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Market Minute - October 15, 2018

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Housing/Real Estate Market

2019 California Housing Market Forecast:
High Home Prices and Eroding Affordability Expected to Cut into Housing Demand:
CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®’ (C.A.R.) forecasts that high home prices and affordability will contribute to a weaker housing market in 2019, and 2018 as home sales will register lower for the first time in four years. There will be a modest decline in existing single-family home sales of 3.3 percent next year to reach 396,800 units, down from the projected 2018 sales figure of 410,460. The 2018 figure is 3.2 percent lower compared with the 424,100 pace of homes sold in 2017.

Construction Spending Flat from Last Month
Up 6.5% Year-Over-Year:
Census Bureau reports that construction spending in August 2018 increased at an annualized rate of $1,315 billion, 0.1% over July’s revised estimate and 6.5% higher than August 2017’s rate. Overall for the month growth dipped in residential market and was positive in the non-residential space.

Apartment Vacancy Rate Up 0.1% to 4.8%, Highest Rate since 2012.
REIS reports that the apartment vacancy rate has increased 70 basis points from Q3 2016 when the rate bottomed at 4.1%, while average asking rent increased 1.2% to $1,424. While the apartment market began to slow through 2018, tax reform and slow housing construction has partially improved the commercial apartment market’s prospects moving forward.   

Macro Economy

September Jobs Report: Unemployment at 3.7%, a 49 Year Low, Economy Grows 134,000 Jobs: BLS reports that the U.S. added a below expectations 134,000 jobs in September as the unemployment rate dropped 0.2% to 3.7%. Previous two months’ employment was revised up a strong combined 87,000 jobs.  Other optimistic signs: real hourly wages growth ticked back to 2.8% for the year, down from last month’s 2.9%; but annualized wage growth for Q3 is a rising 3.4%, the best period since Q4 2008. Year-over-year growth in jobs was a positive seasonally adjusted 2.54 million. Although wage growth was slightly low, the report was strong with little signs of over-heating.

Stock Market Sees Large Drops 
Following Lower Global Growth Forecasts, Interest Rates Passing 5%: Stock markets dropped more than 5% early last week following the combination of rates and expectations of slower global growth. U.S. equities  bounced back on Friday capping a rough and tumble week.

ISM Manufacturing Index Backs Down Slightly in September 
New Orders, Production, Employment Grow, Delivery Growth Slowing: September’s ISM Manufacturing fell to 59.8% from 61.3% in August with strong growth in new orders, production, and employment; backlogs in raw materials, and low customer inventories. The index indicates that manufacturing economic activity continued to grow in September although at a lower rate than August. Costs of raw materials rose for the 31st straight month as “respondents are again overwhelmingly concerned about tariff-related activity, including how reciprocal tariffs will impact company revenue and current manufacturing locations.”

ISM Non-Manufacturing Index Grows Again in August
More Growth in Business Activity, New Orders, and Employment: The ISM’s service-sector index rose to 61.6% in September, up 3.1% from 58.5% in August—well above the threshold of 50 indicating further expansion. Business activity, new orders, and employment all were positive, while the prices index grew again for the 30th straight month.

Small Business Optimism at 3rd Highest Level
, Finding Workers Remains Difficult:
The National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) reports that small business optimism rose to 107.9 in September, within 0.1 point of the previous record high from July 1983. The index was driven by higher expectations of sales, hiring, and overall economic conditions. Twenty-three percent of owners cited finding qualified workers as their most important problem, and a record thirty-seven percent of owners reported raising compensation.

Trade Deficits Grow Again
as Exports Dip Post-Tariffs: The Bureau of Economic Analysis reports that the U.S. trade deficit grew in August  as GDP boosting exports plummeted following tariff implementation. The goods and services deficit grew $3 billion to $53.2 billion. Exports, which totaled $209 billion, dropped down $1.7 billion from July. August imports also grew $1.5 billion to $262.7 billion. Accounting for the changes: in exports, crude oil and soybeans each dropped nearly a billion dollars, while imports of autos and consumer goods / cell phones increased nearly a billion a piece.

Inflation Growth in Line with Fed Expectations in August, Inflation
Increases Slightly Year-over-Year: Increases in consumer prices culminated in a 2.6% CPI median 12-month increase. Core CPI, which strips away food and energy, was up 2.6% for the year. Oil, airline fares, and effects of enacted tariffs caused the increases. Wells-Fargo believes that we will see the Fed on track to continue raising rates once a quarter through Q3-2019.

Consumer Credit Up 6.2% Annually in August; 
Revolving Credit Up 5.5% while Non-Revolving Credit Up 6.5%: The Fed reports that consumer credit increased on a year-to-year basis in August, with consumer credit up by $39 billion. Revolving credit, which is primarily comprised of credit cards, was behind much of the gain with a jump of nearly 100 billion dollars in August. Non-revolving credit (like auto and home loans) experienced stable growth compared with previous months. Debt levels remain relatively “healthy” but will continue to be influenced by rates.

Consumer Expectations of Inflation Steady:
One- and Three-Year Expectations Hold at 3.0 Percent: The New York Fed’s Survey of Consumer Expectations showed that consumers expectations of inflation remained steady at 3% over 1 and 3 year horizons. Consumers’ earnings growth expectations were stable at 2.76%. Consumers also expect higher growth government debt the highest reading since 2015. Finally, home price change expectations remained steady at 3.6% after declining from June’s high reading of 4.9%.

Producer Prices Increased 0.2%;
Demand Index Increased 2.6% for the Year: The producer price index increased slightly from last month, with a 0.2% increase led by transportation and warehousing services, culminating in a 2.6% growth rate for the year. Demand acceleration can be traced to airline passenger services, financial deposits and health outpatient care services. This followed two months of consecutive decreases of 0.1%.

Firm Inflation Expectations Up Slightly For Year Ahead;
Firms Expect Inflation to Increase to 2.3%: Businesses surveyed by the Atlanta Fed’s Business Inflation Expectations Survey expressed beliefs that inflation will be up 2.3% over the year ahead (the previous month’s expectations were 2.2%). They believed that sales levels will remain “about normal,” with profit margins holding steady and year-over-year unit costs increasing to 2.2%  on average.

Wholesale Trade Sales Up 0.8%
Inventories Up 1%: Wholesalers saw sales rose $511.1 billion, up 0.8% from August, but up 9.2% year-over-year on a seasonally-adjusted basis. Inventories rose 1% month-to-month and 9.2% year-over-year, while the inventory-to-sales ratio declined to 1.26 from 1.3 last month. Wholesale trade levels remain strong.

Real Earnings Accelerates Up to 0.3% for September
Average Hourly Earnings Up 0.2%: A 0.4% increase in average hourly earnings was nicked by 0.1% increase in the Consumer Price Index resulting in 0.2% real average hourly earnings increase for employees from August to September. Real average hourly earnings increased 0.5% year-to-year from September 2017. This was a relatively strong increase in wages after several months of anemic wage increases but nowhere near the levels of wage increases expected if the economy were at full employment. 

Import and Export Prices Increase 0.5%, Driven by Fuel Import Price Surge:
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that import prices increased 0.5%, after several months of drops. This large acceleration in import prices was driven by fuel import prices that jumped 3.8% in September, following drops in previous months. Export prices recorded no change in September following two months of declines. Agricultural prices dropped slightly, driven by soybean price declines of 20% for the month of September, while finished goods products (like cars) and industrial supplies increased slightly.

Real Estate Finance

Mortgage Rates Cross 5% Threshold; Not Likely to Decline. Last week Wednesday, effective rates spiked by more than 1.25% the largest single day increase in nearly 2 years, culminating into 7-year mortgage rate highs. By the end of the week, effective rates moved over the 5% threshold despite lower than expected wage gains in the jobs report (real wage growth minus inflation was flat in this report). Still, Freddie Mac’s lagged survey reports that the average mortgage rates were steady with the 30 year at 4.9% with 0.5 points, up from last week’s 4.71%. Rates have edged out of the 4.45% – 4.6% band that has held since April. The 5-year ARM increased to 4.07% with a fee of 0.3 points.

Mortgage Applications Decrease, Refinances also Down:
The Mortgage Bankers Association report indicates that applications declined 1.7% from last week while refinances dipped 3% to 36.1% of the total activity.
Mortgage Fraud Risk Jumped 12% Year-Over-Year, as More Home-Purchase Loans Lie about Higher Incomes.
CoreLogic reports that mortgage fraud risk jumped with one out of 109 applications showing indications of fraud with many borrowers reporting higher incomes to qualify for real-estate purchases. Income reporting fraud risk increased 22% annually.

Single Family Serious Loan Delinquencies Drop
to Lowest Rate since September 2007:
Fannie Mae reported this week that the Single Family Serious Delinquency rate decreased to 0.82% in August down from 0.88%, the lowest level since 2007. For comparison, the delinquency rate peaked in February 2010 at 5.59%.

Past Market Minutes

October 15, 2018,  Construction spending, stock market, mortgage applications
October 1, 2018
, Revised permits, Chicago's fed, mortgage applications
September 24,2018
- Homebuilder sentiment,  economic index, Freddie Mac
September 12,2018 -  Nonresidential construction, consumer expectations, mortgage applications
September 10, 2018
- Construction spending, trade deficit, loan delinquencies

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