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

Posts Tagged ‘housing market’

House Prices to Decline in 2015?

By for Profit Confidential

House Prices to Decline in 2015As we progress to the end of 2014, my skepticism towards the U.S. housing market increases. In fact, the fate of home prices in 2015 is in question.

I don’t expect an outright collapse of the housing market like the one we saw in 2007, but I see the momentum in housing prices that began in 2012 and picked up in 2013 dissipating for several reasons.

First, according to Fannie Mae’s August 2014 National Housing Survey, the number of Americans thinking “it’s a good time to buy a house now” has hit an all-time low!

The chief economist at Fannie Mae, Doug Duncan, explained it best when he said, “The deterioration in consumer attitudes about the current home buying environment reflects a shift away from record home purchase affordability without enough momentum in consumer personal financial sentiment to compensate for it. This year’s labor market strength has not translated into sufficient income gains to inspire confidence among consumers to purchase a home, even in the current favorable interest rate environment.” (Source: “Consumer Housing Sentiment Loses Momentum as Income Growth Remains Stagnant,” Fannie Mae, September 8, 2014.)

Secondly, while in 2012 and 2013 we saw a massive influx of financial investors enter the housing market—they bought entire city blocks and bid home prices higher—these investors are no longer as active in the housing market simply because all the “good deals” are gone.

Look at the red arrow I have drawn in the below chart of the S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Index.

S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Index Chart

Chart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com

In the chart, you see that since April (where the arrow appears), home prices in the … Read More

Another Warning Sign: Stocks Hit Highs on Collapsing Volume

By for Profit Confidential

The Only Bear Left StandingSo the S&P 500 has touched the 2,000 mark.

Will the S&P 500 continue to march to new highs?

Well, my opinion towards the stock market hasn’t changed. I remain skeptical for a variety of reasons, many of which I have shared with my readers over the past few months.

But I have a new concern about the stock market, something that hasn’t been touched on by analysts: trading volume is collapsing.

Please look at the table below. It shows the performance of the S&P 500 and its change in trading volume.

Year Performance Change in Volume
2012 11.73% - 17.58%
2013 14.50% - 24.91%
2014 8.40% - 44%*

*Until August 25, 2014

Data source: StockCharts.com, last accessed August 25, 2014

Key stock indices like the S&P 500 (it is the same story for the Dow Jones) are rising as volumes are declining, suggesting buyers’ participation in the stock market advance is very low. For a healthy stock market rally, any technical analyst will tell you that you need rising volume, not declining volume.

It’s Economics 101: rising demand pushes prices higher. In the case of the S&P 500, we have declining demand (low trading volume) and rising prices. Something doesn’t make sense here.

Looking at the economic data, it further suggests key stock indices are stretched. We continue to see the factors that are supposed to drive the U.S. economy to deteriorate.

Just look at the housing market. The number of new homes sold continues to decline. In January, the annual rate of new-home sales in the U.S. was 457,000 units. By July, it was down more than 10% … Read More

Why These Housing Stocks Are Still Attractive

By for Profit Confidential

Why I Still Believe Housing Is AttractiveIn spite of some doom and gloom scenarios for the housing market, so far it has been full steam ahead as the sector continues to blaze along since bouncing out of the Great Recession in 2008.

With interest rates and mortgage rates continuing to be relatively low, and with the jobs market producing more than 200,000 new jobs monthly, the ingredients are there for continued strength in the housing market, which I view as a good buying opportunity.

Yes, while it’s true much of the easy money has been made in the housing market, there are still opportunities to squeeze some profits out from homebuilder stocks.

Housing starts and building permits continue to be fairly strong with more than one billion annualized units for each segment in July.

As I previously said, the low rate environment and jobs growth will continue to provide the catalyst for growing the housing market. And I expect this to hold for at least another year or so until rates move higher to levels that will hurt the housing market.

One of the top housing market stocks is Toll Brothers, Inc. (NYSE/TOL), which just produced an impressive fiscal third quarter (ended July 31) in which revenues grew at 53% year-over-year to $1.06 billion. The company delivered 1,444 units at an average of $732,000. Toll also drove earnings up 110%, more than double the prior year’s same quarter.

The company ended with a strong backlog of $3.1 billion and 4,204 units at an average of $737,000. Currently trading at 15.56X its FY16 earnings per share (EPS) and a price-to-earnings growth (PEG) ratio of 0.42, the … Read More

How to Play the Strong Housing Data

By for Profit Confidential

Strong Housing DataThe housing market picked up steam in July after some stalling in the first half of the year, which was negatively affected by bad winter conditions in the first quarter. Housing starts surged 15.7% to a seasonally adjusted 1.09 million units in July, the market’s highest production in eight months. This break of one million units is key. Plus, the lagging building permits number was equally strong at an annualized 1.05 million units, up 7.7% year-over-year and 8.1% sequentially versus June.

The metrics clearly indicate a housing market that is strong and growing. Low interest rates continue to be the catalyst that is driving the housing market with the help of an improving jobs market.

An area that I continue to favor going forward in the housing market is the home construction and renovation supplies sector, as homeowners move to renovate their homes.

In this segment, the “Best of Breed” is The Home Depot, Inc. (NYSE/HD), which beat earnings-per-share (EPS) estimates and revenues in its second-quarter earnings season. The company also reported an increase of 5.8% on company-wide same-store sales in the quarter, including a 6.4% year-over-year rise in the U.S. housing market. The Home Depot can be a great stock for buy-and-hold investors, but with a market cap of more than $120 billion, there are alternative growth plays investors may want to consider that aren’t so expensive.

In the small-cap construction and renovation housing market, you may want to take a look at a stock like Builders FirstSource, Inc. (NASDAQ/BLDR), which has a market cap of $669 million.

Builders FirstSource Inc Chart

Chart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com

Builders FirstSource focuses on the residential new … Read More

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

Setting Up for the Slaughter

By for Profit Confidential

Stock Market Valuations Touching Historical ExtremesInvestors poured $4.3 billion into the SPDR S&P 500 (NYSE/SPY) last week, an exchange-traded fund (ETF) that tracks the S&P 500. For the week, ETFs tracking U.S. equities witnessed the most inflows in the last four weeks. (Source: Reuters, July 17, 2014.)

And as investors continue to inject vast sums of money into the stocks, stock valuations are at historical extremes. When I want to see how expensive the stock market is getting, I look at the S&P 500 Shiller P/E multiple (the value of stocks compared to what they earn adjusted for inflation)…and it’s screaming overvalued.

In July, the S&P 500 Shiller P/E stood at 25.96. That means that for every $1.00 a company makes, investors are willing to pay $25.96. The stock market has reached this P/E valuation (25.96) only seven percent of the time since 1881.

The number suggests the stock market is overvalued by 57%, according to its historical average of 16.55. (Source: Yale University web site, last accessed July 18, 2014.) The last time the S&P 500 Shiller P/E was above the current level was in October of 2007—just before one of the worst market sell-offs in history.

But this isn’t the only indicator suggesting the stock market is overvalued.

Another indicator of stock market valuation I look at is called the market capitalization-to-GDP multiple. Very simply put, this indicator is a gauge of the value of the stock market compared to the overall economy. It has been a good predictor of where key stock indices will head.

At the end of the first quarter of this year, the Wilshire 5000 Full Cap Price Index … Read More

Why Higher Interest Rates Will Become a Necessity

By for Profit Confidential

A Weak Economy Masked By an Artificial Stock Market RallyLet’s start with the U.S. housing market. Has the recovery for it ended or just stalled?

My answer comes in one sentence: While it’s always a matter of location, only the high-end housing market is doing well, while the general market is weak.

I can see it in the mortgage numbers. People just aren’t taking loans to buy homes in the U.S. economy. In fact, mortgage applications are tumbling.

In the second quarter of 2014, Bank of America Corporation (NYSE/BAC) funded $13.7 billion in residential home loans and home equity loans—down 49% from a year earlier, when it funded $26.8 billion in similar loans. (Source: Bank of America Corporation, July 16, 2014.)

JPMorgan Chase & Co (NYSE/JPM) originated $16.8 billion in mortgages in the second quarter (ended June 30, 2014)—down 66% from a year ago. (Source: JPMorgan Chase & Co., July 15, 2014.)

And Wells Fargo & Company (NYSE/WFC) also reported a massive decline in mortgage originations. In the second quarter of 2014, it originated $47.0 billion in new mortgages—down 62% from the second quarter of 2013. (Source: Wells Fargo & Company, July 11, 2014.)

So even though interest rates continue at a record low, people are not borrowing to buy homes in the U.S. economy.

But it’s not just the housing market that is weak. The entire U.S. economy is soft…masked by an artificial stock market rally and skewed “official” government statistics that don’t give us a true picture of the unemployment situation or inflation.

We’ve all heard by now that Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ/MSFT) is planning job cuts of almost 18,000. (Source: USA Today, July 15, 2014.) … 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

When the Cows Go Out for Slaughter a Second Time

By for Profit Confidential

When the Cows Go Out for Slaughter a Second TimeDid you see this story in the Wall Street Journal last Friday?

“Retirement investors are putting more money into stocks than they have since markets were slammed by the financial crisis six years ago… Stocks accounted for 67% of employees’ new contributions into retirement portfolios in March… That is the highest percentage since March 2008…” (Source: Wall Street Journal, May 2, 2014.)

You read that right. With stocks at a record-high (and valuations stretched), retirees are pouring back into stocks. Are they getting ready to get slaughtered again? I believe so.

If you are a long-term reader of Profit Confidential, you know my take: the “bear” has done a masterful job at convincing investors the economy has recovered and the stock market is a safe place to invest again. Meanwhile, nothing could be further from the truth.

We are living the slowest post-recession recovery on record. And that recovery has been manipulated by the tampering of the Federal Reserve. You see, the Federal Reserve played a key role in driving the key stock indices higher. In 2009, in the midst of a financial crisis, the central bank started printing money and buying bonds. This resulted in lower bond yields. Those who had money in bonds, who had essentially paid nothing, moved into stocks.

And those record-low interest rates enabled companies in the key stock indices to borrow money and issue new equity, using the money to buy their own stock, thus pushing up per-share corporate earnings.

The end result? 2013 was a banner year for stocks on the key stock indices. But as 2014 came around, we began … 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

U.S. Economy to Enter Recession in Next 12 Months or Less

By for Profit Confidential

Consumer Spending Telling Us About U.S. EconomyAn economy is said to be technically in a recession when it experiences two consecutive quarters of negative gross domestic product (GDP) growth.

The biggest portion of the U.S. GDP calculation is consumer spending; then comes investments, government spending, and, finally, net of exports. By far, consumer spending is the biggest factor in calculating GDP. All you need is a slight decline in consumer spending for GDP to fall.

And as it stands, consumer spending in the U.S. economy is on the decline. In 2013, it accounted for nearly 70% of GDP, meaning that for every $1.00 increase in GDP, $0.70 was associated with consumer spending.

Since November, consumer spending for durable goods (goods that can last for a long time, like a T.V. or furniture) declined by 3.23%. (Source: Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis web site, last accessed April 22, 2014.)

When we look at sales at retailers in the U.S. economy, they keep telling the same story: U.S. consumers are tapped out. Of 175 retailers tracked by FactSet, more than half of them have reported store sales in the fourth quarter of 2013 that were below market expectations. (Source: FactSet, April 11, 2014.)

So far, for the first quarter of 2014, 20 of the major retailers have provided negative guidance regarding their sales and only nine have issued positive guidance. For the entire 2014 year, 31 retailers have issued negative guidance about their sales and only 15 have issued positive guidance. (Source: Ibid.)

There is a clear sign of declining retail sales. In 2011, same-store sales grew by 2.9%; in 2012, they increased by 2.6%; … 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

Movie Tickets and New Homes: Why They Are Both in Trouble

By for Profit Confidential

The Untold Story of the Pinned-Down U.S. ConsumerIn 2013, consumer spending accounted for 67% of U.S. gross domestic product. (Source: Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis web site, last accessed April 2, 2014.) It’s plain and simple: economic growth cannot be achieved unless consumers are spending.

And unfortunately, higher prices and lower discretionary spending are putting the brakes on consumer spending here in 2014.

The Motion Picture Association of America says box office sales in the U.S. economy came in at $10.9 billion in 2013—up only one percent from 2012 and up just three percent from 2009. But here comes the kicker: the sales increase was due to higher ticket prices. The number of tickets sold for Hollywood movies in 2013 was down 1.5% from 2012 and six percent from 2009! (Source: Motion Picture Association of America, Inc., March 25, 2014.)

And the U.S. housing market is getting into trouble, too, as consumer spending pulls back. The chart below is of new-home sales in the U.S. economy from the spring of 2012 until now.

Houses Sold - New One Family ChartChart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com

You will quickly see from the chart that new-home sales in the U.S. economy peaked in late 2012/early 2013 and have come down since. Existing-home sales are also under stress and well below their post-Credit Crisis peak.

Why does the housing market matter? When homebuyers move into their new homes, they buy things like lawnmowers, appliances, furniture, and more. With home sales declining, it suggests consumer spending on these items will not be robust in 2014.

Dear reader, consumer spending patterns in the U.S. economy show troubling trends in the making. Sure, I talked today about how movie tickets … 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

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