle between one group of clueless economists and another group of clueless economists, debating whether Too Big To Fail banks enjoy an implicit or explicit taxpayer subsidy, courtesy of their systematic importance (because apparently the fact that these banks only exist because they are too big in the first place must have been lost on both sets of clueless economists). Naturally, it goes without saying that the Fed, which as even Fisher now admits, has over the past five years, worked solely for the benefit of its banker owners and a few good billionaires, has done everything in its power to subsidize banks as much as possible, which is why this debate was so ridiculous it merited precisely zero electronic ink from anyone who is not a clueless economist. Today, the debate, for what it's worth, is finally over, when yet another set of clueless economists, those of the NY Fed itself, say clearly and on the record, that TBTF banks indeed do get a subsidy. To wit: " in fact, the very largest (top-five) nonbank firms also enjoy a funding advantage, but for very large banks it’s significantly larger, suggesting there’s a TBTF funding advantage that’s unique to mega-banks."
Rather than deal forthrightly with the reality that unrealistic promises made to their employees cannot be honored, local government has pursued a strategy of legalizing looting. The gradual erosion of civil liberties, legal rights and government ethics are connected: our rights don't just vanish into thin air, they are expropriated by government: Federal, state and local. Though much is written about the loss of civil liberties at the Federal level, many of the most blatantly illegal power grabs are occurring in local government. When local government looting is legalized, the entire system is illegal. Here are three recent examples of blatantly illegal looting by local governments.
Computer programs are obsolete before they even get put on the market and it’s been that way for years now. There’s also the added bonus of actually making sure that the buyers keep buying and always want the latest.