MARKET WRAP: Bond markets stabilized today and pushed higher despite better than expected news from initial claims, pending home sales and not-so-good results from the $29B 7-yr note auction. Whispers of a lower than expected 1st read on Q2 GDP could have helped to lend support to Bonds. Stocks traded higher for the most of the session but fell in the last hour of trading ahead of this evenings House vote on the debt ceiling due around 5:45pm ET. The 4% coupon jumped 47bp to end the session at 100.75. The Dow fell 62.44 to 12,240.11, the S&P 500 Index lost 4.22 to 1,300.67 while the Nasdaq was near unchanged at 2,766.25. Oil was slightly lower in after hours trading at $97.19/barrel. Along with GDP, Chicago PMI, Employment Cost Index and Consumer Sentiment will be released tomorrow.
Greece’s sovereign debt was downgraded to CCC by Standard & Poor’s on Monday, making it the worst credit rating in Europe and the worst in the developed world. Yet, when it comes to credit downgrades and talks of default, the country the entire world is watching is right here, in the AAA rated never-missed-an-interest-payment US of A.
What impact would a US default have?
Some experts have predicted a major panic. Standard & Poor’s has made it clear that it would cut the US rating from AAA (the top) to D (the bottom). That would mean banks would technically be barred from using US debt as collateral with central banks (although these rules could be changed). As Gary Jenkins of Evolution Securities put it: “They wouldn’t dare, would they?” Even Bernanke has conceded that failure to lift the US debt ceiling would throw the financial system into tremendous disarray.
If Congress fails to balance the debt, the government would have to stop, limit, or delay payments on a broad range of legal obligations, including Social Security and Medicare benefits, military salaries, and interest on the national debt, which is paid to big, market maker banks like J.P. Morgan Chase, Citibank, and others, not to mention the government of China, which is the largest holder of US government bonds overseas. Defaulting on those obligations, including coupon payments to bond holders, would cause severe hardship for the US economy. It would erode the historic legacy of the US as the safe harbor within the global financial system.
How has America been keeping afloat since May, when the debt ceiling was reached?
By stopping payments to certain federal pension schemes, and by liquidating some of the scheme’s assets. Treasury secretary Tim Geithner has pledged that the shortfall will be repaid once the ceiling is raised.
How urgent is the situation?
The US treasury estimates that funds will dry up on 2 August. However, the deadline is actually 22 July– to give time for legislation to be written and approved.
As a Mortgage Banker, I am counting on the next couple of weeks to be very volatile with re pricing multiple times per day. Now is an excellent time to get your applications in so your Mortgage Specialist can lock your loan at the perfect time.
The housing market still faces many challenges. High unemployment, foreclosures
and other distress sales are keeping negative pressure on prices. This of course
is good news if you are looking to buy as low rates and lower prices have
brought affordability to record levels.
- Since 1963, it has cost an average of approximately 43% of ‘per
capita’ or individual income to finance the cost of a median priced home (20%
down payment and prevailing 30 year fixed rate mortgage). Right now, it’s only
about half of that cost at approximately 22%.
Are you holding off
on a purchase for fear that prices might fall further? - Chances are
that some sellers might be thinking the same thing. If you’re smart about it,
you can use that as an advantage to strike the best possible deal on a home
today for once a seller believes that prices have bottomed or are going back up,
your advantage will be gone.
Don’t confuse Price with Payments
- Gambling on the expectation of a lower price tomorrow at the risk of
higher rates can cost much more in the long run than locking in a sure thing
today. Ex. $200,000 30 Yr. fixed loan @ 4.625% = $1028/mo. today vs. $180,000 @
6.5% = $1137 per month later. In other words, paying less can still cost you
Own, Rent, or Borrow - One way or another, a home
is something we all need every day. The numbers here tell the story and it’s no
secret that values have fallen, yet over time, that’s not the case. As you can
see by the chart, values over the last 10 years in most states show very healthy
appreciation. And over the long haul (map), all states have positive
We don’t get a history lesson in the news because
the news is about the moment and the more dramatic the better. That’s
what sells advertising and that’s how they get paid. For the rest of us, taking
a rational, longer term view of things makes more sense. This is particularly
true when it comes to a home, for this is something we are likely to own for
many years rather than just moments.