Case Shiller Price Index Shows Homeowners A Rise In Home Equity According to the S&P/Case-Shiller 10 and 20-City Home Price Indices released Tuesday, the U.S. Housing Market is on a roll based on year-over-year increases in average home values, but month-to-month results were mixed.

The 10 and 20-City Home Price Indices showed year-over-year growth of 13.80 and 13.70 percent respectively.

Highlights Include:

  • Dallas, Texas posted its highest rate of annual growth since 2000.
  • Chicago’s average home price rose by 11.00 percent, its highest annual gain since December 1988.
  • The 10 and 20-City Indices posted their best November home prices since 2005.

Top year-over-year gains in home prices included Las Vegas, Nevada at 27.30 percent, San Francisco, California at 23.20 percent, Los Angeles, California at 21.60 percent and San Diego, California at 18.70 percent. Atlanta, Georgia rounds out the top five cities with a year-over-year increase in home prices of 18.50 percent.

The annual readings for the S&P/Case-Shiller 10 and 20-City Housing Market Indices in November suggests that U.S. markets are strong enough to sustain momentum in spite of rising mortgage rates. The month-to-month results show that both indices decreased by an incremental 0.10 percent in November, 2013.

Keeping in mind the traditional slump in home sales during the winter and holiday season, lower month-to-month readings were neither unexpected nor disappointing.

Eight of the nine top cities posting the highest month-to-month growth in home prices were located in the Sun Belt. San Diego, California and Minneapolis, Minnesota home prices remained nearly flat after decreasing in October.

Nine of the 20 cities surveyed posted positive month-to-month growth in home prices. Of the nine cities, only Boston, Massachusetts and Cleveland, Ohio were not located in the Sun Belt.

S&P/ Dow Jones Index Committee Chairman Expects Slower Growth In 2014

David Blitzer, Chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices, noted that November’s month-to-month readings for the 10 and 20-city home price indices indicated that Phoenix, Arizona, Los Angeles California and Las Vegas, Nevada had each posted 20 or more consecutive months of rising home prices.

While positive in his remarks about increasing home prices, Mr. Blitzer also noted that indicators suggested a slower rate of growth during 2014.

This aligns with previously released economic news citing uncertainty about mortgage rates that may continue to rise as the Federal Reserve continues tapering its monthly asset purchases under its quantitative easing program.

The Fed’s FOMC meeting is scheduled to end Wednesday, January 29, at which time the committee’s customary statement will indicate whether or not the Fed’s monthly asset purchases will be reduced from their current level of $75 billion.

On the positive side, Chairman Blitzer said that the low inflation rate (1.50 percent in 2013) and rising home prices are helping homeowners accumulate home equity at a faster pace.

Existing Home Sales Reach Highest Level In 7 YearsThe NAR provided great year-end news as existing home sales in December pushed 2013 sales of existing homes to a 7 year high. December’s reading of 4.86 sales of pre-owned homes came in at 4.87 million on a seasonally adjusted annual basis.

Although projections had been for 4.89 million sales, the December reading topped November’s revised sales of 4.82 million pre-owned homes.

December’s reading showed the first gain in existing home sales in three months. NAR reported that existing home sales for 2013 reached 5.09 million, which represented a 9.10 percent increase over 2012.

More Good News: Median Price Of Existing Homes Rises

NAR reported that the national median price for pre-owned homes increased to $198,000, a year-over-year increase of 9.90 percent. The average price of an existing home for all of 2013 was $197,100. This was the strongest growth in existing home prices since 2005 and represented an increase of 11.50 percent.

There were 1.86 million pre-owned homes for sale in December. At current sales rates, this represents a 4.60 month inventory. Real estate pros like to see a minimum of a six-month supply of available homes, so existing homes remain in short supply.

Analysts attributed rising home prices to improving economic conditions and a persistent shortage of homes for sale.

FHFA: Slower Gain for Home Prices In November

FHFA, the agency that oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, reported that November prices of homes financed with mortgages owned or guaranteed by the two agencies rose by a seasonally adjusted 0.10 percent as compared to October’s increase of 0.50 percent and an expected growth rate of 0.40 percent.

November’s reading brought year-over-year home sales to an increase of 7.60 percent, but is still 8.90 percent below their April 2007 peak.

Analysts noted that recent reports of increasing new home construction and rising new home sales as reasons why prices of existing homes are seeing slower growth.

Case Shiller Price Index Shows Highest Year-Over-Year Gains Since 2006The Case-Shiller 10 and 20-City Home Price Indices for October were released on December 31. Although home prices in most cities continued to show year-over-year gains, the pace of home price appreciation is expected to slow in 2014.

Year-over-year increases have been in double digit territory since March 2013, but month-to-month readings suggest that the rate of increasing home prices is slowing.

According to David Blitzer, Chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices, “…the monthly numbers show that we are living on borrowed time and the boom is fading.”

The 10 and 20 city indices are showing that home prices some cities that were showing little or no growth in 2013 are posting higher rates of appreciation, while growth in cities that have shown very high increases in home prices are beginning to lose momentum.

Year-over-Year Growth In Double Digits

The 10-and 20-city indices each posted year-over year gains of 13.60 percent between October 2012and October 2013. These were the highest year-over-year gains since February of 2006.

Home prices recovered to mid-2004 levels in October, but remained 20 percent lower than peak home prices seen in June and July of 2006.

Here are figures for 10 cities showing the highest increases in home prices year-over-year in October 2013:

City                                                                        Y-O-Y Growth Rate

Las Vegas, NV                                              27.10 %

San Francisco, CA                                         24.60%

Los Angeles, CA                                           22.10%

San Diego, CA                                             19.70%

Atlanta, GA                                                  19.00%

Phoenix, AZ                                                 18.10%

Detroit, MI                                                   17.30%

Miami, FL                                                    15.80%

Tampa, FL                                                   15.20%

Seattle, WA                                                 13.10 %

Home prices in the 10 and 20-city indices have gained 23.10 percent and 23.70 percent since home prices reached their lowest points in March 2012.

Month-To-Month Readings Indicate Slower Growth

Month-to-month readings show a slowing trend in home price growth. 18 of 20 cities included in the S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Indices showed slower growth in October as compared to September’s readings.

The Federal Reserve will begin tapering its asset purchases this month and will continue doing so unless economic conditions slow to a point where the Fed considers tapering counter-productive to economic growth.

Concerns over the tapering of “quantitative easing” and higher mortgage rates are seen as contributing to slower gains in home prices.

Although some analysts have identified indicators of economic growth, most seem to agree that home prices are likely to increase by single-digit percentages in 2014.

New Home Sales Show Healthy Year-Over-Year IncreaseThe holiday season and winter weather slowed home sales in November. Last week, the NAR reported that sales of existing homes had slumped to their lowest level in nearly a year, but this was not unexpected.  

Short supplies of available homes and rising mortgage rates have increased pent-up demand for homes have kept some buyers on the sidelines.

Improvement In The Labor Market

4.90 existing homes were sold in November; this was lower than the 5.13 million existing homes sold in October, as well as lower than expectations of 5.00 million existing home sales in November.

Existing home sales for November 2013 were also 1.20 percent lower than for November 2012; this is the first time in 29 months that existing home sales were lower year-over-year.

Lawrence Yun, chief economist for NAR, described the slow-down in sales as a “clear loss of momentum.” The outlook for 2014 is better, as analysts expect continued improvement in the labor market. 

The pent-up demand for homes will ease as homeowners begin to list their homes for sale as home prices increase. Mr. Yun also noted that prices for existing homes are increasing at their highest rate in eight years.

The national median home price of existing homes rose to $196,000 in November, which represents a year-over-year increase of 9.40 percent. There was a 5.1 month supply of previously homes available at the current sales rate.

Housing Market Continues To Progress Over Long Term

The Census Bureau and HUD report that 464,000 new homes were sold in November. This was 2.10 percent lower than October’s rate of 474,000 new homes sold. This represents an increase of 16.60 percent as compared to the 398,000 new homes sold in November 2012.

The national median home price for new homes in November was $270,900; with an average new home price of $340,300. The seasonally-adjusted estimate of new homes for sale in November was 167,000; this reading represents a 4.30 month supply of new homes for sale.

While home builder confidence is up and recent labor reports indicate improving job markets, the Fed’s decision to taper its quantitative easing program in January is generating some uncertainty as mortgage rates will likely rise as the Fed winds down the QE program.

Housing Market Index Shows Builder Confidence Up 23 Percent Year- Over- Year According to the National Association of Homebuilders/Wells Fargo Homebuilders Market Index for December, builder confidence recovered in with a reading of 58. This surpassed both expectations of 56 and last month’s reading of 54.

Analysts noted that builder confidence has steadied after the government shutdown. December’s reading was the highest in four months. Dave Crowe, NAHB chief economist, said that his organization was expecting a “gradual improvement in the housing recovery” in 2014.

Any reading above 50 indicates that more builders are confident about overall housing market conditions than not.

Builder Confidence – Highest Reading Since 2005

Pent-up demand for housing is driving housing markets in spite of higher mortgage rates. Three components of builder confidence used to calculate the overall reading also rose in December. Builder confidence in current home sales rose to 64 from a reading of 58 in November; this is the highest reading since 2005.

Confidence levels in housing markets over the next six months rose to 62 from last month’s reading of 60. Builder confidence also grew in the area of buyer foot traffic in new developments and gained three points to a reading of 44.

All of this is good news, but the NAHB said that a gap remains between higher home builder confidence and the rate of new home construction. A seasonal lull in home construction is not unusual especially in areas experiencing harsh weather.

More Jobs, Low Refinance Numbers Could Mean More Mortgages Available

MarketWatch analysts suggest that if the economy continues to add jobs “at a brisk pace” and mortgage lenders ease lending requirements next year, the demand for homes could further strengthen the U.S. housing market next year.  

Low numbers of refinance mortgages in 2013 may cause some lenders to loosen mortgage credit requirements, which were tightened after the housing bubble burst.

Economic News scheduled for today may provide a broader picture of economic health and likely trends for 2015. The Federal Reserve’s Federal Open Market Committee will provide its expected statement after its meeting, and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke will give his last press conference as Fed chair as well.

Any indication of plans to reduce the Fed’s current quantitative easing program could upset financial and mortgage markets, but most economic analysts don’t expect an announcement of tapering the Fed’s asset purchases before next year.

Data on November Housing Starts and Building Permits will also offer clues as to how housing markets and the general economy are doing.

Case Shiller Price Index Shows A Spike In Home Prices In The WestAccording to the S&P Case-Shiller 10-and 20-City Housing Market Indices for September, home prices grew at an average of 13.30 percent year-over-year and achieved the highest growth rate for home prices since February 2006.

On a month-to month basis, home prices are slowing in most areas with 19 cities included in the S&P 20-City Housing Market Index showing lower rates of growth in home prices. September’s average month-to-month growth rate was 1.0 percent for the 20-City HMI as compared to 0.90 percent in August, and 1.90 percent posted earlier in 2013.

Home prices increased by 0.70 percent in September for the combined 20-City and 10-City Housing Market Indices tracked by Case-Shiller.

Rapidly Rising Home Prices In The West: Another Housing Bubble On Tap?

Home prices continued rising in the West, with Las Vegas leading the pack with a 29.10 percent gain year-over-year although average home price in Las Vegas, Nevada remains 46 percent than its peak in February of 2006.

California also showed double-digit year-over-year growth for home prices with San Francisco at 25.70 percent, Los Angeles at 21.80 percent and San Diego posting 20.90 percent growth in home prices year-over-year.

Rapidly increasing home prices in the West are largely due to demand exceeding supply, but buyers may be sitting on the sidelines due to concerns over another housing bubble in the making.

Buyers in this scenario are aware of increasing home prices, but aren’t buying now to avoid higher prices later. Instead they are waiting to see what happens with current home prices and housing market conditions in the longer term.

Chicago, Illinois posted its highest year-over-year growth rate since 2005 while Cleveland, Ohio posted a growth rate of 5.00 percent for September as compared to a month-to-month growth rate of 3.70 percent.

This was the second lowest month-to-month growth rate for home prices, with New York City posting a month-to-month home price growth rate of 4.00 percent from August to September.

FHFA Reports Slight Gain In Home Prices

The Federal Housing Finance Agency reported stronger gains in home prices for properties financed with mortgages owned or guaranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. In September, home prices reported by FHFA rose by 0.30 percent as compared to August’s growth rate of 0.40 percent. 

On a year-over-year basis, FHFA reported a gain of 8.40 percent between the third quarter of 2012 and the third quarter of 2013. Adjusted for inflation, home prices as reported by FHFA have risen approximately 7.20 percent. FHFA noted that home prices are growing at a rate far above the rate of 1.20 percent reported for other “goods and services.”

Lower numbers of foreclosed homes are seen as a boost for home prices in general; as mortgage lenders tend to offer foreclosed homes for sale at low prices in order to reduce inventories of real estate owned.

Get The Low Down On Pending And Existing Home Sales This MonthThe National Association of REALTORS reported Monday that pending home sales dropped by -0.60 percent in October after falling at a revised rate of -4.60 percent in September. According to Lawrence Yun, chief economist for NAR, 17 percent of real estate agents reported delays in loan closings due to the government shutdown in early October.

Lenders were unable to verify borrower income through the IRS, which was closed during the shutdown. October was the fifth consecutive month with fewer pending home sales reported.

Homeowners who owe more on their mortgages than their homes are waiting to sell, and recent spikes in mortgage rates were cited as factors contributing to fewer pending sales.

Pending home sales are defined as homes for which signed purchase offers have been received and are considered an indicator of future home sales. The NAR notes that most pending sales close within 30 to 60 days of an offer being signed.

High Demand And Low Supply Of Homes Thwarts Buyers

Would-be homebuyers may be including their dream homes on their wish lists for the holidays as many areas continue to experience a short supply of homes against high demand. In desirable areas this can lead to bidding wars and homes being sold before they are listed for sale.

Cash buyers are benefitting from these situations, while first-time and moderate income buyers may be sidelined due to affordability issues and the inability to compete with cash buyers.

Mortgage rates fell last week and the previous week. While a recovering housing market has been causing home prices to rise, economists described current readings for pending sales as a “pause” in the housing market recovery and said that a significant decline in home sales could adversely impact overall economic recovery.

Regional Pending Sales Mixed

Pending sales for the Northeast and Midwestern regions increased slightly and declined in the South and West. This suggested to some economists and analysts that the formerly hot housing market is cooling off along with the weather. Some decline in home sales is expected during fall and winter months.

Sales Of Existing Homes Better Than Expected

October sales of existing homes surpassed expectations of 5.10 million sales with a reading of 5.12 million existing homes sold. Again, the government shutdown and related concerns of consumers and home builders were cited as reasons for sales falling shy of September’s reading of 5.29 million existing homes sold.

Housing Market Index Shows Builder Confidence Remains Above 50The National Association of Home Builders released its Housing Market Index  for November on Monday. This month’s HMI reading was 54 against expectations of a reading of 55. October’s reading was also 54 after being downwardly revised.

Readings over 50 generally indicate that a majority of builders surveyed are confident in current housing market conditions, but the current pause came after two months of decline in home builder confidence. While the short term index readings are lower than in past months, the HMI is currently 20 percent higher than last year.

David Crowe, chief economist for NAHB said that “the fact that builder confidence remains above 50 is an encouraging sign.” Mr. Crowe also cited federal debt and budget issues as factors that keep builders and consumers from building and buying homes.

Fluctuating Mortgage Rates Of Concern To Builders, Home Buyers

Home builders are also subject to the impact of volatile mortgage rates, which can create affordability issues for first time and moderate income home buyers. There is some good news concerning mortgage rates as the Federal Reserve announced its plant to keep its quantitative easing program in effect in the coming months.

QE was implemented in 2012 and consists of the Fed purchasing $85 billion per month is treasury and mortgage-backed securities with the goal of keeping long-term interest rates and mortgage rates low.

Home builder confidence readings are not in synch with construction rates, as builder confidence was rapidly driven by excessive demand for homes against minimal inventories of available homes in many areas.

Components of November’s HMI provide more precise indications of builder confidence. November’s reading for confidence in sales of single family homes within the next six months fell from 61 in October to 60 in November.

Builder sentiment for current home sales was unchanged at 58 and the November reading for builder confidence in buyer foot traffic fell by one point from 43 in October to 42.

Regional Home Builder Confidence Readings Mixed

Regional builder confidence readings for November were as follows:

Northeast: This region gained 14 points with a reading of 44 for November.

South: Builder confidence rose by one point to a reading of 55.

Midwest: November’s reading declined by eight points to 54.

West: The reading for November was one point lower at 58.

Home sales are typically slower during the holiday season and winter months.

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week November 4, 2013Last week’s economic news came from a variety of sources. Most significant was the Fed’s Federal Open Market Committee statement after its meeting ended Wednesday. The statement indicated that the Fed saw moderate economic growth. FOMC did not taper its purchase of MBS and Treasury securities.

The FOMC statement announced the committee’s intention to closely monitor economic and financial developments “in the coming months,” which suggested that the FOMC is taking a wait-and-see position on reducing its $85 billion monthly asset purchases.

Mortgage Rates, Jobless Claims Fall

The Fed’s asset purchase program, also known as quantitative easing, was implanted in 2012 with a goal of stabilizing mortgage rates and other long-term interest rates.

The National Association of REALTORS® reported that pending home sales fell by 5.60 percent in September. Uncertainty over the FOMC’s decision concerning tapering its asset purchases during its September meeting and concerns over a then potential government shutdown.

These were noted as primary reasons for the drop in pending home sales, which are measured by signed real estate contracts. Pending Home Sales are used for estimating future closings and mortgage loan activity.

Tuesday’s economic reports included the Case-Shiller Home Price Indices for August. Home prices increased by 12.80 percent year-over-year in August as compared to 12.30 percent year-over-year for August 2012. August’s reading shows a dampened pace of rising home prices.

The Conference Board, a research organization, reported that consumer confidence fell from a reading of 80.2 in September to 71.2 in October. A reading of 75.00 was expected, but consumer confidence crashed as the government shutdown and its consequences diminished consumer and investor confidence.

According to ADP, a payroll administration firm, private-sector payrolls came in well shy of the expected 150,000 new jobs with a reading of 130,000 jobs. October’s reading was also lower than September’s reading of 145,000 new jobs.

Weekly jobless claims brought good news; new jobless claims came in at 340,000 and fell by 10,000 new claims from the previous week’s 350,000 new jobless claims. Expectations had been for 335,000 new jobless claims.

Freddie Mac reported that average mortgage rates fell. The rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage dropped by three basis points to 4.10 percent, with discount points down from 0.80 percent to 0.70 percent.

The average rate for a 15-year mortgage fell by four basis points to 3.20 percent, with an uptick in discount points from 0.60 percent to 0.70 percent. The rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage dropped by four basis points to 2.96 percent with discount points unchanged at 0.40 percent.

Whats Coming Up

There is no housing or mortgage economic news scheduled this week other than Freddie Mac’s PMMS due on Thursday.

Reporting for this week includes Leading Economic Indicators, Weekly Jobless Claims, Non-farm Payrolls and the National Unemployment Rate will be posted. The University of Michigan’s Consumer Sentiment Index will be released Friday.

This week’s economic reports are expected provide a general gauge of the economy and information about how consumers are responding to recent economic events and news. 

Fed Meeting Minutes Release Hope In A Stronger Economy With New MeasuresThe Federal Reserve’s Federal Open Market Committee released its customary after-meeting statement on Wednesday. In the context of meeting its dual mandate of stabilizing pricing and achieving maximum employment.

The FOMC statement indicated that although the economy has improved in areas including household spending and labor market conditions, the national unemployment rate remains high and the housing market recovery has slowed.

Fed Says Fiscal Policy Restraining Economic Growth

The FOMC statement said that current fiscal policy and “retrenchment” is restraining economic growth as evidenced by failure to achieve benchmarks set by FOMC as indicators of a healthy economy. Benchmarks include a national unemployment rate no higher than 6.50 percent and achieving an inflation rate of 2.00 percent.

September’s unemployment rate was 7.20 percent and inflation has run consistently below the FOMC objective. Not to be confused with the FOMC statement’s references to monetary policy, the term fiscal policy refers to the government’s budgetary policy.

Committee Sees Moderate Economic Growth, Seeks Improvement

While the Fed cited “moderate economic growth,” the FOMC statement clearly indicated that the committee is not ready to alter its current policy of quantitative easing and estimates that it will maintain the target federal funds rate at between 0.00 percent and 0.250 percent for a considerable time after the QE bond-buying program is phased out.  

The Federal Reserve currently purchases $40 billion per month in mortgage-backed securities and $45 billion in Treasury securities as part of its QE program. The Fed will also continue its existing policy of reinvesting principal payments it receives on holdings of agency debt and MBS, as well as selling maturing Treasury securities at auction.

These activities are part of FOMC’s strategy for supporting low mortgage rates and mortgage markets while making “broader financial conditions more accommodative.” The Fed expects these measures to assist with a stronger economic recovery and stabilizing inflation at the Fed’s target rate.

Fed To Continue Monitoring Economic, Financial Developments 

FOMC reasserted its position that any decision to alter current QE policy is not solely subject to economic benchmarks, but will be based on the Committee’s close review of labor market conditions, inflation pressures, and financial developments.

FOMC commented in its statement that it will continue to review economic and financial conditions in the “coming months” and will decide when to taper its monthly asset purchase according to what is learned.

This suggests that changes to the present QE policy are not anticipated for several months, and that the effects of QE combined with dampened speculation may help with keeping mortgage rates lower.