Bullish Tidings: Breadth Rallies, Oil Service Makes its Move, Bonds Survive Yield Scare

Three weeks before the Fed’s next meeting, investors who have missed the AI/tech rally have thrown caution to the wind.

That urgency to catch up has led to an encouraging improvement in the market’s breadth and a marginal new high in the S&P 500 index ($SPX). The combination is likely setting the market up for what could be an impressive upward thrust. See below for full details.

And if June is any sign of what July may be, the bulls will rule the roost. Here are some grounding facts:

  • The S&P 500 index has returned an average of 3.3% in July from 2012–2022.
  • SPX rallied 9% in July 2022.

Of course, there are no guarantees that history will repeat itself. But it pays to be always ready. So, which sectors are likely to benefit? I have some thoughts just below.

Bond Yields Survive Yield Scare

I wouldn’t be surprised if the Fed joined the other global central banks that have raised interest rates in the last few weeks. However, from a trading standpoint, the action in bonds is more important, as bond yields have largely disagreed with the Fed’s perception of the economy since late 2022.

What I mean, of course, is that even as the Fed raised interest rates after October 2022, bond yields have fallen since then, setting up a divergence.

Certainly, there has been some volatility in yields. For example, the 10-Year US Treasury Yield Index ($TNX) bounced higher on June 29, 2023, as a surprising upward revision of US GDP to the 2% growth rate raised the odds of a rate hike at the upcoming FMOC meeting in mid-July. Yet, the flattening out of the Fed’s favorite indicator, the PCE inflation gauge on June 20, 2023, calmed things down.

That leaves the resistance band between 3.6–3.85% as the area to monitor. If TNX rises above 3.85%, we may see a move toward 4%, which would be very negative for stocks, especially the interest rate-sensitive homebuilders and real estate investment trusts (REITs).

The Fine Print in Housing Stats: Supply, Supply, Supply

As would be expected, as TNX flirted with 3.85%, there was a pullback in the homebuilder stocks. But as we’ve learned over the recent past, the correlation between the direction of bond yields and the action in the homebuilder stocks is nearly 100%. As a result, when bond yields, as I described above, hit resistance at 3.85% and turned lower, the homebuilder stocks regained their upward trend.  

Overall, the housing sector continues to deliver mixed news. For example:

  • New home sales recently rose—bullish for homebuilders.
  • Existing home sales are flattening out—neutral for brokers.
  • Pending home sales fell—not what you may be thinking.

The quiet part is all three stats above have two things in common—low supply and steady-to-rising demand. So new home sales are rising because builders are building enough of them to sell to enough people who are looking for housing. Existing home sales are flat because no one wants to sell a house with a 3% mortgage and buy a new one with a 6% mortgage. And, of course, if no one wants to sell their house, then you get a fall in pending home sales.

The bottom line remains unchanged. Low supply of steady demand favors the homebuilders.

Overall pending home sales fell 2.7% month to month. And if you’re wondering how each U.S. region fared in the pending home sales data here you go:

  • The Northeast delivered a 12.9% increase.
  • The South registered a 4.4% decrease.
  • The Midwest dropped by 5.3%.
  • The West’s sales dropped by 6.1% (a 62% decrease since 2001).

Moreover, the National Association of Realtors noted that there are still three pending offers per sale.

Mortgage rates ticked up last week, along with bond yields. Homebuilder stocks pulled back slightly before recovering. Several homebuilders will be reporting earnings in July, near the date of the Fed’s next meeting.

For an in-depth look at the news and trends in the housing and real estate market, check out my new publication, Joe Duarte’s Real Estate Weekly, here.  You’ll find crucial and detailed real estate market updates in an easy-to-follow and highly accessible format. This crucial information complements the stock picks at Joe Duarte in the Money Options.com. For more details on how to trade the bullish housing megatrend, check out my latest video here.

Oil Service Makes its Move

The bullish action in stocks on June 30 might be at least partially related to window dressing. That’s where portfolio managers who missed the rally play catch up to show their clients that they own stocks in groups that are rising. That means that the bullish action may or may not remain in some of the more extended market sectors, such as AI.

On the other hand, some portfolio managers use the cover of window dressing as a stealthy way to put money to work in sectors that offer value. As a result, while everyone is looking at the hot sectors, such as AI, it pays to look at sectors that have underperformed in the first half.

One of them is oil service. As the price chart illustrates, the Philadelphia Oil Service Index (OSX) shows some bullish characteristics. Note the broaching of the 200-day moving average after the recent double bottom it carved out over the last three months.

Moreover, its accompanying ETF, the Van Eck Vectors Oil Service ETF (OIH), looks even better. You can see that OIH has crossed above its 200-day moving average, marking what looks to be the start of a bullish reversal.

In addition, you can see that the Accumulation Distribution Line has begun to move higher as the On Balance Volume (OBV) indicator has bottomed out. Together, these two indicators confirm the emerging price trend in OIH as money moves in.

I have several oil service stocks in my Joe Duarte in the Money Options portfolios which are worth considering. One of them just broke out to a new high. You can check it out with a FREE trial to my service here.

NYAD Recovers and Gathers Upside Momentum

In a bullish development, the New York Stock Exchange Advance Decline line ($NYAD) turned on a dime last week and moved decidedly higher, breaking above short-term resistance. This comes after a short-lived dip below the 50-day moving average.

The Nasdaq 100 Index ($NDX) also turned around, finding support at its 20-day moving average. ADI and OBV have turned short-term negative.

The S&P 500 made a new high since the October bottom in stocks. As with NDX, SPX found support at its 20-day moving average. This is a bullish development. Both ADI and OBV stabilized.

VIX Is Likely to Bounce

After its recent new lows, the Cboe Volatility Index ($VIX) is poised to rise, as July often marks a bottom. On the other hand, VIX is at such a low level that it could take a while before the negative effects of a rising VIX affect the bullish action in stocks.

When the VIX rises, stocks tend to fall, as rising put volume is a sign that market makers are selling stock index futures to hedge their put sales to the public. A fall in VIX is bullish, as it means less put option buying, and it eventually leads to call buying, which causes market makers to hedge by buying stock index futures. This raises the odds of higher stock prices.


To get the latest information on options trading, check out Options Trading for Dummies, now in its 4th Edition—Get Your Copy Now! Now also available in Audible audiobook format!

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Good news! I’ve made my NYAD-Complexity – Chaos chart (featured on my YD5 videos) and a few other favorites public. You can find them here.

Joe Duarte

In The Money Options


Joe Duarte is a former money manager, an active trader, and a widely recognized independent stock market analyst since 1987. He is author of eight investment books, including the best-selling Trading Options for Dummies, rated a TOP Options Book for 2018 by Benzinga.com and now in its third edition, plus The Everything Investing in Your 20s and 30s Book and six other trading books.

The Everything Investing in Your 20s and 30s Book is available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. It has also been recommended as a Washington Post Color of Money Book of the Month.

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Mortgage points may help homebuyers lower monthly costs amid high interest rates. How to know if this strategy is right for you

As interest rates have climbed, homebuyers have been confronted with higher borrowing costs.

That has led more home purchasers to opt for one strategy, purchasing mortgage points, as a way to defray higher monthly payments.

Mortgage points let buyers pay an upfront fee to lower the interest rate on their loans. In some cases, sellers will help to buy down rates to help ease transaction costs.

Almost 45% of conventional primary home borrowers bought mortgage points in 2022 to reduce their monthly mortgage payments, a trend that has continued into this year, according to recent research from Zillow.

That is up from 29.6% in 2021, when interest rates were lower.

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The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage currently averages 6.7% according to Freddie Mac, up from 5.8% a year ago. The 15-year fixed-rate mortgage now averages about 6%, up from 4.8% a year ago.

This week, the Federal Reserve decided to pause the interest rate hikes it has put in place to combat high inflation.

As rates stay higher, those who are in the market for a home lose purchasing power. Some experts have urged buyers to consider purchasing mortgage points to lower their monthly payments.

Stephanie Grubbs, a licensed real estate agent at the Zweben team at Douglas Elliman Real Estate in New York, recently did exactly that when one of her clients lowered their asking price.

“This fabulous apartment just had a price reduction, which means you can use those savings to buy down your rate,” Grubbs wrote in the updated ad.

Grubbs, a former financial advisor, said her firm started bringing up the strategy more when the Fed started hiking interest rates.

“In an effort to try to be creative, we talk to sellers about offering to buy down a rate,” Grubbs said.

Other experts say buyers purchasing mortgage points can be a great strategy for the right situation.

That goes particularly if a buyer can afford the extra upfront costs.

Being able to lower that monthly payment can really help give some more wiggle room in people’s budgets and help them reach affordability.

Nicole Bachaud

senior economist at Zillow

Mortgage points refer to the percentage amount of the loan. Typically, one point is worth 1% of the loan value, according to Nicole Bachaud, senior economist at Zillow.

If the loan value is $300,000, one point would typically cost $3,000 and lower the interest rate 0.25 percentage points, she said.

“Being able to lower that monthly payment can really help give some more wiggle room in people’s budgets and help them reach affordability,” Bachaud said.

In addition to higher upfront costs, home buyers should also weigh other factors before buying mortgage points.

Set a timeline for living in your new home

“For most instances, it is definitely a considerable cost savings to be able to buy down on points,” said Kamila Elliott, a certified financial planner and co-founder and CEO of Collective Wealth Partners, a boutique advisory firm in Atlanta. Elliott is also a member of the CNBC Financial Advisor Council.

However, if you buy points and then refinance, that will not allow enough time for your upfront payment to appreciate, Elliott said.

Another important consideration is your timeline for how long you plan to live in the home.

With rates and home prices high, that means closing costs are also elevated, Elliott said.

Consequently, if you move before three to five years, you may take a bigger financial hit, she said.

“There could be a huge loss if you can’t stay in that property long enough to have those expenses amortized out over the time that you’re there,” Elliott said.

Consider other alternatives

If you have extra money when buying a home, you may instead choose to increase the size of your down payment.

This can be advantageous because it creates more equity in the home, Bachaud noted. It may also lower your monthly payments.

If that extra money is enough to bring your down payment to 20% of the home purchase price, that would eliminate the need for private mortgage insurance, which adds to monthly costs for mortgage borrowers who put down less than those sums.

However, you may see more of an effect on your monthly expenses by buying points rather than increasing your down payment, Elliott said.

It costs less for a seller to buy down somebody’s mortgage than it does for them to take a price reduction.

Stephanie Grubbs

licensed real estate agent at Douglas Elliman Real Estate

A point may cost $3,000 to $4,000, for example. But putting those sums toward a down payment likely will not make much of a difference on your monthly costs, Elliott said.

If you want to make sure your mortgage payment doesn’t exceed one-third of your take home income, then paying down on points could be the better option, she said.

In some situations, a seller may offer to buy down the rate, a concession to help offset costs for buyers. Grubbs said she has discussed employing this strategy with clients in her real estate practice.

“It costs less for a seller to buy down somebody’s mortgage than it does for them to take a price reduction,” Grubbs said.

Collective Wealth Partners CEO on how to start investing in real estate

Homebuyers may want to consider pursuing a 2-1 buydown, a mortgage that provides a low interest rate for the first year, a slightly higher rate in the second year and a full rate for the following years.

A 2-1 buydown may also sometimes be seller financed, according to Bachaud.

Talking to a loan officer can help you decide the best decision for your situation, Bachaud said.

Factor in the unknowns

How well any homebuying strategy fares in the long run depends on one big unknown: how the Federal Reserve will handle interest rates going forward.

The latest projections from the central bank call for two more rate hikes this year.

While today’s rates feel high, Elliott said she often reminds people that homebuyers in the 1980s would have loved to have had access to 6% mortgage rates.

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‘We’ve become a renting nation’: Landlords benefit from high house prices, but millions of renters find themselves trapped

When Nashville, Tenn., native Stephen Parker recently listed a mobile home that he owns on the rental market, he received about 30 applications in one week. “I priced it competitively,” he said.

Parker, who is also a real-estate agent, said that he sees rent growth staying strong as many people find it too expensive to purchase homes, a situation made worse by low inventory and high interest rates.

He bought his first investment property in 2020, and his portfolio of rentals has since grown. He owns various properties, including a small mobile home park, a duplex and several single-family homes. 

“We’ve become a renting nation,” Henry Stimler, an executive in the multifamily capital-markets division at the real-estate firm Newmark, told MarketWatch.

Renters have more flexibility and fewer of the responsibilities that come with home ownership, Stimler said, and they can more easily move to other cities and states. “I don’t think it’s a bad thing,” he said.

Nashville, for its part, was ranked one of the hottest real-estate markets of 2023 by Zillow
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-0.72%
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But with the surge in interest rates and demand, new residents may find buying property in that city expensive.

Stephen Parker, a landlord and real-estate agent from Tennessee, said demand for his rentals has been strong.


Stephen Parker

With homeownership continuing to be out of reach for many, landlords like Parker are poised to benefit. “You may be better off renting, especially if you don’t know if Nashville is where you’re going to be forever,” Parker told MarketWatch. 

Mortgage rates began climbing after the U.S. Federal Reserve began raising interest rates in early 2022. On Wednesday, the Mortgage Bankers Association said the 30-year rate was averaging 6.48%, up from 3.22% in early 2022.

Higher rates have added hundreds of dollars in interest costs to home buyers’ monthly payments. Buyers have subsequently seen the amount they can afford to pay for a house shrink, even as there are fewer homes for sale.

The U.S. economic outlook remains unclear — a situation compounded by the crisis in the banking sector. Many Americans are worried about job security and financial stability and are reluctant to purchase a home, according to Fannie Mae
FNMA,
-1.41%
.

Some good news: Rents appear to have stabilized. The government’s analysis of the housing sector shows that rents grew 0.8% in February, pushing the increase over the past year to a 42-year high of 8.8%. However, research from private sources — such as Apartment List — indicates that rent growth has slowed. After five straight months in which rents fell, national rents rose by 0.3% in February, the company said. 

‘I just want roots’

Jennifer Mark, a 49-year-old autotransfusionist in Goshen, Ind., lives in a $625-a-month one-bedroom apartment with her adult daughter and her husband. She’s been selling cupcake toppers on Etsy to bring in extra money.

But thanks to medical bills that are weighing on her credit score, Mark is not yet able to qualify for a Federal Housing Administration-backed loan and can’t purchase a home, although she has a budget of about $150,000.

Finding a two-bedroom to rent would make homeownership an even more distant prospect. The higher monthly rent would make it difficult for her to save for a home and to pay off the debts that are keeping her credit score low.

The average rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Goshen is $925 per month, up 12% from a year ago, according to Rent.com. For a decent apartment, the cost is closer to $1,200. “My God, rent is so high,” she said.

Renting also comes with restrictions. “If I’m going to be paying this much for rent, then I may as well own and be able to do what I want with my house and not have someone tell me, ‘Oh, you can’t have a cat. You can’t have a dog,’” she said.

She needs to pay off medical bills so she can achieve a credit score of at least 580 — a level she’s already surpassed on newer credit-scoring models not often used by mortgage lenders, like FICO 8 — and qualify for a loan.

Renting does have some perks, she said. She doesn’t have to worry about paying for plumbing or furnace issues, for instance. But owning a home is still her dream, and it remains out of reach. “I just want roots,” Mark said.

A generation of renters? 

The data shows a mixed picture for renters: While the U.S. is building a ton of apartments, home prices aren’t expected to fall enough to make owning one affordable for many lower-income Americans.

There are currently over 940,000 apartments under construction in the U.S., up 24.9% from a year ago, which is helping to address demand. The number of multifamily units under construction is at its highest level since 1974. 

But the supply is not helping all Americans equally. The U.S. is short approximately 7.3 million affordable, available rental homes for extremely low-income tenants, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

One of Stephen Parker’s rental units.


Stephen Parker

Newer units, meanwhile, have been targeted at higher-income renters, wrote Whitney Airgood-Obrycki, a senior research associate at the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies, in a blog post this month.

And while rent growth has moderated for more expensive apartments in more sought-after neighborhoods, Airgood-Obrycki wrote, prices were rising faster at the end of last year for the lowest-quality units. 

Landlords are slowing rent increases, Redfin
RDFN,
-5.08%

deputy chief economist Taylor Marr said in a recent report, “because they’re grappling with a rise in vacancies as an influx of new apartments hits the market.” 

Renters — particularly in the multifamily sector — are more likely to stay put due to high interest rates, Stimler said.

“Those who bought apartment buildings last year and locked in historically low rates before rates started rising, they’re going to be okay, because less and less of their tenants are going to leave and become homeowners,” Stimler said. 

Some Americans feel like they are becoming a generation of permanent renters, losing out on the “American dream” of owning a home and building wealth through real estate. But Stimler said he did not think that was necessarily a bad thing. 

“Our parents got married at 21 or 22, settled down, bought a home, got on the property ladder, and that was their first property purchase,” Stimler said. “That was a huge milestone then. Today, we don’t have that need anymore.”

“Millennials are much more transient,” he said. “They want to be able to pick up and leave, and go anywhere [and have] the ability to work from anywhere. All of these factors have led to a decline in the demand for single-family homes.”

Wherever you stand on that particular debate, one thing is clear: Landlords are benefiting from an increasingly unaffordable housing market, while millions of renters in the U.S. find themselves trapped.

“One man’s meat is another man’s poison,” Stimler said.

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