Weekly Mortgage Overview: 3/17/2014

By March 17, 2014Mortgage Overview

News from the Ukraine

By now you know Crimean voters voted to join Russia in the election held yesterday. About 97% of the voters in the southern Ukraine region who took part backed joining Russia, preliminary results showed. The Ukrainian government, the EU and the U.S. consider the vote illegal, while Russia said it “fully met international norms.” The Kremlin has deployed about 60,000 troops along the Ukrainian border, the government in Kiev said. “Russia’s actions are dangerous and destabilizing,” the White House said in a statement. “Military intervention and violation of international law will bring increasing costs for Russia.” No violence took place; now the U.S. and Europe are going to sanction Russia in various ways, freezing bank accounts and passport restrictions according the Administration, and likely a lot more. In Europe there is less willingness to come down hard on Russia because many of the EU countries get their natural gas from Russia. Crimea’s parliament voted to proclaim the region an independent state and formally seek Russia’s permission to rejoin the country as a republic, it said on its website.

The vote without any violence or movements by the Russian military toward Ukraine has lessened the fear element that prevailed globally last week. This morning the stock market opened stronger and U.S. interest rates higher as investors are unwinding some of the U.S. Treasury buying.

Market News

This week the FOMC meeting will dominate. The meeting begins tomorrow and concludes Wednesday afternoon with the policy statement and Janet Yellen’s first press conference. The overwhelming consensus is that the Fed will taper another $10B that will reduce the monthly bond and MBSs to $55B a month from the original $85M per month. The Yellen press conference, her first, may provide additional information about the Fed’s outlook for the economy; likely though her responses will lead to even more speculation.

Economic data released this morning

  • March NY Empire State manufacturing index 5.61 from 4.48 (6.5 expected)
  • February industrial production expected +0.3% increased to +0.6%
  • February capacity utilization expected at 78.6% was 78.8%, the highest since last December and June of 2008
  • March NAHB housing market index

Opened this morning
The DJIA  +97, NASDAQ +30, S&P +11; 10-year at 9:30 2.68% and 30-year MBS price -11 bps from Friday’s close.

Last week markets were totally focused on the Russian/Crimean vote that occurred yesterday with a strong vote to become a Russian state. The stock market took big hits with the DJIA down almost 400 points and a big decline in U.S. treasuries on safety buying dropping the 10-year note 14 bps points in rate. MBSs increased 49 basis points; most of the rate market buying was confined to treasuries. This morning Pres. Obama signed an executive order that places travel sanctions on many of Russia’s politicians and froze some assets held in U.S. banks. Not much, but a start (actually kind of soft). The election was peaceful and so far no Russian troops moving closer to the Ukraine. Markets this morning are not reacting the way many expected; Friday the situation may have been a little too exaggerated. Markets have turned attention now to the FOMC meeting and Yellen’s press conference on Wednesday. Stocks are recovering from last week’s strong selling; the bond market is moving higher in rate on universal belief the Fed will chop another $10B from the monthly purchases. Russia will stay in the background but so far there has been absolutely no additional negative reaction to the situation.

The bond market is still holding a slight bullish bias. That said, no matter what the momentary fundamental influences that have swung prices back and forth, the broader picture is that U.S. interest rates have not changed much for the last six weeks. 20 basis points on the 10-year with the majority of trading within a 10 bp range. MBS prices are within a 100 bp price range that translates to about 6 bps in rate.

This Week’s Calendar:

           8:30 am Feb housing starts and permits (starts +3.3%, permits +2.4%)
                        Feb CPI (+0.1%, ex food and energy +0.1%)
          10:00 am FOMC meeting begins
          7:00 am weekly MBA mortgage applications
          8:30 am Q4 current acc’t balance (-$88.1B)
          2:00 pm FOMC policy statement
          2:30 pm Janet Yellen press conference
         8:30 am weekly jobless claims (+10K to 325K)
         10:00 am Feb existing home sales (-0.4%)
                       Philadelphia Fed business index (+3.0 frm -6.3)
                       Feb leading economic indicators (+0.3%)