Tag Archives: homebuilders

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

The Stock Market Is Setting Up For A Historic Collapse

There is no history to suggest this is sustainable. This price move remains the most extreme technical disconnect in the $DJIA ever.   – Northman Trader

The U.S. dollar has had the worst January since 1987.  There’s a lot of reasons why the stock market crashed in October 1987, but the declining dollar was one of the primary catalysts.  The rest of the world, led by China, is methodically and patiently removing the dollar as the world’s reserve currency.  The cost for the U.S. Government to fund its rapidly expanding spending deficit is going to soar. Absent the ability to print unlimited quantities of electronic dollars, the U.S. Government’s credit quality is equivalent to that of a Third World country.

Silver Doctor’s invited me to join Elijah and Eric Dubin for their weekly Metals and Markets podcast.  We discuss the issues above plus have a little bit of fun:

The cost to buy down-side protection has never been cheaper.  No one, I mean no one is short or hedged this market.  When slide starts, it will quickly turn into a massive avalanche.  You will have to be set up with hedges and short positions or you will miss the money that will be made from taking a lonely contrarian view of the market.

My subscribers who shorted my homebuilder stock idea two weeks ago are now up 17.7%. That’s if they shorted the shares. They are up even more if they used puts. If you are interested in learning how to take advantage of the coming stock market crash, you learn more about the Short Seller’s Journal here:   Short Seller’s Journal information.

The Debt Bubble Is Beginning To Burst

There will be numerous excuses issued today by perma-bull analysts and financial tv morons explaining away the nearly 10% drop in new home sales.  Wall Street was looking for the number of new homes, as reported by the Census Bureau, to be unchanged from June.  June’s original report was revised higher by 20,000 homes (SAAR basis) to make this month’s huge miss look a little better.  The primary excuse will be that new homebuilders can’t find qualified labor to build enough new homes to meet demand.

But that’s nonsense.  The reason that home builders can’t find “qualified” labor is because they don’t pay enough to compete with easier alternatives, like being an Uber driver, which can pay nearly double the wages paid to construction workers.  I had a ride with a Lyft driver, a family man who moved to Denver from Venezuela, who to took a job in construction when he moved here.  As soon as he got his driver’s license, he switched to Lyft because it was easier on his body and paid a lot more.  If builders raise their wages to compete with alternatives,  they’ll be able to find plenty of qualified workers but their profitability will go down the drain unless they raise their selling price, in which case their sales will go down the drain…which is beginning to happen anyway.

Toll Brothers, which revised its next quarter sales down when it reported yesterday, stated that new home supply is not an issue in the market for new homes.  No kidding.  I look at the major public builders’ inventories every quarter and every quarter they reach a new record high.

The real culprit is the record high level of household debt that has accumulated since 2010. The populace has run out of its capacity to take on new debt without going quickly into default on the debt already issued.  Mortgage purchase applications are a direct reflection of this.  Mortgage purchase applications declined again from the previous week, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.  In fact, mortgage applications have declined 14 out of the last 20 weeks.  Please note that this was during a period which is supposed to be the seasonally strongest for new and existing home sales.  Furthermore, since the beginning of March, the rate on the 10-yr bond has fallen over 40 basis points, which translates into a falling mortgage rates.  Despite the lower cost of financing a home purchase, mortgage purchase applications have been dropping consistently on a weekly basis and at a material rate.

The NY Fed released its quarterly report on household debt and credit last week. In that report it stated, “Flows of credit card balances into both early and serious delinquencies climbed for the third straight quarter—a trend not seen since 2009.”

The graph above is from the actual report (the black box edit is mine). You can see that the 30-day delinquency rate for auto loans, credit cards and mortgages is rising, with a sharp increase in credit cards. The trend in auto loans has been rising since Q1 2013. The 90-day delinquency graph looks nearly identical.

I’m not going to delve into the student loan situation. Between the percentage of student loans in deferment and forbearance, it’s impossible to know the true rate of delinquency or the true percentage of student loan debt that is unpayable. Based on everything I’ve studied over the past few years, I would bet that at least 60% of the $1.2 billion in student loans outstanding are technically in default (i.e. deferred and forbearance balances that will likely never be paid anyway). In and of itself, the student loan problem is growing daily and the Government finds new ways to kick that particular can down the road. At some point it will become untenable.

The auto loan situation is a financial volcano that rumbles louder by the day. Equifax reported last week that “deep subprime” auto delinquencies spiked to a 10-year high. Deep subprime is defined as a credit score (FICO) below 550. The cumulative rate of non-performance for loans issued between 2007 and Q1 2017 ranges from 3% (Q1 2017 issuance) to 30%. The overall delinquency rate for deep subprime loans is at its highest since 2007. To make matters worse, in 2016 deep subprime loans represented 30% of all subprime asset-backed securitizations.

Combined, the percentage of auto, credit card and student loan delinquencies and rate of default is as big or bigger than the subprime mortgage problem that led to the “Big Short.” To compound the problem, the nature of the underlying collateral is entirely different. A home used as collateral has some level of value. Automobiles have collateral value but a shockingly large number of borrowers have taken out loans well in excess of the assessed value of the car at the time of purchase. Unfortunately for auto lenders, used values are in a downward death spiral. Credit card and student loan debt have zero collateral value.

NOTE: The stock market has not priced in the coming debt apocalypse nor has it begun to price in at all the upcoming Treasury debt ceiling/budget fight that is going to engulf Capitol Hill before October. The Treasury apparently will run out of cash sometime in October. Supposedly the Fed has a back-up plan in case the issue can’t be resolved before the Government would be forced to shut-down, but any scenario other than a smooth resolution to the debt ceiling issue will reek havoc on the dollar, which in turn will send the stock market a lot lower. In my view, between now and just after Labor Day weekend is a great time to put on shorts.

Existing Home Sales Tank This Summer: Fact vs Fiction

Existing home sales declined nearly 2% in June from May on a SAAR basis (Seasonally Adjusted Annualized Rate).   (SAAR is the statistically manipulated metric used by industry organizations and the Government to spin bad monthly economic data into an annualized metric that hides the ugly truth).

Here is the NAR-spun fiction:  “Closings were down in most of the country last month because interested buyers are being tripped up by supply that remains stuck at a meager level and price growth that’s straining their budget…” – Larry Yun chief “economist” for the National Association of Homebuilders.

This has been Yun’s narrative since home sales volume began to decline last year.  His headline mantra of low inventory is mindlessly regurgitated by Wall Street and the financial media. But here’s what the truth looks like (click to enlarge):

Going back to 1999, this data sourced from the Fed, who sourced it from the NAR, shows an inverse correlation between inventory and sales. In other words, low inventory drives sales higher.  Conversely, as inventory rises, sales drops.  You’ll note that the chart does not go past 2015.  This  is because, for some reason, the Fed purged its database of existing home inventory prior to June 2016.  There’s a gap in inventory between mid-2015 and mid-2016.  However, there is this (click to enlarge):

I hate to call Larry Yun a “liar” because it sounds unprofessional. But what else am I supposed to call him when the data completely contradicts the narrative he shovels from his propaganda port-o-let into the public domain? I have no choice.

AS you can see, from 1999 to mid-2015 and from mid-2016 to present, inventory and sales are inversely correlated.

This has been the worst selling season for the housing market’s peak sales months since 2011.  In 2011 the Fed was dumping trillions into the housing market and mortgage finance system.   To make this morning’s report worse, mortgage rates have been declining at a steep rate since the end of December.  Near-record low rates, combined with near-zero percent down payment Government-guaranteed mortgages combined with the lowest credit-approval standards since 2007 combined with the peak selling months should have catapulted home sales much higher this year.

Here’s the problem:  the factors listed above have tapped out the available pool of homebuyers who qualify for a near-zero downpayment, low-credit rating Government-backed mortgage:

The graphic above shows the average household mortgage payment as a percentage of disposable personal income (after-tax income). The graphic above is for those households with 20% down payment mortgages. As you can see, that ratio is at an all-time high. It’s far worse for households with 3% down payment mortgages.  Either the Government will have to roll-out a program that directly subsidizes the households who still want to over-pay for a home but can’t afford the mortgage payment let alone the cost of home ownership – i.e. helicopter money – or the housing the market is getting ready to head south.  This won’t end well either way.

As for the inventory narrative.  New homebuilders are bulging with inventory.  How do I know? Because I look at the actual balance sheet numbers of most of the publicly traded homebuilders every quarter.  Newly built homes sitting in various stages of completion or sitting complete but completely empty often are not listed in the MLS system.  There’s a rather large “shadow inventory” of new homes gathering dust.  This fact is reflected in the fact that the rate of housing starts has been declining for most of the past 8 months.   There’s plenty of new home inventory and homebuilders are open to price negotiation. This is evident from the declining gross margins at almost every homebuilder.

This is the type of analysis that is presented in the Short Seller’s Journal.  I research and dig up data and present facts that will never be reported by Wall Street, industry associations and the financial media.  This is why my subscribers were short Beazer (BZH) at $14.99 on May 21st.  It’s currently at $13.39 but has been as low as $12.  It’s headed much lower.  Despite the Dow et al hitting new highs, there’s a large universe of stocks that are plumbing 52-week and all-time lows.  You can find out details about the SSJ here: Short Seller’s Journal information.   In the latest issue I present an in-depth analysis of Netflix’s accounting and show why it’s a Ponzi scheme.

The Housing Market Bubble Is Popping

As with all other highly manipulated data, the financial media has a blind bias toward the “bullish” story attached to the housing market. Understandable, as the National Association of Realtors spends more on special interest interest lobbying in Congress than any other financial sector lobby interest, including Wall Street banks.

New home sales were down last month, according to the Census Bureau, 11.3% and missed Wall Street’s soothsayer estimates by a rural mile. Strange, that report, given that new homebuilder sentiment is bubbling along a record highs. Existing home sales were down 2.3%. You’ll note that the numbers reported by the Census Bureau and NAR are “SAAR” – seasonally adjusted annualized rates. There is considerable room for data manipulation and regression model bias when a monthly data sample is “seasonally adjusted/manipulated” and then annualized.  You’ll also note that mortgage rates have dropped considerably from their December highs and May is one of the seasonally strongest months for home sales.

It’s becoming pretty clear to me that the housing market’s “Roman candle” has lost its upward thrust and is poised to fall back to earth. I believe it could happen shockingly fast. Fannie Mae released its home purchase sentiment index, which FNM says is the most detailed of its kind.

The report contained some “eyebrow-raising” results. The percentage of Americans who say it’s a good time buy a home net of those who say it’s a bad time to buy a home fell 8 percent to 27% – a record low for this survey. At the same time the percentage of those who say its a good time sell net of those who say its a bad to sell rose to 32% – also a new survey high. In other words, homeowners on average are better sellers than buyers of homes relative to anytime since Fannie Mae has been compiling these statistics (June 2010).

Currently the prevailing propaganda promoted by the National Association of Realtors’ chief “economist” is that home sales are sagging because of “low inventory.” He’s been all over this fairytale like a dog in heat. The problem for him is that the narrative does not fit the actual data – data compiled by the National Association of Realtors – thereby rendering it “fake news:”

The graph above shows home inventory plotted against existing home sales from 1999 to 2015 (note:  when I tried to update the graph to include current data, I discovered that the Fed had removed all existing home sales data prior to 2013).   As you can see, up until Larry Yun decided to make stuff up about the factors which drive home sales, there is an inverse correlation between inventory and the level of home sales (i.e. low inventory = rising sales and vice versa).   I’m not making this up, it’s displayed right there in the data that used to be accessible at the St Louis Fed website.

Furthermore, if you “follow the money” in terms of new homebuilder new housing starts, you’ll discover that housing starts have dropped three months in a row. The last time this occurred was in June 2008.   IF low inventory is the cause of sagging home sales – as Larry Yun would like you to believe – then how come new homebuilders are starting less homes? If there’s a true shortage of homes, homebuilders should be starting  as many new units as they can as rapidly  as possible.

Although the Dow Jones Home Construction Index is near a 52-week high – it’s still 40% below it’s all-time high hit in 2005.  Undoubtedly it’s being dragged reluctantly higher by the S&P 500, Dow, Nasdaq and Tesla.   Despite this, I presented a homebuilder short idea to subscribers of the Short Seller’s Journal that is down 13.6% since  I presented it May 19th.  It’s been down as much as 24.2% in that time period.   It is headed to $7 or lower, likely before Christmas.  I also  presented another not well followed idea that could easily get cut in half by the end of the year.

The next issue of the Short Seller’s Journal will focus on the housing market.  I’ll discuss housing market data that tends to get covered up by Wall Street and the media. I have been collecting some compelling data to support the argument that the housing market is rolling over…you can find out more about subscribing here:  Short Seller’s Journal info.

In the latest issue released yesterday, I also reviewed Amazon’s takeover of Whole Foods:

I just read it and the analysis on Amazon is awesome. This has the potential to be the short of year when the hype wanes and reality sets in – subscriber, Andreas

A Quick Note On Today’s Existing Home Sales Report

What about the biggest rise in existing home sales on record in December? These guys are offending my sensibilities. By virtue of all the fake statistics and bogus market action, there has to be something seriously wrong right now.  –  John Embry email to IRD

Existing home sales are based on a sample estimate of contract closings.   The actual “sale” took place when the contract was signed 30-45 days ago.  The headline report is based on a “seasonally adjusted annualized rate.”  The big farce about statistics, away from the obvious fact that “seasonal adjustments” are a polite way to say “statistically manipulated,” is that the metrics reported in terms of percentage changes can make an economic report sound a lot better than the underlying reality.

The underlying reality in today’s report is that allegedly a technical glitch cited by the NAR pushed some closings from November into December and therefore artificially depressed the November number and  artificially inflated the December number.  This is only part of the explanation for the 14% seasonally adjusted annualized rate of increase for December vs. November.   The balance of the 14% seasonally adjusted annualize rate metric is most likely attributable to the “seasonally adjustments” applied to the sample data.  It’s analogous to taking the scraps of pig of the slaughterhouse floor and putting these scraps though a grinder to produce “sausage.”

By the way, does anyone find it a bit suspicious that a “seasonally adjusted annualized rate” metric is used to describe what may or may not have occurred during one month? Think about that.

Notwithstanding this statistical smoke and mirrors, pending home sales for November dropped 1% vs an expected rise of .7%.  Pending home sales are contracts signed, most of which evolve into closings, which become existing home sales.  Some of this decline in pending home sales should have been reflected in December’s existing home sales – in other words, it calls into question the credibility of the existing home sales report.

Furthermore, the November pending home sale number should translate into lower closings, i.e. existing home sales, for January.  That latter assertion relies on an unwillingness of the NAR to completely lampoon the statistics for January’s report- an assumption that may be highly naive based on the degree to which the NAR has been adulterating the statistics for at least the last year.

One last thing.  If you find yourself wanting for some intellectual entertainment this weekend, compare the commentary from the NAR’s Larry Yun in the Pending Home Sales report and his commentary in the Existing Home Sales report.   It epitomizes the phrase, “through the looking glass.”

The homebuilder stocks are rebounding right now on the back of that rigged existing home sales report.  One of the featured stocks in this week’s report will either be a homebulder or a homebuilder supplier.  The last h/b supplier I featured is now up (i.e. down in price) over 13% from the 12/7/15 report.  The last h/b I featured 2 weeks ago is now down 8%.  You can access my Short Seller’s Journal here:   SSJ Subscription