U.S. Home Prices Climb to Pre-Crisis Levels

Home prices in the United States have now climbed to levels last seen a decade ago, though unlike 10 years prior, much of the country’s growth is now sustainable, according to Fitch Ratings in its latest quarterly U.S. RMBS sustainable home price report.

Home prices grew at nearly a 5% annualized rate last quarter and are 36% higher nationally since reaching their low in 2012. As a result they are now slightly above peak levels reached in 2006 – 2007. The difference this time around compared to a decade ago rests with several other notable factors aside from the much talked about low mortgage rates and falling unemployment.

“The U.S. population has increased by more than 30 million people and personal income per capita has increased by more than 30% since 2006,” said Managing Director Grant Bailey. “Both the significantly higher population and income levels provide much greater support for the price levels today.”

That said, growth remains somewhat disjointed in some regions of the US. “Prices in major metro areas of Texas are now more than 50% higher than they were in 2006, while prices in New York, Philadelphia and Washington DC are still 4% – 10% below 2006 levels,” said Bailey. “Elsewhere, home prices in major cities throughout Florida remain more than 15% below 2006 levels.”

The overheated home price pockets remain largely in the Western United States (Texas, Portland, Phoenix and Las Vegas), which Fitch lists at more than 10% overvalued.

Bond Returns, Lower For Longer?

From Moody’s

A less accommodative US monetary policy may heighten market volatility near term. However, over time, the fundamentals that give direction to business activity and financial markets will prevail. For now, current trends involving demography, technology, regulation, and globalization favor the containment of core price inflation and still relatively low US Treasury bond yields.

Because price deflation is anathema to both profit margins and credit quality, a low enough rate of price inflation will adversely affect both equity prices and systemic financial liquidity. If US core consumer price inflation (which excludes volatile food and energy prices) now eases amid a relatively low and declining unemployment rate, what might become of core consumer prices once unemployment inevitably rises? Today’s already sluggish rate of core consumer price growth increases the risk of outright price deflation if sales volumes endure a recessionary contraction.

US consumer price inflation lacks both the speed and breadth necessary for a lasting stay by a 10-year Treasury yield of at least 2.5%. Because the Fed’s preferred inflation measure — the PCE price index — can be temporarily buffeted about by wide swings in food and energy prices, our focus is on the core PCE price index, which best captures consumer price inflation’s underlying pace.

Pockets of price deflation warn against aggressive tightening

The annual rate of core PCE price index inflation was merely 1.4% in July. The accompanying -2.0% annual rate of consumer durables price deflation underscores the considerable risk of pushing too hard on the monetary brakes. Both persistent consumer durables price deflation and August 2017’s -0.9% annual rate of core consumer goods price deflation (as measured by the CPI) warn that too rapid a rise by interest rates risks even lower prices among businesses already burdened by a loss of pricing power. Prolonged core consumer goods price deflation might yet thin profit margins by enough to necessitate layoffs.

The CPI tells roughly the same story as the PCE price index, where inflation gives way to deflation outside of consumer services. By far the fastest price growth has been posted by consumer services, whose pricing benefits from the category’s relative immunity from global competition. For example, August 2017’s 1.7% annual rate of core CPI inflation consisted of a 2.5% annual rate of consumer service price inflation that differed considerably from the aforementioned -0.9% annual rate of core consumer goods price deflation. Core consumer goods price deflation has held in each month since March 2013 and it posted its worst reading since August 2004’s -1.2% in August 2017.

Moreover, consumer service price inflation has been skewed higher by the relatively rapid growth of shelter costs. After excluding August 2017’s 3.3% yearly increase by the CPI’s shelter cost component, the 1.7% annual rate of core CPI inflation drops to 0.5%, which was the slowest such rate since the 0.5% of January 2004.

Expectations of a 2% to 3% Return from Bonds May Become the Norm

Investment professionals now include expectations of a prolonged containment of price inflation in their long-term outlook for prospective returns. For example, a member of Vanguard Group’s global investment-strategy team reiterated Vanguard’s expectation of expected returns for the next decade of 5% to 8% for equities and 2% to 3% for bonds, according to Bloomberg News.

The expected 2% to 3% return from bonds during the next 10 years is at odds with both the FOMC’s median projection of a 2.75% federal funds rate over the long-term and consensus forecasts of a 3% to 3.5% average for the 10-year Treasury yield during the next 10 years.

The cited Vanguard investment manager claimed that bond yields will be reined in by low price inflation stemming from demographic change, globalization, and technological progress. Aging populations will weigh on household expenditures. An aging population implies less in the way of household formation that otherwise accelerates spending vis-a-vis income and, by doing so, imparts a powerful multiplier effect.

Furthermore, the US workforce now ages in tandem with the overall population. According to the Labor Department’s household survey of employment, the employment of Americans aged at least 55 years surged by a cumulative 31.2% since June 2009’s end to the Great Recession through August 2017. Because the latter was so much faster than the accompanying 9.6% increase by total household-survey employment, the number of employees aged at least 55 years rose to a record 23.2% of household survey employment in August. The unprecedented aging of both the US workforce and population will limit the upsides for household expenditures, core consumer price inflation, benchmark interest rates, corporate earnings growth, and corporate debt growth.

Globalization has weakened the tendency of a tighter US labor market to quicken wage growth and, thereby, stoke consumer price inflation. Globalization exposes US workers to the often cheaper and increasingly skilled workforces of dynamic emerging market countries. Heightened labor-market competition implies that employee compensation will be more closely aligned with a worker’s individual performance. Attractive across-the-board wage hikes are a thing of the past.

Meanwhile, technological progress will facilitate the production of higher quality products at lower costs. Thanks to technology, cost-push deflation may push aside cost-push inflation.

Faster price growth requires the sustenance of faster income growth

A recurring annual rate of consumer price inflation of at least 2% requires that consumers be able to afford such a steady and broadly distributed climb by prices. The atypically slow 2.6% annual rise by wage and salary income of the 12-months-ended July 2017 questions consumer spending’s ability to sustain consumer price inflation at 2% or higher. An improving trend has yet to materialize according to July’s merely 2.5% yearly increase by wages and salaries.

Never before has wage and salary income grown so slowly over a yearlong span more than three years into a business cycle upturn. Yes, it may be true that 2017’s deceleration by wages and salaries reflects an attempt to delay receiving employment income until after possible income tax cuts take effect, but most workers are incapable of timing the receipt of income. Thus, to the extent any slowing of 2017’s wage and salary income reflects a tax-driven postponement of such income, attention is brought to a distribution of income that may be increasingly skewed toward higher income individuals. If true, then any percent increase by wage and salary income will supply less of a boost to household expenditures
and business pricing power compared to the past.

Today’s dearth of personal savings and weakened financial state of America’s lower- and middle-income classes subtract from business pricing power. Less personal savings leaves consumers with less of a buffer with which to absorb widespread price hikes. When savings are low or practically nonexistent, affected consumers may react to broadly distributed price hikes by cutting back on real consumer spending, which, in turn, leads to an accumulation of unwanted inventories and remedial price discounting.

When the core PCE price index averaged a rapid annual advance of 6.6% during 1971-1981, the US personal savings rate averaged 11.6% of disposable personal income. By contrast, since the end of 1995, the 1.7% average annual rate of core PCE price index inflation has been joined by a much lower average personal savings rate of 5.0%, where the personal savings rate was an even skimpier 3.9% during the 12-months-ended July 2017. Moreover, to the degree the distribution of income has become increasingly skewed toward the top, the personal savings rate of middle- to lower-income consumers may now be noticeably lower.

The FOMC now believes that the annual rate of core PCE price index inflation will remain under 2%, but only through 2018. However, core PCE price index inflation is likely to average something less than 2% annually through 2027, especially if employee compensation cannot sustain a pace faster than 4% annually.

Fed Holds Stance on Rate Hikes

In the September 2017 statement the FED remains bullish on the US economy, and says it will start to normalise its balance sheet in October (reversing QE).

Bond yields rose, putting upward pressure on capital market funding. In fact there has been a significant change in trajectory since mid September, with yields rising again.

The immediate impact on US mortgage rates was to lift them, and the expectation is more down the track.

All this points to more upward pressure on Australian mortgage rates, thanks to a combination of higher bank funding costs, and the sense the RBA may lift sooner than was expected even a few days ago.

This will all play out over the next few months, but the sense we get from the market is a stronger view of higher rates sooner.

Here is the Fed’s statement:

Information received since the Federal Open Market Committee met in July indicates that the labor market has continued to strengthen and that economic activity has been rising moderately so far this year. Job gains have remained solid in recent months, and the unemployment rate has stayed low. Household spending has been expanding at a moderate rate, and growth in business fixed investment has picked up in recent quarters. On a 12-month basis, overall inflation and the measure excluding food and energy prices have declined this year and are running below 2 percent. Market-based measures of inflation compensation remain low; survey-based measures of longer-term inflation expectations are little changed, on balance.

Consistent with its statutory mandate, the Committee seeks to foster maximum employment and price stability. Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria have devastated many communities, inflicting severe hardship. Storm-related disruptions and rebuilding will affect economic activity in the near term, but past experience suggests that the storms are unlikely to materially alter the course of the national economy over the medium term. Consequently, the Committee continues to expect that, with gradual adjustments in the stance of monetary policy, economic activity will expand at a moderate pace, and labor market conditions will strengthen somewhat further. Higher prices for gasoline and some other items in the aftermath of the hurricanes will likely boost inflation temporarily; apart from that effect, inflation on a 12-month basis is expected to remain somewhat below 2 percent in the near term but to stabilize around the Committee’s 2 percent objective over the medium term. Near-term risks to the economic outlook appear roughly balanced, but the Committee is monitoring inflation developments closely.

In view of realized and expected labor market conditions and inflation, the Committee decided to maintain the target range for the federal funds rate at 1 to 1-1/4 percent. The stance of monetary policy remains accommodative, thereby supporting some further strengthening in labor market conditions and a sustained return to 2 percent inflation.

In determining the timing and size of future adjustments to the target range for the federal funds rate, the Committee will assess realized and expected economic conditions relative to its objectives of maximum employment and 2 percent inflation. This assessment will take into account a wide range of information, including measures of labor market conditions, indicators of inflation pressures and inflation expectations, and readings on financial and international developments. The Committee will carefully monitor actual and expected inflation developments relative to its symmetric inflation goal. The Committee expects that economic conditions will evolve in a manner that will warrant gradual increases in the federal funds rate; the federal funds rate is likely to remain, for some time, below levels that are expected to prevail in the longer run. However, the actual path of the federal funds rate will depend on the economic outlook as informed by incoming data.

In October, the Committee will initiate the balance sheet normalization program described in the June 2017 Addendum to the Committee’s Policy Normalization Principles and Plans

 

S&P 500 Reaches New Heights (Again)

The US index has reached another high and a 5-year view highlights the strong growth, and momentum since Trump won the election last year.

So, what are the expectations ahead? Well, according to a piece from Moody’s:

An overvalued equity market and an extraordinarily low VIX index offer no assurance of impending doom for US equities. Provided that interest rates do not rocket higher, expectations of corporate earnings growth should be sufficient for the purpose of avoiding a severe equity market correction that would doubtless include the return of corporate bond yield spreads in excess of 700 bp for high yield and above 200 bp for Ba a-rated issues.

For now, the good news is that early September’s Blue Chip consensus expects core profits, or pretax profits from current production, to grow by 4.4% in 2017 and by 4.5% in 2018. Moreover, earnings-sensitive securities should be able to shoulder the 2.5% 10-year Treasury yield projected for 2017’s final quarter. However, the realization of a projected Q4-2018 average of 3.0% for the 10-year Treasury yield could materially reduce US share prices.

Since 1982, there have been seven episodes when the month-long average of the market value of US common stock sank by at least -10% from its then record high. Only two of the seven were not accompanied by at least a -5% drop by core profits’ moving yearlong average from its then record high.

In conclusion, the rich valuation of today’s US equity market very much warns of at least a -10% drop in the market value of US common stock in response to either unexpectedly high interest rates or a contraction of profits. Perhaps, the prudent investor should be braced for at least a -20% plunge in the value of a well-diversified portfolio at some point during the next 18 months.

Wall Street landlords are chasing the American dream

From The Conversation.

Owning a family home in the suburbs has been a cornerstone of the American dream for many generations. But in 2008, when the United States’ housing bubble burst and a spate of mortgage foreclosures triggered the global financial crisis, that dream was vanquished, and such houses would instead become the sites of shattered lives.

In the aftermath of the crisis, hundreds of thousands of suburban homes were repossessed and sold at auction. With the market in shambles, prices were low. Tightened credit made it hard for individuals to buy – even for those whose credit was not destroyed by the crisis. Investors saw an opportunity, and began buying up houses.

Though house prices have recovered in many regions of the US, many of the people living in these homes are now renting – and their landlords are some of the biggest investment firms on Wall Street. Of course, small scale, mostly local investors have long owned and rented out individual houses. But it simply wasn’t feasible to manage large numbers of individual homes at a distance. As technology changed, it became much more practical for large corporations to manage individual homes spread across different regions.

With access to credit and funds unavailable to the average home buyer, large investors have been able to enter the landlord market in ways that have never been seen before. Blackstone – the world’s largest alternative investment firm – pioneered new rent-backed financial instruments in 2013, whereby rent checks are bundled up and sold as securities, similar to the way that mortgage payments are turned into financial products bought by investors.

Now, Blackstone’s rental company Invitation Homes looks set to merge with Starwood Waypoint Homes; a move that would create the nation’s largest landlord, with roughly 82,000 homes across the country. Another Wall Street backed firm, American Homes 4 Rent, owns a further 49,000 homes across 22 states.

Renting the American dream

Since 2010, the United States has seen a massive rise in the number of families renting the kind of single-family houses that have long been the desire of would-be homeowners chasing the American dream. While estimates vary, the inventory of single family homes being rented has grown by anywhere from three to seven million (35% to 67%) compared with pre-crisis levels. Single-family houses are now the most common form of rental property in the United States.

Overwhelmingly, the people living in these houses are families. Our ongoing research with Jake Wegmann of the University of Texas and Deirdre Pfeiffer of Arizona State University shows that almost half of Single Family Rented (SFR) households (49%) have at least one child under 18; a far greater percentage than rental properties with multiple units (roughly 25%) and owner-occupied homes (31%).

According to our own analysis of the American Community Survey, in 2015 an estimated 14.5m children in the United States lived in a rented single-family home. Demographically, single-family renters are more likely than owners to be people of colour, and to face moderate or severe housing cost burdens. The upshot of all this is that the 40m or so people living in SFR homes now form the basis of a new asset class of rental-backed securities.

Destination unknown

Scaling up portfolios consisting of thousands or tens of thousands of rental homes has made it possible for Wall Street firms to roll out financial instruments suited to “a rentership society”. Securitisation allows big investors to borrow against the value of the properties, to buy more properties and pay off old debt, and acts as a loan that tenants pay back with their rent checks.

Wall Street is no stranger to the housing business in America. But their involvement as landlords of single-family homes is new, and so are the financial instruments they have developed. The impact of Wall Street’s new role is unclear. While rehabilitating houses and helping to stabilise home values in the hardest-hit markets, they may also be crowding out first-time buyers, creating a lopsided market that shuts out would-be owner-occupiers.

Some Wall Street landlords have been singled out for poor repairs, problems with billing and collections and lacklustre customer service. There is also growing concern about the fact that renters of single-family homes have little protection, even in cities with some form of rent control. A report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta found that large corporate owners of houses are more likely than smaller landlords to evict tenants; some filed eviction notices on up to a third of their renters in just one year.

Here to stay

Wall Street landlords are also making new political allies, hinting they intend to stick around. The largest single-family rental companies have banded together to form a trade group, the National Rental Home Council, which promotes large-scale, single-family rental housing and advocates for public policies friendly to their interests. And it seems to be working.

In an unprecedented move, just after President Trump’s inauguration, the government-backed mortgage agency, Fannie Mae, agreed to underwrite Blackstone’s initial public offering of Invitation Homes stock, to the tune of a billion dollars. Blackstone’s CEO is Steve Schwarzman, one of the president’s most loyal backers. And Thomas Barrack – the recently departed leader of Colony Starwood Homes, which is preparing to merge with Invitation Homes – is a longtime friend of the mogul-turned-president.

Meanwhile, another government-backed agency, Freddie Mac, has announced that it too was supporting investment in single-family rentals, but with a focus on financing for mid-size investors and with an explicit goal of maintaining rental affordability. Non-partisan organisations like the Urban Institute have also suggested that government-backed financing opportunities could help single-family rental serve as a new affordable housing strategy.

All of these developments suggest that the downward trend in home ownership after the financial crisis could be here to stay. And while there is nothing wrong with renting – just as there is nothing inherently good about owning – the changes we are seeing in the single-family rental market bear ongoing scrutiny, to ensure that Wall Street’s demand for profit does not once again wreak havoc on Main Street.

Authors: Desiree Fields, Lecturer in Urban Geography, University of Sheffield; Alex Schafran, Lecturer in Urban Geography, University of Leeds; Zac Taylor, PhD Candidate in Geography, University of Leeds

A very low VIX Index weighs against a higher bond default rate

From Moody’s.

The state of the US equity market also helps to give direction to the bond default rate. A well-functioning equity market helps to assure ample liquidity. In the extreme case of infinite liquidity, defaults would be nonexistent.

To the degree business assets are attractively priced, financially-stressed firms will find it easier to obtain relief via injections of common equity capital. For example, firms can secure more cash through the divestment of business assets when equity markets thrive.

Thus, the record shows that the moving 12-month average of the VIX index tends to lead the high-yield default rate. Recently, the VIX index’s moving 12-month average sank to a record low 12.2 points.

As inferred from their long-term statistical relationship, if the VIX index’s yearlong average remains under 13.25 points, the default rate is likely to dip under 2%. It may be premature to consider the possibility of a rising default rate until the VIX index’s unprecedented slide is reversed.

US Employment Data Weaker Than Expected

More weaker than expected economic data from the US. Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 156,000 in August, and the unemployment rate was little changed at 4.4 percent, says the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The jobs growth was lower than the 186,000 consensus expectation. More evidence supporting the lower for longer interest rate hypothesis.

The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) was essentially unchanged in August at 1.7 million and accounted for 24.7 percent of the unemployed.

The labor force participation rate, at 62.9 percent, was unchanged in August and has shown little movement on net over the past year. The employment-population ratio, at 60.1 percent, was little changed over the month and thus far this year.

In August, average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls rose by 3 cents to $26.39, after rising by 9 cents in July. Over the past 12 months, average hourly earnings have increased by 65 cents, or 2.5 percent. In August, average hourly earnings of private-sector production and nonsupervisory employees increased by 4 cents to $22.12.

The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for June was revised down from +231,000 to +210,000, and the change for July was revised down from +209,000 to +189,000. With these revisions, employment gains in June and July combined were 41,000 less than previously reported. (Monthly revisions result from additional reports received from businesses and government agencies since the last published estimates and from the recalculation of seasonal factors.) After revisions, job gains have averaged 185,000 per month over the past 3 months.

Low US Inflation Signals Interest Rates Will Remain Lower For Longer

The latest data from the US which shows low inflation and wage growth has pulled the implied forward interest rates down suggesting the Fed will hold rates lower for longer.  This is reflected in falling yields on the T10.

Nearly half of the “Trump Effect” repricing has been undone.

This is also flowing into lower rates in the international capital markets, which is translating to lower costs of funds for the Australian banks (one reason why Westpac has cut their fixed rates).

As a result, in our default model, we have reduced the likelihood of an interest rate rise for mortgage holders in Australia over the next few months. This will translate to a projected fall in defaults, despite rising mortgage stress. We will publish the August data on Monday.  Households are likely to be able to muddle through and the RBA will hope business investment, which was stronger this time, works through.

Meantime, here is interesting commentary from Moody’s on the US, who highlight that the latest drop by personal savings in the US brings attention to the financial stress now facing many households there.

The recent slowdown by the underlying rate of consumer price inflation significantly lowered the risk of a disruptive climb by interest rates. In response, the VIX index sank from the 16.0 points of August 10, 2017 to a recent 10.7 points, while a composite high-yield bond spread narrowed from August 11’s 410 bp to August 30’s 399 bp.

However, the narrowing by the high-yield bond spread has been limited by a climb by the average high yield EDF (expected default frequency) metric from the July 2017 average of 3.9% to the 4.4% average of the five-days-ended August 30. Moreover, the US high-yield credit rating revisions of the third-quarter todate show downgrades topping upgrades even after excluding rating changes that were not primarily driven by fundamentals.

As recently as early July 2017, the Blue Chip consensus had anticipated a 2.5% average for Q3-2017’s 10-year Treasury yield. Much to the contrary, the 10-year Treasury yield has averaged 2.26% thus far in the third quarter, including a recent 2.13%. Not even a widely anticipated September 2017 start to the Fed’s reduced reinvestment of maturing bonds has been capable of lifting Treasury bond yields demonstrably.

In addition to July’s 1.4% annual rate of core PCE price index inflation, benchmark bond yields have been reined in by the market’s much reduced expectation of another Fed rate hike for 2017. As of mid-day on August 31, the futures market implicitly assigned only a 36.4% likelihood to fed funds’ midpoint finishing 2017 at something greater than its current 1.125% according to the CME Group’s FedWatch tool.

By itself, core PCE price index inflation’s performance of the last 20 years suggests that the FOMC may have considerable difficulty as far as sustaining PCE price index inflation at 2% or higher. For the 20-years-ended June 2017, core PCE price index inflation averaged only 1.7% annually. The annual rate of core PCE price index inflation was at least 2% in only 58, or 24.2%, of the last 240 months (20 years).

For those months showing an annual rate of core PCE price index inflation of at least 2%, the average annual rate of core inflation was only 2.2%, wherein the fastest annual rate of core inflation was the 2.5% of August 2006.

Drop by personal savings curbs core inflation

The slower growth of wage and salary income has helped to contain price inflation. After decelerating from 2014’s 5.6% and 2015’s 5.5% to 2016’s 3.0%, the annual increase of private-sector wages and salaries approximated a still sluggish 3.1% during January-July 2017. In response to the pronounced slowdown by wages and salaries, personal savings have shrunk by -29% annually thus far in 2017 following yearlong 2016’s -18% plunge.

The drop by the ratio of personal savings to disposable personal income from its 6.1% average of the five years ended 2015 to the 3.8% of 2017 to date implies Americans lack the financial wherewithal to either support or absorb significantly higher prices for long.

High rates of personal savings make it easier for consumers to absorb higher prices. When core PCE price index inflation averaged 6.4% during 1970-1981, the personal savings rate averaged 11.7%. By contrast, the averages for January-July 2017 showed a much lower 3.8% personal savings rate and a much slower 1.6% annual rate of core PCE price index inflation.

In addition, the latest drop by personal savings brings attention to the financial stress now facing many US households. Today’s more unequal distribution of income implies that a relatively greater number of today’s households save little, if any, of their after-tax income. When confronted with higher prices, these “paycheck-to-paycheck” consumers will be compelled to eventually curtail real spending at the expense of business pricing power.

Federal Reserve Board Proposes to Produce Three New Reference Rates

Given questions about the transparency of the U.S. dollar LIBOR rate benchmark, and the quest for a more robust alternative, the US Federal Reserve Board has requested public comment on a proposal for the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, in cooperation with the Office of Financial Research, to produce three new reference rates based on overnight repurchase agreement (repo) transactions secured by Treasuries.

The most comprehensive of the rates, to be called the Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR), would be a broad measure of overnight Treasury financing transactions and was selected by the Alternative Reference Rates Committee as its recommended alternative to U.S. dollar LIBOR. SOFR would include tri-party repo data from Bank of New York Mellon (BNYM) and cleared bilateral and GCF Repo data from the Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation (DTCC).

“SOFR will be derived from the deepest, most resilient funding market in the United States. As such, it represents a robust rate that will support U.S. financial stability,” said Federal Reserve Board Governor Jerome H. Powell.

Another proposed rate, to be called the Tri-party General Collateral Rate (TGCR) would be based solely on triparty repo data from BNYM. The final rate, to be called the Broad General Collateral Rate (BGCR) would be based on the triparty repo data from BNYM and cleared GCF Repo data from DTCC.

The three interest rates will be constructed to reflect the cost of short-term secured borrowing in highly liquid and robust markets. Because these rates are based on transactions secured by U.S. Treasury securities, they are essentially risk-free, providing a valuable benchmark for market participants to use in financial transactions.

Comments on the proposal to produce the three rates are requested within 60 days of publication in the Federal Register, which is expected shortly.

US Housing Bubble 2.0: Number Of Homebuyers Putting Less Than 10% Down Soars To 7-Year High

From Zero Hedge.

A really long, long time ago, well before most of today’s wall street analysts made it through puberty, the entire international financial system almost collapsed courtesy of a mortgage lending bubble that allowed anyone with a pulse to finance over 100% of a home’s purchase price…with pretty much no questions asked.

And while the millennial titans of high finance today may consider a decade-old case study on mortgage finance to be about as useful as a Mark Twain novel when it comes to underwriting mortgage risk, they may want to considered at least taking a look at the ancient finance scrolls from 2009 before gleefully repeating the sins of their forefathers.

Alas, it may be too late.  As Black Knight Financial Services points out, down payments, the very thing that is supposed to deter rampant housing speculation by forcing buyers to have ‘skin in the game’, are once again disappearing from the mortgage market.  In fact, just in the last 12 months, 1.5 million borrowers have purchased a home with less than 10% down, a 7-year high.

Over the past 12 months, 1.5M borrowers have purchased a home by putting down less than 10 percent, which is close to a seven-year high in low down payment purchase volumes

– The increase is primarily a function of the overall growth in purchase lending, but, after nearly four consecutive years of declines, low down payment loans have ticked upwards in market share over the past 18 months

– Looking back historically, we see that half of all low down payment lending (less than 10 percent down) in 2005-2006 involved piggyback second liens rather than a single high LTV first lien mortgage

– The low down payment market share actually rose through 2010 as the GSEs and portfolio lenders pulled back, the PLS market dried up, and FHA lending buoyed the purchase market as a whole

– The FHA/VA share of purchase lending rose from less than 10 percent during 2005-2006 to nearly 50 percent in 2010

– As the market normalized and other lenders returned, the share of low-down payment lending declined consistent with a drop in the FHA/VA share of the purchase market

On the bright side, at least Yellen’s interest rate bubble means that today’s housing speculators don’t even have to rely on introductory teaser rates to finance their McMansions...Yellen just artificially set the 30-year fixed rate at the 2007 ARM teaser rate…it’s just much easier this way.

“The increase is primarily a function of the overall growth in purchase lending, but, after nearly four consecutive years of declines, low down payment loans have ticked upward in market share over the past 18 months as well,” said Ben Graboske, executive vice president at Black Knight Data & Analytics, in a recent note. “In fact, they now account for nearly 40 percent of all purchase lending.”

At that time half of all low down payment loans being made involved second loans, commonly known as “piggyback loans,” but today’s mortgages are largely single, first liens, Graboske noted.

The loans of the past were also far riskier – mostly adjustable-rate mortgages, which, according to the Black Knight report, are virtually nonexistent among low down payment mortgages today. Instead, most are fixed rate. Credit scores of borrowers taking out these loans today are also about 50 points higher than those between 2004 and 2007.

Finally, on another bright note, tax payers are just taking all the risk upfront this time around…no sense letting the banks take the risk while pretending that taxpayers aren’t on the hook for their poor decisions…again, it’s just easier this way.