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Market Minute - November 25, 2019

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Housing/Real Estate Market 

California housing market holds steady in October:  While low mortgage rates have reduced borrowing costs and aided affordability, the continued lack of inventory combined with a still strong demand for housing has resulted in yet another price surge. The statewide median home price was $605,280, down 0.1% from the month prior, but up 6% form a year ago and sales meanwhile remained above 400,000 on a seasonally adjusted annualized rate for the 4th month in a row. Sales in October were up 0.1% from September and 1.9% from October of last year.

Sales of existing-homes nationally rebounded 1.9% in October: Consistent with the California story, sales of previously-owned homes rose as low mortgage rates continue to provide a lift. However, housing supply remained on a declining trend and continue to put upward pressure on home prices in recent months.   As such, the national median sales price jumped another 6.2% to $270,900 on a year-over-year basis.

Home builder’s optimism recedes but remains largely upbeat about the future of the market: Home builder’s confidence index dipped one point in November to a reading of 70 and while they are still quite optimistic about what the future holds for the housing market, the current state of affairs has given them some slight hesitation. Nevertheless, home builders have grown more confident throughout 2019 and the indicator of expectations for future sales over the next 6 months increased to 77, suggesting that we might see home building picking up slightly.

Housing starts and building permits rose in October: As builders look to construct many more homes, housing starts increased 3.8% from the month prior to reach a pace of 1.314 million, which is 8.5% higher than 12 months ago. Building permits also picked up, and in fact they did so at the fastest pace recorded since 2007. October building-permit authorizations were the second-best month in 2019 by reaching a seasonally-adjusted rate of 1.461 million, which represented an increase of 5% from September and a 14.1% from a year ago. October marks the 5th consecutive month for rising single-family starts.

Minority homeownership improved in Q3 on low mortgage rates: As rates dropped to near 3-year low, purchasing a home became more affordable, which helped to boost homeownership rates for African Americans as well as Hispanic Americans. Homeownership rate for African Americans rose 0.8% from the lowest level since 1950 census to 43.3% in the third quarter of 2019, while Hispanic homeownership rate gained the most by increasing 1.6% to 47.9%.

California and New York Cities top the market with largest apartments in the nation: While these two states may offer some of the largest apartment and studio units of the nation in terms of square footage, they come with a hefty price tag attached. After all, California and New York, are well known for their pricey housing markets, but at least this recent study suggest that you get more living space for your $ than in other places.



Macro Economy

California’s labor market persists in October: Despite housing affordability challenges and headwinds from a global and national economic slowdown, the labor market  in the Golden State remains solid in October. For instance, 23,600 new nonfarm jobs were added to the labor market while payroll improved at a pace faster than even nationwide by 1.8%, and the unemployment rate fell to 3.9%, the lowest on record.

Small-business optimism rose in October: Small-business owners’ confidence in the U.S. economy perked up 0.6 points to a reading of 102.4 as 8 out of the 10 components in the index advanced to begin the last quarter of the year. While small-business owners were more optimistic and less uncertain about the economy than the prior month, the index measuring uncertainty remains historically high as we head into an election year. Nevertheless, they continued to create jobs, raise wages, and grow their business.

Retail sales rebound in October after September’s decline: While Americans seem to be in a good position to spend, U.S. retailers reported a slight increase of 0.3% in sales for the month of October. This was a bounce back from September when retailers saw the first decline in sales in seven months. As we gear up toward the holiday season, the strong labor market should provide consumers with the purchasing power needed to carry retail sales through the end of the year on a positive note.

Consumer prices rose at fastest pace in 7 months: While Consumer Price Index (CPI) jumped 0.4%, the fastest pace since March of this year, and the cost of living over the past 12 months has gone up 1.8%, inflation remained below last October’s 2.5%. Consumers paid more for gasoline and medical care in October than the month prior, as gasoline prices went up by 3.7%.   New tariffs that went into effect in September, so far, have not had much impact on inflation, as overall core goods prices fell in October. 

Producer prices rose at fastest pace in 6 months: Similar to consumer prices, the cost of U.S. goods and services posted the sharpest increase in October in the last 6 months. The Producer Price Index (PPI) increased 0.4%, mainly due to higher gas prices, but inflation at the wholesale level continued its waning trend. In fact, For the 12 months ended in October 2019, prices for final demand less foods, energy and trade services advanced only 1.5%, far below the 3.0% observed in October 2018.

U.S. industrial production had largest decline in 17 months in October: The U.S. industrial output fell 0.8% and 0.5% if we exclude autos and parts, the largest decline since May 2018 and the third decline in output in the past four months. No sector showed a gain in output and on a year-over-year basis, production is down 1.1%. Without a doubt the industrial and manufacturing sector of the economy is taking the hardest hit as a result of global economic slowdown and uncertainty over international trade policy.

U.S. budget deficit jumped 34% in October: The federal government’s budget deficit rose $134.5 billion over last year, putting the U.S. on course to top the $1 trillion mark in the 2020 fiscal year for the first time in eight years. With the government spending increasing 8%, federal outlays for defense, education, health and Social Security also rose significantly, while the amount of tax receipts dipped 3%. Rising deficits typically lead to higher interest rates over time, but we have yet to see that connection this time around.

Jobless claims stick to 5-month high of 227,000: While the number of people who applied for unemployment benefits clung to the highest level in the last five months, the surge is not likely a signal of a shift in the labor market,  as evidence of pronounced increase in layoffs is still lacking.


Real Estate Finance

Mortgage rates fall back: The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) decreased from 3.75% the week prior to 3.66% to start second half of November. The FRM is nearly 115 basis points lower than the average of 4.81% recorded a year ago.

Mortgage applications wane from a week earlier: Mortgage applications decreased 2.2% from the week prior even as mortgage rates declined. The refinance index decreased 8% from the week prior although it was still 152% higher than a year ago. New purchase applications increased 7% from both last week and the same week of last year. With rates substantially lower than what it was at the end of 2018, we should continue to see year-over-year gains in both purchase and refinance applications in the upcoming weeks.

Mortgage delinquencies fall to lowest level in nearly 25 years: The number of mortgage loans for single family homes in a delinquent state decreased to 3.97% of all loan outstanding at the end of the 3rd quarter of 2019. As the U.S. economy continues to have a healthy labor market and slow but steady economic growth, delinquency rates should remain low in months to come.

Refinances hit 4-year high in October: The refinancing share of overall closed loans grew to 51% in October. This was the first time in four years that the mortgage business had less than half of all loans originated in a month as purchase loans.


Past Market Minutes
November 18, 2019 - Minority homeownership improved in Q3, retail sales rebound in October
November 11, 2019 - LA rents hold steady, factory orders down, mortgage applications dip
November 4, 2019 - Pending home sales rise, unemployment rate rises, mortgage rates inch up
October 28, 2019 - Dip in national home sales, jobless claims fall, mortgage rates rise to highest point in 12 weeks

For previous weeks visit our archive folder.


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