Sunday, March 01, 2009

Early Indicator: Interest Rates to Rise

I received the following from a lender at Network Funding LP, but I can't figure out who owns the copyright. At any rate, very interesting headline and information.
Supply Concerns Boost Mortgage Rates

... [M]ortgage rates rose slightly during the week. The reason is that concerns about the enormous supply of debt that the government will need to issue outweighed the other factors. [emphasis added]

...This week, the Obama administration proposed a $3.6 trillion budget plan, with an estimated deficit of $1.75 trillion, which is enormous by historical standards. The Treasury will need to issue debt to borrow money to fund all of this. As the government issues more debt, the interest rate offered generally must rise to attract additional investors. Interest rates on similar investments such as MBS then move higher as well to compete for funds from investors.

Reflecting their concerns about an increase in supply, investors required higher interest rates at the large Treasury auctions during the week. The auction results showed that demand from foreign investors remained strong, which was very good news. If foreign investors should ever reduce their purchases of US bonds, then interest rates in the US would be likely to rise. [all emphasis added]

These are dynamics long discussed on this blog. Like day follows from night, so will inflation follow from the massive stimulus required to unfreeze credit and consumer markets where "scared money doesn't spend." Not to mention the very very real massive losses the banking sector faces from their catastrophic past lending practices, which further reduces available private money into the demand side of the economy.

These factors necessitate the enormous spending from the last credit-worthy entity capable of replacing all the lost demand (through debt-financed spending), namely the federal government.
Unstated in the quote however is the notion that investors/lenders require higher returns when loaning money even to the United States government because at some point, the investors/lenders begin to worry a little bit more about the government's ability to raise enough tax revenue from the economy's future production in order to pay for the national debt load (remember we're starting already over $10 TRILLION in the hole, with an actual doubling of the national debt in the last 8 years with nothing to show for it).

An important caveat: The United States will never default on its loans, that's the market assumption. But it may, if necessary, only avoid doing so essentially by printing money to pay down the debt, which only ends up causing inflation as new cash enters the system without being backed by any real production or assets. This raises prices of everything, yes, but it also reduces the real value of debt as "printed money" pays down the loan balances. Everyone loses.

To illustrate, imagine if you could pay off your mortgage not by keeping a job and making payments with the fruits of your labor or even by inheriting enough existing money to pay it off -- but rather you could just print your own money to pay it off, or successfully pay it off with a "valid" hot check. See? The only "winner" is the one printing the money, but then the printer will never get an affordable loan again either.

That's kinda the dynamic that gets figured in here, the risk level of that scenario above actually happening, as foreign and domestic investors consider issuing loans to the federal government. As the lenders' or "investors'" concerns rise, then so does the pay they demand in return for their loan -- the interest rate.

And all interest rates are related in some fashion. So when the federal government has to pay a higher interest rate for its debt, so too do individuals borrowing with mortgages, as no person or entity is seen as "more" credit-worthy than the United States government.

(In finance, the 10-year Treasury bond rate is often referred to as the "risk-free" rate.)

No, this will not be on the exam.