While the sell-side community urgently continues to pimp Seasonally Adjusted Case Shiller data, despite the Case-Shiller index creators' own wishes that NSA data be used, it is becoming increasingly difficult to mask the fact that home price momentum is fading. This is precisely what one sees when looking at the change in unadjusted prices, which in December posted the second sequential decline in a row, dropping by -0.08%, following a -0.05% drop in November for the 20-City Composite index, and the biggest sequential decline since November 2012. The annual increase of 13.42% was in line with the expected 13.4%, and was the third month in a row of declines in annual house prices, something we have known for a while, and which the 2 month delayed Case Shiler index finally confirmed. Finally, we are grateful to Case Shiller for being the first to admit that it was not all the weather: "Some of the weakness reflects the cold weather in much of the country. However, higher home prices and mortgage rates are taking a toll on affordability." Let's hope there is no rain in the Spring and sun in the summer then as everything else is already bad and getting worse.
However most ominously, as the report itself confirmed, the upside momentum in home prices is all but gone.
In December, the 10-City Composite remained relatively unchanged while the 20-City Composite showed its second consecutive monthly decline of 0.1%. Year-over-year, the 10-City and 20-City Composites posted gains of 13.6% and 13.4%, approximately 30 basis points lower than their November rates. Chicago showed its highest year-over-year return since December 1988. Dallas set a new peak and posted its largest annual gain since its inception in 2000. Denver declined 0.1% and is now 0.7% below its all-time index level high set in September 2013
“The S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index ended its best year since 2005,” says David M. Blitzer, Chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices. “However, gains are slowing from month-to-month and the strongest part of the recovery in home values may be over. Year-over-year values for the two monthly Composites weakened and the quarterly National Index barely improved. The seasonally adjusted data also exhibit some softness and loss of momentum.
The geographic breakdown:
After 26 months of consecutive gains, Phoenix posted -0.3% for the month of December, its largest decline since March 2011. Phoenix once led the recovery from the bottom in 2012, but Las Vegas, Los Angeles and San Francisco were the top three performing cities of 2013 with gains of over 20%. The Sun Belt, with the exception of Dallas, Miami and Tampa, saw lower annual rates in December when compared to their November numbers. The six cities with the highest year-over-year figures saw their rates decline (Las Vegas, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Atlanta, San Diego and Detroit) and most cities ranked at the bottom improved (Denver, Washington and New York) – Charlotte and Cleveland were the two exceptions.
And the bleak conclusion:
“Recent economic reports suggest a bleaker picture for housing. Existing home sales fell 5.1% in January from December to the slowest pace in over a year. Permits for new residential construction and housing starts were both down and below expectations. Some of the weakness reflects the cold weather in much of the country. However, higher home prices and mortgage rates are taking a toll on affordability. Mortgage default rates, as shown by the S&P/Experian Consumer Credit Default Index, are back to their pre-crisis levels but bank lending standards remain strict.”
Source: Case Shiller