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Tuesday, August 16, 2022
The U.S. housing market is going through it right now.
On Monday, the latest reading on homebuilder sentiment from the National Association of Homebuilders (NAHB) showed the NAHB’s sentiment index fell into “negative” territory for the first time since May 2020, falling to a reading of 49. Any reading for the index below 50 indicates more homebuilders view market conditions as poor than good.
Monday’s report also marked the 8th-straight month homebuilder sentiment declined. Take out the pandemic slump — which negatively impacted the market for two months in April and May 2020 — and the U.S. housing market hasn’t been in worse shape since 2014.
“Ongoing growth in construction costs and high mortgage rates continue to weaken market sentiment for single-family home builders,” NAHB Chairman Jerry Konter, a home builder and developer from Savannah, Ga., said in a release on Monday.
“And in a troubling sign that consumers are now sitting on the sidelines due to higher housing costs,” Konter added, “the August buyer traffic number in our builder survey was 32, the lowest level since April 2014 with the exception of the spring of 2020 when the pandemic first hit.”
The stock market, meanwhile, continues to power its way higher.
All three major averages gained ground on Monday. The Nasdaq, now up some 23% from its mid-June lows, rose 0.6% to lead the major indexes. The meme stock rally is back. Crypto is showing signs of life. Adam Neumann of WeWork infamy is getting $350 million checks to back real estate startups.
Everywhere investors turn, risk assets are again having a moment.
Everywhere, that is, except the housing market.
“Higher interest rates have taken the air out of the pandemic housing boom,” Wells Fargo economists, led by Mark Vitner, wrote in a note on Monday.
And while signs inflation may be moderating have kickstarted a rally in equity markets, bond markets have been more measured in response.
The 10-year yield, though off of its 2022 highs, is still sitting near 2.8%, roughly double where it stood at the beginning of the year. At last week’s check, the average rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage was back above 5% after having fallen to a four-month low the prior week.
Mortgage rates also remain firmly above highs seen during the Federal Reserve’s most recent rate hiking cycle that ended back in December 2018, a cycle that pushed the Fed to cry uncle just six months later.
So whereas the stock market sees a change in the future rate of change for interest rate hikes as a positive, the housing market just sees higher rates.
Another challenge for the housing market is not only that rates are rising now, but that rates have been so low for so long over the last decade.
As TKer’s Sam Ro highlighted over the weekend, recent data from Goldman Sachs showed 99% of outstanding mortgages have a lower interest rate than today’s prevailing rate.
Sure, people will get new jobs, start families, or come into money such that buying a new house is attractive or necessary. But a decade of low mortgage rates simply raises the bar that many prospective buyers will need to clear in order for a move to make sense.
As Ian Shepherdson at Pantheon Macroeconomics said of Monday’s data: “Grim, and probably not the floor.”
Shepherdson added: “The collapse in the NAHB index points to clear and substantial downside risk for housing construction over the next few months, as builders try to manage their excess inventory. That will be impossible without hefty price declines, now that developers are competing with rapidly rising inventory in the existing homes market. In short, the housing downturn has some way yet to run.”
What to Watch Today
8:30 a.m. ET: Building permits, July (1.645 million expected, 1.685 million during prior month, upwardly revised to 1.696 million)
8:30 a.m. ET: Building permits, month-over-month, July (-3.0% expected, 0.6% during prior month, downwardly revised to 0.1%)
8:30 a.m. ET: Housing Starts, July (1.532 million expected, 1.559 during prior month)
8:30 a.m. ET: Housing Starts, month-over-month, July (-1.7% expected, -2.0% during prior month)
9:15 a.m. ET: Industrial Production, month-over-month, July (0.3% expected, -0.2% during prior month)
9:15 a.m. ET: Capacity Utilization, July (80.2% expected, 80% during prior month)
9:15 a.m. ET: Manufacturing (SIC) Production, July (0.2% expected, -0.5% during prior month)