The U.S. housing market is comprised of buyers and sellers of homes in the U.S. This information encompasses the supply and demand for homes as well as the inventory level of unsold homes. In different markets around the country, you will have a natural progression of demand and supply. In some markets, there are new citizens moving to the city creating demand and, unless there is enough supply to match this demand, prices will rise. Varying degrees of income levels and job growth play a role in determining how many transactions occur in any given housing market.
As 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.
Chart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com
In the chart, you see that since April (where the arrow appears), home prices in the … Read More
The 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.
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
In its revised estimates of the gross domestic product (GDP) for the second quarter of 2013, the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) reported that the U.S. economy grew at an annual pace of 2.5%, up from its previous 1.7%. (Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis, August 29, 2013.)
GDP numbers being better than before will send a wave of optimism through the stock market—I can just hear stock advisors saying “Buy, buy, and buy some more!”
But you can’t take these GDP numbers too seriously. When you look at them in more detail, there’s a major problem: consumer spending in the U.S. economy is not improving!
In the second quarter of this year, real personal expenditure in the U.S. economy (an important indicator of consumer spending) increased by only 1.8%. In the first quarter of 2013, this number rose by 2.3%! If we are hoping for economic growth, declining consumer spending is not a good start.
So what changed in the second quarter to boost overall GDP in the U.S. economy? Higher exports from the U.S. economy made a big impact. Exports increased by 8.6% in the second quarter, while in the first quarter they declined by 1.3%.
Many will say rising exports are a good sign, because we are producing more and selling more. But what this really gives us is proof that American companies are seeing sales rise abroad, but not here in the U.S.—in fact, it’s more proof that consumer spending in the U.S. economy is weak.
The average American Joe isn’t participating in the U.S. housing market. As a matter of fact, according to the Campbell/Inside Mortgage Finance HousingPulse Tracking Survey, investors purchased 69% of “damaged” properties in April 2013, while first-time home buyers accounted for only 16% of “damaged” purchases.
It is very well documented in these pages how home prices in the U.S. economy are being driven upward by institutional investors. Affirming my stance on the U.S. housing market, Suzanne Mistretta, an analyst at Fitch Rating Services, was quoted this week as saying, “The [housing price] growth is being propelled by institutional money… The question is how much the change in prices really reflects the market demand, rather than one-off market shifts that may not be around in a couple of years.” (Source: Popper, N., “Behind the Rise in House Prices, Wall Street Buyers,” New York Times Dealbook, June 3, 2013.)
Major financial institutions like The Blackstone Group L.P. (NYSE/BX) have become major buyers in the U.S. housing market. Blackstone has spent more than $4.0 billion for 24,000 homes in the U.S. housing market that it plans to rent out.
Rising prices on homes in various pockets of the U.S. housing market are a direct result of large institutional investors buying in.
Take Atlanta, for example. Blackstone bought 1,400 properties worth more than $100 million in Atlanta last year. (Source: Bloomberg, April 25, 2013.) And what happened to prices for homes in Atlanta? According to CoreLogic, a housing data compiler, home prices in Atlanta increased 12.4% in the 12-month period ended February 2013, compared to a 10.2% increase in the overall U.S. housing … Read More
While mainstream financial and a growing number of economic forecasters focus on investors fleeing the gold bullion market, I am following in the footsteps of central banks around the world…
Investors pulled out a record amount of money from gold bullion-backed exchange-traded funds (ETFs) this past February. A total of $4.1 billion was withdrawn from gold bullion ETFs last month, the largest single-month outflow since January of 2011. (Source: ETF Trends, March 6, 2013.)
Gold investors fled the market on speculation that gold bullion prices will plummet, as the metal’s future looks anything but bright—the theory being the global economy is improving and central banks will need to pull back on their easy monetary policies.
But, as investors sold ETFs in February, central banks around the world added to their gold bullion reserves.
South Korea added another 20 metric tons of gold bullion to its holdings in February—raising its gold reserves by 24% to 104.4 tons. Since June of 2011, South Korea has purchased gold bullion five times. (Source: Bloomberg, March 6, 2013.)
Similarly, central banks from Russia and Kazakhstan have been increasing their gold bullion holdings as the prices go down. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Russian central bank purchased 12.2 tons of gold bullion in January.
As the World Gold Council cites, central banks across the world ramped up their gold bullion buying; they bought 534.6 tons last year, 17% more than the previous year.
Dear reader, when you have the former biggest sellers of gold bullion, central banks, turning into buyers, it is nothing less than a bullish indicator.
What holds … Read More
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