As noted recently by Deutsche Bank, the market proves quite terrible at predicting interest rate movements, with the first half of 2019 being no exception. And while we are not in the business of predicting interest rates, our team of institutional sales strategists meet weekly to discuss the state of the primary and secondary markets, the current market pressures that our clients face, and what strategic insights we can provide to help them.
Here are some key insights from our most recent strategy session, and we look forward to sharing more in the future!
Slowing economy, weaker-than-expected metrics (GDP,CPI, etc), and projected recession in the next 12-24 months. This allowed the Fed to keep key interest rates flat to lower in order to keep the economy humming. Finally, the treasury curve is greatly influenced by traders along the various tenures which then allows for the deployment of thoughts/policies/projections into the actual marketplace. Markets are bid upwards, thus driving yields down…thus trickling down to lower cost of funds and overall financing rates.
From my perspective inflation is the key metric that determines the direction of interest rates. The data behind the inflation number such as leading indicators, jobs report, housing and geopolitical events (i.e. China trade talk) all contribute to the direction of inflation. Inflation has yet to consistently remain above the feds 2.00% + mandate since 2008 , despite low unemployment and the best job market In over a decade. The quantitative easing that followed the 2008 financial crisis did little to repair the abuses that took place in the earlier 2000’s. Until the excesses have been eliminated, inflation as well as rates will remain depressed. Recessions have a way of wringing out the excess and creating a hunger to get the economy back on track. It will be painful, for some more than others. In a nutshell, lack of inflation sits as the main cause for rates to decline and remain low. Why inflation remains low despite low unemployment, and what was strong global growth could be debatable. However, clearly overall supply in the global economy is overshadowing demand.
The lower interest rates in the past few quarters have allowed millions of borrowers to potentially refinance debt from as early as 12-24 months ago. This mini-refinance “boom” will allow independent mortgage originators to utilize their built-in scale as well as redeploy resources that have been shelved in the past 6-12 months. More importantly, this refinancing opportunity will allow smaller, more margin-sensitive participants, to stay a bit longer in the origination game while re-tooling strategies going forward. The refinancing opportunities can take various forms—traditional 1st lien refinances, 2nd lien piggy backs and HELOCs. Finally, given the rise in property valuations over the past few years, this rate market is poised to add “fuel to the flame” to the housing market. A positive housing market is only beneficial to the independent mortgage originator.
They are not excited about it. I’m sure every ALM (Asset Liability Management Committee) looks very closely at all aspects of their business lines and the level of risk each dollar is exposed to, versus the return that dollar brings in. Both banks and the surviving credit unions have become very healthy over the past 10 years and protecting that recovery is priority number one. They will continue to take some risk out on the curve depending on the market they serve. They will take advantage of unique opportunities that arise (i.e. e-commerce economy). But their investment portfolio will be considerably shorter and fees will be increased where possible. Their cash run-off will also pick up and finding reinvestment opportunities will be tricky. Most will take a bullet and buy way more treasuries than they would have or payoff debt, even if it is a non-revenue generating asset and quite frankly, pray the recession lasts a traditional (6 to 18 months) duration.
Portfolios will run off—especially residential mortgages. PMs will need to replace with like-kind (albeit at lower coups, longer duration). PMs may look at alternatives that better fit their duration and yield bogies. Originators will write more traditional loans but also leverage lower rates to write 2nds as well as HELOCs. Banks should be better buyers of assets in general as residential portfolios may run off and/or prepay and thus will/should look at other assets. Banks may become sellers of higher yielding assets given new and lower rate environment (this will be a hard pitch) but correct in theory. Banks may want to look at non-QM given higher yields and to address their residential portfolio needs.
On the investment side Float-to-fixed, adjustable rates, and variable rate products would be in play. Quality fixed rates are all expensive. As of this morning: