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Market Minute - October 21, 2019

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Housing/Real Estate Market 

Historically low rates bolster California September home sales: The sale of existing single-family homes in September grew 5.8% when compared to 12 months ago and it marked the 3rd consecutive year-over-year gain and the largest in 2 ½ years. Similarly, the median home price remained above 600K for the 6th straight month and in fact had the largest yearly gain of 4.7% in nearly 12 months.

CoreLogic August home prices increased nationwide by 3.6% from a year ago: The modest increase in August actually marked a big slowdown from a year earlier when the U.S. index was up 5.5%. In fact, prices increased by 8.4% last August, which means that the moderation in home-price growth combined with lower interest rates provide a window of opportunity to entry-level buyers.

Home builders are the most optimistic since early 2018: Low interest rates have boosted confidence among residential builders in October, resulting in a 20-month index high of 71 from 68 the month prior. Just 10 month ago when interest rates were hovering around 4.5%, the home builders’ confidence index stood at 3 ½-year low of 56. Today, builder confidence has surged to 71 and their expectations index rose nearly to a post-recession peak.

U.S. builders remain upbeat despite big drop in housing starts: The construction of new houses fell 9.4% in September, but builders are confident and optimistic on the future as a recent surge in permits suggest the decline in housing starts is only temporary. The number of housing starts slid to 1.26 million from a revised 1.39 in August, but the slowdown was mainly as a result of a tumbling drop off in construction of multifamily or buildings with 5 or more units, which had a decline of 28.2%.

Macro Economy

California sees solid job growth in September: To be exact, 21,300 jobs were added in September across all industries and geographies, adding up to 320,000 jobs over the past year. What’s more, California’s unemployment rate has fallen to a new era low of 4.0% providing more evidence that the state has all the right fundamentals of a strong economy.

After strong summer, retail sales break 6-month winning streak: Sales at U.S. retailers declined in September for the first time in 7 months and most stores even posted lower receipts. This could mean a slowdown in consumer spending, which has been hinted and sort of expected as their confidence diminished as a result of growing concerns of a slowing economy.

Industrial production falls by most in 5 months: Excluding autos, U.S. industrial output fell 0.2% in September, but a total decline of 0.4% which marked the biggest drop since April. However, decline was pushed lower by GM month-long strike which stalled production from one of the biggest manufacturers of autos in the U.S. That said, for the Q3, industrial production rose at a 1.2% annual rate after declines of about 2% in Q1 & Q2.

Weekly jobless claims rise slightly to 214,000 in mid-October: While the number of people who applied for unemployment benefits in the second week of October rose slightly, layoffs nationally remain near a 50-year low and continue to show no signs of rising despite an evident slowdown in U.S. economy.

Consumer credit growth weakens a bit: Credit card borrowing dropped in August after rising strongly the month prior and led to slower growth in consumer debt. Total consumer credit increased $17.9 billion or an annual growth rate of 5.2%, while borrowing in July went up by $23 billion. As more evidence continues to signal a slowing economy, consumers are becoming a little more conservative with their borrowing.

U.S. small business optimism weakens in September: Optimism among small-business owners fell last month, mainly as a result of growing tariff concerns and uncertainty about the future of the economy. Despite remaining near all-time high, the index dipped 1.3 points from 103.1 to 101.8 as about 30% of owners surveyed said they were negatively affected by tariffs.

Wholesale prices sink in September and point to lower inflation ahead: The wholesale cost of U.S. goods and services posted the steepest decline in September since the first month of the year. The index sank 0.3%, countering most of the gains from the previous two months and wholesale inflation also dropped to the lowest level in almost 3 years from 1.8% to 1.4%.

Consumer price index unchanged at 1.7% in the last 12 months: The increase in the cost of living over the past 12 months was unchanged in September, partly due to falling prices for gasoline and used vehicles. The low rate of inflation from CPI and other price barometers, should give the Fed more room to trim rates if growth in the economy continues to slow.

Job openings fall to 1 ½-year low as hiring and the economy slow: While there’s still plenty of job openings, the labor market seems to be cooling off as the economy slows largely due to growing concerns of uncertainty as a result of escalating discourse with China. Job openings nationwide fell in August for the 3rd month consecutively and coinciding with a decline in hiring and business grow weary of the near future.

Weekly jobless claims fell 10,000 and show no signs of rising layoffs: The early metric for unemployment remains extremely low despite slowing economy. Application for U.S. unemployment benefits declined 10,000 to 210,000 in early October, even as the number of job openings have fallen 8% since January and hiring has also slowed.    

Real Estate Finance

Mortgage rates jump 12 basis points: The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) increased from 3.57% the week prior to 3.69% the week ending on October 17. Despite this week’s uptick in mortgage rates, the housing market has seen improvements in construction and homes sales, mainly due to the low rate environment we’ve been experiencing for the last few months as compared to last year.

Mortgage applications inch up: Mortgage applications increased slightly by a half of a percent (0.5%) from the week prior, meanwhile the refinance index continued to have another healthy increase of 4%. Refinance activity is now 199% higher than a year ago, providing more evidence that existing don’t mind shopping for a cheaper rate and compared to last year, now it is a great time to do that. However, even though new purchase applications jumped by 4%, growth has slowed for the second consecutive week, suggesting that lower rates aren’t everything and other fundamental issue like lack of housing inventory and high prices are preventing purchase activity from meaningfully rising.

Past Market Minutes
September 30, 2019 - home building activity soars 12%, consumer confidence sinks to 3-month low
September 23, 2019 - Home sales get a boost from low interest rates, weekly jobless claims inch up
September 16, 2019 - LA rents growing slower than national rents, mortgage applications increase
September 9, 2019 - Pending home sales fall, consumer spending surges, trade deficit dips

For previous weeks visit our archive folder.

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