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Market Minute - June 17, 2019

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Housing/Real Estate Market 

San Francisco’s housing market heats up as tech IPOs move in: According to Redfin, 35% of offers faced bidding war in May, while only 16% did nationally. Agents reported as many as 33 offers on one property, and most without contingencies, or are all-cash offers above asking price. Redfin attributes the competitive environment to the presence of IPOs in San Francisco’s tech-savvy housing market, which is causing buyers to want to get in now before prices shoot up.

U.S. homeowners and renters’ confidence fueled by high expectations: Housing confidence nationwide rebounded at the beginning of this year’s home-buying season as American’s optimism on future home values rises over last year.  According to Pulsenomics®, consumers expect home values in their local real estate market to increase 6.1% in the next 12 months, and among those who rent, 8 in 10 are confident or somewhat confident that they will be able to afford homeownership someday.

Home price growth slowest in 7 years: According to Fitch Ratings, home price appreciation went from a gallop to a trot in recent months after a six-year hot streak. Their latest report revealed a full percentage point decline in price growth in Q1 of 2019 when compared to the previous quarter and they anticipate the rate of increase will hold steady at 3%.

The average time to save a 20% down payment climbs to 14 years: According to Unison’s Home Affordability Report, as affordability issues mount, the time needed for a typical American to save for a down payment of a median-priced home is becoming increasingly longer. While nationwide it would take an average of 14 years, in the least affordable cities of the country, it can take 30+ years.  It would take an average of 43 years, or until 2061, to save up enough cash for a down payment in the Los Angeles major metro.

Macro Economy

While U.S. hiring trends slowed down and job openings plateaued, labor market still quite strong: Overall, job openings in April remained at 4.7% and were basically flat from last year at 7.4 million. This points to a leveling off in demand for labor, which was also evidenced by a slowdown in hiring that reported a growth of only 3.9%.

Wholesale cost of goods and services barely rose in May: The producer price index (PPI) inched up by 0.1% in May when compared to the previous month and it increased slower than it did last year, from 2.2% to 1.8%. This constitutes minor inflationary pressures which pose little threat to the economy.

Small business optimism roars back to pre-shutdown levels: The small-business optimism index rose to 105.0 in May. Six of ten survey components increased, three were unchanged, and only one fell. The latest index reading and survey results, depicts a solid performance by small businesses, their confidence and optimism in the strength of the economy and also reinforces the likelihood of tame inflationary pressures in the near future.

The cost of imports dropped in May for the first time this year: The import price index fell 0.3%, reflecting a decline in the prices of most foreign-made goods including those from China which have been hit with U.S. tariffs. The index does not consider the cost of new tariffs imposed on China, but Chinese suppliers decreased their prices, likely to retain market share amid new tariffs. Import prices have dropped 1.5% from a year ago, which helps to suppress price pressures and gives yet another brake on U.S. inflation.

Consumer prices rise a scant 0.1%, the smallest bump in 4 months: Waning CPI largely reflects the lower cost of energy and more moderate increase in health care. The overall trend remains tame as increase in inflation from a year ago slows to 1.8% from 2%, staying well below Fed’s target rate and therefore supports the case for “insurance” cuts by the Fed if necessary.

Even as hiring tapers off, layoffs remain extremely low: Despite jobless claims edging up to 5-week high of 222,000 as California, Pennsylvania layoffs rise, they are not enough to signal any labor market deterioration. With unemployment rate sitting at a remarkably low 3.6%, companies are having a hard-enough time finding skilled workers, never mind considering a reduction in head count of experienced ones.

Retail sales up for the third consecutive month: U.S. May retail sales data rose at a healthy pace of 0.5% and the decline in the prior month was revised to show a gain of 0.3% from a previously reported 0.2% fall. Retail sales reports this year were beginning to raise concerns about the health of the overall economy, but the most recent increase and upward revision of the last two months, are positive signs of hope and a healthy economy nearing its longest expansion ever.

Industrial output in May had its strongest monthly gain in six months: Industrial production rose 0.4% in May, mainly due to the increase in production of pickup trucks and cars, while consumer goods, nonindustrial supplies, business equipment, and materials output all increased as well. The manufacturing sector, similar to retail sales, has had a turbulent year because of a slowing global economy, a strong dollar, and the whole back-and-forth with tariffs on Chinese imports. Yet the overall trend of industrial production is up a modest 2% from a year ago.

Business inventories grew 0.5% in April, following a month of no change: In recent months, inventories have been exceeding growth in sales and compared to a year ago, the inventory-to-sales ratio reported was 1.36 indicating the number of months that it would take to sell all the inventory in stock. The same ratio rose in April to 1.39 from 1.38 in March, suggesting that we have more supply than we did the month prior as well as a year ago.

Real Estate Finance

Mortgage rates hold steady: The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage remained constant at 3.82% from the week prior. Compared to same time last year when rates averaged 4.62%, this low interest rate environment should bode well for the housing market because the cheaper cost of borrowings offsets the slightly more expensive median home price in the market.

Mortgage applications are picking up: The MBA reported an increase of 26.8% seasonally adjusted from one week earlier. We had not seen such a low interest rate environment in nearly 2 years and is definitely having an effect on the mortgage application side including the refinance loans, which increased 49.8% as a share of the total mortgage activity. New home purchase applications also saw an increase of 20.1% from a year ago.

Mortgage delinquencies are down from last year: CoreLogic’s loan performance insights reported a 0.3% decline in overall delinquency rate for March of this year compared to March 2018. The foreclosure inventory rate was 0.4%,  down 0.2% from March of last year, and was the lowest in at least 20 years.

Past Market Minutes

June 10, 2019 - Mortgage rates down, home price appreciation, homeownership attitudes uptick
June 3, 2019Weak home-price gains, falling sales, Americans cut back on spending, and mortgage applications decreasing
May 28, 2019 - Decline in sales, manufacturing growth slump, mortgage applications jump
May 20,2019 - California's housing market, although not surging ahead, is looking much less scary than it did during Q1
May 13, 2019 - Slow but upward trending price growth, widening trade deficit, mortgage applications slightly up
May 6, 2019 - Low home price appreciation, weak income growth, dropping mortgage rates
April 29, 2019 - Existing and new home sales, economic growth, rates up, mortgage applications down
April 22, 2019 - Moderate CA sales and price, slow start for spring building, rising rates 
April 15, 2019 - Optimistic homebuyers, new home purchase applications, mortgage rates
February 11, 2019 - Over-asking-price home sales, consumer credit, trade deficit, mortgage application
February 4, 2019 - Residential construction, Feds Funds Rate, new home sales
January 22, 2019 - Home sales, consumer sentiment, and mortgage rates
January 14, 2019 - Home prices, job growth, interest rates
December 24, 2018 - Home sales, builder sentiment, stock market volatility 
December 17, 2018 - Delinquencies and foreclosures, job reports, inflation
December 10, 2018 - Construction spending, unemployment, mortgage applications
December 3, 2018 - Loan limits, national pending, gross domestic product, home delinquencies
October 29, 2018 - National pending, gross domestic product, mortgage applications
October 15, 2018 -  Construction spending, stock market, mortgage applications
October 1, 2018 - Revised permits, Chicago's fed, mortgage applications

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