The Housing Chronicles Blog: 7/1/18 - 8/1/18

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Initial unemployment claims fall to lowest level since December 1969

In the week ending July 14, initial unemployment claims were 207,000, a decrease of 8,000 from the previous week's revised level. This is the lowest level for initial claims since December 6, 1969 when it was 202,000. The 4-week moving average was 220,500, a decrease of 2,750 from the previous week's revised average.

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Mortgage applications fall 2.5 percent as purchase loans slip

The Market Composite Index decreased 2.5 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis from one week earlier, with purchase loans falling 5.0 percent but refinances rising 2.0 percent. The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages increased to 4.77 percent from 4.76 percent.

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June Leading Economic Index rose 0.5 percent after no change in May

The U.S. LEI increased in June by 0.5 percent to 109.8 after being flat in May, pointing to continuing solid growth in the U.S. economy. The widespread growth in leading indicators, with the exception of housing permits which declined once again, does not suggest any considerable growth slowdown in the short-term.

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Wednesday, July 18, 2018

June industrial production rebounded 0.6 from May, up 3.8 percent year-on-year

Industrial production rose 0.6 percent in June after declining 0.5 percent in May. For the second quarter as a whole, industrial production advanced at an annual rate of 6.0 percent, its third consecutive quarterly increase.  At 107.7 percent of its 2012 average, total industrial production was 3.8 percent higher in June than it was a year earlier.

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June building permits dip for third straight month, down 3.0 percent year-on-year

Privately-owned housing units authorized by building permits in June dipped for the third month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,273,000, which is the lowest rate since September 2017. This is also 2.2 percent below the revised May rate of 1,301,000 and is 3.0 percent below the June 2017 rate of 1,312,000.

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June housing starts dip to lowest level since September 2017, down 4.2 percent year-on-year

Privately-owned housing starts in June were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,173,000, dipping to the lowest rate since September 2017. This is 12.3 also below the revised May estimate of 1,337,000 and is 4.2 percent below the June 2017 rate of 1,225,000.

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June new home mortgage applications down 12 percent from May and 8.8 percent year-on-year

June mortgage applications for new home purchases decreased 12 percent since May and were down 8.8 percent year-on-year, but are not seasonally adjusted.  For the first six months of 2018, however, new home applications rose 2.5 percent year-on-year.

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Beige book: Expansion continuing, but tariffs impacting prices and supplies

Economic activity continued to expand across the United States, with 10 of the 12 Federal Reserve Districts reporting moderate or modest growth. The outliers were the Dallas District, which reported strong growth driven in part by the energy sector, and the St. Louis District where growth was described as slight. Manufacturers in all Districts expressed concern about tariffs and in many Districts reported higher prices and supply disruptions that they attributed to the new trade policies.

All Districts reported that labor markets were tight and many said that the inability to find workers constrained growth. Consumer spending was up in all Districts with particular strength in Dallas and Richmond. Contacts reported higher input prices and shrinking margins. Six Districts specifically mentioned trucking capacity as an issue and attributed it to a shortage of commercial drivers. Contacts in several Districts reported slow growth in existing home sales but were not overly concerned about rising interest rates. Commercial real estate was largely unchanged.

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Tuesday, July 17, 2018

June industrial production rebounded 0.6 from May, up 3.8 percent year-on-year


Industrial production rose 0.6 percent in June after declining 0.5 percent in May. For the second quarter as a whole, industrial production advanced at an annual rate of 6.0 percent, its third consecutive quarterly increase.

At 107.7 percent of its 2012 average, total industrial production was 3.8 percent higher in June than it was a year earlier. Capacity utilization for the industrial sector increased 0.3 percentage point in June to 78.0 percent, a rate that is 1.8 percentage points below its long-run (1972–2017) average.


Builder confidence unchanged at 68 in July survey

Builder confidence in the market for newly-built single-family homes remained unchanged at a solid 68 reading in July on the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI). The HMI index measuring current sales conditions remained unchanged at 74. Meanwhile, the component gauging expectations in the next six months dropped two points to 73 and the metric charting buyer traffic rose two points to 52.

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Builder confidence unchanged at 68 in July survey


Builder confidence in the market for newly-built single-family homes remained unchanged at a solid 68 reading in July on the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI).

The HMI index measuring current sales conditions remained unchanged at 74. Meanwhile, the component gauging expectations in the next six months dropped two points to 73 and the metric charting buyer traffic rose two points to 52.

Looking at the three-month moving averages for regional HMI scores, the Northeast rose one point to 57 while the Midwest remained unchanged at 65. The West and South each fell one point to 75 and 70, respectively.


Monday, July 16, 2018

July Empire State Manufacturing Survey index dips two points to 22.6

The headline general business conditions index edged down by over two points to 22.6—still a high level, suggesting a continuation of robust growth. Looking ahead, firms were slightly less optimistic about the six-month outlook than they were last month.

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June retail sales rose 0.5 percent from May and 6.6 percent year-on-year

Retail sales increased 0.5 percent in June, for the largest gain since September 2017, and were up 6.6 percent year-on-year. Total sales for the April 2018 through June 2018 period were up 5.9 percent from the same period a year ago.

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Friday, July 13, 2018

Consumer sentiment slips in mid-July read but still at high level

Consumer sentiment slipped in early July but remained nearly equal to the average in the prior twelve months (97.7) and since the start of 2017 (97.4).  So far, the strength in jobs and incomes has overcome higher inflation and interest rates. The darkening cloud on the horizon, however, is due to rising concerns about the potential negative impact of tariffs on the domestic economy. While consumers may not understand the intricacies of trade theory, they have substantial experience making decisions about the timing of discretionary purchases based on prospective trends in prices.

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Thursday, July 12, 2018

Initial unemployment dip by 18,000 in weekly report

In the week ending July 7, initial unemployment claims were 214,000, a decrease of 18,000 from the previous week's revised level. The 4-week moving average was 223,000, a decrease of 1,750 from the previous week's revised average.

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Mortgage applications up 2.5 percent in weekly survey due to purchase loans, refinances dip

The Market Composite Index increased 2.5 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis from one week earlier, with purchase loans rising 7.0 percent but refinance activity falling 4.0 percent. The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages decreased to 4.76 percent.

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Bloomberg: Consumer comfort rose for fifth-straight week to highest level since mid-April

The Consumer Comfort Index improved for a fifth straight week, buoyed by brighter views of their personal finances and record-high confidence among Republicans. The index rose from 57.6 to 58.0, the highest reading since mid-April and matching the second-strongest reading since February 2001.

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CPI up 0.1 percent in June and 2.9 percent year-on-year

The Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) increased 0.1 percent in June and was up 2.9 percent year-on-year. The index for all items less food and energy rose 0.2 percent in June, and was up 2.3 percent year-on-year.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Mortgage applications up 2.5 percent in weekly survey due to purchase loans, refinances dip

The Market Composite Index increased 2.5 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis from one week earlier, with purchase loans rising 7.0 percent but refinance activity falling 4.0 percent. The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages decreased to 4.76 percent.



Businesses' July Inflation Expectations Hold Firm for the Coming Year

Firms' inflation expectations went unchanged at 2.1 percent over the year ahead.  Sales levels remain "about normal," on average. Profit margins improved somewhat, and year-over-year unit costs decreased somewhat to 1.9 percent, on average.



Wholesale inventories rose faster than expected in May as domestic demand rose

U.S. wholesale inventories were a bit higher than initially estimated in May, rising by 0.6 percent amid strong increases in the stocks of machinery and a range of other goods. Economists expect the pace of inventory accumulation to pick up slightly in the second quarter after weak domestic demand in the first quarter.

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Producer Price Index up 0.3 percent in June and 3.4 percent year-on-year

The Producer Price Index for final demand rose 0.3 percent in June, down from 0.5 percent in May but up from 0.1 percent in April. On an unadjusted basis, the final demand index moved up 3.4 percent for the 12 months ended in June, the largest 12-month increase since climbing 3.7 percent in November 2011.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2018

The Rise of the New Single-Family Rental Home: A Hedge Against Real Estate Cycles


My column for the July edition of Builder & Developer magazine is now posted online.

An excerpt:

In September of 2015, I wrote a column about the introduction of a new product type to the home building marketplace: the single-family home for rent, otherwise known as build-to-rent (B2R). At that time, just a few builders, including Lennar and Toll Brothers, had dipped their toes into these waters, but today it’s being seen as a clever hedge against the boom-and-bust real estate cycles which can test even the best-run companies.

To be sure, it’s not just homebuilders getting into this game. Wall Street-backed companies like Invitation Homes and AmericanHomes4Rent started the trend by buying up cheap, existing single-family homes in foreclosure back in 2012 when home prices were near their lowest, eventually assembling a portfolio of 200,000 units across the country. Even with that rapid growth, their holdings still represent just 1.4 percent of the estimated 14 million single-family rental homes, with most owned by small “mom and pop” operators.


June Small Business Optimism Index dips 0.6 points but still at high level

The Small Business Optimism Index posted its sixth highest reading in survey history for the month of June, at 107.2, down 0.6 from May. Since December 2016, the Index has averaged an unprecedented 105.4, well above the 45-year average of 98 and rivaling the all-time high of 108.0 in July 1983.

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Consumer borrowing picked up in May at fastest rate in six months


Consumer borrowing picked up in May, with total consumer credit increasing at an annual growth rate of 7.6%, which is the fastest pace of credit growth since November.   Most of this was due to revolving credit, like credit cards, which rose by 11.4% in May, and indicating consumers are willing to increase their spending after a slow first quarter of the year.


JOLTS: Job openings dipped 3.0 percent in May as hiring picked up


The number of job openings edged down 3.0 percent to 6.6 million on the last business day of May. Over the month, hires rose 3.1 percent to 5.8 million, while separations rose 0.8 percent to 5.5 million.


Monday, July 9, 2018

The 2018 Gold Nugget Winners: High Art in Architecture, Design and Land Use


One of the things I like best about the building industry is the enormous creativity involved in every stage of the process, especially for decisions made about architecture, design and land use.  This was certainly true again for this year’s Gold Nugget winners at PCBC, ranging from rehabs which are both practical and inspiring, to master plans which seemed to effortlessly take the pulse of today’s culture while still making them relevant to future residents. Following are some profiles of winners in key categories.

There were actually two winners for Best Masterplan Community, divided among urban and suburban locations.  In Honolulu, Ward Village by Howard Hughes Corp. re-imagined a 60-acre parcel once known for heavy industry and commercial fishing into the largest certified LEED-ND Platinum (Neighborhood Development) project of its kind in the U.S.

In between the downtown area and the 30-acre Kewalo Harbor, 4,500 residential units, over one million square feet of retail space, a central plaza and rail station will emerge.  Best of all, by including scores of existing businesses in this redevelopment, Ward Village demonstrated clear respect for the local culture and history.

Yet it was Rancho Mission Viejo’s Esencia in Southern California which took multiple awards for not just Best Masterplan, but also Best Community Land Plan and Best Recreational Use Facility.  The true challenge here was how to best respect the terrain and ranching history of this 890-acre plan while still being able to develop nearly 2,750 homes, 60 acres of retail space and over 16 ranch-themed gathering places, clubhouses and Nature Center.

But the true selling point for Escenia was its integration into the 17,000 acres of an open space preserve, which will eventually become part of the 33,000-acre Southern Subregion Habitat Reserve, one of California’s largest.  The land plan itself was noted for retaining ranch elements including a yurt campground, oak groves, hillside trails and farming, all of which are intended to inspire future generations to respect the land.

In nearby Newport Coast, The New Home Company took top honors for Best Residential Detached Collection with Coral Canyon, an exclusive enclave of 27 homes offering canyon views with a resort feel.  Reportedly inspired by the easy pace of life on the Spanish island Ibiza, judges cited the way in which each home effortlessly blended into the next, creating a cohesive and memorable street scene characterized by neutral colors, bright interiors and flat roofs on all single-story elements.

For an individual, single-family home, it was Plan 9502 at Camelot Homes’ White Horse in Scottsdale, AZ which was named Home of the Year.  In this case, judges cited the way in which this plan updates the classic hacienda footprint into a modern feel, with numerous indoor-outdoor spaces to take advantage of the local climate.

Yet by orienting each of the 50 homes towards its center, the compounds created on these half-acre lots helped to mitigate noise from an adjacent six-lane highway.  The end result was a traditional-looking home outside that was more white-washed farmhouse inside, ultimately creating an unusually unique plan which judges noted “would set a future precedent for the evolution of production housing.”

Clever designs also abounded in the multi-family space, with Trumark Urban’s The Pacific winning Best Multi-Family Community due to what judges said was “transforming what was a detractor and neighborhood eyesore to an exemplary display of positive change.”  What Trumark was able to do was transform a mid-rise, 1960s-style school of dentistry in the middle of the upscale, built-out community of Pacific Heights in San Francisco into 76, LEED Gold-certified luxury condos and townhomes.

They did this by breaking up the previous, Brutalist exterior with a modern take on the classic bay window, repurposing a mechanical building on the roof into four penthouses with terraces, and masking the adjacent parking structure with ten, three-story townhomes. This lower elevation helped better tie the entire project into the lower-density neighborhood, while also improving the overall streetscape.

Finally, it was The Camden’s combination of 287 upscale apartments, a 40,000-square-foot Equinox health club and multiple gathering spaces to maximize socializing which earned this project by Camden Development top honors for Best Mixed-Use Project. 

Built on the site of Paramount Pictures’ first production building in the heart of Hollywood, CA, The Camden not only captures this entertainment-oriented history on a public art wall at the base of each tower, but intentionally markets its units to the young and local ‘industry’ types as not just a home, but also a very convenient place to network.

June Employment Trends Index rebounded from May, up 5.2 percent year-on-year

As expected, after decreasing in May, the Employment Trends Index continued its solid path upwards in June, with positive contributions from all of its components and rising by 5.2 percent year-over-year to 108.94. The labor market will continue to tighten in the coming months, with strong employment growth outpacing the number of people entering the labor force.

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Jobs grew by 213,000 in June, unemployment rate ticked back up to 4.0 percent

Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 213,000 in June, and the unemployment rate rose to 4.0 percent as more job seekers came off of the sidelines. Job growth occurred in professional and business services, manufacturing, and health care, while retail trade lost jobs.

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Friday, July 6, 2018

Gallup: Percent of Americans recognizing robust job market still near record high

Americans continue to recognize a robust U.S. job market, with 65% saying that it is a good time to find a "quality job," similar to 67% in May. These are the highest readings in Gallup's 17-year history of tracking this measure of Americans' views of the employment situation.

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Thursday, July 5, 2018

OECD report discusses left-behind workers in economic growth

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has a new report out which discusses why so many workers in the U.S. feel left behind even with low unemployment and healthy GDP growth.

This is important for the future as the economy continues to transition to one using more technology and robotics. How can we include today's workers in the job markets of tomorrow?

Click here for the entire report: https://lnkd.in/gtPg8GQ

Initial unemployment claims rise by 3,000 in latest report

In the week ending June 30, initial unemployment claims were 231,000, an increase of 3,000 from the previous week's revised level. The 4-week moving average was 224,500, an increase of 2,250 from the previous week's revised average.

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Mortgage applications fall 0.5 percent in weekly report

The Market Composite Index decreased 0.5 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis from one week earlier, with purchase loans up 1.0 percent and refinances falling 2.0 percent. The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages decreased to 4.79 percent.

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Bloomberg: Consumer comfort index reaches 17-year high

Americans' sentiment approached a 17-year high last week on increasingly upbeat views of the economy and personal finances, rising to 57.6. This was the fourth consecutive weekly advance.

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June service sector economy index rises another 0.5 points to 59.1 percent

The June NMI® registered 59.1 percent, which is 0.5 percentage point higher than the May reading of 58.6 percent. There is a continuing concern relating to tariffs, capacity constraints and delivery.

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June planned job cuts up 18 percent from May and 19.6 percent year-on-year

Job cuts announced by U.S.-based employers rose 18 percent to 37,202 in June, and were up 19.6 percent year-on-year.  Although the second quarter saw 25.3 percent fewer cuts than the previous quarter, they were still up 4 percent year-on-year.

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ADP: Private Sector Employment Increased by 177,000 Jobs in June

Private-sector employment increased by 177,000 from May to June, on a seasonally adjusted basis.  This compares with growth of 189,000 in May and 154,000 last June.

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June FOMC meeting minutes: Concern about trade tensions, flattening yield curve

U.S. central bankers discussed whether recession lurked around the corner, and expressed concerns global trade tensions could hit an economy that by most measures looked strong.   In addition, gradual rate hikes could take fed funds rate above neutral level some time next year.

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Tuesday, July 3, 2018

CoreLogic: Home prices increased nationally by 1.1 percent between April and May 2018, and were up 7.1 percent year over year.  Looking ahead, the CoreLogic HPI Forecast indicates that the national home-price index is projected to continue to increase by 0.3 percent in June and 5.1 percent over the next year.

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Durable goods orders rebounded 0.4 percent in May, up 8.7 percent YTD year-over-year

Orders for durable goods bounced back strongly in May, rising by 0.4 percent. So far in 2018, durable goods orders have risen 8.7 percent versus the same period of 2017.

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Monday, July 2, 2018

June manufacturing sector index up 1.5 points to 60.2, tariffs concerns cited for future

The June PMI® registered 60.2 percent, an increase of 1.5 percentage points from the May reading of 58.7 percent. Demand remains robust, but the nation's employment resources and supply chains continue to struggle. Respondents are overwhelmingly concerned about how tariff related activity is and will continue to affect their business.

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May construction spending rose 0.4 percent from April, up 4.5 percent year-on-year

May construction spending rose 0.4 percent from April, and was up 4.5 percent year-on-year.  For the first five months of the year, it was up 4.3 percent year-on-year.

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