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Housing Market Recap (excerpted from Gate House’s weekly note to clients) August 25, 2023

Friday, August 25, 2023

As anticipated, Chairman Powell maintained a rather hawkish tone Friday afternoon, citing unexpected economic strength in the third quarter as reason to stay vigilant on inflation. “We are attentive to signs that the economy may not be cooling as expected.” Powell said.  The Fed, Powell said, is “prepared to raise rates further if appropriate and intend to hold policy at a restrictive level until we are confident that inflation is moving sustainably down toward our objective.”

JPMorgan Asset Management’s chief global strategist David Kelly said Powell wants to keep expectations open as they approach the September meeting. Kelly, however, says from his point of view the bigger risk for the Fed at this point is hiking again, as we don’t yet know the full, lagged effects of the Fed’s aggressive rate rises yet, and there is every reason to believe, Kelly argues, inflation is on its way down, citing recent global PMI numbers, new car prices falling this year, and rents stabilizing. JPMorgan expects we will be in the low 3s by the end of this year and 2% by end of next year. Kelly also said he believes it is nearly impossible to go into recession with 9.5 million job openings, a lingering effect of the pandemic that is helping to keep inflation lower.

Morgan Stanley’s Global Head of Corporate Credit Research Andrew Sheets said much the same on inflation: “Two key measures of underlying inflation, core PCE and core CPI, slowed sharply in the most recent reading.” Sheets said. He says car prices and rent—big drivers of high inflation last year—are now pointing in the opposite direction. Sheets also sights tightening bank credit and a moderation in job growth as a sign rates are restrictive enough for Morgan Stanley economists to believe the Fed is done this year.

On the bond market, Sheets also noted: “Since 1984, there have been five times where the Fed has ended interest rate hiking cycles after multiple increases. Each time the yield on the U.S. aggregate bond index peaked within a month of this last hike. In short, the Fed being done has been good for the U.S. Agg Bond Index.”

Perhaps in line, 30 year mortgage rates ticked further upward over the 7% level on tight housing supply, as Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) data indicated mortgage application activity drifted further downward to levels not seen in nearly three decades. Lawrence Yun, chief economist at the National Association of Realtors, said the future path of rates depends on 10-year Treasury yields and on what the Fed does at its Sept. 20 meeting. “We are at this critical juncture,” Yun said. “[Mortgage rates] can either break higher, up to 8 percent, or lower, to 6.5 percent.”

Meanwhile, Auction.com reported more than nine in 10 default servicing industry leaders expect completed foreclosure auction volume to increase this year compared to 2022, with 85 percent of those surveyed expecting home prices to decline in 2023 compared to 2022.