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Fannie Mae's in-house analysts still see a recession coming even as recent economic data comes in more robust than expected.
"The economy has remained more resilient than we expected earlier in the year, but we believe it is still on a decelerating path and additional drags are likely forthcoming," Chryssa Halley, CFO of the government-sponsored enterprise that guarantees millions of home loans, said on the company's second quarter earnings call on Tuesday.
"While noting the probability of a soft landing may have increased of late, our economic and strategic research group expects the economy will enter a modest recession in the fourth quarter of this year or the first quarter of next year."
The reason for the ongoing recession prediction? The economy and consumers haven't fully absorbed the effects of tighter monetary policy and stricter lending standards, with Halley maintaining that more "banking stress remains a possibility."
That was one of a handful of insightful takes on the economy and housing from Fannie Mae, which reported second quarter net income of $4.99 billion, up 7.3% year over year.
Another takeaway? Housing will play a key role in lifting the economy out of that "modest" recession, specifically new-home construction and sales, Halley said.
So far, new-home sales and construction have at times been the few brighter spots in a murky housing market where high mortgage rates have depressed inventory levels on the resale side. These inventory levels have then in turn helped to prop up home prices as the historically low supply can't keep up with the lukewarm demand from buyers.
Fannie Mae, too, noticed that dynamic.
"This lack of existing-home supply drove stronger-than-expected home price growth," Fannie Mae CEO Priscilla Almodovar said on the call. "In fact, we estimate that single-family home prices rose about 5% during the first six months of the year, while many of us were anticipating a decline."
As a result, Fannie Mae analysts projects US home prices will grow 3.9% this year. That's a bit more optimistic than others — who expect no growth this year — and comes after home prices logged four straight months of increases.
Prognosticators at the government-sponsored enterprise also expect mortgage rates to average 6.6% for the year. That's not much lower than the current rate on the 30-year fixed mortgage, which hit 6.81% last week.
Read more: What the Fed rate hike means for mortgage rates and loans
That's all but killed the refinance business, which is but a whisper of what it had been during the pandemic, according to this supplemental chart showing how much market liquidity Fannie Mae provided.
You can't see it, but the total unpaid principal balance for single-family refinancing was $24 billion year to end of June, a tenth of the $237 billion volume from the year before and less than 3% of each of 2020's and 2021's totals. (The chart also illustrates just how much housing activity overall has slowed.)
"Not surprisingly, given the rate environment, the purchase share of our acquisitions reached 86% in the second quarter, a level we have not seen for at least 23 years," Halley said.
Janna Herron is the personal finance editor for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @JannaHerron.
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