A multi-decade trend reversed.
...Add all these charts up and we get a snapshot of a housing recovery that seems to have stalled or rolled over. The reasons why are apparent: mortgage debt remains elevated, a vast "shadow inventory" of underwater or foreclosed homes remains off the market and household income has stagnated or declined, as reported in What If Housing Is Done for a Generation?.
Housing is improving! Housing is improving! Housing is improving!
if I say it enough will someone believe it?
This post has a link to a Bloomberg story about a revival in Seattle where house bidding wars are in progress: Date March 27, 2012. You won't believe it. It reads like a story from the heart of the days of the bubble market.
Any and all negative overnight news are now completely ignored as the scramble for risk hits the usual fever pitch following Bernanke's latest attempt to transfer cash from safe point A to ponzi point B, aka stocks. First, China's industrial firms suffered a rare annual drop in profits in the first two months of 2012 mainly in petrochemicals, metals and auto firms, the latest signs of weakness in the world's No. 2 economy and reinforcing the case for policy easing, according to Reuters. This was the first Jan-Feb profits downturn since Jan-Aug 2009. Profits fell 5.2 percent so far in 2012, according to the industrial profitability indicator, published by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) every month. The last period that China reported nationwide industrial profit fall was in the first eight months of 2009. Then there was the German GfK Consumer Confidence which unlike yesterday's IFO, missed: nobody cares. Also on the negative side was an earlier auction of Spanish Bills which sold EUR 2.58 billion, just barely off the low end of a target issuance of EUR 2.5-3 billion. As noted however, neither this, nor the series of US disappointments which looks set to end March with 15 of 17 estimate misses is relevant. To wit: French consumer confidence soared to 87 on expectations of 82, as the easiest and lowest common denominator to boost risk assets is now abused everywhere, by UMich, by Germany and now by France. And why would people not be confident - stocks everywhere are higher despite fundamentals. After all if something fails, there is a central planner to fix it. Never forget - the taxpayer credit card has no limits. Net result - green across the board.
Quadruple Dip: Housing Relapses As "March Is Turning Out To Be The Weakest Month Since Last October Re: Buyer interest"Submitted by Tyler Durden on 03/26/2012 10:32 -0500
For months we have been saying that there is no housing recovery, and what little buying interest there was was driven purely by abnormally warm weather and still record low interest rates. Well, the seasonal aberrations are now over, and normalcy can return, but not before much demand was pulled forward (Cash for Caravans? Money for McMansions? Shekels for Shacks? Dough for Dumps?) to December-February courtesy of "April in January" and mortgage rates soaring to well over 4%, leading to a major tumble in MBA new home and refi mortgage applications (as noted here "So Long Housing - Mortgage Applications Collapse, And Sentiment Update"). So we won't repeat ourselves, intead we will give the podium to CNBC's Diana Olick who now finds empirical evidence of what we have been saying all along. From Olick: "Housing was charging back. Spring sprung early. Sentiment among home builders doubled in six months. Any talk that the fundamentals might not be supporting the sentiment was met with harsh criticism. And then suddenly it wasn’t. A slew of new housing data last week disappointed the analysts and the stock market, and all of a sudden you started to hear concern that maybe housing wasn’t exactly in a robust recovery. From home builder sentiment to housing starts, to home builder earnings right through to sales of newly built homes, there was not one hopeful headline in any of it (except perhaps if you invest in rentals, as multi-family housing starts made more gains, but that is a contrary indicator to housing recovery)." And from the ground:"And then an email from a Realtor in New Jersey: “Just reviewed March buyer clicks, Google’s analytics on all the sites we monitor – March is turning out to be the weakest month since last October re: Buyer interest."
Regular readers are all too familiar with the saga of Goldman Sachs, which back in December 2010 called for a new American golden age, only to crash and burn as the economy not only slid right back into its depressionary glidepath but had to be bailed out by the Fed yet again. Sure enough, back in December of last year, the same firm made a surprising forecast, being the first of many (as others naturally jumped on the Goldman bandwagon), calling for an imminent housing bottom. Naturally, we scoffed at said proclamation. Two months later, which have seen two months of deteriorating conditions and declining prices, Goldman is out, saying that it may have just been kidding. From Goldman's Hui Shan: "In December 2011 we published a new house price model for 147 metro areas that pointed to a decline of around 3% from mid-2011 through mid-2012 before stabilizing in the year thereafter. Excess supply and negative house price momentum were the main drivers of the projected decline over the subsequent four quarters. In the year thereafter, the model suggested that house prices would stabilize as the negative momentum faded. Our model also pointed to substantial variation in house price appreciation across metro areas. Although city-by-city house price dynamics are particularly difficult to model, we projected increases in Detroit, Miami and Cleveland, but significant declines in Portland, New York and Atlanta during the next two years. Since publication of this forecast--which was based on Case-Shiller house price data up to 2011Q2--house prices have weakened anew....The implications of these changes are threefold: First, we now see a somewhat weaker near-term house price outlook. Specifically, we forecast that house prices will decline by 3.3% from 2011Q3 until 2012Q3, and by an additional 1.1% between 2012Q3 and 2013Q3. Second, the expected bottom in house prices is pushed out from end-2012 to mid-2013. Third, the long-run outlook for house prices is not significantly affected by our update." So for anyone basing their housing recovery call on Goldman, sorry - Goldman was only kidding. Again.
Little that can be added here. The December Case Shiller came, saw, and shut up all those who keep calling for a home price recovery. The Index printed at 136.71 on expectations of 137.11, with the prior revised to 138.24. The top 20 City composite was down -0.5% on expectations of a 0.35% drop. 18 out of 20 MSAs saw monthly declines in December over November, with just the worst of the worst - Miami and Phoenix - posting a dead cat bounce, rising 0.2% and 0.8% respectively. And granted the data is delayed, but the fact that we have now had 8 consecutive months of home price declines even with mortgage rates persistently at record lows, and the double dip in housing more than obvious, can we finally shut up about a housing bottom? Because as Case Shiller's David Blitzer says: "If anything it looks like we might have reentered a period of decline as we begin 2012.” QED
Stocks advanced as market participants looked forward to tomorrow’s 3yr LTRO by the ECB where the street expects EU banks to borrow around EUR 400-500bln. All ten sectors traded in positive territory for much of the session, however less than impressive demand for the latest Italian government paper saw equity indices lose some of the upside traction. Of note, the ECB allotted EUR 29.469bln in 7-day operation, as well as EUR 134bln for 1-day in bridge to 3yr loans. In other new, although Portugal's finance minister announced the country has passed its 3rd bailout review by the EU/IMF, this did not stop S&P's Kraemer saying that if there is a probability of default, it is higher in Portugal than in any other Euro-Zone country.
Busy day for headline chasers (which these days is everyone) with the ISM-leading Chicago PMI taking center stage at 9:45 am. At some point the economy will have to start 'confirming' the Bernanke Bear case or else one may get the impression that the Chairman was merely posturing with providing a perpetual LSAP open backstop to the Russell 2000. Also, the Case Shiller index which will report the 7th consecutive home price drop will likely not get a whole lot of attention.
Five years on, the powers that be have just released the transcripts of the Fed's FOMC (Federal Open Market Committee) meetings from 2006. Putting hindsight economic analysis aside, you quickly realize more than anything else: the committee is full of burgeoning comedians! Commentators have already highlighted the "humor" of the FOMC meetings, but it is really over the top at times. There are periods where Greenspan seems only capable of speaking in witty quips. That's right, the FOMC was laughing all the way to the top!
Are the markets already front running a potential announcement of a third round of Quantitative Easing (QE 3)? Maybe so. We had expected QE3 at the end of last summer as the economy weakened substantially from the impact of the Japanese earthquake/debt ceiling debate/Eurozone crisis trifecta. However, with political pressures running high due to the raging battle in Congress raising the debt ceiling there was little support from the public for further intervention. Furthermore, with inflation, as measured by CPI, already outside of the Fed's comfort zone, the Fed opted to institute "Operation Twist" (O.T.) instead. With the Euro-Crisis on the broiler, another debt ceiling debate approaching, the U.S. economy struggling along as Europe slips into a recession and corporate earnings being revised down there are plenty of reasons for stocks to decline in price. Yet, they have continued to inch up. With short interest on stocks having plunged in recent weeks it certainly sounds like the markets are betting on something happening and soon.
Construction trends may be good for incumbents, but for homeowners, banks, and taxpayers, they're costly....
UPDATE: And then Dallas Fed manufacturing misses (at -3.0 vs +4.8 expectations) as expectations for future finished goods plunge as do current inventories.
As if we needed yet further evidence of the dichotomous macro data that seems to provide as much bearish fodder as bullish decoupling confidence, today sees a near-record two-month jump in conference board confidence at the same time as S&P/Case-Shiller prints at a seasonally-adjusted 103 month low. With the Richmond Fed also missing expectations (though positive), we remain in the miasma of CONfidence uninspiring macro data as the underlying sub-indices of the conference board data show little to no shift in purchasing decisions despite some seemingly incredulous ramp in confidence that incomes will rise more than they decline in the next six months.
Despite it being a holiday shortened week, and volume already abysmal, there still are some robotic kneejerk reaction inducing economic datapoints, both today and Thursday. Here is what the consensus expects today, even as US economic data is once again irrelevant as Italy has taken front and center following the Zero Hedge report that ECB deposit facilities hit an all time record, leading to Italian BTPs widening to over 7% yet again, an a margin hike by LCH imminent.