As Congress closes in on another large stimulus package, the economic data gives policy makers incentive and “inflation cover”. Last week’s jobless claims and unemployment reports indicate stalling job creation and persistent unemployment, justifying the need for further stimulus. A debate has arisen as some influential economists are warning against too much stimulus that may lead to inflation later in the year. This leads to concerns that the Fed may put the brakes on the nascent recovery by raising rates. Today’s CPI data indicated a 1.4% annual increase. Much of the inflation was due to rising oil prices (as the OPEC producers remain united in their resolve to keep production low, for now). However, inflation may firm up in the middle of the year as continued vaccinations, stimulus and pent up demand spur consumer spending. Also, the annual CPI averages will shed last year’s deflationary months (March, April, May).
CMBS Update: Huge demand for CMBS bonds (and corporates) are spurring a rally in fixed rate spreads. AAA 10 year bonds are trading at about Swap + 60 after hitting a high of Swap + 200 last year. Distressed loan volume seems to have peaked and is improving, even for hotels and retail. Originators are quoting tight spreads in the sub 200 range for lower leverage and/or larger well underwritten loans. 10 years of Interest Only is common at lower leverage for the right transactions. This rally and the tightening in corporate bonds is causing Life Companies to also tighten up. We are seeing rates from some life companies in the 2.50% range (but lower leverage than CMBS and limited or no interest only). Stay tuned. By David R. Pascale, Jr. , Senior Vice President at George Smith