Americans’ Savings Rate Drops to Lowest Since 2008 as Inflation Bites.
Yes, inflation really bites. In fact, as US inflation is near the 40-year high, US personal savings declined -65% YoY as consumers try to cope with rising prices.
Its not only that personal savings is crashing in the face of inflation, revolving debt has soared as consumers try to cope with rising prices. I call this chart “The Biden Bowl.” Soaring consumer credit card debt with crashing personal savings.
The University of Michigan Consumer Survey showed a decline in May to 58.4 (100 is baseline). Soaring inflation is a likely culprit.
But the truly horrible survey result is the UMich Buying Conditions for Houses, plunging to 45. The reason? Crazy, expensive house prices courtesy of The Federal Reserve and rising mortgages (also, courtesy of The Federal Reserve).
The buying conditions for houses is now the lowest in the history of the University of Michigan consumer survey. In fact, consumer sentiment for housing is far lower than during the awful housing bubble burst of 2008 and the subsequent financial crisis.
And the US economic surprise index has turned negative.
Here is Fed Chair Jerome Powell wielding his monetary bat called “Lucille.”
I have never seen two Federal entities make such a mess in my life. The Federal Reserve and The Federal government.
The good news? The 10-year Treasury yield is down -12.9 BPS this morning generally resulting in lower 30-year mortgage rates. Of course, the reason why the 10-yield is falling is generally bad news.
The bad news? US New Home Sales fell -16.6% MoM in April as mortgage rates skyrocketed.
Since the installation of Joe Biden as President, new home sales have plunged -31.2%, mortgage rates are up 88.9%, and framing lumber prices are up 29.2%.
Biden is out there bragging about rising energy prices which he views as a necessity to force the conversion of America to electric cars and trucks. Biden is the first President in history to gloat over the suffering of American households.
Under Biden, regular gasoline prices are up 92%, diesel prices are up 111%, and CRB Foodstuffs are up 61%.
Say, framing lumber for housing is cheaper than food. Maybe Biden will suggest Americans transform to being beavers and gnaw on wood.
As The Federal Reserve tries to fight inflation (it can’t thanks to Federal energy policies and bottlenecks), it is causing a disconnect between mortgage current coupon rate and the MBS index coupon. The disconnect is so bad that it is back to 1985 levels.
The Fed can certainly try to cool inflation, but Biden is intent on raising energy prices (leading to food price increases, and everything else) to shift us to electric cars. So, Biden is unlikely to back off.
So, The Fed is left trying to fight a war against inflation that only Biden can fight.
Meanwhile, the US mortgage market is getting pulverized
Mortgage rates have increased dramatically under “Middle Class Joe” as The Federal Reserve attempts to choke-off inflation caused by … The Fed coupled with Biden’s energy policies (hope you are enjoying those high gasoline and diesel prices!) and the Federal government’s staggering spending spree under Pelosi, Schumer and McConnell.
Thus far, The Federal Reserve has leveled-out out their Treasury Note and Bond purchases, increased their Agency Mortgage-backed Securities (AgMBS) holdings, but strangely have reduced their holding of Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities (TIPS) in the face of rising inflation.
And while The Fed Funds Target rate is a lowly 1%, it is projected to rise to 2.890% by the February 1, 2023 FOMC meeting. That should send mortgage rates up.
As if mortgage rates haven’t skyrocketed already, thanks to The Fed’s jawboning about having to raise rates and extinguish inflation.
With sizzling mortgage rates (cooling a bit as the global economy slows), home mortgage payments have risen +43.4% YoY.
Now we have President Biden trying to scare us about the Monkey Pox, yet leaves the southern border wide open. One would think that Biden would shut the borders (as if the surge in Fentanyl, sex trafficking and other diseases aren’t reason enough. But I do predict another massive spending bill from Biden/Congress to combat Monkey Pox and the resurgence of Covid variants.
Meanwhile The Fed jawbones fighting inflation with monetary tightening in the future, even if they jawboning causes mortgage rates to soar and mortgage payments to spiral.
We have a double whammy facing investors, The Federal Reserve wanting to take away the monetary punch bowl and Federal energy policies that are crushing middle-class households and lower-wages workers.
But how do you hedge against The Federal Reserve tightening and Biden’s reckless energy policies?
Take a look at investing in commodities (S&P GSCI Commodity-Indexed Trust and the Bloomberg Commodity Index) versus the S&P 500 Total Return index since The Fed began signaling that they would take away the monetary punch bowl.
Yes, commodities like food and gasoline/diesel prices are up dramatically under Biden’s energy policies (not to mention the USA’s proxy war with Russia).
The Fed seems determined to remove the Fed “Snake juice” from the economy.
The inflation that is crushing Americans is due to energy and food price increases. That is, the non-core inflation. Under Biden, food is up 63%, gasoline is up 92% and diesel prices are up 112%. But The Fed doesn’t consider food and energy prices, per se.
If we look at the Taylor Rule considering fighting inflation including food and energy, The Fed would have to raise their target rate to … 21.38%.
Now, The Fed can clearly cool-off the housing market by raising rates. In fact, my fear is that they go too far and crash the housing market. The Fed will NEVER get to 20% again like we last saw under Volcker in 1981. 20% rates certainly cooled home prices back then and Fed rate hikes helped crash the housing market in 2008.
So, when The Fed says they want to be the inflation-fightin’ Fed, we must be aware what The Fed can and cannot do. They can’t tame the inflation beast in the form of food and energy prices (unless they crash the economy), but they can crush home prices.
US Existing Home Sales were 5.61M SAAR in April, down -2.4% from March’s -3.0% MoM reading. But median prices YoY for existing home sales printed at 14.85%, still hot, hot, hot.
With 3 consecutive declines in MoM existing home sales, how can prices still be raging at 14.85%? First, inventory for sale in April remains low compared to 2010 (yellow line). Second, The Federal Reserve’s Stimulypto (excessive monetary easing) is still out there in force despite Jerome “Slowhand” Powell signaling rate increases (green line). 30Y mortgage rates are still rising.
Where do we go from here? 30 year mortgage rates have been climbing as The Fed signals its intents to tighten monetary policy. But with global economic slowing, Treasury yields have been coming down (like today’s -5.2 BPS drop (Germany’s 10Y Bund Yield dropped -8 BPS on slowing global economic growth).
But remember, the Existing Home Sales numbers are for April.
Mortgage applications decreased 11.0 percent from one week earlier, according to data from the Mortgage Bankers Association’s (MBA) Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey for the week ending May 13, 2022.
The Refinance Index decreased 10 percent from the previous week and was 76 percent lower than the same week one year ago. The seasonally adjusted Purchase Index decreased 12 percent from one week earlier. The unadjusted Purchase Index decreased 12 percent compared with the previous week and was 15 percent lower than the same week one year ago.
Of course, The Fed has about as much chance of slowing down energy and food prices as I do of becoming King of the United States. But Jay the Revelator may be able to cool housing demand with rising mortgage rates.