Building permits are up 9.1% and Housing Starts are up 1.4% from last month, while the NAHB’s own Housing Market Index dropped one point. The HMI is a reflection of new home sales, new homes under contract, and foot traffic through model homes. HMI is an abstract collection of sentiment from builders across the country, and carries rippling effects through all aspects of the economy from new appliances purchased (durable goods orders) to real time and future potential labor demands not only in the new communities, but in the surrounding regions.
Interest rates today take a hiatus from their race to achieving two-year highs. Still unsure whether they’re just taking a breather from the exhaustive 0.75% climb since New Year’s, or whether they’ve still got another 0.5% to go before hitting the pause button. The mere mention of four Fed rate hikes this year has already cost the average home buyer $166 per month on a $400,000 loan payment, without the Fed actually raising interest rates.
Upward pressure on interest rates this morning is being mitigated by falling stock prices–just like in simpler times when stock and bond prices would move inverse to one another. The NASDAQ is retreating off of Friday’s all-time-high and other indices are falling suit. The last FOMC meeting of the year kicks off tomorrow. There is a 0% chance of a rate hike being announced tomorrow, but I believe they will announce three rate hikes in 2022.
Historically, when the Fed hikes the overnight rate, longer-term rates rise as well. However, with many corporations and individuals being overleveraged as a result of virtually interest free money being lent these last few years, the prospect of higher carrying costs may actually repress stock prices and send mortgage rates lower.
The Fed has a lot of stimulus to unwind and must do so without unraveling the entire economic system. Thank goodness these folks are smart 🙂
The data on the today’s monthly Jobs report showed that only about 1/3 of the anticipated positions posted to be filled actually came to fruition. Analysts expected 750,000 job listings and we saw 235,000. This data comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the main fact finding agency of the U.S. government. Though not as dramatically, the privately held ADP report released earlier this week corroborates(ish) the drop in freshly minted “Now Hiring” signs with 660K projected and 374K materializing. On a side note, ADP has been a more accurate indicator of reality than the Feds’ initial number. The BLS will issue several revisions of their initial reports over the next few weeks, which will fall more in line with what ADP broadcast initially.
The second major point out of the Jobs Report was the increase in wages, up 0.6% this month versus the 0.3% expected. Companies are handing out twice the raises and hiring half the people. So a betting man or woman (or a savvy gender neutral employee) would ask for a raise rather than just go out looking for a new job. This “wage based inflation” will be the main driver of interest rate hikes, and, I believe, is an enormous consideration for an Administration considering bumping up the Minimum Wage whilst keeping rates low to balance(ish) their own budget…er, deficit…er, money printing operations.
One more statistic before announcing the winner of a free mortgage payment. The number of homes that sold in Salt Lake and Utah Counties dropped 26.1% and 22.3% respectively from July 2020 to July 2021. Over the same period of time, the median sales price on those fewer homes that did sell rose 24.5% and 25.7% in the same order. Go ahead and pat yourself on the back for being a homeowner. With home prices rising more than 3X the average wage, finding affordable housing is an increasingly daunting challenge–unless of course you get your payment made by your favorite loan officer.
Bentley, my 14 year old son, loves the Avengers. All his friends love the Avengers. Last night, for 15 minutes, he told me about possible plot conclusions to the final film that comes out next week. It sounds super exciting, so I rented a couple theaters and thought I’d share them with you, my favorite people in the world.
I’d love to have you join us at a showing of Avengers: Endgame at the Megaplex Theaters at Geneva, in Vineyard!
We have two showings available: Thursday, April 25th at 5:30 PM or Saturday, April 27th at 11:15 AM. (The first showing is a day before the film officially opens to the public!)
Since this is a theater and not a waterpark, seats are limited. Consequently, we’ll only be able to provide your family with four tickets. So choose your favorite children/friends. Please be sure to arrive a little early to find your seats.
I am a product of the ’80’s, so when I hear the word “patience”, it’s immediately followed by melodic whistling, gentle guitar strumming, and the aroma of smouldering tobacco. Experiencing that song was the 20th century’s version of zen.
But patience is also the current buzzword at the Fed regarding the timing of interest rate hikes, particularly because their favorite measure of inflation, Personal Consumption Expenditures, is still registering at 1.9%. So close, yet still so far away from their elusive 2.0% threshold. (Hey, at least we’re not in Venezuela, I say!).
Germany and Japan are also both experiencing low inflation and continuing low interest rates (1st world problems). Add to that the concern over global trade, insurmountable budget deficits, and general political unrest, and you have a good formula for the FOMC backpedaling away from any “tightening” they had previously been considering. There will be a solid half dozen Fed Governors on the speaking circuit at various junkets today, attempting to convey their rebirthed trepidation over constricting commerce . “This is what it sounds like, when the doves cry.”
As we are all aware, it’s a three-day weekend on account of President’s Day this coming Monday. It’s a great time to celebrate all the amazing sacrifices that these men have endured to make our country what it is today. Take for example the concession to keep the federal government up and running until of the end of the fiscal year (September 30) instead of only the originally agreed upon three forthcoming weeks. Simply magnanimous. That plus Monday off is cause for celebration indeed.
Many Americans wondered if they would be getting paid for work performed during the last shutdown, and many went on unpaid leave. Some of us in the private sector have been on the edges of our seats many times this last month, wondering whether branches of government would be up and running so that we could do our own jobs. That’s affected the collective unconscious of Americans in general. Consequently, the poll numbers show that our confidence in the system and outlook of the future have both taken a hit. If we’re not careful, our cynicism may become a self fulfilling prophecy. Now if someone will kindly point out the line between sarcasm and cynical I will do my best to avoid it, at least through the weekend.
So while I may be on the edge of my seat about many things, truth be told, it’s an ergonomically designed chair in an obscure climate controlled office, not an overstuffed chair under the scrutiny that its place in the Oval Office bears. I don’t know all the pressure that our Commander in Chief has to deal with. I imagine that the balancing act takes courage, bravado, and thick skin. So in celebration of President’s Day, I take my hat off to you, Mr. President. Let’s make America great again.
Enjoy your long weekend!
For the last little while, the labor market has been very strong all across the country. Because of high demand, wages are up and unemployment is down. These conditions have been a boon to the economy in general, and have helped the stock market rebound from a horrible December. The lasted report out today from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that job openings are at an all time high right now with 7.3 million available positions. Provided that there are enough employees to reach maximum productivity, this is another great sign for the job market, and should continue to cultivate vigorous expansion.
Today is the conclusion of the first FOMC meeting on 2019. The probability of an announced rate hike is at 0%. Chair Jerome Powell will address America at the end of the meeting, and we’ll be listening for clues about their plan for the year ahead with the Fed Funds Rate, and particularly with their $4.05 trillion balance sheet. I imagine there will be talk of “measured” asset depletion as circumstances dictate. Yada yada.
We’re still waiting for the government to start releasing economic data again, now that they are back to work. There are a couple reports that have come out this week so far that concern me a little. The first is Consumer Confidence, which dropped even below the lowered expectation. The second is Pending Home Sales, which fell to the lowest number in five years. Together, the two tell the story of how hesitant would-be homebuyers are to enter into the magical world of real estate.
The German Bundt is back above 0.5% this morning, the highest in several years. The 10 Year Treasury Note is up at 2.61%–should it push above 2.62%, longer-term interest rates stand to see a sizable bump in yield. Economists have been drawing the line in the sand at 2.62% for quite some time now. Stocks are under water, so that eases a little pressure off of rising interest rates this morning. As a bit of a tangent from yesterday, Apple laid out a plan today to bring $350B into the U.S. economy as a result of the new tax code–so that seems like a plus. Given the growth we are experiencing, we’ll see how well that line holds up.
We talk repeatedly about the importance of job creation in sustaining a healthy economy, and the impact that the employment outlook has on the future of interest rates. Dissecting today’s Jobs Report shows that the unemployment rate jumped back up a notch from 4.7% to 4.8%. This is mainly driven by a decrease of 305,000 workers between the ages of 25-54 being employed. Interestingly enough, there was an increase of 195,000 workers over the age of 55 finding new jobs. The average rate of pay for all workers across the country rose three cents to $26.00 per hour. While for those of us with jobs, any increase in pay is welcome, the paltry raise actually decreased the average year-over-year gain by -0.4% to 2.5%. Both stocks and bonds are finding in comfort in the report and are showing positive earnings so far today.
Speaking of bonds and interest rates: the Fed met this week and unanimously voted to leave their rates unchanged. However, they noted that inflation is continuing to find footing across most monitored sectors, and let us know that a hike in March is not off the table. There is consequently about a 40% chance of a 0.25% increase in short-term interest rates coming next month.