The Housing Chronicles Blog: 4/1/18 - 5/1/18

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

March Investor Confidence Index rose 3.0 points from February

The Global Investor Confidence Index increased to 114.5, up 3.0 points from March's revised reading of 111.5. Investors across all regions expressed an appetite for risk, with the North American ICI increasing from 109.1 to 112.3.

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March consumer confidence rebounded moderately from February

Consumer confidence increased moderately in April after a decline in March. Consumers' assessment of current conditions improved somewhat, with consumers rating both business and labor market conditions quite favorably. Consumers' short-term expectations also improved, with the percent of consumers expecting their incomes to decline over the coming months reaching its lowest level since December 2000.

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February Case-Shiller Index up 0.4 percent from January and 6.1 percent year-on-year

The S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price NSA Index reported a 6.3% annual gain in February, up from 6.1% in the previous month.  Before seasonal adjustment, the National Index posted a month-over-month gain of 0.4% in February.

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February FHFA House Price Index up 0.6 percent from January and 7.2 percent year-on-year

The FHFA House Price Index (HPI) reported a 0.6-percent increase in U.S. house prices in February from the previous month. From February 2017 to February 2018, house prices were up 7.2 percent.

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March new home sales up 4.0 percent from February and 8.8 percent year-on-year

Sales of new single-family houses in March 2018 were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 694,000. This is 4.0 percent above the revised February rate of 667,000 and is 8.8 percent above the March 2017 estimate of 638,000.

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Monday, April 23, 2018

US private sector output rises solidly in April, underpinned by fastest new order growth since March 2015

US private sector output rises solidly in April, underpinned by fastest new order growth since March 2015. At 54.8 in April, up from 54.2 in March, the seasonally adjusted IHS Markit Flash U.S. Composite PMI Output Index indicated a faster upturn in business activity across the private sector.

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March Chicago Fed National Activity index fell due to slower growth

Led by slower growth in production- and employment-related indicators, the Chicago Fed National Activity Index (CFNAI) declined to +0.10 in March from +0.98 in February. The index's three-month moving average, CFNAI-MA3, decreased to +0.27 in March from +0.31 in February.

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March existing home sales up 1.1 percent from February but still down 1.2 percent year-on-year

Total existing-home  sales rose 1.1 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.60 million in March. Despite last month's increase, sales are still 1.2 percent below a year ago. The median existing-home price for all housing types in March was $250,400, up 5.8 percent from March 2017 ($236,600).

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Thursday, April 19, 2018

Initial unemployment claims dip 1,000 in weekly report

In the week ending April 14, initial unemployment claims were 232,000, a decrease of 1,000 from the previous week's unrevised level of 233,000. The 4-week moving average was 231,250, an increase of
1,250 from the previous week's unrevised average of 230,000.

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Mortgage applications rise 4.9 percent, rates flat

The Market Composite Index increased 4.9 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis from one week earlier, with purchase loans up 6.0 percent and refinances up 4.0 percent. The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages remained unchanged at 4.66 percent.

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April Philadelphia Fed's Business Outlook Survey positive, but prices rising

Results from the April Manufacturing Business Outlook Survey suggest continued growth for the region's manufacturing sector. The firms also reported higher prices for both inputs and their own manufactured goods this month. The survey's future indexes, measuring expectations for the next six months, reflected continued optimism.

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March Leading Economic Index up 0.3 percent, but labor market bears watching

The U.S. LEI increased 0.3 percent in March, and while the monthly gain is slower than in previous months, its six-month growth rate increased further and points to continued solid growth in the U.S. economy for the rest of the year.  However, labor market components made negative contributions in March and bear watching in the near future.

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First Quarter Economic Update: Green Shoots Everywhere, but Tariff Impacts Unknown

By almost all measures, the U.S. economy continues to strengthen, for the 3rd-longest recovery of 33 different business cycles since 1854.

As of mid-April, GDP growth is estimated to have risen by 2.0 percent during the first quarter of 2018, but was recently downgraded with concerns about potential trade wars.  This growth rate compares to 2.3 percent in 2017 and 1.5 percent in 2016.

So far this year, inflation is being tamed by regular, planned rate hikes by the Federal Reserve, although the March Producer Price Index showed an annual growth rate of 3.0 percent, which suggests that businesses are facing higher costs before passing them into consumers.

While job growth did dip to 103,000 positions in March, the first quarter’s average of 202,000 is still up by nearly 14 percent from the same period of 2017.

The tax cut taking effect as of January 1st, besides giving an extra boost to corporate spending, has also led to an increase in the personal savings rate of consumers, rising one full percentage point directly before and after the law took effect. 

Not surprisingly, this extra kick in paychecks has sent  consumer sentiment soaring to highs not seen since just after the turn of the 21st century.

This has been, in essence, a Goldilocks economy: Running just hot enough to warrant gradual interest rate hikes to keep it from overheating while still providing consumers both the spending power and the confidence for optional purchases including homes, autos, travel and entertainment.

If there is a concern on the immediate horizon for the building industry, it’s the impact of tariffs on the economy in general, and homebuilding in particular.  Prior to the tariffs of three to 24 percent assessed on Canadian software lumber, new home prices were based more on factors such as location, quality and competition than construction costs alone.

Since then, however, prices have risen sharply, with the pricing premium for new versus existing homes rising to 35 percent, when 10 to 20 percent has been closer to the historical norm.

The cost increase has also had an impact on home prices, as more existing homeowners looking to upgrade stay put until more new home options become available.  More recently, ‘panic buying’ of foreign steel and aluminum to beat additional tariffs was mentioned by an Institute of Supply Management Report, driving up short-term prices and causing inventory shortages for spot buyers.

For their part, home builders are doing everything they can to ramp up production, with March building permits and housing starts up 7.5 and 10.9 percent, respectively, compared to a year ago.

Yet most of these gains were for multi-family homes, pointing to continuing challenges including not just the Canadian tariffs, but also finding suitable land and construction labor. 

In addition, with a recent report noting that average pay in construction is now nearly ten percent higher than for all private employees, these extra costs must either be absorbed by the builder or passed along in the form of higher prices.

Even with higher prices, however, one area in which builders have the upper hand over most existing homes is with green building.  

According to a study by the global consultancy Booz Allen Hamilton, green building was projected to grow at over 15 percent year-over-year from 2015 through 2018, not only outpacing overall construction spending, but also showing a significant impact on GDP, employment and earnings over the previous three-year study period.

More specifically, this growth would support an additional 3.9 million jobs and generate over $303 billion to GDP.

Green building is also a great investment in the future.  According to a report to the California Sustainable Building Task Force, upfront spending of two percent of overall construction costs can, over a structure’s lifetime, yield savings of more than ten times the initial outlay.

For new homes, estimates during the first quarter of 2018 would indicate year-over-year sales activity up by about 0.5 percent, with prices rising by 4.6 percent.

In the larger, existing home sales market, with February’s pending home sales activity falling by just over four percent year-over-year, NAR is adjusting their estimates for 2018 accordingly.  The group is now calling for annual sales to be flat versus 2017, and for home prices to rise by 4.2 percent following a 5.8-percent increase in 2017.

Still, the 4.2 percent growth rate would imply that Americans continue to view owning a home as an important investment, even if tax reform removed some of the benefits.  The homeownership dream lives on.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

February business inventories up 0.6 percent from January and 4.0 percent year-on-year

February manufacturers' and trade inventories were up 0.6 percent from January 2018 and 4.0 percent year-on-year.  February sales were up 0.4 percent from January 2018 and 5.8 percent year-on-year.

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March industrial production up 0.5 percent from February and 4.3 percent year-on-year

Industrial production rose 0.5 percent in March and is up 4.3 percent year-on-year. Capacity utilization for the industrial sector moved up 0.3 percentage point in March to 78.0 percent, a rate that is 1.8 percentage points below its long-run (1972-2017) average.

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March housing starts rebound 1.9 percent from February and 10.9 percent year-on-year

Privately-owned housing starts in March were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,319,000. This is 1.9 percent above the revised February estimate of 1,295,000 and is 10.9 percent above the March 2017 rate of 1,189,000.

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March building permits rebound 2.5 percent from February and 7.5 percent year-on-year

Privately-owned housing units authorized by building permits in March were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,354,000. This is 2.5 percent above the revised February rate of 1,321,000 and is 7.5 percent above the March 2017 rate of 1,260,000.

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Monday, April 16, 2018

February job openings fell 2.8 percent from January, hires and separations fell by a lesser amount

The number of job openings fell by 2.8 percent between the last days of January and February.  Over the month, hires and separations fell by 1.2 and 2.4 percent, respectively.

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Consumer sentiment slips in early April survey due to trade policy concerns

Consumer sentiment slipped in early April, largely reversing the gains recorded in the prior two months, mainly due to concerns about the potential impact of Trump's trade policies on the domestic economy. The small decline was widely shared by all age and income subgroups and across all regions of the country. The expectation of rising interest rates also slowed the anticipated pace of growth in the economy.

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March retail sales rebound 0.6 percent following three straight declines

U.S. retail sales rebounded in March by 0.6 percent after three straight monthly declines as households boosted purchases of motor vehicles and other big-ticket items.

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Builder confidence dips one point to 69 in April, still remains on firm ground

Builder confidence in the market for newly-built single-family homes edged down one point to a level of 69 in April.  The HMI index gauging buyer traffic held steady at 51, the chart measuring sales expectations in the next six months fell a single point to 77, and the component gauging current sales conditions dropped two points to 75.

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Friday, April 13, 2018

Initial unemployment claims decrease 9,000 in weekly report

In the week ending April 7, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 233,000, a decrease of 9,000 from the previous week's unrevised level of 242,000. The 4-week moving average was 230,000, an increase of 1,750 from the previous week's unrevised average of 228,250.

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Mortgage applications decline 1.9 percent in weekly report

The Market Composite Index decreased 1.9 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis from one week earlier, with both purchase and refinances down 2.0 percent. The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with decreased to 4.66 percent from 4.69 percent.

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Bloomberg: Weekly Consumer Comfort Index rebounds to fresh 17-year high

Increased optimism about personal finances and the buying climate propelled the U.S. Consumer Comfort Index last week to a fresh 17-year high of 58.0 as a strong job market and more take-home pay boosted the outlook.

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Federal Reserve March meeting minutes show upward revisions to GDP estimates

Participants generally saw the news on spending and the labor market over the past few quarters as being consistent with continued above-trend growth and a further strengthening in labor. The FOMC unanimously voted to approve a quarter-point rate hike, bringing the target range to 1.5 percent to 1.75 percent. Along with the rate hike came upward revisions to the committee's expectations for GDP, which it now sees at 2.7 percent in 2018 and 2.4 percent in 2019.

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March new home purchase applications down 14 percent from February and 2.6 percent year-on-year

The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) Builder Application Survey (BAS) data for March 2018 shows mortgage applications for new home purchases decreased 2.6 percent compared to March 2017. Compared to February 2018, applications increased by 14 percent. This change does not include any adjustment for typical seasonal patterns.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Spring selling season is here! Tips for saving money and your sanity during a move.

Moving is stressful!

There’s no way around that fact. Adults, kids, and even pets feel the strain of packing up everything and hauling it to a new location.

For many people, just the thought of having to pack and then unpack their entire home is enough to trigger stress. Not to mention the added angst of paying for the move.

A move may be inevitable, but the anxiety doesn’t have to be. After conferring with the experts at Allied Van Lines it was clear there are a few things people can do to make a move less stressful.

Start Early

Life doesn’t stop because you’re moving. The #1 way to ease the stress of a move is to start early. The more time you give yourself the less rushed you’ll feel. You’ll have time to research everything and can take your time getting things packed up in an organized manner.

Planning a move well in advance also comes with another advantage - you’ll save money. When you have weeks or months before a move you can begin looking for deals on packing supplies and comparing service provider costs. There’s no pressure to simply use the first option you find.

Ideally, you should give yourself at least a month to move. Some to-dos, like updating your address, must be done a few weeks in advance. However, if you’re moving during the busy summer months give yourself even more time. Top-rated movers tend to get booked early so you’ll need to make a reservation a month or more before the move date.

Choose the Right Movers

If you’ve ever read moving company reviews, then you already know there’s a lot of variation in services and quality. Most moving companies can handle a standard, local move, but there’s no guarantee beyond that.

If you’re moving long-distance or have odd items to move it’s best to hire a moving company that specializes in those services.

Making a long move and packing up items like a pool table requires a certain level of expertise. Hiring movers who are ill-equipped for the job will only add to the stress and expense.

One thing you’ll want to verify is that the moving company is licensed, bonded and insured. This will give you peace of mind that you’re working with a legitimate company that can cover the costs if anything is damaged in transit.  

Create a Personal Moving Plan

Projects seem to move more smoothly when a plan is in place. It’s tempting to hit the ground running after deciding to make a move, but you’ll save time and money by creating a personal moving plan.

Start by determining your timeline. It should begin with the present day and end on the moving day. 

Next, determine what outside services will be needed and when you’ll need them. Then come up with a schedule for packing up the house. It’s usually best to start as early as possible with items that aren’t used often, like seasonal sporting equipment and clothes.

Finally, add in all the other related to-dos such as updating financial account info and cleaning the house.

Hopefully, your moving company is willing to help with the process. It’s a standard part of the service provided by Allied Van Lines, but that doesn’t mean every mover will be on board during the planning phase.

Clear Out What You Don’t Plan to Keep

There’s one clear way you can make the most of a move. It’s the perfect time to clear out the clutter that’s just taking up space.

We all have items around the house that haven’t seen the light of day since the last move. Why waste time and money packing up things you’ll never actually use?

Before you begin packing, go through each room, closet, etc. and separate items into four piles: keep, give away/sell, donate and trash. If you have trouble getting rid of things ask a friend or family member to help during the purging process.

Take Breaks Throughout the Moving Process

It’s easy to get burned out during a move, especially if you’re working full-time or have small children to look after. Adding hours of work a day to your already busy schedule will quickly lead to burnout. And if you really run yourself ragged you increase your risk of getting sick.

You can ward off the effects of stress and fatigue by taking breaks. If you have the time, give yourself a full day to step away from the moving agenda. Focus on relaxing “me time” and taking care of yourself. It’s the perfect time to treat yourself to a massage or hit the gym for endorphin-releasing exercise.

With a little luck and a lot of preparation, you’ll get through the move without too much stress.

HomeSphere March report: Nearly 40 percent of builders reporting negative impact from higher interest rates

Highlights from HomeSphere/BTIG building industry report – March 2018

  • 39% of builders reported some negative impact to sales related to higher interest rates
  • 69% of builders raised some or all base prices month/month (with zero of 81 reporting decreases)
  • 29% reported that sales were better than internal expectations


CoreLogic: January delinquency rates dipped to 4.9 percent, foreclosed mortgages down to 0.6 percent

CoreLogic:  In January, 4.9 percent of mortgages were in some stage of delinquency (30 days or more past due, including those in foreclosure), down 0.2 percentage points year-on-year.   The foreclosure inventory rate - which measures the share of mortgages in some stage of the foreclosure process - was 0.6 percent, down 0.2 percentage points year-on-year.

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April business inflation expectations edge up to 2.3 percent, highest measure since October 2011

Firms' inflation expectations increased to 2.3 percent over the year ahead, the highest measure since the survey began in October 2011.

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CPI up 0.1 percent in March, 2.4 percent year-on-year

The Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) decreased 0.1 percent in March and was up 2.4 percent year-on-year, and notably higher than the 1.6-percent average annual rate over the past 10 years. The index for all items less food and energy increased 0.2 percent in March and 2.1 percent year-on-year, for its largest 12-month increase since the period ending February 2017.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2018

March small business optimism dips slightly from record highs

The small business optimism index reached its 16th consecutive month in the top five percent of 45 years of survey readings. The 104.7 March reading, down from 107.6 in February, remains among the highest in survey history and for the first time since 1982, taxes received the fewest number of votes as the number one problem.



Producer Price Index up 0.3 percent in March, 3.0 percent year-on-year

The Producer Price Index for final demand advanced 0.3 percent in March, as prices for both final demand services and final demand goods rose 0.3 percent. The final demand index increased 3.0 percent for the 12 months ended in March.

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Monday, April 9, 2018

February trade deficit widens to highest level since October 2008

The goods and services deficit was $57.6 billion in February, up $0.9 billion from $56.7 billion in January. This is the highest U.S. trade deficit since October 2008.

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February consumer credit use grew by sluggish rate, especially for credit cards

Consumer borrowing increased at a sluggish pace in February, increasing $10.6 billion in February vs. $15.1 expected, and posting an annual growth rate of 3.3%.

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Friday, April 6, 2018

March job growth dips to 103,000, unemployment rate unchanged at 4.1 percent

Total nonfarm payroll employment edged up by 103,000 in March, and the unemployment rate was unchanged at 4.1 percent.   This was the lowest rate of job growth since September 2017. Employment increased in manufacturing, health care, and mining.


The labor force participation rate, at 62.9 percent, changed little in March, and the employment-population ratio held at 60.4 percent.


Thursday, April 5, 2018

Initial unemployment claims rise 24,000 in weekly report

In the week ending March 31, initial unemployment claims were 242,000, an increase of 24,000 from the previous week's revised level. The 4-week moving average was 228,250, an increase of 3,000 from the previous week's revised average.

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Mortgage applications dip 3.3 percent, rates remain unchanged

The Market Composite Index decreased 3.3 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis from one week earlier, with purchase loans down by 2.0 percent and refinance activity falling 5.0 percent. The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages remained unchanged at 4.69 percent.

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Bloomberg: Consumer Comfort Index rebounds to 17-year high of 57.2

U.S. consumer comfort advanced last week to a fresh 17-year high of 57.2 as greater optimism about household finances and the buying climate more than offset a deterioration in views about the economy.

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March planned job cuts up 71 percent from February and 39 percent year-on-year

Job cuts announced by U.S.-based employers surged in March to 60,357, a 71 percent increase from February and 39 percent higher year-on-year. Last month's total is the highest monthly total since April 2016.

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Wednesday, April 4, 2018

March online advertised vacancies up 2.2 percent from February and 3.7 percent year-on-year

Online advertised vacancies were 4,819,700 in March, up 2.2 percent from February and 3.7 percent year-on-year. The February Supply/Demand rate stands at 1.42 unemployed for each advertised vacancy, with a total of 2.0 million more unemployed workers than the number of advertised vacancies.

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Service sector index dipped 0.7 points in March to 58.8, business conditions remain positive

The NMI® registered 58.8 percent, which is 0.7 percentage point lower than the February reading of 59.5 percent. The cooling off of the New Orders Index possibly prevented an even stronger reading for the overall index. The majority of respondents remain positive about business conditions.

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Factory goods orders rebounded 1.2 percent, nearly erasing January's decline

New orders for U.S.-made goods rebounded 1.2 percent in February, boosted by strong demand for transportation equipment and a range of other products.  This increase nearly matches January's revised decline of 1.3 percent.

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ADP: Private sector employment up 241,000 in March vs. 122,000 year-on-year

Private-sector employment increased by 241,000 from February to March, on a seasonally adjusted basis. This compares to 246,000 in February and 122,000 during the same month of 2017.

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Tuesday, April 3, 2018

March multi-family rents up 2.5 percent year-on-year while occupancy rates dip to 95.2 percent

The average multifamily rent in the U.S. rose $4 to $1,371 in March, a 2.5 percent year-over-year increase, according to a survey of 121 markets by Yardi Matrix. This uptick was the first increase since summer 2017, as rents had not moved more than $1 in either direction since July.


The next few months will be telling, however, as rent growth in the first quarter was weak compared to the first quarter of recent years.

National average occupancy rates remained mostly stable at about 95.2 percent.


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CoreLogic: February homes prices up 1.0 percent from January and 6.7 percent year-on-year

CoreLogic:  February home prices increased nationally year over year by 6.7 and on a month-over-month basis, home prices increased by 1 percent in February 2018.


Looking ahead, the CoreLogic HPI Forecast indicates that the national home-price index is projected to continue to increase by 4.7 percent on a year-over-year basis from February 2018 to February 2019, with California leading the climb at a forecasted 10.3 percent year-over-year change.