Here are some comments from National economists:


Mortgage rates rose to the highest level in nearly two months yesterday as prices on the front-end of the yield curve were weighed down by better-than-expected data and long-end yields were pushed up due to Pfizer’s $31 billion duration-heavy, multi-tranche, fourth largest ever offering of bonds. There were also FDIC sales, $12.5 billion over Monday and yesterday in total, which contributed to the widening of MBS spreads to roughly 315 basis points. Retail sales, which factor into GDP, rose in April despite still-high inflation and borrowing costs as slow unemployment and steady wage growth continued to support demand. The 0.4 percent month-over-month advance in sales would normally be good but follows larger declines in February and March (-0.7 percent) and doesn't take into account price changes, meaning that on an inflation-adjusted basis retail sales are actually down. Declining sales will eventually be a headwind to economic growth this year.


The National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index rose to 50 in May, meaning an equal number of builders have as positive a view of the market as a negative view of the market. Though the figure beat both expectations and April’s reading, the index has been trending under 50 since last August and fell a record twelve months in a row over the entirety of last year.


The housing boom over the past couple of years was mostly in home prices, not in home building, and this report dampens expectations for much new home building leading up to and continuing during the spring season. This report, and the lack of home building in general, suggests that the dire shortage of new home construction is not set to change anytime soon, which is quite a head scratcher considering the extreme dearth of home inventory for sale.


As every lender knows, the inventory of homes for sale has dried up. So, where have the spring home selling seasonals gone? Ask the millions of American homeowners paying 4 percent or less on their mortgages who are deciding to stay put rather than trade up. One-third of housing inventory hitting the market is new construction, compared to historical norms of a little more than 10 percent. The annual rate of home building currently resides at 980k, less than half its 2.3 million average since 2000. Existing home sales are due out tomorrow morning and are expected to drop to a 4.3 million annualized rate, or down 3.2 percent compared to March, which in turn was down 2.4 percent compared to February. It’s rough out there.


After mortgage rates increased last week (even as Treasury yields were essentially flat), mortgage applications decreased 5.7 percent from one week earlier, according to data from MBA. We’ve also received housing starts and building permits for April (). Markets were looking for 1.44 million and 1.46 million compared with 1.42 million and 1.43 million previously. Later today brings a Treasury auction of $15 billion 20-year bonds. We begin the day with the 2-year back up to 4.07, Agency MBS prices better by a few 32nds, and the 10-year yielding 3.52 after closing yesterday at 3.55 percent.


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