Friday, May 24, 2019

Oil Prices Down Year-over-year

by Calculated Risk on 5/24/2019 05:24:00 PM

From MarketWatch: Oil futures suffer worst weekly performance of the year

Oil futures settled higher Friday, recouping a portion of recent losses, but a day after posting their biggest one-day loss since December, prices saw their worst weekly performance of the year.

Brent shed 4.6%, while WTI was down by 5.7%, on Thursday — the biggest daily losses since December. The week’s losses for both were also the largest year to date.
Oil Prices Click on graph for larger image

The first graph shows WTI and Brent spot oil prices from the EIA. (Prices today added).

According to Bloomberg, WTI is at $59.02 per barrel today, and Brent is at $69.27.

Prices collapsed in 2008 due to the financial crisis, and then increased as the economy recovered.   Oil prices collapsed again in 2014 and 2015, mostly due to oversupply.

Oil Prices The second graph shows the year-over-year change in WTI based on data from the EIA.

Six times since 1987, oil prices have increased 100% or more YoY.  And several times prices have almost fallen in half YoY.

Currently WTI is down 18% year-over-year, but up sharply from the lows at the of 2018.

Oil prices are volatile!

Q2 GDP Forecasts: Mid 1% Range

by Calculated Risk on 5/24/2019 11:25:00 AM

From Merrill Lynch:

We lowered 2Q GDP tracking by 0.2pp to 1.6%, while 1Q remained unchanged at 2.9% [May 24 estimate]
emphasis added
From Goldman Sachs:
We lowered our Q2 GDP tracking estimate by two tenths to +1.3% and our past-quarter GDP tracking estimate for Q1 by one tenth to +3.0% (qoq ar). [Updated: May 24 estimate]
From the NY Fed Nowcasting Report
The New York Fed Staff Nowcast stands at 1.4% for 2019:Q2. News from this week's data releases decreased the nowcast for 2019:Q2 by 0.4 percentage point. Negative surprises from the Advance Durable Goods Report drove most of the decrease. [May 24 estimate].
And from the Altanta Fed: GDPNow
The GDPNow model estimate for real GDP growth (seasonally adjusted annual rate) in the second quarter of 2019 is 1.3 percent on May 24, up from 1.2 percent on May 16. [May 24 estimate]
CR Note: These early estimates suggest real GDP growth will be in the mid-1% range annualized in Q2.

Housing and Recessions

by Calculated Risk on 5/24/2019 10:55:00 AM

Now that new home sales have reached a new cycle high (in March), I'd like to update a couple of graphs in a previous post (most of this from an earlier post).

For the economy, what we should be focused on are single family starts and new home sales. As I noted in Investment and Recessions "New Home Sales appears to be an excellent leading indicator, and currently new home sales (and housing starts) are up solidly year-over-year, and this suggests there is no recession in sight."

For the bottoms and troughs for key housing activity, here is a graph of Single family housing starts, New Home Sales, and Residential Investment (RI) as a percent of GDP.

Starts, new home sales, residential Investment Click on graph for larger image.

The arrows point to some of the earlier peaks and troughs for these three measures.

The purpose of this graph is to show that these three indicators generally reach peaks and troughs together. Note that Residential Investment is quarterly and single-family starts and new home sales are monthly.

RI as a percent of GDP has been sluggish recently.

Also, look at the relatively low level of RI as a percent of GDP, new home sales and single family starts compared to previous peaks.   To have a significant downturn from these levels would be surprising.

BKFSThe second graph shows the YoY change in New Home Sales from the Census Bureau.

Note: the New Home Sales data is smoothed using a three month centered average before calculating the YoY change. The Census Bureau data starts in 1963.

Some observations:

1) When the YoY change in New Home Sales falls about 20%, usually a recession will follow. The one exception for this data series was the mid '60s when the Vietnam buildup kept the economy out of recession.   Note that the sharp decline in 2010 was related to the housing tax credit policy in 2009 - and was just a continuation of the housing bust.

2) It is also interesting to look at the '86/'87 and the mid '90s periods. New Home sales fell in both of these periods, although not quite 20%. As I noted in earlier posts, the mid '80s saw a surge in defense spending and MEW that more than offset the decline in New Home sales. In the mid '90s, nonresidential investment remained strong.

Although new home sales were down towards the end of 2018, the decline wasn't that large historically.  As I noted last Fall, I wasn't even on recession watch.   Now new home sales are up year-over-year.  No worries.

Merrill on the "Softening" Auto Sector

by Calculated Risk on 5/24/2019 08:52:00 AM

A few brief excerpt from a Merrill Lynch research note on the auto sector: Autos: lot full

In our view, the peak in auto sales is clear and we will likely see some softening going forward, but we do not expect a sharp drop. The labor market is still solid with a healthy pace of job growth and the emergence of wage inflation. Consumers are feeling increasingly confident about job prospects, which could encourage the purchase of a big-ticket item such as a vehicle. Absent a recession, auto sales will avoid the painful drop.

The slowdown in sales leads to excess inventory ... the excess inventory is largely concentrated in light trucks and SUVs and the cost to carry such inventory is high. Producers have started to respond, with motor vehicle production down 2.5% mom sa in April, marking the second drop in three months. There is likely more to come.

A weakening in the auto cycle will serve as a drag to the economy. … Motor vehicle output added an average of 0.2pp / year to real GDP growth from 2010 to 2018 after slicing a half of a percentage point in each 2008 and 2009. Motor vehicle production is already on course to be a drag this year, slicing 0.14pp from 1Q GDP growth. We expect it to cut nearly 0.2pp to annual growth this year. Relative to last year, that is a reversal of 0.4pp. It doesn’t feel great but it is manageable. A decline in output naturally means there is also a decline in jobs.
emphasis added
CR Notes: this is close to my view. As I wrote earlier this month: A small decline in sales this year isn't a concern - I think sales will move mostly sideways at near record levels.

This means the economic boost from increasing auto sales is over.

Vehicle Sales The graph shows light vehicle sales since the BEA started keeping data in 1967.

Note: dashed line is April estimated sales rate of 16.43 million SAAR.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

"Mortgage Rates Drop Quickly as Market Panic Sets In"

by Calculated Risk on 5/23/2019 06:13:00 PM

We could see a 3 handle for mortgage rates tomorrow.

From Matthew Graham at Mortgage News Daily: Lowest Mortgage Rates in More Than a Month

Mortgage rates dropped quickly today as global financial markets underwent a volatile shift. When money is flowing out of stocks and into bonds (as it was today) rates move lower. There are several underlying reasons for the move and it's impossible to assign a value to each of them with perfect precision.

The net effect for mortgage rates hasn't been fully realized yet. Mortgage lenders set rates at the beginning of the day and they don't tend to change their offerings unless markets make a very big move. Today's very big moves came in several phases and lenders only accounted for a little more than half of the underlying change in bond markets. Nonetheless, the average lender ended the day in line with the lowest rates in more than a year. If bond markets merely hold steady by tomorrow morning, mortgage rates will be even lower. [30YR FIXED - 4.0-4.125%]
CR Note: The decline in mortgage rates - from around 5% late last year, to 4% - is a key factor in the pickup in new home sales.

A few Comments on April New Home Sales

by Calculated Risk on 5/23/2019 01:01:00 PM

New home sales for April were reported at 673,000 on a seasonally adjusted annual rate basis (SAAR). Sales for March were revised up to 723,000, a new high for this cycle.   Sales in January and February were also revised up.

My view has been that we'd see further growth in New Home sales.  Last month I wrote: "My guess is we haven't seen the peak of this cycle yet."   Didn't take long!

Earlier: New Home Sales decreased to 673,000 Annual Rate in April, March Revised up to New Cycle High.

New Home Sales 2017 2018Click on graph for larger image.

This graph shows new home sales for 2018 and 2019 by month (Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate).

Sales in April were up 7.0% year-over-year compared to April 2018.

Year-to-date (just through April), sales are up 6.7% compared to the same period in 2018.  This comparison was the most difficult in the first half of 2018, so this is a strong start for 2019.

And here is another update to the "distressing gap" graph that I first started posting a number of years ago to show the emerging gap caused by distressed sales.

Distressing GapThe "distressing gap" graph shows existing home sales (left axis) and new home sales (right axis) through April 2019. This graph starts in 1994, but the relationship had been fairly steady back to the '60s.

Following the housing bubble and bust, the "distressing gap" appeared mostly because of distressed sales.

Even though distressed sales are down significantly, following the bust, new home builders focused on more expensive homes - so the gap has only closed slowly.

I still expect this gap to close.   However, this assumes that the builders will offer some smaller, less expensive homes.

Distressing GapAnother way to look at this is a ratio of existing to new home sales.

This ratio was fairly stable from 1994 through 2006, and then the flood of distressed sales kept the number of existing home sales elevated and depressed new home sales. (Note: This ratio was fairly stable back to the early '70s, but I only have annual data for the earlier years).

In general the ratio has been trending down since the housing bust, and this ratio will probably continue to trend down a little more.

Note: Existing home sales are counted when transactions are closed, and new home sales are counted when contracts are signed. So the timing of sales is different.

Kansas City Fed: "Growth in Tenth District Manufacturing Activity Continued at a Modest Pace"

by Calculated Risk on 5/23/2019 11:00:00 AM

From the Kansas City Fed: Growth in Tenth District Manufacturing Activity Continued at a Modest Pace

The Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City released the May Manufacturing Survey today. According to Chad Wilkerson, vice president and economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, the survey revealed that growth in Tenth District manufacturing activity continued at a modest pace, and expectations for future activity remained generally solid.

Regional factory growth was sluggish again in May,” said Wilkerson. “Several firms noted that new tariffs were disrupting activity.”
...
The month-over-month composite index was 4 in May, similar to a reading of 5 in April but down from 10 in March. The composite index is an average of the production, new orders, employment, supplier delivery time, and raw materials inventory indexes. Growth continued to grow modestly at most durable and nondurable production plants, with stronger growth for food, plastics, and metals products. Most month-over-month indexes slowed slightly in May but remained positive, with production, shipments, and new orders indexes all decreasing. In contrast, the employment index rebounded from 2 to 5, and both inventory indexes also increased. Most year-over-year factory indexes showed little change, with the composite index inching higher from 22 to 23. The future composite index also edged up, moving from 11 to 12, and most future factory activity indexes remained stable or moved slightly higher.
emphasis added
A couple of industry comments:
“The increased costs of steel and plastic are crippling us.”

“April was a down month but May will be worse. Tariffs will force us to reduce our workforce and increase costs to the consumer.”

New Home Sales decreased to 673,000 Annual Rate in April, March Revised up to New Cycle High

by Calculated Risk on 5/23/2019 10:19:00 AM

The Census Bureau reports New Home Sales in April were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) of 692 thousand.

The previous three months were revised up.

"Sales of new single‐family houses in April 2019 were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 673,000, according to estimates released jointly today by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. This is 6.9 percent below the revised March rate of 723,000, but is 7.0 percent above the April 2018 estimate of 629,000."
emphasis added
New Home SalesClick on graph for larger image.

The first graph shows New Home Sales vs. recessions since 1963. The dashed line is the current sales rate.

Even with the increase in sales over the last several years, new home sales are still somewhat low historically.

The second graph shows New Home Months of Supply.

New Home Sales, Months of SupplyThe months of supply increased in April to 5.9 months from 5.6 months in March.

The all time record was 12.1 months of supply in January 2009.

This is near the top of the normal range (less than 6 months supply is normal).
"The seasonally‐adjusted estimate of new houses for sale at the end of April was 332,000. This represents a supply of 5.9 months at the current sales rate."
New Home Sales, InventoryOn inventory, according to the Census Bureau:
"A house is considered for sale when a permit to build has been issued in permit-issuing places or work has begun on the footings or foundation in nonpermit areas and a sales contract has not been signed nor a deposit accepted."
Starting in 1973 the Census Bureau broke this down into three categories: Not Started, Under Construction, and Completed.

The third graph shows the three categories of inventory starting in 1973.

The inventory of completed homes for sale is still somewhat low, and the combined total of completed and under construction is a little low.

New Home Sales, NSAThe last graph shows sales NSA (monthly sales, not seasonally adjusted annual rate).

In April 2019 (red column), 66 thousand new homes were sold (NSA). Last year, 61 thousand homes were sold in April.

The all time high for April was 116 thousand in 2005, and the all time low for April was 30 thousand in 2011.

This was close to expectations of 678 thousand sales SAAR, and sales in the three previous months were revised up significantly.  And sales in March were revised up to a new cycle high. I'll have more later today.

Weekly Initial Unemployment Claims Decrease to 211,000

by Calculated Risk on 5/23/2019 08:32:00 AM

The DOL reported:

In the week ending May 18, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 211,000, a decrease of 1,000 from the previous week's unrevised level of 212,000. The 4-week moving average was 220,250, a decrease of 4,750 from the previous week's unrevised average of 225,000.
emphasis added
The previous week was unrevised.

The following graph shows the 4-week moving average of weekly claims since 1971.

Click on graph for larger image.


The dashed line on the graph is the current 4-week average. The four-week average of weekly unemployment claims decreased to 220,250.

This was below the consensus forecast.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Thursday: New Home Sales, Unemployment Claims

by Calculated Risk on 5/22/2019 07:04:00 PM

Thursday:
• At 8:30 AM ET, The initial weekly unemployment claims report will be released.  The consensus is for 217 thousand initial claims, up from 212 thousand last week.

• At 10:00 AM, New Home Sales for April from the Census Bureau. The consensus is for 678 thousand SAAR, down from 692 thousand in March.

• At 11:00 AM, the Kansas City Fed manufacturing survey for May.