New Home Sales
Comparing the growth in the number of full time jobs versus the growth in new home sales starkly illustrates both the horrible quality of the new jobs, and how badly ZIRP has served the US economy.
Following the weakness in new home sales, starts, and permits, pending home sales modest beat of expectations (+1.4% MoM vs 0.5% exp) provides a glimmer of hope for homebuilders and recovery-narrative-buyers. Pending sales in The West declined and are now lower than a year ago (-7.9% YoY) for the 3rd month in a row. The decoupling between new- and pending-home sales was also seen at the start of last year, and ended badly for pending home sales...
For the 5th month in a row (and 10th of last 11), S&P Case-Shiller Home Price growth YoY missed expectations. February saw prices rise 5.38% (below 5.5% exp) which is the weakest annual growth since September 2015. Seattle and San Francisco rose the most MoM as Cleveland and New York saw the biggest drops MoM.
With the Fed decision just one day away, followed the very next day by the increasingly more irrational BOJ, stocks had no desire to make significant moves and overnight's boring session was the result, as European stocks and U.S. index futures rose modestly but mostly hugged the flatline while Asian declined 0.2% for a third day as raw-material shares declined and Tokyo equities slumped before central bank meetings in the U.S. and Japan this week. China’s stocks rose the most in almost two weeks, up 0.6% but failed to rise above 3000 on the Shanghai Composite, in thin trading.
The cracks are starting to show in the housing 'recovery'. With Starts and Permits already rolling over, New Home Sales printed a disappointing 511k (vs 520k expectations), dropping 1.5% MoM. This is the 3rd monthly decline in a row - the longest such streak since July 2011. While positive for affordability, the decline MoM and YoY in median home prices (-$9,400 and -$5,400 respectively) will do nothing for The Fed's wealth-creation mandate. The West saw New Home Sales plunge 23.6% MoM while The Midwest surged 18.5%.
The April FOMC gathering headlines a crowded economic events calendar this week. The post-meeting statement, released Wednesday afternoon, should continue to strike a cautious tone. There will be no press conference and updated economic and financial forecasts will not be released. Few expect the FOMC to add the “balance of risks” sentence back into its communiqué at this point. Doing so would be quite bearish for risk assets as it would definitely open the door for a June rate hike.
Futures are currently unchanged, but the E-mini was down as much as 12 points less than two hours earlier after the European open when this time it was up to the PBOC to intervene in global markets by pushing the Yuan higher (selling USDCNY via intermediary banks) sending global stocks sharply higher off session lows and leaving the S&P futures virtually unchanged. As Bloomberg reported, there has been increasing USD/CNY selling in afternoon session as Dollar Index edged lower. This is the PBOC entering the building and levitating stocks.
Those betting against Goldman Sach’s retail investment advice have generally been on the right side of things. The same thing is about to happen again. “Short gold! Sell gold!” said Goldman’s head commodity trader, Jeff Currie, during a CNBC “Power Lunch” interview. Currie’s advice was in response to the question “Is there any commodity you are recommending that can help our viewers make some money?” Currie’s provided several reasons for shorting gold, blatantly wrong.
Government efforts to tackle a glut of vacant housing in China by spurring home lending have triggered a bigger problem: a surge in risky subprime-style loans that is generating alarm. Home buyers in China normally put down a third of the cost of a new property upfront. But a rapid rise in buyers borrowing for their down payments—an echo of the easy credit that cratered the U.S. housing market and sparked the financial crisis—has led authorities to clamp down
There is one part missing from the narrative sketched out in home resales being subjected to monetary imbalance. It is a compelling explanation for what we find as the most striking aspect of existing home sales, namely the curious lack of depth among sellers. It’s as if despite rising prices there is a seller strike where a significant part of what should be that market just will not participate.
With European markets closed across the continent on Monday as the Easter holiday continues, overnight Asia was busy with China Shanghai Composite letting off some steam, and closing down 0.7% at session lows on concerns the Shanghai and Shenzhen home bubble have been popped by the politburo, Japan was a different story with the Yen sliding following a report by the Sankei newspaper that Abe will announce in May his intention to delay the planned levy hike, coupled with additional reports that Japan will unveil a major fiscal stimulus (and just on Friday Abe said he is "not thinking at all about supplemental budget" at this time).
Some time in the second week of February, when the market was tumbling on, among other things, fears of a U.S. recession, the Atlanta Fed was scrambling to give the all clear signal on the US economy when it surprised watchers by releasing a far stronger than consensus Q1 GDP nowcast of 2.7%. Since then things have once again not gone quite as planned, and following the latest flurry of poor economic data, the Atlanta Fed just confirmed that the current US economy is about as weak as it was when the Atlanta Fed first started estimating it at the start of February with a paltry 1.2% forecast.
It is always hard to buck the crowd, to be a bear when the market is up this much, this fast. Stocks are rallying and being underweight gets harder to maintain every day. The bulls are out there yapping about how this was just another correction, another dip to buy and that we better get back in, yada, yada, yada. What makes being bearish so hard is the noise of the perpetually bullish street, the lure of easy money in a market you know is overvalued but keeps going higher. Like JM Keynes "I change my mind when the facts change." Despite the rally, the facts – at least for now – still favor the bears.
Following yesterday's dollar spike which, which topped the longest rally in the greenback in one month, the prevailing trade overnight has been more of the same, and in the last session of this holiday shortened week we have seen the USD rise for the fifth consecutive day on concerns the suddenly hawkish Fed (at least as long as the S&P is above 2000) may hike sooner than expected, which in turn has pressured WTI below $39 earlier in the session, and leading to weakness across virtually all global risk assets.
For the first time since April 2014, New Home Sales have fallen YoY for 2 consecutive months. The 6.1% drop YoY in February is the biggest annual drop since June 2014 and confirms recent housing data weakness. Average new home prices fell to $348,900 - the lowest since August.