The news this week is a great example of how quickly things can change in financial markets.
One bad headline after another sparked a wave of fear and uncertainty surrounding the Trump Administration. As a result, the Dow Jones Industrial slid 370 points Wednesday as investors sold equities and moved to safer investments, such as Treasury bonds. This has created a rally in Treasury prices and a window of opportunity to lock mortgage rates.
Now, if you’ve been under a rock and don’t know what’s going on with President Donald Trump, turn on the Internet or a TV and you’ll be flooded. Since firing FBI director James Comey, the president has been caught in another wave of suspicion about his campaign’s and associates’ ties to Russia. A special counsel has been appointed to investigate. Meanwhile, Trump and his supporters claim the controversy is the result of a witch hunt. It’s a mess.
Wall Street is not happy. Investors are now growing more uncertain that Trump officials and the Republican-held Congress can deliver on promises to increase economic growth. There is a lot of moving pieces to these developments, plus the geopolitical uncertainty around the world, creating volatility in financial markets.
Here are a few of the biggest concerns on investor minds:
- Reform Roadblocks: President Trump’s pledges to replace ObamaCare and reform our nation’s tax laws are now being questioned. If the administration finds itself shifting focus to self-defense, and Republicans become even more divided over the president, then major legislation becomes a low probability. Reforming taxes and healthcare would be a difficult agenda without allegations of scandal. It becomes near impossible if these negative headlines persist.
- Economic Letdown: The market has already priced in the so-called Trump bump, which is the expectation that the economy will grow faster, with more inflation, if Trump’s policies take hold. However, the headwinds Trump now faces could harm progress. This will cause investors to reevaluate based on a new expectation of less economic growth and fewer successful initiatives from the White House.
- Fed Response: The Federal Reserve has turned hawkish this spring and a June rate hike has seemed very likely. However, what happens if markets continue to trade on fear? Could June’s expected rate hike be tabled? All eyes now turn to Fed officials who must find a way to respond appropriately without sounding any alarm bells in the minds of investors.
Altogether, we’re in for a bumpy ride. In the near-term this has created an opportunity to lock in lower interest rates as markets react to the added fear and uncertainty. Long-term, there’s still fundamentals in place for rising rates. However, if Trump continues to struggle, the economy wavers and the Fed pauses, the rate trajectory could shift.
Latest on inventory
In other news this week, the housing market continues to be held back by a lack of inventory. At Movement, we’re fortunate to be forecasting growth this year, but the lack of inventory is even keeping that growth in check. We’re taking market share with a superior process and culture, but many of our competitors are looking at volume decreases of 25 percent in 2017.
This low inventory is causing home prices to rise and forcing buyers to present aggressive offers. On the downside, it’s also prompting many would-be buyers to stay on the sidelines. In turn, high demand for rental homes has tempted more would-be sellers to keep their homes and rent them out.
For-sale home inventory fell 7 percent in March and real estate brokerage and data firm Redfin reported record-fast home sales in April as homes were on the market less than 40 days on average.
“The inventory is reaching historic lows. It’s never declined faster than it did last month. It’s freaking us out — it’s affecting our business; it’s limiting our sales,” Glenn Kelman, Chief Executive of Redfin, told CNBC. “We’re going to be fine in terms of market share, but I think the overall industry for the first time is seeing sales volume really limited by the inventory crunch.”
There is some optimism that this inventory crunch will eventually subside. Builders are beginning to cater to first-time Millennial buyers, which will alleviate some concerns. However, if the economic headwinds I mentioned above keep growing, that could spook builders and the inventory issues may be with us for the foreseeable future.
Millennials are buying
Finally, let’s end on a high note about the most-talked about generation in housing. I’ve been saying thus for months, and now the data is starting to back it up: Millennials are becoming homeowners.
Trulia reported this week that the number of new-owner households in the first quarter of this year doubled the number of new-renter households. This marks an important change, considering new households formed in the U.S. in recent years have overwhelmingly chosen to rent over buy. Now, buying homes is becoming the trend.
About 854,000 new-owner households were formed during the first quarter of the year, which is more than twice the 365,000 new-renter households formed during the same three months, according to Census Bureau data. Trulia says this is the first time in a decade we saw more first-time buyers than first-time renters.
This is a positive development for the housing market and has the possibility to continue. Most Millennial homebuyers to date have been those born in the early 1980s, which is actually the smaller cohorts of this generations. The larger numbers of Millennials born in the late 80s and early 90s are going to now form households and join the market. Keep an eye on this important demographic trend.