New Home Sales
Following last night's laughable (in light of the slow motion housing train wreck that is taking place, not to mention the concurrent capex spending halt and of course the unwinding rehypothecation scandal) Chinese PMI release by HSBC/Markit (one wonders how much of an allocation Beijing got in the Markit IPO) which obviously sent US equity futures surging to new record highs, it was almost inevitable that the subsequent manufacturing index, that of Europe, would be a disappointment around the board (since it would be less than "optical" to have a manufacturing slowdown everywhere in the world but the US). Sure enough, first France (Mfg PMI 47.8, Exp. 49.5, 49.6; and Services PMI 48.2, Exp. 49.4, Last 49.3) and then Germany (Mfg PMI 52.4, Exp. 52.5, Last 52.2; Services 54.8, Exp. 55.7, Last 56.0), missed soundly, leading to a broad decline in the Eurozone PMIs (Mfg 51.9, Exp. 52.2, Last 52.2; Services 52.8, 53.3, Last 53.2), which meant that the composite PMI tumbled from 53.2 to 52.8: the lowest in 6 months.
New All time highs almost every single day, yet market volumes have literally collapsed. On any given day, you would see an average of 2M eminis (S&P Futures, spoos) trade, and now we are seeing barely 1M trade, sometimes even lower. This has left everyone, including big banks, who are now being forced to lay off traders amid the slowdown, asking the same question: WTF is going on?
As we showed a week ago, it is not just the coincident housing signals confirming that the latest artificial bounce has faded, but both upstream and downstream indicators. Specifically, we showed that lumber prices - that one component so critical in the building of new homes and a traditional leading indicator - have cratered. That's the upstream indicator. As for the downstream, we go to Bank of America which finds that not only has home improvement store spending declined substantially since the dead housing bounce peak last summer, but that furniture spending according to BofA estimates, is now once again negative: the first such drop since early 2012.
When looking at residential real estate, we often tend to focus almost solely on recent price movements in assessing the health of the housing market at any point in time. But as both homeowners and income-earners in the larger economy, of which the housing market is an important component, to really understand what's going on, we need clarity into the larger cycle driving those price movements. The more we look at today's data, the more it looks like that we are in a new type of pricing cycle -- one that homeowners and housing investors have no prior experience with. And the more we learn about the fundamentals underlying the current cycle, the harder it becomes to justify today's home prices on any sustained level. Meaning a downward reversion in home values is very probable in the coming years.
One of the things that this era of American history will be known for is conspicuous consumption. Even though many of us won't admit it, the truth is that almost all of us want a nice vehicle and a large home. They say that "everything is bigger in Texas", but the same could be said for the entire nation as a whole. We live in a debt-based system which is incredibly fragile. We experienced this firsthand during the last financial crisis. But we just can't help ourselves. We have always got to have more...
The Beige Book was a slightly less boringly beige report than normal as all 12 regions say growth was "modest or moderate" - up from 8 of 12 in April...
- *FED SAYS NEW VEHICLE SALES `WERE GENERALLY DESCRIBED AS ROBUST'
- *FED SAYS `OVERALL LENDING ACTIVITY INCREASED THROUGHOUT' U.S.
- *FED SAYS `PRICE PRESSURES WERE SAID TO BE CONTAINED'
Weather remains an issue with 35 mentions (119 in Feb and 103 in April) but May was the month of exuberant car sales with 68 mentions of the growth and optimism.
There was a small ray of hope just after the Lehman collapse that one of the most deplorable characteristics of US society - the relentless urge to build massive McMansions (funding questions aside) - was fading. Alas, as the Census Bureau today confirmed, that normalization in the innate desire for bigger, bigger, bigger not only did not go away but is now back with a bang. According to just released data, both the median and average size of a new single-family home built in 2013 hit new all time highs of 2,384 and 2,598 square feet respectively.
Following the fourth consecutive decline in home prices as reported by Case Shiller (remember, it was the weather), it was inevitable that in the last month of Q1, when the weather warmed up and when Americans went on a spending spree that took their savings rate to the lowest since 2009, home prices, those tracked by the Case Shiller index, would post a rebound. Which they did: According to the just released Top 20 City Composite Index, home prices bounced by 0.88%, higher than expected, with the composite printing at 166.80, more than the 166.23 forecast, following fourth consecutive sequential declines. This represented a better than expected 12.37% annual price increase, even if the pace of annual price increases appears to be slowing: this was the lowest annual price increase since August.
Last month's dramatic miss of expectations for a modest post-weather pop in new home sales (having dropped 14.5% month-over-month) so it was inevitable that there would be a bounce. Modestly beating expectations, 433k annualized new home sales in April was only a 6.4% gain MoM thanks to the upward revision of the big miss in March. This 'recovery' remains well below the peak see in January - right in the middle of the worst weather impacted time in US history if one is to believe what the media is spewing. Before the 'housing recovery is back on track' meme gets going though, there is the fact that homes sold in the Northeast fell to the lowest since June 2012... as the average home price fell to $320,100 - the lowest since August 2013.
- The Fed can't print trade? World Trade Flows Fall in First Quarter (WSJ)
- PBOC’s Zhou Says China May Have Housing Bubble in ‘Some Cities’ (BBG)
- ECB's Weidmann - Reviving ABS market not task for central bank (Reuters)
- LOL: Fitch upgrades Greece by a notch to 'B'; outlook stable (Reuters)
- LOL x2: Spain Sovereign Debt Rating Upgraded by S&P (BBG)
- China Will Vet Tech Firms After Threatening U.S. Retaliation (BBG)
- US to claim victory over China in WTO car dispute (BBG)
- Obama urges Democrats to vote in midterms, attacks Republicans (Reuters)
- U.S. Military Pushes for More Disclosure on Drone Strikes (WSJ)
Following the only major overnight econ event, which was the May German IFO Business Climate Index which dropped from 111.2 to 110.4 missing expectations of 110.9, the USDJPY has been on a soaring rampage higher hoping to push equities along with it (because now that gold manipulation is a proven fact, it is only a matter of time before the link between manipulating the USDJPY on thin volume with massive leverage and rigging the equity market is uncovered too), and at last check was just shy of 102.000. For now equity futures have failed to be dragged along although with the S&P all time high just around the horizon, the psychological level of 1900 staring the rigged market in the face, and the weekend just around the corner, it is virtually assured that the S&P will close at an all time high today - after all the people need to be confident when they go shopping at malls with money they don't have (but delighted by paper profits they haven't booked) so they boost the US non-GAAP GDP (at least before like Italy, the BEA too changes the definition of GDP to include cocaine and hookers). Finally, assuring a (record?) low-volume levitation today is the early closure of the bond pit ahead of Memorial Day holiday which also means only a skeleton crew of algos will be frontrunning each other to push the S&P over 1,900.
It was supposed to be a blistering Mega Merger Monday following the news of both AT&T'a purchase of DirecTV and Pfizer's 15% boosted "final" offer for AstraZeneca. Instead it is shaping up to be not only a dud but maybe a drubbing, with AstraZeneca plunging after its board rejected the latest, greatest and last offer, European peripheral bond spreads resume blowing out again, whether on concerns about the massive Deutsche Bank capital raise or further fears that "radical parties" are gaining strength in Greece ahead of local elections. But the worst news for BTFDers is that not only did the USDJPY break its long-term support line as we showed on Friday, but this morning it is taking even more technician scalps after it dropped below its 200 DMA (101.23) which means that a retest of double digit support is now just a matter of time, as is a retest of how strong Abe's diapers are now that the Nikkei has slid to just above 14,000, while China, following its own weak housing sales data, saw the Shanghai Composite briefly dip under 2000 before closing just above it. Overall, it is shaping up to be a less than stellar day with zero econ news (hence no bullish flashing red headlines of horrible data) for the algos who bought Friday's late afternoon VIX slam-driven risk blast off.
Dispassionate discussion of the investment climate.
According to the Chinese financial publication Securities Daily, emergency real estate rescue packages have been launched in large cities such as Wuxi, Nanning, Hangzhou, Tianjin, Tongling and Zhengzhou in the last month alone..."if a borrower does not fulfill the loan repayment obligations as agreed in the contract, the guarantee institutions will have to repay the housing loans..." What a surprise – a government guarantee. The market is imploding and defaults are going through the roof. Property vacancy rates in Zhengzhou are an astounding 23%. So the government is putting taxpayers on the hook. In other words, the government is panicking. But it’s not working... so much excess inventory has built up, a major slowdown was inevitable. And like the butterfly that flaps its wings, a slowdown in China has substantial effects on the rest of the world.