Mortgage Rates Improve on the downgrade of the US Credit Rating

You know by now S&P late Friday lowered the US credit rating to AA+ frm AAA; treasuries and mortgages markets opening better today on safety and panic moves while the stock market is being hit hard on the open. S&P has been warning for weeks it was preparing to lower the credit rating, the next thing in the ratings game is that Moody’s and Fitch may follow in the next few weeks. What is the real impact? Initially equity markets will be pressured and interest rates will benefit, in the long run S&P has done us a great service in making the move. Congress and the Administration clearly demonstrated they are not willing to make any significant hard choices, maybe the cut in our rating (which is more symbolic than substantive) will shake up voters and politicians that the country is headed for a debt cliff at 100 miles and hour. Lets not get too worked up over S&P move, the US can pay our debts, the country is still the economic engine for the world, and compared to any other country the US is in every respect the strongest and safest place to invest. Don’t fall into the camp that is spending the early part of the morning comparing our new credit rating to places like France and other so-called AAA countries.


Tim Geithner out this morning castigating S&P for their decision; Geithner and the Administration are wrong. The downgrade isn’t going to matter much, markets understand exactly where the US stands and won’t, in the long run, make much of this except that it may help drive home the point the country is on the wrong path and must get serious about the growing debt. S&P can be criticized for the move, the agency has little credibility in our view after being primarily responsible for the subprime disaster that triggered the global financial meltdown. The agency rated CDOs made up of junk mortgages AAA, then after Wall Street couldn’t sell the highest risk tranches of the CDOs, it rated the worst of the junk AAA again. If S&P couldn’t understand junk mortgages why does anyone expect they know what they are into now? 


There are no economic reports today.


This week has little in the way of data to deal with but there is plenty for the bond and equity markets to think about. Tuesday the FOMC meets and has a lot to talk about, a weakening economic outlook and the rating cut. Treasury will auction $32B of 3 yr notes Tuesday, $24b of 10 yr notes Wednesday, and $16B of 30 yr bonds on Thursday. On Friday July retail sales are expected up 0.5%, ex autos +0.2%. Also on Friday the U. of Michigan consumer sentiment index is expected down to 62.5 frm 63.7, likely that will be revised lower now with the S&P move. 


Crude oil falling again, gold up over $1700.00. The stock market opening very weak as investors are totally over doing the situation. The stock market is of course reacting to the economic slowdown but also this morning investors just dumping everything they can. All of it in the early going is a reaction to S&P which as noted, in our judgment not as big a deal as it seems to be in markets.  


At 9:30 the DJIA opened -210, NASDAQ -85, S&P -22; 10 yr note +26/32 2.47% -11 bp and mortgage prices +7/32 (.22 bp)


The early going is volatile, lets keep our heads though. Mortgages are better but lagging the 10 yr and treasuries in general. Equity markets will drive treasuries through the day; with the FOMC meeting tomorrow and the weakened economic outlook stocks are struggling. Technically the stock market is very oversold in the near term, the bond market overbought. Fundamentally the outlook for the economy is weakening. Over-extended technical’s but the fundamentals are presently over-riding what normally would be improving equities and lower prices on treasuries. As long as panic dominates technical indicators have to take a back seat.

Bill Nickerson

Vice President Mortgage Network

179 Great Road Suite 214, Acton MA 01720


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