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Posts Tagged ‘Case-Shiller’

[Sentiment versus Confidence] Dow Jones Sentiment Index Shows Improvement

August 31, 2009 | 11:20 pm | |

Confidence is more right here and now. Sentiment is more forward looking (it gives a snapshot of whether consumers feel like spending money.)

(a lame appraisal analogy would be estimated market value for a bank appraisal (today) versus anticipated sales price for a relocation appraisal (future))

but I digress…
I continue to be amazed with the types of analysis being done with the subjective nature of what is on the consumer’s mind – or in this case, what journalists are writing about:

The Dow Jones Economic Sentiment Indicator

The ESI, which was first published in April, aims to identify significant turning points in the U.S. economy by analyzing coverage of 15 major daily newspapers in the U.S.

The Dow Jones Economic Sentiment Indicator bottomed last November and has continued to edge higher. Newspaper coverage has become more upbeat about the economy (I assume they assume that consumers are sick of reading about bad news), the number of articles expressing either positive or negative sentiment about the economy has fallen now to approaching a third of the level of its peak in October 2008 following the collapse of Lehman Brothers.

A lot of people are drinking the Kool-aid right now.

I find this particularly ironic since the real estate industry has long blamed “the media” for the making real estate correction worse by “piling on.” However, I find the coverage today to be overly positive from sloppy interpretation of the 4 housing price indices: Case-Shiller Index, NAR Existing Home Sales, Commerce Dept’s New Home Sales and FHFA HPI, showed positive signs.

Actually all indices showed less negative results which were discussed excessively positive.

For example, The Conference Board’s recent Consumer Confidence Index was a little more positive:

Consumers’ assessment of current conditions improved slightly in August. Those claiming business conditions are “bad” decreased to 45.6 percent from 46.5 percent, however, those claiming conditions are “good” decreased to 8.6 percent from 8.9 percent. Consumers’ appraisal of the job market was more favorable this month. Those saying jobs are “hard to get” decreased to 45.1 percent from 48.5 percent, while those claiming jobs are “plentiful” increased to 4.2 percent from 3.7 percent.

While the recent Michigan Sentiment Index showed renewed weakness:

Confidence among U.S. consumers unexpectedly fell in August for a second consecutive month as concern over jobs and wages grew.

The Reuters/University of Michigan preliminary index of consumer sentiment decreased to 63.2, the lowest level since March, from 66 in July. The measure reached a three-decade low of 55.3 in November.

I find the whole thing a bit foggy especially using monthly figures for comparison.

Further reading on this.


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[Case-Shiller Index] Homes Prices Now At 2001 Levels

August 31, 2009 | 1:05 pm | |

Source: NYT (click to expand)



In Floyd Norris’ column this weekend titled After a Bumpy Ride, Back at Square One illustrates how housing prices are back to 2001 after adjusting for inflation.

During the period, the Standard & Poor’s Case-Shiller 20-city composite index of home prices rose almost 21 percent. The Consumer Price Index also rose almost 21 percent.

He concludes…

Now foreclosures are still rising, even as home sales and prices seem to have stabilized. If the worst is over, it will have been a wild ride that ended very close to where it began, but with many people much worse off for the experience.

The takeaway is that home price performance varies significantly by area so the national number doesn’t mean to much to your local market. However, it would appear that because the boom was born out of credit, the housing market may over correct.

Not relevant to post but who cares – aside: How social media are like sex


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[Case-Shiller Index] Up M-O-M 1.4%, Down 15.4% Y-O-Y, Feels Like 2003

August 25, 2009 | 1:20 pm |

From the Case-Shiller Index Report released today:

“For the second month in a row, we’re seeing some positive signs,” says David M. Blitzer, Chairman of the Index Committee at Standard & Poor’s. “The U.S. National Composite rose in the 2nd quarter compared to the 1st quarter of 2009. This is the first time we have seen a positive quarter-over-quarter print in three years. Both the 10-City and 20-City Composites posted monthly increases, as did most of the cities. As seen in both seasonally adjusted and unadjusted data, as well as the charts, there are hints of an upward turn from a bottom. However, some of the hardest hit cities, especially in the Sun Belt, show continued weakness.”

The press release has the monthly 10/20-city, quarterly 10/20-city and national index with monthly and year over year data and references to month, quarter and year are all interspersed so its tough to follow.

Here’s what it looks like – The 10-City and 20-City Composites recorded annual declines of 15.1% and 15.4%, respectively. These are also improvements from their recent respective record losses of -19.4% and -19.1%. The 10-City and 20-City Composites posted their second consecutive monthly increases. Both indices were up 1.4% in June over May, and up 0.5% in May over April. Eighteen of the 20 metro areas saw improvement in their annual returns compared to those of May. Looking at the monthly data, the same 18 metro areas reported positive returns in June.

For the national composite, housing prices rose 2.9% from Q1 to Q2 and fell 14.9% from the prior year quarter before seasonal adjustments.

In other words, the indexes show improvement in the short term.

Shiller notes a change in mindset:

“The animal spirits seem to be coming back,” said Robert Shiller, Yale economics professor and developer of the Standard & Poor’s/Case Shiller Home Price indexes. “The psychology does seem to be changing.”

But Shiller is cautious about the good news:

“The really important things [affecting home prices] are unemployment and momentum,” said Shiller, who is a Yale economist. “We have momentum, which is very important, but we also have high unemployment.”

And, he added, “the government has not yet handled the foreclosure problem.”


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[Westwood Capital] Only 16.9% To Fall, Land Bubbles

August 25, 2009 | 12:21 pm |

Westwood Capital, LLC, an investment bank, led by founder and managing partner Dan Alpert, projected that housing prices would decline by 28.2% from peak based on the Case-Shiller Index as a benchmark. Arguably pessimistic at the time, the 43% decline that actually occurred was a lot more bleak.

Westwood just released a compelling research piece called Reconstructing American Home Values which suggests we are 75% of the way through the decline.

Here’s a few of the salient points presented:

To firmly return to the upper limits of historically justifiable levels of stabile prices relative to rents in particular, we believe the Case-Shiller 20 markets must decline, on average (with considerable differences among markets), by an additional +/-16.9% from May 2009 levels.

In the final years of the housing mania of the 2000s, home buyers not only assumed the price they paid would rise to the moon; they paid more than 50% of their homes’ purchase price toward what was effectively a wildly overpriced option on that presumed growth, relative to the portion that could be reasonably attributed to the cost of shelter. They not only massively overpaid that option; they were also leveraging themselves to the teeth to do so. For the entire period from 1997 through the bubble’s peak in 2006, housing prices in the Case-Shiller 20 metropolitan statistical areas rose by a total of 163.8% before inflation, and 107.6% after inflation is taken into consideration!

In other words, in addition to the cost of shelter, the housing bubble was caused by an irrational jump in the cost of an option to purchase a property’s future price appreciation. The report concludes that that the future appreciation portion of the value equation was over valued by at least 50%.

Another point that was brought up related to the fact that the value of land is attributable to what it can be used for. When housing markets rise, it is really the value of the land that rises rather than the value of the improvements.

I also like the discussion on rent v. sales price disconnect that began in 1997.

A big concern going forward is rent deflation, which is already occuring as many “For Sale” properties are becoming rentals due to the lack of demand.

Here are a few of the charts that interest me from the report:


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[HuffPost] Current Wave of Housing Euphoria May Extend Downturn

July 30, 2009 | 3:02 pm | | Columns |

Here is my latest handiwork for the Huffington Post.

Current Wave of Housing Euphoria May Extend Downturn

The article is below in full if you don’t want to click on the link:

Current Wave of Housing Euphoria May Extend Downturn
Jonathan Miller 7-30-09


The spring housing market is behind us and we are now fully ensconced in summer, able to sit at the beach, sip our drink and watch the waves roll in.

Waves of housing statistics that is.

Seemingly everyone from the consumer to the POTUS has been waiting for a rogue wave that will finally bring some good news on housing. In fact most of us are aching from bad news overload and desperately want good news or at least a temporary reprieve from the bad.

Like the closing scene from the 1973 movie Papillion where Steve McQueen’s character–when trying to escape from the island–determined that every seventh wave was big enough to enable him to float past the rip currents that surrounded the island.

The monthly gauntlet of key housing market reports from the past week show a rising tide of better-than-we-have-heard-in-three-years-news on the state of US housing market.

Here’s a recap:

July 22, 2009 Federal Housing Finance Agency news release headline: “U.S. Monthly House Price Index Estimates 0.9 Percent Price Increase from April to May.” This report reflects sales with conforming mortgages through Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac at or below $417,000 plus the high priced housing markets such as the New York City area that have a $729,750 mortgage cap. Housing markets that rely on conforming mortgages are expected to recover first because the that mortgage market has been the target of recent federal stimulus and bailouts. However the month over month price increase of 0.9% touted in the report headline is the first such increase since February. Although 5 of the 9 regions show a month over month increase in prices only 1 of those 5 regions had an increase in the prior month. In other words, this trend is not very compelling.

July 23, 2009 National Association of Realtors Existing Home Sales report headline: “Existing-Home Sales Up Again” The number of re-sale increased 3.6% in June from May, the third month over month increase in activity. The number of sales was only 0.2% below the level of last year’s activity in the same month. This was largely due the 31% market share of foreclosures, assumed to be purchased by speculators plus the impact of the federal tax credit for first time buyers which expires at the end of November. However, this seasonally adjusted sales 3-peat was also seen at the end of 2006 and the beginning of 2007 before sales activity fell sharply. In other words, this trend is not very compelling.

July 27, 2009 Commerce Department New Home Sale Index headline: “New Residential Sales in June 2009.” This is the report that got everyone excited because of the 11% increase in new home sales month over month and the largest such increase in 8 years. Floyd Norris of the New York Times points out that if you look at the actual number of sales in June, it was the second lowest month of sales on record since the metric was tracked in 1963. In other words, this trend is not very compelling.

July 28, 2009 S&P/Case-Shiller Index “Home Price Declines Continue to Abate.” The 20-City Composite has shown a lower annual rate of decline for 4 consecutive months and 13 of the 20 metro areas posted month over month increases but this is before seasonality is adjusted for. In other words, we expect prices to rise in the spring if they are going to rise at any point during the year. If seasonality is factored in, month over month gains evaporate. In the New York City region, the 20-city composite index doesn’t cover co-ops, condos, foreclosures and new development, more than half the sales activity. In other words, this trend is not very compelling especially after considering that along with the most recent month in the report, the index has declined year over year for 29 straight months.

In a stroke of irony, big media, which was on the receiving end of the real estate industry’s “blaming the media” ire for the past three years–as responsible for making the downturn worse–has taken the positive outlook and run with it. Nearly every major news outlet has begun to report each of these reports by cherry-picking and overweighting the positive elements results in a downright giddy tone. Over the past week, the general sentiment in news coverage is clearly moving towards the positive but mainly confined to the headlines.


As a reporter once told me (and I am paraphrasing) “Negative news only sells for so long – consumers eventually stop reading it as they become become numb to it.”
Perhaps this is best exemplified by yesterday’s kind of thin New York Times page 1 story on housing:

“3-Year Descent in Home Prices Appears At End.”

This was the headline that put me off a bit since the article itself wasn’t very committal to the notion that the housing market has bottomed. Perhaps this is why the web version of the article was titled with a more sedate headline that was more in sync with my view:

“Recovery Signs in Housing Market Stir Some Hope.”

Step back for a second and ask why would the housing market start to improve now to lead the economy?

If more people are losing their jobs and credit remains tight, how can we expect the number of sales and housing prices to over come this. Unemployment is still rising and is expected to continue rising through next year even though the recession could be over right now or close to it. Housing inventory is still high and the number of sales, exclusive of distressed asset sales is still low. Speculators may be on their way to becoming a force again in the market. Mortgage rates are expected to trend higher over the next few years with all the new debt taken on by the federal government. Credit is still very tight, and while there has been some discussion of loosening in mortgage underwriting, banks still aren’t enthusiastic about lending. There appears to be some easing on conforming mortgage underwriting but a chokehold remains on jumbo and new development financing.

Here’s the problem.

Sellers tend to “chase” the market when it is falling, unable to respond to the decline in values as quickly as the market does. If sellers take this positive news too seriously and don’t focus on the realities of their local markets, they may end up being over confident when negotiating a sale, losing the buyer and falling even further behind the market than they would have otherwise, eventually selling for less.

Luxury condo developers and especially the lenders behind them, many of whom are facing stalled projects, could experience a sense of renewed optimism from the recent depiction of the housing market, causing them to miss the market, eventually realizing a larger loss.

So let’s be clear. While I am hopeful that we will see a housing recovery at some point in the future, I’d rather it be real.

In the meantime, I’ll sit at the beach and count the waves.


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[Case-Shiller Index] 18.1% Becomes 17.1%, But M-O-M Is More Positive

July 28, 2009 | 1:35 pm | |

The May 2009 20-City Case-Shiller Composite Home Price Index fell 17.1% from May 2008, the fourth month in a row that the y-o-y rate of decline for the index gotten smaller. 17.1% is still a sharp decline.

We may be on the way to recovery,” said Maureen Maitland, vice president of S&P’s index services. “I say ‘may’ because it’s only been a couple months of data and home prices are seasonal … It will take a couple more months to see if we have turned around.”

This quote from S&P kind of confused me since, S&P/CSI has been seasonally adjusted since November 2008.

What’s got everyone so excited is m-o-m:

Looking at the monthly data, 13 of the 20 metro areas reported positive returns; and the 10-City and 20-City Composites reported positive returns for the first time since the summer of 2006. To put it in perspective, these are the first time we have seen broad increases in home prices in 34 months. This could be an indication that home price declines are finally stabilizing”.

WSJ/Real Time Economics has a nice summary of the release.

Remember, this index tracks prices only, not sales activity. Sales trends lead price trends.

I think the takeaway with the release is that the rate of decline is getting smaller which is a good thing and it does suggest the potential for improvement going forward. But this provides no support that the moment is at hand and its only up from here. Still, I’ll take what I can.

WET BLANKET UPDATE: Confidence among U.S. consumers fell more than forecast in July


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[1987-09] Median Household Income v. Housing Values

July 27, 2009 | 11:31 pm |

I was searching for income trends as they relate to housing and stumbled on this clip at designing better futures. A very clever time lapse presentation of household income versus Case Shiller median housing prices. Love it.

If you like this, he’s got another one that tracks S&P 500 rolling returns movie 1881- 2009 .


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[Confluence and Communion] From The Pope To Prudential, From Bill Gross To Bob Shiller

July 7, 2009 | 11:37 pm | |

Everyone is out there talking about where we are and where we seem to be going. One thing that is rather striking is the lack of spin relative to a few years ago – surprisingly refreshing.

Here’s a few notable individuals’ takes on the-state-of-where-the housingmarket-economy-is-at-right-now.

Pope Benedict XVI (Yes, the Pope): The “economy of communion.” ahem…amen.

The economy needs ethics in order to function correctly — not any ethics whatsoever, but an ethics which is people-centered. Today we hear much talk of ethics in the world of economy, finance and business.

Allen Smith, CEO Prudential Real Estate Investors: Confluence Of Indicators. Here’s the podcast.

Some have spoken about deleveraging. Some have told us about the shrinking of values. Others have said it’s a confidence game — as in, there isn’t any.

William H. Gross, Managing Director, PIMCO: “”Bon” or “Non” Appétit?” I always have to re-read his columns a few times to follow, because the nuances in his delivery are staggering.

Investors who stuffed themselves on a constant diet of asset appreciation for the past quarter-century will now be enclosed in a cage featuring government-mandated, consumer-oriented fasting. “Non Appétit,” not Bon Appétit, will become the apt description for the American consumer, and significant parts of the global economy, including the U.S.

Robert Shiller, Professor of Economics, Yale University:“Bob Shiller didn’t kill the housing market”

When the June Case-Shiller figures were released, he said they showed “striking improvement in the rate of decline.” Asked to look ahead, he says, “My guess is that prices will continue to fall for a while, but at a slower pace, and then stabilize. We’ve become very speculative in our attitude toward real estate, so there could be another boom. But if so, it likely won’t happen for another five to 10 years.”

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Case-Shiller Index: 18.7% Becomes 18.1% = Market Falling, Just Not As Much

June 30, 2009 | 2:54 pm | |

Here’s a cool WSJ interactive map on the results and here is the official CSI press release.

The general media coverage focus on the April S&P Case Shiller numbers talks a lot about the 3rd consecutive month of the ease in the rate of price declines. But the jobs outlook slipped, sapping consumer confidence.

An interesting, and in my view, likely housing double dip may be seen in the Case Shiller Index caused by performance differences in the bottom and and top half the the market.

Here’s the 20-city breakdown:

While the Case Shiller Index isn’t a tool to price specific property or markets, it shows macro trends and does a lot to set consumer housing market psychology.

Here’s Shiller’s interview on Fox Business today (I was interviewed by the same anchors about 30 minutes later on the issue of HVCC) talking about his new trading tool for housing. Mike at Altos Research does a brilliant job explaining how the new ETF works.


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[Interview] Robert Shiller PHD, Yale Professor of Economics, Case Shiller Index, Irrational Exuberance

June 15, 2009 | 12:01 am | | Podcasts |

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[The Housing Helix Podcast] Robert Shiller PHD, Yale Professor of Economics, Case Shiller Index, Irrational Exuberance

June 14, 2009 | 10:46 pm | | Podcasts |


Professor Robert Shiller took time out from his busy schedule when he was in New York to pay me a visit and let me interview him for The Housing Helix Podcast.

I invited him after I read his recent Op-ed piece in the New York Times, Why Home Prices May Keep Falling.

Dr. Shiller is well known for many things, including his New York Time’s bestselling book: Irrational Exuberance and his widely referenced monthly state of the housing market tool, The Case-Shiller Index. But he also continues to write about the housing market, having released two books over the past two years:

Last year’s The Subprime Solution: How Today’s Global Financial Crisis Happened, and What to Do about It

and this year’s

Animal Spirits: How Human Psychology Drives the Economy, and Why It Matters for Global Capitalism

I hope you enjoy his insights.

Check out this week’s podcast.

You can subscribe on iTunes or simply listen to the podcast on my other blog The Housing Helix.


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Wondering If The Negative Gravy Train Has Left The Station?

May 6, 2009 | 12:34 am | |

You’ve got to admire people that go out on a limb and call a market as a contrarian and turn out to be right. It’s a lucrative opportunity for those that are able to monetize it.

There is a lot of discussion lately about a slower pace of decline and that the end may be within the few years. The recession is expected to end at the end of this year and unemployment is expected to top out in about 18 months. In other words, there is plenty of room in the tank for financial opportunities for negativism.

Some notables who seem to continue to do well are:

The Housing Bubble Blog and others like it were screaming that the bubble was going to burst. They were right, despite all efforts by NAR to keep them in check. Ben Jones is one of the most prolific content posters and has the gold standard blog name for the subject. I’ve linked out and have been checking in with his work since late 2005. Although he is a free lance writer, his content appears to be collected by copying full articles from primarily newspapers and magazines around the country – with little or no analysis. Yet he’s consistent and finds a broad array of the key articles of the day. He still attracts hundreds of commenters on every post and all kinds of theories and ideas are shared. He takes donations and has banner ads. He’s created a grass roots feel.

But site traffic is down by more than half over the past year. Are people tiring of the negative?

Professor Robert Shiller, who is a very nice person and has published some terrific work on the wealth effect, economic psychology to name a few, was able to capitalize on the contrarian perspective with his book Irrational Exuberance and the subsequent update to include housing. He called the NASDAQ and housing market bubble correctly and has since released two additional books.

According to Shiller we are looking directly in the face of an enormous “speculative bubble” and the question is not whether stock prices will fall but when!

He tirelessly promoted the S&P/Case Shiller Home Price Index which has become the defacto standard for housing indexes by virtually all news outlets and economists. Despite his efforts and those of S&P, the trading markets for which the index was created, has yet to gain significant traction.

Nouriel Roubini, economics professor at NYU who is also known as Dr. Doom, has been spot on in his calling of the housing bubble. He was so blunt and negative that he quickly gained many detractors.

By late 2004 he had started to write about a “nightmare hard landing scenario for the United States.” He predicted that foreign investors would stop financing the fiscal and current-account deficit and abandon the dollar, wreaking havoc on the economy. He said that these problems, which he called the “twin financial train wrecks,” might manifest themselves in 2005 or, at the latest, 2006. “You have been warned here first,” he wrote ominously on his blog.

I’ve heard his consulting firm RGE Monitor is doing well but I have no way to confirm.

When he spoke at a convention in New York, several people quipped to me that they needed to jump out of a window because the world was ending.

Roubini was known to be a perpetual pessimist, what economists call a “permabear.”

He’s been hard to find fault with, and he fights with Jim Cramer calling him a buffoon. His recent opinion piece in the WSJ called We Can’t Subsidize the Banks Forever was strong, yet was also called to task for misquoting the IMF.

However this info was just released which makes Roubini right once again::

Regulators have told Bank of America that the company needs to raise roughly $35 billion in capital based on results of the government’s stress tests, according to people familiar with the situation.

Thus, I answered my question. The gravy train for pessimism is still in the station.


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