Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Wednesday: FOMC, Pending Home Sales

by Bill McBride on 7/28/2015 07:25:00 PM

A few excerpts from an FOMC preview by Goldman Sachs economist Zach Pandl:

The July 28-29 FOMC meeting is shaping up to be the calm before the storm. Short-term interest rate markets imply a zero probability that the committee will raise policy rates next week, but show a high likelihood of at least one hike before the end of the year. Thus, although changes to the stance of policy look very unlikely, the upcoming statement will be closely watched for any clues on the precise timing of liftoff (we continue to see December as most likely). We will be focused on three main items:
• First, the description of economic conditions will likely acknowledge the decline in the unemployment rate. We expect the statement to drop its prior reference to stable oil prices, but to leave other comments about inflation unchanged.

• Second, we do not expect additional language intended to prepare for rate hikes in the statement. In 2004 the FOMC used the “measured” phrase for this purpose, but Fed Chair Yellen downplayed the need for new guidance at the June press conference. A change along these lines is a risk for next week, however.

• Third, we do not expect dissents, but see them as a risk from President Evans (dovish) and President Lacker (hawkish).
• At 7:00 AM ET, the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) will release the results for the mortgage purchase applications index.

• At 10:00 AM, Pending Home Sales Index for June. The consensus is for a 1.0% increase in the index.

• Also at 2:00 PM, FOMC Meeting Announcement. No change is expected to policy.

Real Prices and Price-to-Rent Ratio in May

by Bill McBride on 7/28/2015 01:11:00 PM

A great discussion from Nick Timiraos at the WSJ: Are Home Prices Again Breaking Records? Not Really

The National Association of Realtors‘ monthly home sales report made a big splash last week with news that median home prices in June had broken the record set in 2006 at the peak of the housing bubble, reaching a nominal high of $236,400.

Does this mean we have another problem on our hands? Not really.
...[see data and graphs]
There may be other reasons to worry about housing affordability by comparing prices with incomes or prices with rents for a given market. But crude comparisons of nominal home prices with their 2006 and 2007 levels shouldn’t be used to make cavalier claims about a new bubble.
The price-to-rent does seem a little high (last graph below), but the speculation associated with a bubble isn't present. No worries.

The year-over-year increase in prices is mostly moving sideways now at a little over 4%. In October 2013, the National index was up 10.9% year-over-year (YoY). In May 2015, the index was up 4.4% YoY.

Here is the YoY change since last May for the National Index:

MonthYoY Change

Most of the slowdown on a YoY basis is now behind us (I don't expect price to go negative this year). This slowdown in price increases was expected by several key analysts, and I think it was good news for housing and the economy.

In the earlier post, I graphed nominal house prices, but it is also important to look at prices in real terms (inflation adjusted).  Case-Shiller, CoreLogic and others report nominal house prices.  As an example, if a house price was $200,000 in January 2000, the price would be close to $276,000 today adjusted for inflation (38%).  That is why the second graph below is important - this shows "real" prices (adjusted for inflation).

It has been almost ten years since the bubble peak.  In the Case-Shiller release this morning, the National Index was reported as being 7.6% below the bubble peak.   However, in real terms, the National index is still about 21% below the bubble peak.

Nominal House Prices

Nominal House PricesThe first graph shows the monthly Case-Shiller National Index SA, the monthly Case-Shiller Composite 20 SA, and the CoreLogic House Price Indexes (through March) in nominal terms as reported.

In nominal terms, the Case-Shiller National index (SA) is back to June 2005 levels, and the Case-Shiller Composite 20 Index (SA) is back to February 2005 levels, and the CoreLogic index (NSA) is back to April 2005.

Real House Prices

Real House PricesThe second graph shows the same three indexes in real terms (adjusted for inflation using CPI less Shelter). Note: some people use other inflation measures to adjust for real prices.

In real terms, the National index is back to June 2003 levels, the Composite 20 index is back to May 2003, and the CoreLogic index back to October 2003.

In real terms, house prices are back to 2003 levels.

Note: CPI less Shelter is down 1.6% year-over-year, so this is pushing up real prices.


In October 2004, Fed economist John Krainer and researcher Chishen Wei wrote a Fed letter on price to rent ratios: House Prices and Fundamental Value. Kainer and Wei presented a price-to-rent ratio using the OFHEO house price index and the Owners' Equivalent Rent (OER) from the BLS.

Price-to-Rent RatioHere is a similar graph using the Case-Shiller National, Composite 20 and CoreLogic House Price Indexes.

This graph shows the price to rent ratio (January 1998 = 1.0).

On a price-to-rent basis, the Case-Shiller National index is back to March 2003 levels, the Composite 20 index is back to March 2003 levels, and the CoreLogic index is back to August 2003.

In real terms, and as a price-to-rent ratio, prices are mostly back to 2003 levels - and the price-to-rent ratio maybe moving a little sideways now.

HVS: Q2 2015 Homeownership and Vacancy Rates

by Bill McBride on 7/28/2015 10:16:00 AM

The Census Bureau released the Residential Vacancies and Homeownership report for Q2 2015.

This report is frequently mentioned by analysts and the media to track household formation, the homeownership rate, and the homeowner and rental vacancy rates.  However, there are serious questions about the accuracy of this survey.

This survey might show the trend, but I wouldn't rely on the absolute numbers.  The Census Bureau is investigating the differences between the HVS, ACS and decennial Census, and analysts probably shouldn't use the HVS to estimate the excess vacant supply or household formation, or rely on the homeownership rate, except as a guide to the trend.

Homeownership Rate Click on graph for larger image.

The Red dots are the decennial Census homeownership rates for April 1st 1990, 2000 and 2010. The HVS homeownership rate decreased to 63.4% in Q2, from 63.7% in Q1.

I'd put more weight on the decennial Census numbers - and given changing demographics, the homeownership rate is probably close to a bottom.

Homeowner Vacancy RateThe HVS homeowner vacancy declined to 1.8% in Q1. 

Are these homes becoming rentals?

Once again - this probably shows the general trend, but I wouldn't rely on the absolute numbers.

Rental Vacancy RateThe rental vacancy rate decreased in Q2 to 6.8% from 7.1% in Q1.

I think the Reis quarterly survey (large apartment owners only in selected cities) is a much better measure of the rental vacancy rate, but this does suggest the rental vacancy rate is the lowest in decades.

The quarterly HVS is the most timely survey on households, but there are many questions about the accuracy of this survey.

Case-Shiller: National House Price Index increased 4.4% year-over-year in May

by Bill McBride on 7/28/2015 09:16:00 AM

S&P/Case-Shiller released the monthly Home Price Indices for May ("May" is a 3 month average of March, April and May prices).

This release includes prices for 20 individual cities, two composite indices (for 10 cities and 20 cities) and the monthly National index.

Note: Case-Shiller reports Not Seasonally Adjusted (NSA), I use the SA data for the graphs.

From S&P: Home Price Gains Lead Housing According to the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices

The 10-City Composite and National indices showed slightly higher year-over-year gains while the 20-City Composite had marginally lower year-over-year gains when compared to last month. The 10-City Composite gained 4.7% year-over-year, while the 20-City Composite gained 4.9% year-over-year. The S&P/Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price Index, covering all nine U.S. census divisions, recorded a 4.4% annual increase in May 2015 versus a 4.3% increase in April 2015.
Before seasonal adjustment, in May the National index, 10-City Composite and 20-City Composite all posted a gain of 1.1% month-over-month. After seasonal adjustment, the National index was unchanged; the 10-City and 20-City Composites were both down 0.2% month-over-month. All 20 cities reported increases in May before seasonal adjustment; after seasonal adjustment, 10 were down, eight were up, and two were unchanged.
“As home prices continue rising, they are sending more upbeat signals than other housing market indicators,” says David M. Blitzer, Managing Director and Chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices. “Nationally, single family home price increases have settled into a steady 4%-5% annual pace following the double-digit bubbly pattern of 2013. Over the next two years or so, the rate of home price increases is more likely to slow than to accelerate."
emphasis added
Case-Shiller House Prices Indices Click on graph for larger image.

The first graph shows the nominal seasonally adjusted Composite 10, Composite 20 and National indices (the Composite 20 was started in January 2000).

The Composite 10 index is off 14.4% from the peak, and down 0.2% in May (SA).

The Composite 20 index is off 13.3% from the peak, and down 0.2% (SA) in May.

The National index is off 7.5% from the peak, and unchanged (SA) in May.  The National index is up 24.9% from the post-bubble low set in December 2011 (SA).

Case-Shiller House Prices Indices The second graph shows the Year over year change in all three indices.

The Composite 10 SA is up 4.7% compared to May 2014.

The Composite 20 SA is up 4.9% year-over-year..

The National index SA is up 4.4% year-over-year.

Prices increased (SA) in 8 of the 20 Case-Shiller cities in May seasonally adjusted.  (Prices increased in 20 of the 20 cities NSA)  Prices in Las Vegas are off 39.5% from the peak, and prices in Denver are at a new high (SA).

Case-Shiller CitiesThe last graph shows the bubble peak, the post bubble minimum, and current nominal prices relative to January 2000 prices for all the Case-Shiller cities in nominal terms.

As an example, at the peak, prices in Phoenix were 127% above the January 2000 level. Then prices in Phoenix fell slightly below the January 2000 level, and are now up 51% above January 2000 (51% nominal gain in 15 years).

These are nominal prices, and real prices (adjusted for inflation) are up about 40% since January 2000 - so the increase in Phoenix from January 2000 until now is about 11% above the change in overall prices due to inflation.

Two cities - Denver (up 65% since Jan 2000) and Dallas (up 48% since Jan 2000) - are above the bubble highs (a few other Case-Shiller Comp 20 city are close - Boston, Charlotte, San Francisco, Portland).    Detroit prices are barely above the January 2000 level.

This was close to the consensus forecast. I'll have more on house prices later.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Tuesday: Case-Shiller House Prices, Richmond Fed Mfg Survey

by Bill McBride on 7/27/2015 08:14:00 PM

• At 9:00 AM ET, the S&P/Case-Shiller House Price Index for May. Although this is the May report, it is really a 3 month average of March, April and May prices. The consensus is for a 5.6% year-over-year increase in the Comp 20 index for April. The Zillow forecast is for the National Index to increase 4.0% year-over-year in May.

• At 10:00 AM, Richmond Fed Survey of Manufacturing Activity for July.

• Also at 10:00 AM, Q2 Housing Vacancies and Homeownership survey.

S&P 500
To put the recent 5 day sell-off in perspective, here is a graph (click on graph for larger image) from Doug Short and shows the S&P 500 since the 2007 high ...

Vehicle Sales Forecasts for July: Over 17 Million Annual Rate Again, Best July in a Decade

by Bill McBride on 7/27/2015 04:51:00 PM

The automakers will report July vehicle sales on Monday, August 3rd. Sales in June were at 17.1 million on a seasonally adjusted annual rate basis (SAAR), and it appears sales in July will be over 17 million SAAR again.

Note:  There were 26 selling days in July, the same as in July 2014.  Here are a few forecasts:

From J.D. Power: New-Vehicle Retail Sales SAAR in July to Hit 14 Million, Highest Level for the Month in a Decade

The forecast for new-vehicle retail sales in July 2015 is 1,260,200 units, a 2.5 percent increase compared with July 2014 and the highest retail sales volume for the month since July 2006, when sales hit 1,294,085. Retail transactions are the most accurate measure of consumer demand for new vehicles. [Total forecast 17.2 million SAAR]
emphasis added
From Kelley Blue Book: New-Car Sales To Increase Nearly 3 Percent In July 2015, According To Kelley Blue Book
New-vehicle sales are expected to increase 2.6 percent year-over-year to a total of 1.47 million units in July 2015, resulting in an estimated 17.1 million seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR), according to Kelley Blue Book www.kbb.com ...
"As the industry settles into the summer selling season, new-car sales are expected to remain consistent with last month's numbers, representing modest and slowing growth versus last year," said Alec Gutierrez, senior analyst for Kelley Blue Book. "Sales in the first half of the year totaled 8.5 million units, a year-over-year improvement of 4.4 percent and the highest first-half volume since 2005. Total sales in 2015 are projected to hit 17.1 million units overall, a 3.6 percent year-over-year increase and the highest industry total since 2001."
From WardsAuto: 17 Million SAAR Streak Should Continue in July
If the projected 17.3 million-unit seasonally adjusted annual rate is reached, it will mark the first time since 2000 that the monthly LV SAAR has exceeded 17 million units in three consecutive months, and would represent the highest July SAAR since 2005.
At forecast levels, year-to-date sales through July would rise to 9.97 million units, up 4.4% over the first seven months of 2014.
Another strong month for auto sales.

ATA Trucking Index decreased 0.5% in June

by Bill McBride on 7/27/2015 01:55:00 PM

Here is an indicator that I follow on trucking, from the ATA: ATA Truck Tonnage Index Fell 0.5% in June

American Trucking Associations’ advanced seasonally adjusted For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index decreased 0.5% in June, following a revised gain of 0.8% during May. In June, the index equaled 131.1 (2000=100). The all-time high of 135.8 was reached in January 2015.

Compared with June 2014, the SA index increased 1.8%, which was above the 1.5% gain in May. Year-to-date through June, compared with the same period last year, tonnage was up 3.4%. ...

With flat factory output and falling retail sales, I’m not surprised tonnage was soft in June,” said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello. “I also remain concerned over the elevated inventory-to-sales ratio for retailers, wholesalers, and manufacturers, which suggests soft tonnage in the months ahead until the ratio falls.

“I remain hopeful that the inventory correction will transpire this summer. When the correction ends, truck freight – helped by better personal consumption – will accelerate,” he said.
emphasis added
ATA Trucking Click on graph for larger image.

Here is a long term graph that shows ATA's For-Hire Truck Tonnage index.

The dashed line is the current level of the index.

The index is now up only 1.8% year-over-year.

Dallas Fed: "Texas Manufacturing Slump Moderates"

by Bill McBride on 7/27/2015 10:57:00 AM

From the Dallas Fed: Texas Manufacturing Slump Moderates, Outlooks Improve

Texas factory activity declined slightly in July, according to business executives responding to the Texas Manufacturing Outlook Survey. The production index, a key measure of state manufacturing conditions, remained negative but rose for a second month in a row to -1.9, suggesting further moderation in the decline in manufacturing output.
Perceptions of broader business conditions were mixed. The general business activity index remained negative, but it rose for a second month in a row and reached -4.6 in July. Manufacturers expect improved conditions ahead. The company outlook index surged nearly nine points and posted its first positive reading in seven months, coming in at 1.2.

Labor market indicators reflected slight employment declines and shorter workweeks. The July employment index was negative for a third month in a row and edged down to -3.3.
emphasis added
The Dallas region has been especially hard hit by the decline in oil prices. This survey might be more negative in August since oil prices have declined again.

 The Richmond Fed survey (last of the regional Fed surveys for July) will be released tomorrow.

Black Knight: House Price Index up 1.1% in May, 5.1% year-over-year

by Bill McBride on 7/27/2015 09:14:00 AM

Note: I follow several house price indexes (Case-Shiller, CoreLogic, Black Knight, Zillow, FHFA, FNC and more). Note: Black Knight uses the current month closings only (not a three month average like Case-Shiller or a weighted average like CoreLogic), excludes short sales and REOs, and is not seasonally adjusted.

From Black Knight: U.S. Home Prices Up 1.1 percent for the Month; Up 5.1 Percent Year-Over-Year

Today, the Data and Analytics division of Black Knight Financial Services, Inc. (NYSE: BKFS) released its latest Home Price Index (HPI​) report, based on May 2015 residential real estate transactions. The Black Knight HPI combines the company’s extensive property and loan-level databases to produce a repeat sales analysis of home prices as of their transaction dates every month for each of more than 18,500 U.S. ZIP codes. The Black Knight HPI represents the price of non-distressed sales by taking into account price discounts for REO and short sales.

For a more in-depth review of this month’s home price trends, including detailed looks at the 20 largest states and 40 largest metros, please download the full Black Knight HPI Report.
The Black Knight HPI increased 1.1% percent in May, and is off 6.5% from the peak in June 2006 (not adjusted for inflation).

The year-over-year increase in the index has been about the same for the last eight months.

The press release has data for the 20 largest states, and 40 MSAs.

Black Knight shows prices off 39.3% from the peak in Las Vegas, off 32.5% in Orlando, and 28.1% off from the peak in Riverside-San Bernardino, CA (Inland Empire). Prices are at new highs in New York, Tennessee and Texas, and several other cities around the country.

Note: Case-Shiller for May will be released tomorrow.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Sunday Night Futures

by Bill McBride on 7/26/2015 07:49:00 PM

From Ben Leubsdorf and Jon Hilsenrath at the WSJ: Fed Officials May Offer More Clarity on Rates

Federal Reserve officials are likely to emerge from their policy meeting Wednesday with short-term interest rates still pinned near zero, though they could send fresh hints that they’re getting closer to raising rates. ...

This leaves the Fed with a slight signaling challenge at the meeting this week. How aggressively should officials tip their hands about the timing of a rate increase later this year? Fed officials don’t want to take financial markets by surprise by raising the benchmark federal-funds rate for the first time since 2006 with no forewarning. At the same time, they want to keep their options open so they can adjust their stance as the economy evolves.
CR Note: I don't expect an explicit signal at the FOMC meeting this week, instead I expect the FOMC to emphasize that they are data dependent - and that they would like to see further improvement in the labor market, and further evidence of inflation moving back towards 2%.

The September meeting could be interesting!

Schedule for Week of July 26, 2015

• At 8:30 AM, Durable Goods Orders for June from the Census Bureau. The consensus is for a 3.1% increase in durable goods orders.

• At 10:30 AM, Dallas Fed Manufacturing Survey for July.

From CNBC: Pre-Market Data and Bloomberg futures: currently S&P futures are up slightly and DOW futures are up 20 (fair value).

Oil prices were down over the last week with WTI futures at $48.04 per barrel and Brent at $54.62 per barrel.  A year ago, WTI was at $103, and Brent was at $106 - so prices are down about 50% year-over-year.

Here is a graph from Gasbuddy.com for nationwide gasoline prices. Nationally prices are at $2.71 per gallon (down about $0.80 per gallon from a year ago).