Tag Archives: homebuilders

Guest Post: New Home Sales Collapse

Note: New homes sales, based on the seasonally adjusted annualized rate metric, are down over 23% from their peak in November 2017. Pending home sales, which translate into existing home sales less canceled contracts (typically failed financing), are down on a year-over-year basis 11 out of the last 12 months. But it’s not just interest rates, which aren’t up much from their lows in the context of the last 20 years. A bigger factor is “market mortgage fatigue.” The Govt has tapped out the pool of potential mortgagees by continuously lowering the bar for qualifying for a FNM/FRE mortgage. In addition, the Government slashed the cost of PMI insurance. That plus the tax cut have offset the cost effect of slightly higher mortgage rates (up about 1% in the last year – big deal). The remaining pool of first time buyers largely will have trouble qualifying until the Government lowers the bar again…

Aaron Layman, who is one of the few honest realtors, wrote a worthwhile commentary, posted below, on the state of the housing market. You can visit Aarons’s site here: AaronLayman.com

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The Census Bureau numbers for October new home sales posted at a seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) of 544,000 units. This was way below expectations of a 575,000 print, and near a three-year low. As I have been detailing for much of the year, much of that “pent-up demand” that you hear real estate industry mouthpieces talking about is a giant work of fiction, a tired marketing ploy that the media, economists and Realtors have been using in attempt to justify grossly inflated home prices across the U.S.

Well, it appears the cat is officially out of the bag with the release of October home sales. While the previous months sales were revised higher, the miserable October print just corroborates my thesis that the Fed’s asset-bubble unwind is just getting started. There are plenty of other consequences in the pipeline. It’s important to remember that the housing market, thanks to the Federal Reserve’s failed policies, is more intricately tied to the financial markets than ever before. This was the Faustian bargain that Obama and the Fed made when they decided to bail out every Wall Street institution under the sun at the expense of American taxpayers, including the ones running obvious accounting control frauds. Of course the millions of homeowners who lost their homes to foreclosures (many of those executed in kangaroo courts with fraudulent robosigned documents) were deemed acceptable collateral damage to save the “system”.

The ultimate con was of course advertised as a salvation of the economy. In reality it just delayed the eventual reset with a new pile of debt that is larger than ever and spread among multiple asset classes rather than just housing. The big problem, one that the Fed’s economists remain willfully ignorant of, is the unfortunate reality that all of this speculative debt is more interest-rate sensitive than they would have you believe. The new home sales market is exposing this unfortunate dilemma very clearly.

According to Census numbers, new home sales in October collapsed 12 percent from the same time last year. Sales were down 8.9 percent from the revised September print. The median price of a new home contracted in October was 309,700, down $9800 or 3 percent. The average price of a new home contracted in October came in at $395,000, up $1,000 from October of last year. The supply of new homes for sale in October rose to 7.4 months, a 32 percent jump from October of last year! So if prices fell three percent and supply jumped higher, why the big collapse in sales? Can you spell “housing market bubble”. Aside from the swoon in the stock market during October, the other key ingredient for deflating an asset bubble was also present, as interest rates hit a multi-year high. We now have a good idea of what the breaking point for the housing market is, and it’s a lower threshold than many in the media were/are willing to admit. This is the result of years of rampant artificial asset price inflation courtesy of the Federal Reserve.

The swoon in new home sales is simply the reflection of moral hazard coming home to roost. While the media, the Fed and its army of economists have continued to tout the amazing bull market “recovery”, the sand (debt) upon which it was built is now shifting. That carefully crafted narrative that we have been spoon-fed for the last several years is looking more tenuous by the day.

The Housing Market Goes Down The Drain

The Denver Post published an article last week titled, “Major cold front slams Denver housing market in September” (note, weather-wise, September was one of the warmest and driest in many years). Single-family home sales in September plunged 30.5% from August and 21.7% from September 2017. Condo sales fell off a cliff, dropping 43% from August and 17.3% from August 2017. Normally inventory drops slightly in September. This year inventory in September soared. The median price of homes sold fell 3.8%. The article said the high-end of the market – homes worth over $1 million – fell 44.4% from August to September.

In terms of economic trends, Denver historically has been representative of the same
economic and demographic trends nationwide. Based on subscriber emails and articles I’ve read from around the country, the activity in the housing market nationwide is similar to Denver’s.

New home sales for August, which were released last week, showed another year-over-year decline on a SAAR basis and missed the Street’s expectations. In addition, the 627,000 SAAR print for July was revised down 3% from 627,000 to 608,000. Revisions for June and July together were taken down by 39,000. The fact that new homebuilders are sitting on a near-record level of inventory (measured both by value and units) contradicts the NAR’s contention that home sales are declining because of a lack of affordable inventory. Recent results from lower-end, lower-priced homes (Beazer, DR Horton and Pulte) show demand for “affordable” homes is waning.

One indicator supporting my view is the response of KBH’s stock after it reported earnings on September 25th . The past several quarters KBH stock staged a multi-day rally after it reported earnings.  Although KBH reported a revenue and net income “beat” and spiked up at the open the next day, the stock closed down 3% from Tuesday’s close.  KBH’s stock closed 5.8% lower on the week.

While KBH’s revenues, operation income and units delivered showed impressive gains over the same quarter last year, its new orders showed very little growth and the value of the new orders declined year-over-year for the quarter. Furthermore, the Company’s order cancellation rate increased to 26% from 25% in the year earlier quarter. While KBH’s income statement looks impressive in the “rear-view” mirror, the operating statistics that give us insight into future quarters are showing a definitive slow-down.

KBH is trading at a 14x P/E ratio. Historically, homebuilders trade with a 5-8x P/E when they actually manage to generate “E.” I believe it’s safe to assume that KBH’s earnings will decline for at least the next several quarters. This means that KBH’s stock price will drop from both lower earnings and P/E ratio compression. In fact, I believe this will occur with all the homebuilder stocks.

KBH stock is down 37% from high in mid-January this year. I believe over the next 12-24 months, the stock price will be at least cut in half.

The commentary above is an excerpt from the latest Short Seller’s Journal. My subscribers and I have made easy money shorting KBH and other homebuilders. This week I feature a little-known homebuilder and explain why its disclosure last week shoots a hole in the National Association of Realtors’ propaganda that the falling home sales is attributable to low inventory. I also feature two other great short ideas – one in retail and one in auto finance. You can learn more about this newsletter here:   Short Seller’s Journal information.

Will The Housing Market Fall This Fall?

“The number of homes on the market surged, the number of sales dropped, and price reductions were abundant last month, all signs that buyers are pulling back in metro Denver” – Denver Post (September 6, 2018) citing the Denver Metro Association of Realtors.

Buy a home now if you must if you manage to qualify for one of the de facto sub-prime mortgages sponsored by the Government Taxpayer. But I guarantee that if you wait 6-12 months, you’ll be able to buy the same home or a better home for a lower price…

Denver has been one of the top-10 hottest housing markets in the past few years, largely driven by an enormous inflow of households moving to Denver from California. However, I started seeing signs developing of a market top that were similar to the indicators I noticed leading up to the popping of the last housing bubble.

As reported by the Denver Metro Association of Realtors (NAR-affiliate) single-family home sales dropped 7.5% in August from July and were down 9.8% from August 2017.Condo sales dropped 5% in August from July and fell 15.6% year over year. At least 30% of the sales were below the original listing price. The inventory of listed homes rose at a record rate for the month of August. Normally inventory from July to August drops a small amount.

Based on articles I encounter in my research or sent to me by subscribers, most if not all of the hottest markets are experiencing a similar development. The spokesman for the Denver affiliate of the National Association of Realtors, like a good salesman, attributes the declining sales to “push-back” from buyers. But, as you might well have expected, I disagree with that assessment.

As I’ve discussed previously, the Government lowered the bar on mortgage qualification requirements for its mortgage programs starting in 2015 in order to counter, what was then, a deteriorating housing market. The Government has lowered the bar on its guaranteed mortgages each successive year since 2015. A growing portion of the home-buyers using Government guaranteed mortgages would have been considered “sub-prime” in the previous mortgage/housing bubble.

In effect, the Government has kept “juicing” the housing market by enabling a larger population of people to buy a home that they otherwise could not afford unless they could get a low-down-payment, rate-subsidized, sub-prime quality Government mortgage. At some point, the limit will be reached on the number of people who can qualify under the current requirements. I would argue that the system is approaching that point.

The second factor in reduced buyer demand is the potential buyers who can qualify for and afford a mortgage from any issuer (Government or private-label) are starting to see a lot more inventory come on the market accompanied by falling prices. Many will hold off on the decision to sell their existing home and “move-up” in order to see if prices come down. It doesn’t take a genius to understand that the prices are going to go lower when you drive around desirable neighborhoods and see a lot of “for sale” signs.

Once the buyers are in full-retreat, we’ll start to see sellers get more aggressive on pricing and we’ll see motivated sellers panic. Similar to the last bubble, the motivated sellers will primarily be “investors” who are stuck with a home they can’t rent at a rate that covers their expenses and flippers who can’t sell at a price that covers the costs of buying the home and preparing it to flip. Just like 2008, this is when the “price wars” will start (as opposed to the buyer “bidding wars” in a bull market) and prices spiral south.

This is why the stock chart of the Dow Jones Home Construction Index looks like this:

The homebuilder stocks have been in a bear market since the end of January. Many homebuilders are down over 30% since then. If that fact surprises you, it’s likely because you get your news from CNBC, Bloomberg, Fox Biz or the Wall St Journal, none of which have reported the bear market in home construction stocks. This is just like the mid-2000’s bubble leading up to the financial crisis. The homebuilders peaked in July 2005 and were in a full-fledged bear market before 2007.

The Economy Is Collapsing Under The Unbearable Weight Of Debt

“Those who see no Lehman-like episode on the horizon did not see the last one.” – highly regarded writer, George Will, in a National Review article titled, “America Is Overdue For Another Economic Disaster”

Lost in the largely meaningless political Kabuki theatre being staged on Capitol Hill is the fact that the economy is deteriorating. Real average weekly earnings in July declined for production and non-supervisory workers. It was down 0.01% from June to July and down 0.22% from July 2017. For all employees, real average hourly earnings declined 0.20% from June to July but was flat year over year.

Real earnings is not a statistic discussed in the mainstream financial media, but it reflects the ability of the average household to consume non-discretionary goods and services. It also reflects the ability and willingness of the average household to borrow.

The U.S. economy’s appearance of wealth creation and economic growth has been fully dependent on debt creation since 2009. As the graphic from John Williams’ Shadowstats.com shows, the rate of growth in real consumer credit outstanding is approach zero (no growth):

The chart above shows the year-over-year growth rate of real consumer credit outstanding with and without student loans. As you can see, ex-student loans (blue line) the rate of growth in outstanding consumer debt (not including mortgage debt) is close to zero. The increase in consumer credit reported for June (the latest month for which data is available) was $10.2 billion vs $16 billion expected. It was down from May’s increase of $24.6 billion. The perceived growth in GDP is inextricably tied to the growth rate in the use of debt. The near-zero growth rate in consumer credit is thus consistent with the view that the U.S. economy is weaker than the promotional propaganda flowing from Wall Street and DC.

“Student Loans Are Starting To Bite The Economy” – That was title of a Bloomberg article last week. With $1.4 trillion outstanding, student loans are the second largest category of household debt after mortgages. 22.4% of all households carry student debt. 44.8% of households in the 18-34 age demographic carry student debt – that’s up from 18.6% in 2001.

Not discussed by the article is the estimated that 40% of borrowers will default on their loans by 2023. The current 90-day “official” delinquency rate is 11.2%. But this number is highly deceptive because 30% of all student loans are in deferment or forbearance. These loans are put into “remission” for many reasons but the most common is that it enables the borrower who can’t make payments to defer the stopwatch on delinquency/default.

While it’s possible that the student loan problem is affecting potential demand from potential homebuyers, most people who have student debt also have credit card and auto debt. So it’s not clear that student loan debt alone has affected the ability of first-time buers (18-34 age cohort) to buy a home.

Rather, I would argue that it’s the accumulation of debt since 2012 that is affecting all areas of the economy:

As you can see in the chart above, total household debt through the end of March 2018 – which means the debt level is even higher now – is considerably higher than the previous peak at the end of Q3 2008. Not shown is a graph I constructed on the FRED site that added nominal GDP. The rate of growth in household debt has sharply surpassed the rate of growth in GDP since Q3 2015.

This is why the economy is stalling. This is why the housing and auto markets are now in definitive contraction. It has nothing to do with the trade war or low housing inventory. It has everything to do with an economic system that is losing its ability to support the massive amount of debt that has been issued since the last financial crisis (de facto collapse).

The weekly economic reports – both Government and private sector – continue to reflect a downturn in economic activity. Moreover, the reports almost always are below the hyped-up expectations of Wall Street’s brain trust. The chart below reflects the irrational optimism of anyone chasing stocks higher (primarily hedge fund algos):

As you can see, since the middle of August, the 30-yr Treasury yield has negatively diverged from the S&P 500 after being tightly correlated for the first two weeks of August. The spread between the 2yr and 10yr treasury is at its lowest since August 2007.

The Treasury curve “flattens” when the short end of the curve rises relative to the long end. The curve flattens when the market has decided that the Fed is wrong on its policy of raising the Fed Funds rates because the economy is slowing down. Large Treasury buyers pile into 10yr and 30yr Treasuries on the expectation that a deteriorating economy will force the Fed to reverse course and lower rates again. The chart above reflects the market reacting to the steady flow of negative economic reports.

If the Fed is right, we should see the 30yr yield “catch up” to the SPX. Conversely, if the market is right, the chart above is yet another warning sign of an eventual stock market “accident.” I have no doubt that the Fed is wrong. That said, the Fed has painted itself into a corner on rates. Contrary to the Fed’s public propaganda of “low inflation,” the Fed is well aware of the true rate of inflation – inflation created by the Fed’s monetary policy since 2008. If the Fed does not act to tighten monetary conditions, price inflation will continue to accelerate and inflict serious damage to the U.S. economy.

The commentary above is from the latest issue of the Short Seller’s Journal. I explain why the housing market is heading south quickly, update my homebuilder short ideas and discuss Tesla. You can learn more about this newsletter here:  Short Seller’s Journal information

The Real Data Show The Real Economy Hit A Wall

The economy is melting down – the only support for the Propaganda Narrative of a “booming economy” is a rising stock market. Without a doubt Trump has ordered the Working Group on Financial Markets – AKA “the Plunge Protection Team” – to push stocks higher for now so insiders can unload.

The huge jump in credit card debt reported yesterday by the Fed was received as “good news” for consumer spending. However, this is typical  technical color vomit served up through the mainstream financial media by Establishment “economists” and Wall Street. The likely explanation is that the average consumer is now forced to use revolving credit in order to maintain the current lifestyle.  This assertion is reinforced by the fact that the latest data from Transunion show that personal loans hit a record high in Q1 2018.

The homebuilder sector is in trouble. A Colorado-based credit union is now offering 0-percent down payment mortgages. Credit Union of Colorado will underwrite the 3% down payment FNM/FRE mortgage product and it will cover the remaining 3% of a home’s cost by giving the “buyer” an interest-free loan that is repayable at a future date or through a refinancing. The bank is charging 0.375% more for the mortgage than the rate for a 3% down payment conforming mortgage. The bank is betting the value of these homes will rise enough to cover the 3% down payment loan through a refinancing.  This is a de facto zero-down payment mortgage sponsored by the Government. 

I am certain that this product reflects the fact that banks are getting desperate for mortgage fees because the pool of borrowers who can qualify for FNM/FRE/FHA loans has dried up. The economy hit a wall in the last month or two and it’s going to crush the housing market. By the end of the summer it will be impossible for the NAR and the media puppets to blame low sales on low inventory.

In fact, recent reports from around the country show that home listings are soaring. This includes Seattle, where King County reported a 43% jump in single-family home listings in June, and Orange County (SoCal), which saw a 218% jump in home listings YTD. A 10% drop in contracts in Orange Country was also reported (The Orange County Register). In Denver, new rate of new listings exceeds contract signings now by a considerable amount.

The June employment report continues to show a “tight labor market.” This is utter nonsense given that over 95 million working age people are no longer consider part of the “labor force” using the methodology devised to compute unemployment by the Government. Again, “however…”

…the “tight labor market” narrative is not confirmed by help-wanted advertising. Help-wanted advertising is considered an accurate indicator of broad economy. The Conference Board has been tracking help-wanted advertising going back to 1919.  Formal tracking of help-wanted advertising shifted from tracking ads in printed media to tracking help-wanted ads online in 2005.

The Conference Board’s Help-Wanted Online Advertising for June declined 3.7% from May. May was down 2.1% from April. April was down 1.4%. The May and April declines were revised lower in the latest report from the original reports. New ads were down 4.6% in June from June 2017. The total number of ads were down 5.7% year-over-year for June.

The fact that help-wanted ads as tracked by the Conference Board are declining sharply month-to-month and year-over-year reinforces my view (and I’m not alone in this view) that the real economy – as opposed to the “fake news” economy reported in the mainstream media – is contracting.

A portion of the above commentary is an excerpt from the latest Short Seller’s Journal. My subscribers and I are making easy money shorting the home construction sector as well as other select stocks. This includes specific ideas for using put options plus market timing. You can learn more about this newsletter here:   Short Seller’s Journal information

No Virginia: The Falling Housing Market Isn’t About Tight Inventory

The National Association of Realtors released its monthly  “Pending” home sale report for April this morning.  It fell 1.3% from March.  The Wall Street analytic “brain trust” was looking for a 0.4% gain.  The housing data is repetitively coming in well below Wall Street forecasts. This is emblematic of the unrealistic amount of “hope” built into the psychology of the American investor, who wants badly to believe anything he is told by “experts.”  A cynic might say it’s adverse denial of reality…

The NAR’s chief pimp, Larry Yun, once again is blaming the bad numbers on shortages of homes across the country.  This narrative is the pinnacle of mendacity.  Too be sure, in certain “hot” areas, there is a shortage of sub-$500k homes.  Blame the Government, which has made available Taxpayer-backed mortgages to anyone who can fog a mirror – see this article, for instance.  And blame the flippers, who are snapping up low-priced homes on the hope that they can turn it around and sell it to one of the fog-the-mirror buyers using a Government subsidized mortgage.

In truth, a recent survey showed that more than 50% of the inventory nationwide is in the high-priced (over $750k) price segment.  And prices are falling in most markets in this category, led by New York City (all five boroughs), which is starting to get decimated.

XHB is an ETF that tracks the S&P Homebuilders Select Industry Index. Lowes and Home Depot are the largest holdings. Pulte (PHM), NVR Inc (NVR) and DR Horton (DHI) are the next three largest holdings. Like the DJUSBH, it’s a mix of homebuilders and housing market-related stocks (building construction suppliers, etc).

Recently there’s been some extraordinarily large put positions purchased on XHB (XHB closed at $39.11 on Friday). For instance, on Monday and Tuesday last week, someone bought 2,200 and 2,500 June 15th $40-strike puts. There’s 4,551 June 15th $38-strike put open interest as well. These numbers substantially outnumber the open call options for the June 15th expiry. There’s 15,033 of open interest in the September $35’s, with 4,400 of those purchased this past Thursday. The largest September call open interest is 1,393 $42’s.

The point here is that some entities – probably a few hedge funds – are making a rather large bearish bet on the housing sector. It’s hard to know if the puts are being used to speculate or as a hedge. Either way, the sheer volume of puts purchased reflects heavy bearish sentiment toward the sector.

Peak flipping? I also strongly suspect that the NAR skews its data-sample toward the lower-price market segment. In other words, if it included a higher percentage of over $750k homes in its data-collection and sales calculation, the existing home sales number for April would have been lower. It’s the magic of statistics. I would also suggest that there was probably some sales “pulled forward” out of fear of rising interest rates. Typically there’s a surge in homebuying when interest rates begin to rise. Certainly the mortgage brokers are pitching the “buy now before rates go higher” story.

On a seasonal basis, home sales should be rising from March to April, even on a seasonally adjusted annualized rate basis. Furthermore, the prospect for May – assuming the NAR does not pull any statistical chicanery – is not good. How do I know? Because mortgage purchase applications have been down 5 weeks in a row. Four of the past five weeks, purchase apps were down 2% each week and one week was down 0.2%. This is why the XHB is down 15.6% since peaking in late January. Some of the homebuilders I’ve been recommending as shorts are down north of 20%. They still have a long way to drop.

My Short Seller Subscribers and I are raking in easy money shorting and buying puts on individual homebuilders. I discuss timing and options strategies. I also disclose my trades.  I also present data and analysis that you won’t find in the mainstream or alternative media.  You can learn more about this newsletter here:  Short Seller’s Journal information.

SSJ provides outstanding practical advice for translating a company’s bottom line fundamentals into $$’s. Whether you’re a buy and hold long term investor or short term trader (or both), you’ll find all kinds of helpful advice on portfolio management, asset allocation and short term/long term options strategies. Really can’t recommend SSJ enough! Thanks Dave for your great service!   – John

Homebuilder Stocks: A Short-Seller’s ATM

Someone or some entity – likely a hedge fund – bought 4500 September $35-strike puts on XHB on Thursday last week when XHB was trading just above $39. That’s a $225,000 speculative bet that the XHB drops more than 15% by mid-September.

This morning Toll Brothers stock plunged over 7% this morning after reporting its FY Q2 earnings, missing the Wall Street brain trust consensus estimates on both revenues and income. Deliveries are slowing down, expenses are soaring (energy and lumber)and asset write-downs are accelerating. On top of this, TOL’s debt and inventory levels continue to rise.

Typical of developers, TOL will continue to use other people’s money to speculate on real estate until the market crashes, leaving creditors and shareholders holding the bag. The Company bought back 1.8 million shares. TOL has repurchased 6.2 million in its fiscal YTD. Into this buyback, insiders have dumped nearly 800,000 shares. Not one share was purchased by insiders.

I’ve been recommending shorting the homebuilders in my Short Seller’s Journal for several months. Many of my subscribers and I are making a lot money with both short term scalps and longer term puts. The best part of about this is that very few market players trade the homebuilders. This makes it easier to take advantage of inefficient price-discovery. As an example, Zack’s Equity Research was looking for an upside surprise and spike-up in the stock as recently as yesterday.

TOL’s contract cancellation rate, which has been historically well below average, rose substantially (at least for TOL) in its latest quarter, as explained by Aaron Layman, of Aaron Layman Properts:   TOL Trips On Higher Cancellation Rate.

The homebuilders are historically overvalued, especially in relation to the level of unit sales, which are still about  50% below the peak in 2005.  They also have a lot more debt and inventory relative to the unit rate of sales.  Shorting the homebuilders is the easiest area of the market to make money right now.

You can learn the truth the about the condition of the housing market and why homebuilders are down double-digits percentages this year by clicking here:  Short Seller’s Journal information.   In addition to shorting shares, I make suggestion on using puts and market timing (I use puts).  I also report every put trade I make in each issue.

 

Homebuilder Stocks: Overvalued, Over-Leveraged And Going Lower

I continue to believe that the “lowest hanging fruit” in shorting this stock market is the homebuilders and related stocks. History appears to be repeating, or at least “rhyming” in the housing sector:

Most investors do not realize this, because the majority of traders and “professional” money managers were still in college or b-school during the 2007-early 2009 stock market collapse, but the homebuilding sector actually peaked and began a waterfall decline in mid-2005 (see the chart above).

The propaganda narrative is that this time around the subprime mortgage issuance has been contained by regulation.  This is patently false.  The subprime mortgage game shifted from largely private underwriters to the Federal Government, starting in 2008.  Because the Government is involved, it has been well disguised in a “conforming” mortgage costume based on Federal Housing Finance Agency “requirments.”  Well, more like “guidelines” than requirements.

The FHA began offering 3.5% down payment Federally guaranteed mortgages in 2008.  Its underwriting market share went from 2% to 20%.  Not to be outdone, Fannie and Freddie began to offer 3% down payment, reduced PMI mortgages a few years later.  Not to be outdone by themselves, and after Fannie reported a $6 billion Q4 loss and required  a $3.7 billion cash infusion from the Taxpayers, Fannie and Freddie raised the DTI limit on conforming mortgages to 50%.  If the housing market is healthy, why is Fannie Mae receiving cash infusions?  A 50% DTI means that the mortgage applicant requires 50% of its gross monthly income to service its monthly debt payments (mortgage, credit car, auto, etc).

A 3% down payment, 50% DTI mortgage is subprime garbage.  It also implies that the FICO score is a farce.  Some who requires a 3% (in many cases less) downpayment with a 50% DTI  does not have prime credit rating.   After the DTI ceiling was raised in December, new  mortgages with DTI’s in excess of 45% jumped from 5% to 20%  of all mortgage issuance in January and February.  This subprime mania in its essence – though not name – and will lead to another massive Fannie/Freddie/FHA/VHA bailout.

All of the signs of the top of the last bubble are re-emerging. Home equity “cash out” loans are soaring again at what is likely peak home prices. According to Freddie Mac, cash-out “refis” are at their highest level since 2008.

We saw how this movie ended the last time around. If you forgot, rent “The Big Short.”  A private investment management company in California, Carrington Holding Company, has a mortgage lending facility that will now underwrite and fund mortgages to borrowers with credit scores as low as 500. Carrington will do loans up $1.5 million on homes/condos and home equity cash outs up to $500k. Recent credit events like foreclosure, bankruptcy or a history of late payments are acceptable. This business plan will not end well.

I recently saw a “for sale” in an upper-middle class neighborhood in Denver which advertised, “no money down, lender on site.” If the market is “hot,” why is this house being marketed as “no money down” and why is a lender at the open house? Is this a Volkswagon “sign and drive” transaction or this is a several $100k  home “purchase”  at what is likely the market peak?

This is in an area in which the average home sells for over $600k, which means unless the buyer puts down at least $70k, it can’t be backed by one of the Government mortgage agencies (the max loan limit for a conventional mortgage in Denver County $530k – in most areas of the country, the maximum loan size for a conventional Govt mortgage is $453k – Denver County is considered a “high price” area and thus the Government will underwrite a larger mortgage – “guidelines,” not “rules”).

This is the type of home borrowing that occurred in the last couple years of the mid-2000’s housing bubble. That “open house” sign also tells me that the market for homes that can’t be funded without Government assistance is deteriorating.

This housing market is unfolding in an eerily similar manner as the mid-2000’s bubble. Sales volume, prices and rental rates are starting to literally crash in New York City, as I’ve detailed in the last couple of issues. I read an article that said, based on the current sales rate, Miami has a built up a 6-year supply of condominiums. Again, the last time around the bubble began to pop first in NYC and south Florida. Phoenix and Vegas followed those two cities. As I presented last week, the move by Zillow Group to get into house-flipping is the signal for me that those two cities have peaked.

The Short Seller’s Journal provides unique insight to the economic data and corporate earnings – insight you’ll never get from so-called financial “experts.”  SSJ then offers ideas every week for making money on this insight.   To learn more, click here:  Short Seller’s Journal subscription information

 

The Housing Market Is Heading South

A subscriber from Canada emailed me last night about the Canadian housing market: “Toronto and Vancouver sales down 40% and 30% YoY respectively. Prices are still up in Vancouver but down 14% in Toronto. I don’t know how prices stay up if the volume continues to trend down. Canadians are even more levered than Americans I believe. This is going to get ugly before it’s all over.”

The only part I disagree is Canadians being more levered than Americans. The average first time buyer in the U.S. can buy a Fannie/Freddie guaranteed mortgage financed home with zero down as long as the credit score is north of 570. “Zero down?” you ask. Yes zero down. Now included in the down payment is any amount of concessions tossed in by the seller. Soft dollars. Fannie and Freddie are already asking for “bail out” money from the Government after posting big losses. Fannie posted a $6.5 billion loss in Q4. How is that possible if the housing market is healthy? It’s the sign that the average homebuyer is overleveraged.

Now I’m hearing ads all-day long (sports radio) for 100% cash-out refis, home equity loans, purchase and refi mortgages for buyers who don’t even have FICO ratings. “Past bankruptcy” is okay. “Simon Black” (his nom de plume) wrote a piece the other day accusing the bankers of being idiots for letting the subprime debt issuance get out of control again. He’s wrong. It’s the Taxpayers who are idiots for rolling over every time the Government bails out the bankers. Quite frankly, if I lacked morals and ethics, I’d rather be on the bankers’ side of this trade. They make massive bonuses underwriting all of the nuclear waste and then pay themselves even bigger bonuses when the debt blows up and the Taxpayers bail them out. Who’s the “dumb-ass,” Simon?

Homebuilder stocks are a low-risk shorting proposition.
A subscriber asked me about the 10yr Treasury yield, which for now appears to be headed lower, and if a significant drop in the 10yr yield would stimulate home sales.

That’s a great question. Mortgage rates are a function, generally, of the 10yr Treasury yield and risk premium. As the risk of repayment increases, mortgage spreads increase. The LIBOR-OIS spread reflects the market’s rising fear of repayment risk.  I just noticed that the 30-yr mortgage rate at Wells Fargo – 2nd largest mortgage lender – has not changed much in the last few weeks despite the decline in the 10yr yield.

Part of my argument is that the general credit quality, and ability to make any down payment, in the remaining pool of potential first time buyers is dwindling. In other words a large portion of under 35’s, who make up most of the 1st time buyer cohort and who are in the “pool” of potential homebuyers, do not have the ability financially to support home ownership. In the last 2 months, the percentage of 1st time buyers in the NAR’s existing home sales report has started to decline.

New homes on average are more expensive than existing home resales. This fact makes my argument even more compelling. We saw this in KBH’s FY Q1 2018 numbers, which showed flat home deliveries vs Q1 2017. Homebuilders are also getting squeezed by commodity inflation (lumber and other materials), which lowers gross margins.

I saw a study that showed the annual rate of change in real wages, where “real wages” is calculated using a “real” inflation rate, is declining. Furthermore, most of the nominal wage gains are concentrated in the upper 20% of the workforce. The lower 80% of wage-earners are experiencing year over year declining wage growth.

The conclusion here is that a majority of those in the labor that would like to buy a home can not afford to make the purchase. In fact, a study by ATTOM (a leading housing market data aggregator) showed that the average worker can not afford the median-priced home in 70% of U.S. counties. The relative cost of mortgage interest is only part of this equation, which means lower mortgage rates based on a falling 10yr yield would likely not stimulate home buying at this point.

I think the only factors that can possibly stimulate home sales would be if the Government takes the FNM/FRE down payment requirement to zero and directly subsidizes the interest rate paid. I’d be surprised if either of those two events occur.

P.S. – just for the record, Lennar’s real earnings yesterday were substantially worse than the headline GAAP-manipulated EPS that ignited the rally in the homebuilder sector. I’ll be reviewing LEN’s numbers in Sunday’s Short Seller’s Journal and showing why the reported GAAP numbers were highly deceptive. I’ll also suggest ideas to take advantage of this knowledge.

313k Jobs Added? Nice Try But It’s Fake News

The census bureau does the data-gathering and the Bureau of Labor Statistics feeds the questionable data sample through its statistical sausage grinder and spits out some type of grotesque scatological substance.  You know an economic report is pure absurdity when the report exceeds Wall Street’s rose-colored estimate by 53%.  That has to be, by far, an all-time record-high “beat.”

If you sift through some of the foul-smelling data, it turns out 365k of the alleged jobs were part-time, which means the labor market lost 52k full-time jobs.  But alas, I loathe paying any credence to complete fiction by dissecting the “let’s pretend” report.

The numbers make no sense.  Why?  Because the alleged data does not fit the reality of the real economy.  Retail sales, auto sales, home sales and restaurant sales have been declining for the past couple of months.  So who would be doing the hiring?  Someone pointed out that Coinbase has hired 500 people.  But the retail industry has been laying off thousands this year. Given the latest industrial production and auto sales numbers, I highly doubt factories are doing anything with their workforce except reducing it.

And if the job market is “so strong,” how comes wages are flat?  In fact, adjusted for real inflation, real wages are declining.  If the job market was robust, wages would be soaring.  Speaking of which, IF the labor market was what the Government wants us to believe it is, the FOMC would tripping all over itself to hike the Fed Funds rate.  And the rate-hikes would be in chunks of 50-75 basis points – not the occasional 0.25% rise.

The Housing Market Is Starting To Fall Apart

Last week I summarized January existing home sales, which were released on Wednesday, Feb 21st. Existing home sales dropped 3.2% from December and nearly 5% from January 2017. Those statistics are based on the SAAR (Seasonally Adjusted Annualized Rate) calculus. Larry Yun, the National Association of Realtors chief salesman, continues to propagate the “low inventory” propaganda.

But in truth, the economics of buying a home has changed dramatically for the first-time and move-up buyer demographic plus flipper/investors. As I detailed a couple of issues back, based on the fact that most first-time buyers “buy” into the highest possible monthly payment for which they can qualify, the price that a first-time, or even a move-up buyer, can afford to pay has dropped roughly 10% with the rise in mortgage rates that has occurred since September 2017. The game has changed. That 10% decline results from a less than 1% rise in mortgage rates.

That same calculus applies to flipper/investors. Investors looking to buy a rental home pay a higher rate of interest than owner-occupied buyers. Most investors would need the amount of rent they can charge to increase by the amount their mortgage payment increases from higher rates. Or they need to use a much higher down payment to make the investment purchase. The new math thereby removes a significant amount of “demand” from investors.

It also occurred to me that flippers still holding homes purchased just 3-4 months ago are likely underwater on their “largesse.” Most flippers look for homes in the price-range that caters to first-timers (under $500k). This is the most “liquid” segment of the housing market in terms of the supply of buyers. Any flipper that closed on a home purchase in the late summer or early fall that needed to be “spruced up” is likely still holding that home. In addition to the purchase cost, the flipper has also incurred renovation and financing costs. Perhaps in a few markets prices have held up. But in most markets, the price first-time buyers can pay without significantly increasing the amount of the down payment has dropped roughly 10%. Using this math, any flipper holding a home closed prior to October is likely sitting on a losing trade.

Similar to 2007/2008, many of these homes will be sold at a loss or the flipper will “jingle mail” the keys to the bank, in which case the bank will likely dump the home. I know in some areas of metro-Denver, pre-foreclosure listings are rising. Some flippers might turn into rental landlords. This will increase the supply of rental homes which, in turn, will put pressure on rental rates.

New home sales – The plunge in January new home sales was worse than existing homes. New home sales dropped 7.8% from December. This follows December’s 9.3% plunge from November. The December/January sequence was the biggest two-month drop in new home sales since August 2013. Back then, mortgage rates had spiked up from 3.35% in June to 4.5% by the end of August. The Fed at that time was still buying $40 billion worth of mortgages every month. With QE over and an alleged balance sheet reduction program in place, plus the Fed posturing as if it will continue nudging the Fed Funds rate higher, it’s likely that new home sales will not rebound like they did after August 2013, when mortgage rates headed back down starting in early September 2013.

Contrary to the Larry Yun false narrative, the supply of new homes jumped to 6.1 months from 5.5 months in December. How does this fit the Yun propaganda that falling sales is a function of low inventory? The average price of a new home is $382k (the median is $323k). New home prices will have to fall significantly in order for sales to stop trending lower. What happens if the Fed really does continue hiking rates and mortgage rates hit 5%?

January “Pending” Home Sales – The NAR’s “pending home sales index,” which is based on contract signings, was released this past Wednesday. It plunged to its lowest level since October 2014. The index dropped 4.7% vs. an expected 0.5% rise from the optimist zombies on Wall St. It’s the biggest 1-month percentage decline in the index since May 2010. On a year-over-year comparison basis, the index is down 1.7%. December’s pending home sales index was revised down from the original headline report.

The chart below, sourced from Zerohedge with my edits added, illustrates the way in which rising and falling mortgage rates affects home sales. The mortgage rate data is inverted to better illustrate the correlation between mortgage rates and home sales:

Housing sales data is lagged by a month. Per the blue line, current homes sales (i.e. February sales/contract signings) have likely declined again given that mortgage rates continued to rise in during the month of February.

The above commentary on the housing market is from the latest Short Seller’s Journal.  Myself and several subscribers have been making a lot money shorting homebuilders this year.  But it’s not just about homebuilders.  I presented ZAGG as a short in the SSJ in the December 10th issue at $19.  It plunged down to $12 yesterday.  I’ve had several subscribers report gains of up to 40% shorting the stock and 3x that amount using puts.

You can find out more about this unique newsletter here:  Short Seller’s Journal