From a small northwestern observatory…

Finance and economics generally focused on real estate

Posts Tagged ‘S&P Case Shiller

Housing…. overheated again?

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“Home price increases appear to be unstoppable,” — a quote from David M. Blitzer, Chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Down Jones Indices, as quoted in a Tuesday article by Christopher Rugaber of the Associated Press, and featured on usatoday.com.  Am I the only one who felt cold chills reading that?

C’mon, David, exactly how did that turn out last time?  Prices, by the way, are headed up because money is still relatively cheap, demand is incessant, and supply is constrained.  S&P, which is in business, among other things, of promoting their Case Shiller index, notes that buyers are in bidding wars.  That index, released Tuesday, showed that house prices are up 6.1% from a year ago — well above inflation — and in 45% of the cities tracked, the house price increase has surged from a month earlier.  In short, not only is the car speeding, it’s accelerating.

However, sales volume has fallen 1.5% from a year ago.  That may not sound like much, but in a market that was already not at equilibrium, that’s economically significant.  Plus, the number of homes for sale was down 6.4% from a year ago, to the lowest level since the NAR started tracking these statistics.  Ever.  In history.

Sigh….

 

Written by johnkilpatrick

November 2, 2017 at 9:02 am

Merry Christmas to all!

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Hope everyone’s having a great holiday season (Christmas here, but with homage to Hanukkah, Kwanza, Winter Solstice, Festivus, and such and so forth….)!  Needless to say, 2016 has continued is reign of terror — our condolences go out to the families of Carrie Fisher, George Michael, and a long list of folks who left us w-a-a-a-a-a-y too soon. (We lost three of my favorite space travelers this year — John Glenn, Carrie Fisher, and David Bowie!)  This past year suggests the United States may have been founded on an old Native American burial ground….

Ahhh… but enough on that.  NAREIT tells me this morning that 2016 was a tough one for REITs in general, but 2017 looks better.  (My wife’s Pomeranian could have written THAT press release.)  On a somewhat more realistic tone, private equity fund raising is projected to be down among real estate funds in the coming year, which does not portent good things.  The Limited appears to be poised for bankruptcy filing, and many (most?) stores that are still open are refusing to accept returns this week.  I just wandered into a shopping mall this morning (as I do about twice a year) and noted that The Limited was boarded up.  The timing is interesting, since retailers do about 14% of their holiday sales during the week AFTER Christmas.

On another note, S&P CoreLogic’s Case Shiller Index (whew… a mouthful for something started as a student’s MBA project a few years ago…) just announced that house prices from October 2015 to October 2016 rose 5.8%, which isn’t a bad number, and in fact may be a bit high given the present rate of inflation.  However, this doesn’t take into account the impact of November’s election, and the likelihood that newly empowered Republicans in Congress will likely tighten capital constraints on major banks.  (Ha-Ha-Ha to everyone who thought the GOP was in the pockets of the bankers.)  This portends tightening of capital throughout the lending system.  Add to this that the dollar is strengthening (the dollar always strengthens in the wake of global uncertainty, irrespective of the source of the uncertainty!) and you get declines both on the supply side and demand side for capital.  Couple with this both recent and impending rate hikes at the FED, and one has to wonder what will be a good investment in 2017.  (Hint — cash continues to be King.)

Once again, this blog is NOT investment advice, and Greenfield and its senior folks may, from time to time, have investments in things discussed here.  It’s just a blog… nothing more….

Well, by for now!  May the Force be with you!

Written by johnkilpatrick

December 27, 2016 at 11:12 am

S&P Case Shiller Report

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I WISH I could be excited about the most recent home price index report.  I really wish I could.

The news is mediocre, at best — home prices in April rose by 1.3% on average from their record lows in March, and are still down 2.2% (for the 10-city composite) from April, 2011.  Not surprisingly (after March’s terrible news), no cities posted new lows in April.  Of the 20 cities tracked, 18 showed increases (NYC and Detroit being the exceptions).

So, why?  If you read my blog yesterday, you know we have a terrifically supply-constrained market.  This morning’s Wall Street Journal had an article about Chinese investors who are providing about $1.8 Billion in kick-start capital to Lennar to get a big 12,000+ home community underway in San Francisco — a project Lennar has been working on for 9 years.  While I congratulate the Chinese and Lennar for this partnership, it does not at all bode well for U.S. investment liquiity that off-shore capital is needed to get a new project off the ground in one of America’s most dynamic cities.

Recall from ECON 101 that “price” is what happens at equilibrium when supply intersects with demand.  (OK, technically “price” can emerge in disequilibrium, as well.)  Right now, supply is hugely constrained, with a lot of REO-overhang and little new construction.  If demand was healthy and growing, prices should be soaring.  Instead, prices remain flat-lined, suggesting that demand is also stagnant.  However, population continues to grow and household formation should be positive.

What’s taking up the slack?  The apartment market continues to explode, with huge demand for rental units.  What’s the end game for all of this?  I can only think of two results:

1.  The home ownership rate in America continues to languish, finding some new post-WW II low; or

2.  Eventually, home ownership will go on the rise, and we’ll have an overbuilt situation in apartments.

Where would I bet?  Sadly, given the state of the world’s economy, #1 looks more tenable in the long-term.  That doesn’t mean we’re moving from being a nation of home owners to a nation of renters, but it does mean that the tradition of home ownership which has prevailed in the U.S. for decades may be becoming passe.  Either way, in the intermediate term (the next several years), we’re probably looking at the status quo.

Written by johnkilpatrick

June 26, 2012 at 7:34 am

Latest from S&P Case Shiller

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The always excellent S&P Case Shiller report came out this morning, followed by a teleconference with Professors Carl Case and Bob Shiller.  First, some highlights from the report, then some blurbs from the teleconference.

The average home prices in the U.S. are hovering around record lows as measured from their peaks in December, 2006, and have been bounding around 2003 prices for about 3 years.  Overall in 2011,  prices were down about 4% nationwide, and in the 20 leading cities in the U.S., the yearly price trends ranged from a low of -12.8% in Atlanta to a high (if you can call it that) of 0.5% in (amazingly enough) Detroit, which was the only major city to record positive numbers last year.  In December, only Phoenix and Miami were on up-tics.

One thing struck me as a bit foreboding in the report.  While housing doesn’t behave like securitized assets, housing markets are, in fact, influenced by many of the same forces.  Historically, one of the big differences was that house prices were always believed to trend positively in the long run, so “bear” markets didn’t really exist in housing.  (More on that in a minute).  With that in mind, though, w-a-a-y back in my Wall Street days (a LONG time ago!), technical traders — as they were known back then — would have recognized the pricing behavior over the past few quarters as a “head-and-shoulders” pattern.  It was the mark of a stock price that kept trying to burst through a resistance level, but couldn’t sustain the momentum.  After three such tries, it would collapse due to lack of buyers.  I look at the house price performance, and… well… one has to wonder…

As for the teleconference, the catch-phrase was “nervous but hopeful”.  There was much ado about recent positive news from the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (refer to my comments about this on February 15 by clicking here.)  The HMI tracks buyer interest, among other things, but the folks at S&P C-S were a bit cautious, noting that sales data doesn’t seem to be responding yet.

There are important macro-economic implications for all of this.  The housing market is the primary tool for the FED to exert economic pressure via interest rates.  Historically (and C-S goes back 60 or so years for this), housing starts in America hover around 1 million to 1.5 million per year.  If the economy gets overheated, then interest rates can be allowed to rise, and this number would drop BRIEFLY to around 800,000, then bounce back up.  However, housing starts have now hovered below 700,000/year every month for the past 40 months, with little let-up in sight.

Existing home sales are, in fact, trending up a bit, but part of this comes from the fact that in California and Florida, two of the hardest-hit states, we find fully 1/3 of the entire nation’s aggregate home values.  The demographics in these two states are very different from the rest of the nation — mainly older homeowners who can afford now to trade up.

An additional concern comes from the Census Bureau.  Note that for most of recent history, household formation in the U.S. rose from 1 million to 1.5 million per year (note the parallel to housing starts?).  However, from March, 2010, to March, 2011, households actually SHRANK.  Fortunately, this number seems to be correcting itself, and about 2 million new households were formed between March, 2011, and the end of the year.   C-S note that this is a VERY “noisy” number and subject to correction.  However, the arrows may be pointed in the right direction again.

Pricing still reflects the huge shadow inventory, but NAR reports that the actual “For Sale” inventory is around normal levels again (about a 6-month supply).  So, what’s holding the housing market back?  Getting a mortgage is very difficult today without perfect credit — the private mortgage insurance market has completely disappeared.  Unemployment is still a problem, and particularly the contagious fear that permeates the populus.  Finally, some economists fear that there may actually be a permanent shift in the U.S. market attitude toward housing.  Historically, Americans thought that home prices would continuously rise, and hence a home investment was a secure store of value.  That attitude may have permanently been damaged.

“Nervous, but hopeful”

 

S&P Case Shiller Report

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The latest Case-Shiller analysis hit my desk today, looking at housing prices through the 3rd quarter of 2011.  Their headline says it all:  Home Prices Weaken as the Third Quarter 2011 Ends.

Chart Courtesy S&P - Case Shiller

Their overall national index was declining at a 3.9% annual rate as of the end of the 3rd quarter.  Looking for faint hope in the data, this is actually an improvement over the 5.8% decline rate measured at the end of the 2nd quarter.  Home prices continue to cycle around (and mainly slightly below) their 2003 levels, which they’ve been doing for quite some time.  For more information, visit the Standard and Poors web site.

Written by johnkilpatrick

November 29, 2011 at 9:53 am

Housing — and today’s WSJ

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The front page of the Wall Street Journal today is plastered with the story of the continued problems with house prices, courtesy of info from the S&P-Case Shiller Index. I’ve commented on this several times before in this blog, but it bears further investigation.


Prior post-WWII real estate recessions (if we can call them that) have been quickly self-correcting. Stagnation in house prices lead to increased investment, as buyers look for deals and bankers need to make loans. As such, real estate recessions rarely have actual price declines, but instead are marked with volume slow-downs or price stagnation.

This recession is very different. Bankers are highly reluctant to make loans, in stark contrast to prior recession-exits. Regulatory problems, lack of bank capital, a doubling of REO portfolios, lack of cash from retail buyers, and a real fear (by both bankers and buyers) that collateral values will continue to decline puts the market in a continued downward spiral. To make matters worse, since many owner/sellers (particularly the most fragile ones — in the “zero down payment” starter homes) are themselves faced with economic travail and often the need to move to find work, the potential for further foreclosures down-the-road is very real, thus further driving down prices. Add to this the fact that a very big chuck of the U.S. economy is housing-related (contractors, developers, bankers, realtors, and many other intermediaries), it’s easy to see that a sustainable jobs market is hard to envision without “fixing” the housing problem.

We can re-examine the causes of this crisis over and over, but very few analysts are focused on the cure. Pilots are taught that when airplanes stall and go into a spin or a downward spiral, after “pulling the power” the pilot has to do something that’s rather counter-intuitive: point the nose downward and actually fly INTO the stall to get out of it. It’s like steering a car INTO the skid on an icy road. It’s very counter-intuitive, but it’s necessary. (The “black box” — it’s actually orange — recently recovered from the Air France 447 crash showed that the two very junior co-pilots who were at the controls when the plane went into a stall tried to pull BACK on the stick, when they should have pushed FORWARD. If they’d thought back to “Flying 101” they might be alive today.)

The “thing missing” from today’s market is the national policy in favor of affordable housing, which was manifested through Fannie-Mae and Freddie-Mac. Pulling the plug on the secondary market (which was at the core of the housing bubble) basically took our financial markets out of the housing business. Now that the price-bubble has bursts, our financial markets need to step back up to the plate and provide some liquidity. Admittedly, a “fixed” market will need to provide better risk-measures and possibly some hedging tools, but these are details that can be worked out once we get the plane flying again. I hate to say this — I’m generally a “free-market” kinda libertarian guy — but the government will need to step up to the plate as a guarantor of last resort…. and yes, I know the U.S. government is effectively broke. However, until it gets the housing market back on its feet, it’s going to stay broke. At some point, they need to steer the car into the skid.

Written by johnkilpatrick

June 1, 2011 at 4:15 pm

Foul weather, foul moods

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It’s fall. The time of year when Seattle’s absolutely beautiful summer turns into yechy autumn.

With all of that in mind, three yechy pieces of economic info hit my desk all at once today. First, the Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index hit a 7-month low of 48.5, which was not only lower than last month (53.2) but also much lower than economists consensus forecast (52.1). Why? The general public has internalized the notion that significant levels of unemployment will be with us for quite a while.

Then, the Business Roundtable released it’s 3rd quarter 2010 CEO survey. You’d think, with corporate profits on the rise, that this bunch would be breaking out the good champagne. But no, even though major corporations plan to increase capital spending over the next few months, they have lower expectations of both revenues and employment.

Finally, S&P Case Shiller, who normally send out quarterly reports, sent me a July update (dated September 28), which shows housing prices continue to be disappointing. While prices are, indeed, up from a year ago (by about 4%), the price index has been cycling below 2003 levels for over a year. Among major markets, the best year-on-year performance was in San Francisco (up 11.2%) while the worst was in Las Vegas (down 4.9%). Intriguingly, all of the California major markets are looking strongly up.

Written by johnkilpatrick

September 28, 2010 at 2:48 pm