When we reported Wells Fargo’s Q4 earnings back in January, we drew readers’ attention to one specific line of business, the one we dubbed the bank’s “bread and butter“, namely mortgage lending, and which as we then reported was “the biggest alarm” because “as a result of rising rates, Wells’ residential mortgage applications and pipelines both tumbled, specifically in Q4 Wells’ mortgage applications plunged by $25bn from the prior quarter to $75bn, while the mortgage origination pipeline plunged by nearly half to just $30 billion, and just shy of all time lows recorded in late 2013 and 2014.”
Fast forward one quarter when what was already a bad situation, just got as bad as it has been since the financial crisis, because buried deep in its presentation accompanying otherwise sold Q1 results (EPS small beat, revenue small miss), Wells just reported that its ‘bread and butter’ is virtually gone, and in Q1 the amount of all-important Mortgage Applications has tumbled by a whopping 23% to just $59 billion, below the lows hit in early 2014, and at fresh lows since the financial crisis.
And while Wells’ application pipline was not quite as dire, it too was just shy of fresh post crisis lows at only $28 billion, in line with the lowest numbers reported this decade.
The lagging mortgage originations number was nearly as bad, plunging 39% sequentially from $72 billion to only $44 billion, “due to higher rates and seasonality.” Since this number lags the mortgage applications, we expect it to post fresh post-crisis lows in the coming quarter.
What these number disturbingly reveal, is that the average US consumer can not afford to take out mortgages at a time when rates rise by as little as 1% or so, which is where they peaked in the first quarter. It also means that if the Fed is truly intent in engineering a parallel shift in the curve of 2-3%, the US can kiss its domestic housing market goodbye.
Source: Wells Fargo