Downward pressure on mortgage interest rates remains strongParts of this report will seem like an April Fool.

The US 10-year T-note has jumped a quarter-percent in four days, half of the springboard Friday morning on wild news from the job market. Mortgage damage is limited, low-fee deals still just under 4.00%.

The first Friday each month brings the immediately prior-month count of new jobs. And revisions of prior months, holy smokes. The January figure was above forecast, 257,000 jobs gained, but nothing exciting. However, November was revised from a gain of 353,000 to 423,000, and December from 252,000 to 329,000 — the best three months in 17 years.

Never ever quibble with the data. Don’t gin up government conspiracy theories, or accusations of incompetence. But… but… but… that’s a hell of a lot of jobs, and the explosion does not match other data. Starting with wages.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) average hourly earnings spurted oddly in November, a sudden 0.7% pulled back by a drop of 0.2% in December, and now a January jump of 0.5%, distorted by state-level increases in the minimum wage. A rise in the minimum wage is good news for entry level workers, but it’s not an economic function, employers paying up to attract workers.

Wages move slowly

Hourly earnings are not ever as volatile as that. Wages move slowly: the numbers are too big to move quickly, and the three-month series looks like measurement error. The one-year look-back is a 2.2% gain, still painfully thin.
Meanwhile the twin Institute for Supply Management (ISM) surveys went nowhere in particular in January, the manufacturing one soft (53.5, down from 56.5 in December and 57.7 in November), services still healthy (56.7 from 56.2). The first substantial sign of economic slowing from the very strong dollar: our trade deficit widened in December to $46.6 billion, way beyond forecast despite another drop in oil imports. Overall imports still increased $5.3 billion and exports dropped $1.5 billion. A strong dollar makes us feel wealthy, but hollows GDP. The 4th quarter may come in below 2% annual, less than half of the 3rd, and dollar effects have just begun.

How will Fed react to jobs report?

Nearly everyone assumes that Friday’s strong job picture will embolden the Fed to liftoff from zero, and confirm a summer date on the runway.

But… but… the best inflation measure of them all, “core personal consumption expenditure deflator” arrived “less than 0.1%” in December, 1.3% year-over-year and falling. The labor participation rate rose, as did unemployment, both counter-indicators to wage-pulled inflation.
Phew.

That’s the domestic picture. If that were all, just begin Fed-watch and try to calculate how far, how fast until higher rates break something (housing — which has not picked up even after an entire year of falling rates). But US-domestic is not all. The world is bigger than ever, and the Fed is not accustomed to the effects of its gyrations.

Overseas

Europe will do a little better because of the weak euro, now $1.13, which might push up its bond yields, which at deflation-fearful lows also hold down our bond and mortgage rates. The German 10-year pays 0.343%. In a world converging in deflation, Japan’s 10s are exactly the same. The yen has stopped falling despite the BOJ’s Weimar-printing, and Japan’s inflation has also defied the wallpapering.

In geopolitical review, the latest barbarity by ISIS has energized its neighbors, and it’s not on my worry list. Nor is Iran, oil-damaged. Russia is uglier and uglier, and the results of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s trip can change the interest-rate calculus over this weekend.

Greece will not end well, and the end will push down on rates everywhere. China is the great unknown, but it is not likely to do well repairing its credit bubble, nor in restructuring, and odds greatly favor a yuan devaluation versus the dollar.

Double phew. The sum of all of that: downward pressure on US long-term rates is still very strong. Fed or no Fed. In the perverse world of central banking, liftoff in the overnight cost of money may pull long-term rates down via an even stronger dollar and expectations of future slowdown. As has been the case in charts in the last year.

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US 10 year Treasury note in the past week Lou Barnes blog for real estate investors

US 10-year T-note this week.

US 10s in the last year, downtrend still intact, correction way overdue after extreme drop since Christmas. 10s could rise another .20% and still resume the decline. Lou Barnes blog for real estate investors

US 10s in the last year, downtrend still intact, correction way overdue after extreme drop since Christmas. 10s could rise another .20% and still resume the decline.

US 2-year T-note, the great Fed-predictor, in the last week, very worried: blog by Lou Barnes for real estate investors.

US 2-year T-note, the great Fed-predictor, in the last week, very worried:

However, in the last year of 2s, note previous jumps then abandoned. More important, note 2s rising while 10s have dropped. The conundrum for the Fed: how much of the drop in 10s is just global money trying to escape to the US, and how much is warning of a global deflation problem still headed this way?

However, in the last year of 2s, note previous jumps then abandoned. More important, note 2s rising while 10s have dropped. The conundrum for the Fed: how much of the drop in 10s is just global money trying to escape to the US, and how much is warning of a global deflation problem still headed this way?

Fighting inflation is one of the Fed’s three primary jobs. The other two: lender of last resort, and the brand-new one, preventer of bubbles. The Fed has made clear that it’s less worried about inflation than that it’s 0% may have induced bubbles that we can’t see. If inflation continues to drop... you would not want to be Janet Yellen. All of the Fed’s future-inflation forecasting tools have been wrong for 15 years.

Fighting inflation is one of the Fed’s three primary jobs. The other two: lender of last resort, and the brand-new one, preventer of bubbles. The Fed has made clear that it’s less worried about inflation than that it’s 0% may have induced bubbles that we can’t see. If inflation continues to drop… you would not want to be Janet Yellen. All of the Fed’s future-inflation forecasting tools have been wrong for 15 years.

Lou Barnes blog for real estate investors

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  • Danny Johnson

    Danny Johnson has flipped hundreds of houses over the last 11+ years in San Antonio, Texas. He blogs about flipping houses at FlippingJunkie.com and is the author of "Flipping Houses Exposed: 34 Weeks in the Life of a Successful House Flipper," a best-selling book on Amazon. He also provides real estate investor websites at www.LeadPropeller.com.

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