Lombardi: Stock Market Commentary & Forecasts, Financial & Economic Analysis Since 1986

Posts Tagged ‘home prices’

Surprise: U.S. Housing Prices Now in a Decline

By for Profit Confidential

Three Strikes Against the U.S. Housing MarketThe S&P Case-Shiller 20-City Home Price Index, a measure of the housing market in key American cities, declined in May by 0.31% from April—the first monthly decline in home prices in 27 months. (Source: Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis web site, last accessed July 30, 2014.)

The number of homes being built in the U.S. is also falling.  In June, the annual rate of new homes being built in the U.S. housing market declined 9.3% from May to the lowest level in eight months. (Source: U.S. Census Bureau, July 17, 2014.)

And pending home sales in the U.S. housing market declined in the month of June by 1.1% from the previous month. Pending home sales now sit 7.3% lower than they were in June of 2013. (Source: National Association of Realtors, July 28, 2014.) Pending home sales are considered to be a leading indicator of the housing market.

As no surprise, companies directly related to the housing market are struggling. The chart below of the U.S. Housing Index tracks the stock prices of companies involved in construction, mortgages, and home-building materials.

Housing Index Chart

Chart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com

The chart is collapsing, trading near its lowest level of 2014. Over the past few days, the index fell below both its 200-day moving average and its 50-day moving average.

Dear reader, please let me set the record straight: I don’t expect to see an outright collapse in home prices like we saw in 2007. What I am pointing out to you today is that the momentum we saw in the U.S. housing market in 2012 and 2013 is dissipating.

This observation is consistent … Read More

Three Housing Market Indicators Yell “Trouble Ahead”

By for Profit Confidential

Next Shoe May Be Dropping the U.S. Housing MarketThe U.S. housing market is in trouble again, and as crazy as it sounds, it won’t surprise me to see home prices decline soon.

Here are three reasons why:

Existing-home sales have been declining since July of last year. The annual rate of existing-home sales in July of 2013 was 5.38 million. In April of this year, this rate fell to 4.65 million. (Source: Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis web site, last accessed May 22, 2014.)

Mortgage originations in the U.S. housing market have been falling consistently, as illustrated by this chart:

Mortgage Originations, U.S. Housing Market

Quarter Mortgage Originations
Q3 2013 $549 Billion
Q4 2013 $452 Billion
Q1 2014 $332 Billion

Data source: Federal Reserve Bank of New York web site,
last accessed May 22, 2014

Between the third quarter of 2013 and the first quarter of 2014, mortgage originations in the U.S. economy declined by 40%. Mortgage originations at U.S. banks in the first quarter of 2014 were the lowest since the third quarter of 2011!

Then there is the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Index (HMI). This index tracks the confidence of homebuilders in the U.S. housing market. It’s telling us that the recovery talk is based on nothing but false hope. The HMI dropped to its lowest level in 12 months in May of this year. (Source: National Association of Home Builders, May 15, 2014.)

Dear reader, I know I have had a bearish stance on the U.S. housing market for some time now. Those concerns are starting to materialize in the marketplace. Don’t buy into what the mainstream says, that all is … Read More

2014: Year the Frail U.S. Housing Market Recovery Reverses?

By for Profit Confidential

What the Collapse in Homeownership Is Telling Us About the Housing MarketLooking at the current state of the U.S. housing market, one could say, “It’s the perfect time to buy a home.” Mortgage rates are historically low. Home prices are still down significantly from their peaks in 2006. But unfortunately, potential homeowners are not coming into the housing market.

The reality of the U.S. housing market is that it never recovered. It’s still sick at heart. Low mortgage rates and low home prices definitely provided some support; but now, as the Federal Reserve is pulling back on quantitative easing and mortgage rates are rising, we see home buyers running away.

The biggest bump we saw in housing was in 2012, when institutional investors came in and bought billions of dollars worth of empty homes in bulk. This gave the mainstream a hope that there was going to be a recovery in the housing market.

But as I have been writing since last year, investors buying houses to rent them will not create a healthy housing market recovery.

In fact, in the first quarter of 2014, the homeownership rate in the U.S. declined to its lowest levels in almost two decades, falling to 64.8%. (Source: U.S. Census Bureau, April 29, 2014.)

New-home sales are declining at a very ridiculous rate, further strengthening my argument that home buyers are just tapped out. The chart below is of new-home sales in the U.S. going back to 2005.

Houses Sold - New One Family Chart

Chart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com

Back in 2005, the annual rate of new homes sold in the U.S. housing market was about 1.2 million. In March of this year, this rate was just 384,000. And in 2014, … Read More

What the Collapse in Homebuilder Stocks Forewarns

By for Profit Confidential

Proof U.S. Housing Market Losing MomentumThe housing market that lured institutional investors in during 2012 and 2013 is showing signs of cracking.

Before I go into more detail, you have to keep in mind that affordability is the key to the housing market and affordability for housing only increases once home buyers’ wages increase. Right now, incomes in the U.S. economy are declining. And you can add to the problem the fact that mortgage rates have been rising, too, putting further pressure on affordability for home buyers.

Last week, the chief economist of the California Association of Realtors said, “Housing affordability is really taking a bite out of the market… We haven’t seen this issue since 2007.” (Source: “Southland home prices surge but sales plummet,” Los Angeles Times, April 15, 2014.)

Zillow, Inc. (NYSE/Z), a real estate information company, expects home values in more than 1,000 U.S. cities to be more expensive than ever within the year. The chief economist at the firm said, “The lows of the housing recession are becoming an increasingly distant memory as home values reach new highs and homes become more expensive than ever in many areas… As affordability worsens, more residents will be forced to search for affordable housing farther from urban job centers, and home values in some areas may have to come down.” (Source: “Home Values in More Than 1,000 U.S. Cities Expected to Be More Expensive than Ever Within the Next Year,” Zillow, Inc. web site, April 22, 2014.)

Don’t get me wrong. The U.S. housing market has definitely improved since the Credit Crisis of 2008. But, as I have been writing, it is not … Read More

Dead-Cat Bounce Over for the Housing Market?

By for Profit Confidential

Momentum Housing Market Shows Clear Signs EasingI have been saying this for a while: You can’t have a housing recovery unless actual home buyers are involved.

We are very far away from seeing the housing market reach its 2005 highs…and as time passes, it becomes clearer that this generation may never see them again.

How can I say that?

What we have seen in the housing market since then, but mostly since 2012, in my opinion, is nothing more than a dead-cat bounce scenario—an increase in prices after a massive decline. The chart below shows how far off we are from the housing prices of 2005.

S&P Case - Shiller Home Price Chart Chart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com

One of the key indicators I follow in respect to the state of the housing market is mortgage originations. This data gives me an idea about demand for homes, as rising demand for mortgages means more people are buying homes. And as demand increases, prices should be increasing.

But the opposite is happening…

In the first quarter of 2014, mortgage originations at Citigroup Inc. (NYSE/C) declined 71% from the same period a year ago. The bank issued $5.2 billion in mortgages in the first quarter of 2014, compared to $8.3 billion in the previous quarter and $18.0 billion in the first quarter of 2013. (Source: Citigroup Inc. web site, last accessed April 14, 2014.)

Total mortgage origination volume at JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE/JPM) declined by 68% in the first quarter of 2014 from the same period a year ago. At JPMorgan, in the first quarter of 2014, $17.0 billion worth of mortgages were issued, compared to $52.7 billion in the same period a year ago. … Read More

The Stock Market Needs to Do This in 2014 Before I Invest More in It

By for Profit Confidential

Why Investors Need to See It to Believe It in 2014This is an odd stock market. On one hand, you don’t want to miss out on any of the upward moves, which is why you should continue to ride the gains; on the other hand, you also want to make sure you have an exit plan in place. (See “Time for Investors to Create an Exit Strategy?”)

As we move toward the end of the first quarter, the one thing that is clear is the difference in the market behavior this year versus the same time in 2013, when everything was moving rapidly higher with minimal regard for the underlying market fundamentals.

As I wrote in these pages in January, this will be a more difficult market in which to make money compared to the previous few years.

The move by the Federal Reserve under Janet Yellen to continue to dismantle the quantitative easing that was put into place by former Fed Chair Ben Bernanke a few years ago has continued into 2014 with the third straight month of cuts to the central bank’s monthly bond buying.

The gradual $10.0-billion-per-month reduction in the Fed’s monthly bond buying will likely continue until the program reaches zero early in the fourth quarter, unless, of course, the economic renewal stalls.

What this means for the stock market is that the drying up of easy money from the Fed will continue to put a damper on the money available for speculating on stocks, especially those in the emerging markets. And as bond yields rise, there will be more of a shift to bonds.

We are already seeing the impact on the … Read More

Is the Housing Market Really a Hot Spot for Investors?

By for Profit Confidential

Urban Housing Market Booming with PotentialNew York City is a colossal urban jungle, but what strikes me is the surging housing market rental prices in not only Manhattan, but also the strong price appreciation in the borough of Brooklyn.

Average home prices peaked around $550,000 in early 2006, prior to a steady decline since then. Yet if you look at regions, especially Manhattan and Brooklyn, the demand for housing and rentals is strong, and this has created a surge in rental prices.

What has been apparent in New York City over the past decade has been the clean-up of the city, along with the rapid development in the surrounding areas close to Manhattan, such as Brooklyn. A look at Brooklyn shows an area that is rapidly growing with multiple new businesses, hotels, and housing market projects reclaimed from former industrial lands.

Whole Foods Market, Inc. (NASDAQ/WFM), for instance, built its largest outlet in Brooklyn that was previously on industrial land. There are now plans for further development in the area. The end result has been a boom in the housing market in Brooklyn for both property buyers and renters. A look at the rental prices in Brooklyn show rental rates as high as $5,000 a month or more for a two-bedroom apartment. The former docklands in Brooklyn have been transformed into a beautiful urban area with paths, expensive condos, and a great view of New York City.

The rise is staggering and clearly indicates a booming housing market there.

The situation in Brooklyn and New York City is indicative of many areas across the country.

Just take a look at the S&P Case-Shiller Home Price … Read More

Why the U.S. Housing Market Recovery Will Falter This Year

By for Profit Confidential

Housing Market Recovery in JeopardyThe chart below is of the S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Index, an index that tracks home prices in the U.S. housing market. As the chart shows, from their peak in 2007 to their low in late 2011, U.S. homes prices fell by about 30%. Since then, prices in the housing market have improved, but they are still down about 20% compared to 2007. Basically, home prices have recouped only one-third of their losses from the 2007 real estate crash.

Yes, the U.S. housing market has regained some lost ground, but it’s far from being back to where it was in 2007. And I’m very worried about the pace of the housing market recovery; I feel that the recovery is in jeopardy.

HPI SP Case-Shiller Home Price Index Chart

Chart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com

Consider this: the interest rate on the 30-year fixed mortgage tracked by Freddie Mac increased to 4.43% in January of this year from 3.41% in January of 2013. (Source: Freddie Mac web site, last accessed February 26, 2014.) While there hasn’t been much mainstream media coverage on this, mortgage rates have increased by 30% in one year’s time. With the Federal Reserve cutting back on its quantitative easing program, interest rates are expected to continue their path upwards in 2014.

Higher interest rates are pushing would-be homebuyers away from the housing market. The U.S. Mortgage Bankers Association reported last week that its index, which tracks mortgage activity (of both refinanced and new home purchases), fell 8.5% in the week ended February 21. (Source: Reuters, February 26, 2014.)

And new homebuilders are seeing demand from homebuyers decline in the housing market as well. While presenting … Read More

Why Are So Many Homebuyers Backing Out of Their Contracts?

By for Profit Confidential

Homebuilders Post Steepest Decline in Confidence Ever RecordedJust as the majority of Americans think the U.S. jobs market is improving, there’s a notion in the air that the U.S. housing market has rebounded and is healthy again. I don’t believe this to be true.

Just like the government’s official unemployment number is manipulated because it excludes people who have given up looking for work, when we took a closer look at the stats we hear about home prices, new home sales, and existing home sales, we didn’t like what we found in them.

Home prices increased to unprecedented levels in 2005. At social events back then, everyone talked about how much their home or vacation property had gone up in value and how they were getting deeper into the housing market. Few talked about the reckless lending activities of the banks that were the cause for the rise in home prices.

We now hear new homes are being sold at a new record pace. Buyers are apparently rushing to buy houses again, and the housing market is hot once more. Sadly, underlining the strong sales of homes, the number of cancelled sales orders compared to overall sales (commonly referred to as the cancellation rate) is going through the roof.

In 2013, D.R. Horton, Inc. (NYSE/DHI) had more cancelled orders than it did in 2012—7,751 cancelled contracts to buy homes compared to 6,657 in 2012. The cancellation rate for this homebuilder in 2013 was 24%. (Source: D.R Horton, Inc. web site, last accessed February 18, 2014.)

Other homebuilders are having the very same problem. KB Home (NYSE/KBH) reports its cancellation rate in 2013 reached 32%—that means one out … Read More

Trouble Ahead for Housing in 2014?

By for Profit Confidential

Biggest Risk to Housing in 2014Will the gains that the U.S. housing market made in 2012 and 2013 continue into 2014? As you’ll read below, the biggest threat to the housing market is moving in the opposite direction—against housing.

Sure, the Case-Shiller S&P Home Price Index, which tracks prices in the U.S. housing market, shows an overall increase of 13.6% in home prices in the first 10 months of 2013 (see the chart below).

But for growth in the housing market to continue, you need favorable market conditions for buyers. Unfortunately, the “favorable” conditions of 2011 through to 2013 are now becoming “unfavorable.”

S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Index Chart

Chart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com

Interest rates on mortgages are rising sharply. In November of 2013, the popular 30-year fixed mortgage rate tracked by Freddie Mac stood at 4.26%. In the same period a year ago, this rate was only 3.35%. (Source; Freddie Mac web site, last accessed January 3, 2013.) The interest rate on the standard 30-year fixed mortgage has gone up 27% in twelve months. And the higher mortgage rates go, the more the affordability for home buyers declines.

But rising interest rates are not the only factor weighing against the housing market in 2014.

Adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs), which virtually disappeared after 2007, are making a big comeback.

According to DataQuick, in November of 2013, about 11% of all homes in Southern California were bought using ARMs. This has doubled in the area from the same period a year ago. (Source: Los Angeles Times, January 1, 2013.) ARMs have a fixed interest rate for a certain period of time, and then rates on the typical ARM adjust to market rates. … Read More

Burning Money at the Rate of $113 Billion a Month; How Can They Stop Printing?

By for Profit Confidential

Why Our National Debt Will Double in the Years AheadIn the month of November, the U.S. government registered a budget deficit of $135 billion. Over the course of the month, it spent $318 billion and only took in $182 billion. So far for the fiscal year 2014, which began in October, the U.S. government has registered a budget deficit of $227 billion; that’s an average of $113.5 billion a month so far this fiscal year. (Source: Department of the Treasury; Bureau of Fiscal Service, December 11, 2013.)

In the same period a year ago (October and November of 2013), the U.S. government registered a budget deficit of almost $300 billion. (I ‘m certain that some politician comparing the two periods will say, “Look, our budget deficit situation is getting better!”)

Whenever the U.S. government registers a budget deficit, it has to go out to the market and borrow money to pay for its expenses and obligations. This increases our national debt, which has skyrocketed over the past few years due to consecutive years of extremely large budget deficits. As of December 10, our national debt stood at $17.2 trillion. (Source: Treasury Direct web site, last accessed December 12, 2013.)

I believe our national debt will double to $34.0 trillion in the years ahead.

Here’s my reasoning:

According to the Congressional Budget Office’s projection, between 2014 and 2018, the total U.S. budget deficit of the U.S. government will add up to about $2.4 trillion. This means that by the government’s own estimates, the national debt will hit about $20.0 trillion in four years. (Source: The Congressional Budget Office, May 2013.)

But I think the budget deficits the U.S. government will … Read More

Bubbles: What Happens When Absolute Insanity Prevails?

By for Profit Confidential

An old friend walked into my office the other day and told me I was dead wrong about the stock market being overvalued and overbought. “Michael, it looks like key stock indices can go even higher next year.” His reasoning: the Fed won’t stop printing and that means “the market can only go up.”

This is exactly where the trouble begins.

You see, I have read a lot about bubbles…and not just the ones in key stock indices. All bubbles have one thing in common: when bubbles get bigger, optimism goes mainstream.

Looking back, you will see this yourself. During Tulip Mania, the general consensus was that tulip prices would only go higher—they did, but then they came crashing down. The housing market bubble of 2004–2006 is another prime example of this. Back then, I remember everyone talked about how home prices would only go up. People took risks beyond imagination. They talked about getting a third mortgage to buy another investment property and many investors I talked to were juggling several properties. Home prices then collapsed.

I believe the stock market of today is clearly displaying signs of a classic bubble.

Sadly, investors continue to buy into it. According to the Investment Company Institute, between the weeks ended November 6, 2013 and December 4, 2013, long-term stock mutual funds saw an inflow of $24.8 billion. (Source: Investment Company Institute, December 11, 2013.)

Meanwhile, the number of stock advisors bullish on key stock indices continues to rise. Insiders are selling more stock than they are buying. The VIX (Volatility Index) is near a record four-year low. Margin to buy … Read More

Why the Blind Optimism Behind the Housing Recovery Won’t End Well

By for Profit Confidential

Housing RecoveryThe news headlines are saying the U.S. housing market is witnessing robust growth and flipping homes for profit is back.

While many are now saying there is growth in the U.S. housing market and that it will continue, I disagree with them, based on many different factors…all of which I want my readers to know about.

Yes, home prices have gone up, but that’s about it for positive developments. The housing market still suffers, and there are problems that need to be fixed before it sees a full-on recovery.

The delinquency rate on single-family residential mortgages in the U.S. remains staggeringly high. In the second quarter of this year, it was 9.41%. Yes, again; it has declined from its peak of 11.27% in the first quarter of 2010, but it’s still almost 140% higher than its historical average of 3.94%! (Source: Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis web site, last accessed November 8, 2013.)

As I have been harping on about in these pages; institutional investors jumped into the U.S. housing market buying residential homes in bulk, and as a result, prices increased. But we didn’t see first-time home buyers run towards the housing market—an increase in first-time home buyers is essential for any economic recovery.

According to the National Association of Realtors, in September, first-time home buyers accounted for 28% of all existing home sales in the U.S. Meanwhile, investors were behind one-third of all existing home sales! (Source: National Association of Realtors, October 21, 2013.)

The “U.S. Economic and Housing Market Outlook” report issued in October by the Office of the Chief Economist at Freddie Mac said, “According … Read More

Read This Story and Your Opinion of Where Housing Is Headed Will Change

By for Profit Confidential

housing marketLet’s face it: the U.S. housing market is still under severe stress. No matter how the bulls may spin their argument, it’s far from a real recovery. The historical fundamental factors behind a typical housing market recovery are still missing.

According to real estate information company Zillow, in the second quarter of this year, almost 24% of all homes with a mortgage in the U.S. housing market had negative equity (the homes were worth less than the mortgage issued on them). More than 12 million home owners in the U.S. economy remain “underwater.” And in some geographical pockets, the spread between the mortgages and the values of the homes is very wide; in the Las Vegas area, almost 13% of home owners with a mortgage owe two times the amount of their home’s current value! (Source: Zillow, August 28, 2013.)

Sadly, the misery in the U.S. housing market doesn’t just end there.

The delinquency rate on single-family residential mortgages at all commercial banks stood at 9.41% in the second quarter of 2013. Yes, it has declined a little from 9.7% in the first quarter of this year, but it still remains very high compared to the historical average. (Source: Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis web site, last accessed October 7, 2013.) The average delinquency rate on single-family residential mortgages from 1991 to 2006 was only 2.2%.

These negative factors working against the housing recovery are just a few of many.

Since 2012, the majority of activity in the housing market has been the result of investors buying up homes, renovating them, and renting them out. We didn’t really see … Read More

What Are the Homebuilder Stocks Trying to Tell Us After Falling 20% Since May?

By for Profit Confidential

housing marketThe U.S. housing market is “hot;” home prices are going up and up. At least that’s what the mainstream’s saying.

The S&P Case-Shiller 20-City Composite Home Price Index, considered a key indicator of the U.S housing market, increased to 159.18 in July. In June, it stood at 158.20. Since the beginning of the year, the index of home prices in 20 major cities in the U.S. economy has increased by roughly 7.5%. (Source: Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis web site, last accessed September 24, 2013.)

Why isn’t this bullish news pushing up homebuilder stocks? Or more importantly, what are those leading indicator stocks trying to tell us by collapsing 20% since their May high?

As I continue to write in these pages, I am skeptical of the rise in home prices in the U.S. housing market. I believe the rebound in the housing market activity is a direct result of the Federal Reserve’s easy money and nothing else.

To have real growth in the housing market, you need buyers who are going to actually live in the homes they purchase. This analogy can also be used for other commodities. For example, to assess the condition in the copper market, if you see increased buying by companies that make copper products, this suggests there’s demand. On the contrary, if you see speculators, then you can assume they will bail as soon as they make some money on their trade.

The U.S. housing market has accumulated too many speculators. It is well documented in these pages how institutional investors are buying homes, fixing them up, and then renting them out.

For … Read More

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