Tag Archives: mortgage rates

The Fed Successfully Destroyed The U.S. Housing Market

What concerns me is when people put their hard-earned money into housing or any other supposed store of value thinking that the sky is the limit. We are living in an age of epic distortions, misinformation and outright fraud. – Aaron Layman, Dallas-based Realtor, member of the Dallas and Houston MLS boards and a housing market analyst

The propaganda about a hot economy, “overheated” housing market and tight labor market is just one of several Big Lies being promoted by politicians and business leaders. The article below references a comment made by a money manager about the housing market “overheating.” But the housing market isn’t overheating. What’s overheating is the amount of “conforming” mortgage debt underwritten by the Federal Government on behalf of taxpayer. I’ll have more to say about this tomorrow.

The transformation of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, the FHA and the VHA into the new subprime debt provider has caused a shortage of homes under $500k, or under $600k in “high price” zones. But there’s an oversupply of homes north of $700k in most areas (the Silicon Valley area notwithstanding). But more on this tomorrow.

A colleague and email acquaintance, Aaron Layman, is a realtor in Houston who has been uniquely outspoken about the degree to which the current housing market is unhealthy and dysfunctional. I say “uniquely” because 99.9% of all realtors would sell a roach motel trap to cockroaches if they knew that they could get the cockroach qualified for a Taxpayer-backed mortgage to make that particular purchase (“hey man, this is a good value and prices are only going higher”).

Aaron has written a blog post which details the manner in which the Fed has destroyed the housing market and economy:

If you are out shopping for a home during this summer selling season and you are having a difficult time finding a good property at a reasonable price, be sure to thank the folks at the Fed for their fine work. Destroying a market takes some effort, particularly if you account for all of the PR necessary to cover your tracks. The Federal Reserve and their army of economists have created another fine mess in the U.S. housing market, destroying real price discovery and distorting the real value of a home which is end-user shelter.

Please use this link to read the entire essay – it’s worth your time:  The Fed Has Destroyed The Housing Market

Auto Sales Forecast To Tank In April

JD Powers and LMC Automotive are projecting auto sales to drop 8% in April from a year-ago April:

For much of the past two years, the discounts offered by automakers have remained at levels that industry analysts say are unsustainable and unhealthy in the long term…Sales are expected to drop further in 2018 as interest rates rise and more late-model used cars return to dealer lots to compete with new ones. – April Auto Sales Forecast

General Motors reported lousy Q1 numbers this morning. Revenues dropped 3.2% year over year in Q1. Revenues would have been worse but GM joined the rest of the country and extended financing to future deadbeats who took out loans greater than their annual pre-tax income in order to buy a pick-up truck. In other words, GM’s financing unit generated 25% growth in revenues, which cushioned drop in GM’s automotive revenues. Operating income fell off a cliff, plunging nearly 80% vs. Q1. Because of GAAP manipulations, EBIT was down only 55% from Q1 2017.

BUT, GM was credited with a headline “beat” of the Street’s earnings estimates. Only in America can a company’s operating numbers go down the drain and yet still be credited with a headline GAAP-manipulated net income “beat.” I find much humor in this absurdity. Others might find it, upon close examination, to be pathetic or even tragic. Given the forecast for April automotive sales, at least now we know GM announced earlier this month why it will begin to report auto sales on a quarterly basis instead of monthly.

The economy is much weaker than the narrative promoted aggressively by Wall Street, DC and the financial media. This tweet from @RudyHavenstein captures perfectly the divergence between moronic mainstream financial media and Main Street reality. We’re bombarded daily with propaganda about the healthy economy. Yet plenty of statistics show that the average household in this country is struggling under a mountain of debt and is living paycheck to paycheck.

This mostly explains the why credit card debt hits a new record high every month now. The average household is using revolving credit to help make ends meet. The only problem is that, in aggregate, the credit debt is not getting paid down. Rather, it’s increasing by the day. To compound the problem, credit card issuers are aggressive about jacking-up rates when the Fed funds rate is rising. I have a friend who has a 670 FICO score and recently used a loan to buy a car. The interest rate on the loan is 8%. This means that credit cards in general are charging rates in the mid-to-high teens to users with a sub-720 credit score. The outstanding balance will double in 5 years for a card-user who only pays the minimum amount each month on a card with a 15% interest rate. The only problem: that user will likely default before the balance doubles.

But why listen to the Orwellian propagandists?  Just follow the money from corporate insiders: The graphic to the right shows the ratio of insider sells to buys. When the ratio is under 12:1, it’s considered “bullish.” When the ratio is over 20:1, it’s considered bearish. In the last couple of weeks, the ratio has spiked up over 35.

It would seem the Atlanta Fed agrees with the assessment that the economy is far weaker than is being promoted by politicians and Wall Street. Back in February, the Atlanta Fed was forecasting Q1 2018 GDP to be 5.4%. Since then the Atlanta Fed has cut lowering its forecast almost weekly. This past week it chopped its Q1 GDP forecast down to 1.9%.

How can you profit from this insight?   I’ve been presenting several “off the radar” short-sell ideas in my Short Seller’s Journal from which myself and several subscribers are making a quiet killing.  Right now the easiest money to be made in the market is shorting homebuilders.  I have have a subscriber who made 150% on DHI puts in the first 30 minutes of trading today. I have another subscriber who is short Lending Tree (TREE) from $340.  I got this email from him today, with the stock down $42 to $264:  “The TREE keeps on giving. Many thanks!”

Every time the market bounces now, or when individual “daytrader/algo” stocks pop on headline “beats,” it creates an opportunity to make easy money shorting stocks or buying puts.  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. This week I’ll be presenting an oldie but goodie short that soared today on tepid numbers (no, it’s not Facebook).

Just wanted to give you kudos for for your Short Sellers Journal. i find myself waiting every Sunday to read your publication. Your research and conclusions ring true. One of the better newsletters I receive. – recent subscriber feedback

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

But, What About The Housing Market?

A colleague of mine pointed out that Trump has not been tweeting his flatulence about the economy recently.  This thankful hiatus is after he just passed a tax cuts and a spending budget that is supposed to be stimulative.  As it  turns out, the economy is hitting the headwinds of marginally higher interest rates and a consumer that is bulging from the eyeballs with debt.   Windfall tax rebates to large corporations will not fix this nor will rampant Government deficit spending.

This leads us to the housing market. Mortgage originations were down 5.6% in Q4 from Q3. This is not a result of seasonal bias. Q4 mortgage originations in 2017 were down 26.7% from Q4 2016. One caveat is that the Fed does not breakout the numbers between purchase mortgages and refinancing. But higher rates are starting to affect all mortgage applications. According to the latest data from the Mortgage Bankers Association, mortgage purchase applications dropped 6% two weeks in the row. Declines in purchase apps should not happen moving from January to February, as February is statistically a seasonally stronger month for home sales than January.

Moreover, existing home sales for January were released this morning. To the extent that we can trust the National Association or Realtor’s Seasonally Adjusted Annualized Rate statistical Cuisinart, existing home sales plunged 3.2% in January from December and nearly 5% from January 2018. Decembers headline report was revised lower. I’m sure the King of Spin, Larry Yun, will blame it on “low inventory.”  But this is simply not true:

If Yun’s thesis were true, the chart above would be inverted. Instead, going back to j1998, there is a definitive inverse correlation between inventory and home sales.  Curiously, when attempted to run the numbers to the present, I discovered that the Fed removed the data series I had used to create the chart in in 2015.  Mere coincidence, I’m sure…

The mortgage rate for a 30-yr fixed rate conventional mortgage at Wells Fargo, the  country’s second largest mortgage originator, is now 4.5% with an APR of 4.58%. As recently as September, the rate for a 30yr mortgage was 3.87%. At current rates, the monthly payment for a home purchase with a $400,000 mortgage has increased $187. It may not sound like much, but for many first-time buyers that small jump in monthly payment can mean the difference between buying and not buying.

Since the Fed began printing money and the Government knocked the down payment requirement to 3% on a Government-backed mortgage, homebuyers have based the amount they are willing to pay for a home on determining the highest possible monthly payment the mortgage underwriter will allow. In the example above, the monthly payment on a $400k mortgage at 3.78% is $1,857. At 4.58%, the same payment only “buys” a $363,000 mortgage. This is nearly a 10% decline.

The same math applies to flippers/investment buyers, who pay an even higher rate for an investment purchase. One of the SSJ subscribers is a real estate professional here in Denver. She emailed to tell me that, “it doesn’t take much for interest rates to change Investors ideas.” She has a client who wants to buy an investment home for around $350000. Since investor rate loans are at least a quarter of a point higher than an owner-occupied mortgage, the client’s purchase with 20% down goes up $161 a month from the from the recent jump in mortgage rates. This means he now needs the rent to go up by that much to work on the purchase-decision formula he is using.” I believe that a lot of flippers are going to be stuck with homes they can’t re-sell at the price they paid.

The average price the average-income homebuyer can afford has declined nearly 10% as a result of just a 75 basis point rise in mortgage rates. What happens when rates go up another 50-75 basis points? This fact has not been reflected in the home price data that is released every month from Case-Shiller and from the Government. This is because those surveys have a 3-6 month lag built into the methodology of calculating their respective home price indices.

As it becomes obvious that the price the average potential homebuyer can pay has been reduced from $400k to $363k, it will trigger a price decline cycle similar to 2007-2009. Flippers will be the first to fold just like during the mid-2000’s housing bubble. That housing market crash was triggered by the collapse of subprime lenders, which removed a key source of funding used by flipper and for end-user home purchases from flippers. This time around it will be triggered by a lack of buyers who are able to pay the same price now that they could have paid in September when rates were 80 basis points lower. Soon rates will be 180 basis points higher than in September and home values will be crushed.

The analysis on the housing market above is an excerpt from the latest Short Seller’s Journal,  a weekly newsletter that provides insight on the latest economic data and provides short-sell ideas, including strategies for using options. You can learn more about this newsletter here:   Short Seller’s Journal information.

Housing Market Supply And Demand: Just The Facts

“Housing – people are insane if they think housing isn’t going to get crushed with rising rates. As you outline often, it’s already happening in ( NY, Den, etc. ) I live in LA and most of my friends/ coworkers are telling me how dumb I am to not jump in. I know to just stay quiet, but I think they are about to walk into a buzz saw (again).” – email from a subscriber

The National Association of Realtors reports that December  existing home sales fell more than the NAR led its Wall Street lap-dogs to believe they would decline.   Larry Yun, the NAR’s market elf, has been blaming phlegmatic housing sales over the last two years on low inventory. There’s only one problem with this assertion: it’s not true based on historical data:

The chart above is drawn from data that the Fed, for some inexplicable reason, purged from its FRED database.  It illustrates the inverse relationship – generally – that exists between inventory and sales.   The bigger factor driving the economics of the housing market right now is the deteriorating financial condition of any household that might want to buy a house.  The Fed and Government have largely exhausted the population of would-be mortgagees that can make a 0-3% down payment on a conventional mortgage plus carry the monthly burden of servicing that mortgage.  The tax advantage from deducting real estate taxes was stripped from the equation.

I suspect the Fed is getting worried about the housing market. The Fed’s QE holdings rose $5 billion last week. The entire increase is attributable to an increase in mortgage holdings. Not only is the Fed not reducing its balance sheet, it felt compelled to inject capital into the mortgage market.

One thing to keep in mind. A large percentage of homes purchased and financed with 0-3% down payment mortgages in the last couple of years are underwater. When a buyer puts almost nothing down on a mortgage-financed home, the transaction costs all-in are about 10% of the value of the home. These homes are underwater at closing. Except in certain bubble areas, homes have not appreciated in value enough to make up for the amount that low down payment buyers are underwater when they closed. When the stock market eventually tanks, it will take home values down at least 30-40%, and possibly more.

Just like any market bubble, I believe the housing market is reaching the point of exhaustion. As households continue to get squeezed financially, there will be a lot of homes put on the market hoping for last year’s price. As I’ve mentioned before, when home prices are rising quickly, there’s an oversupply of buyers. When home prices start to drop, the buyers disappear. When prices are rising continuously, it’s very easy to sell a home. When prices begin to fall, it becomes difficult to sell a home. It’s been very easy to sell a home for the last 5+ years. I believe it’s going to start to become difficult to sell a home at current general price levels. The smartest sellers will price their home to move. This will begin the process of “re-pricing” the market lower, which in turn could trigger a flood of flipper homes to hit the market – just like 2007/2008.

Greenwich, Connecticut housing values are down 20%. Greenwich would be the “poster child” for the high-end housing market. NYC values are starting to get hammered. For taxpayers who itemize, the new tax law limits the deduction for State, local, sales and property taxes to $10,000. This will hammer the high-end market, which in turn will put downward pressure on everything below it.

The commentary above is an excerpt from the latest weekly Short Seller’s Journal.  If you are interested in learning how to make money from the most overvalued stock market in U.S. history, visit this link for more information:  Short Seller’s Journal subscription 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.

Housing Starts Crash – Sales Volume And Prices To Follow

In many areas of the country prices are already down 5-10%.   I know, you’re going to say that offer prices are not reflecting that.  But talk to the developers of NYC and SF condos who are trying to unload growing inventory. Douglas Elliman did a study of NYC resales released in October and found that resale volume was down 20% in the third quarter vs. Q3 2015.  A report out in November published by Housing Wire said that home sales volume in the SF Bay area fell 10.3% in the first 9 months of 2016 vs. 2015. Price follows volume and inventory is piling up.

NYC led the popping of the big housing bubble.  It will this time too.  Prices in the “famed” Hampton resort area down 20% on average and some case down as much as 50% from unrealistic offering prices.  Delinquencies and defaults are rising as well.  While the mainstream media reported that foreclosures hit a post-crisis low in October, not reported by the mainstream media is that delinquencies, defaults and foreclosure starts are spiking up. Foreclosure starts in Colorado were up 65% from September to October.

Housing starts for November were reported today to have crashed 18.7% from October led by a 44% collapse in multi-family starts.  No surprise there.  Denver, one of the hottest marekts in the country over the last few years with 11k people per month moving here, is experiencing a massive pile-up in new building apartment inventory.   I got a flyer in the mail last week advertising a new luxury building offering 2 months free rent and free parking plus some other incentives.   Readers and subscribers from all over the country are reporting similar conditions in their market.  Yes, I know some small pockets around the country may still be “hot,” but if you live in one of those areas email me with what you are seeing by June.

Here’s a preview of some of the content in Sunday’s Short Seller’s Journal (click to enlarge):

hmi

The graph above is from the NAHB’s website that shows its homebuilder “sentimement” index plotted against single-family housing starts. You’ll note the tight correlation except in times of irrational exuberance exhibited by builders. You’ll note that starts crash when exuberance is at a peak. Exuberance by builders hit a high in November not seen since 2005…here’s how it translated in the homebuilder stocks:

untitled

Note the crash in housing stocks a few months after homebuilder “sentiment” index peaked.  From a fundamental standpoint, the homebuilders are more overvalued now than they were in 2005 in terms of enterprise value to unit sales.  This because debt and inventory levels at just about every major homebuilder is as high or higher now than it was in 2005 BUT unit sales volume is roughly 50% of the volume at the 2005 peak.  The equities are set up of another spectacular sell-off.

Refi and purchase mortgage applications are getting crushed with mortgage rates up only 1% from the all-time lows.  What will happen when mortgage rates “normalize” – i.e. blow out another 3-5%?

The next issue of the Short Seller’s Journal will include a lot more detail on the housing market and some surprisingly bearish numbers on retail sales this holiday season to date. You can find out more about the SSJ by clicking on this link: Short Seller’s Journal subscription link. 

The Housing Market Is Unraveling

You wouldn’t know it from the housing industry organizations, Wall Street or the media propaganda, but the housing market is starting to unravel. It does not matter which person or political party occupies the White House and Capitol Hill. The debt orgy that followed the Fed’s QE program is now showing visible signs of unintended but inevitable consequences and it’s beginning smell a lot like 2008.

Per RealtyTrac, U.S. foreclosure activity increased 27% from September to October. Foreclose starts posted the biggest monthly increase since…December 2008.  Scheduled foreclosure auctions posted the biggest monthly increase since 2006.  The data is even more startling in certain States.  Foreclosures in Colorado jumped 64% in October from September and foreclosure starts soared 71%.   Colorado tends to be an economic and demographic bellweather State.  In the housing bubble 1.0, foreclosure activity in Colorado began to accelerate before it hit all the other major MSAs.

Just in time for foreclose activity to ramp up, the Obama Government rolled new Fannie and Freddie mortgage programs which removed or reduced required mortgage insurance. Once again the Taxpayers will be left holding the bag and monetizing a mortgage collapse from which the bankers, real estate and mortgage industry collected $100’s of millions in fee money.

Per this analysis posted by Wolf Richter, the Miami condo market is in a freefall:  LINK. Mortgage rates have spiked up considerably in the last week.  This will extinguish a significant amount of home sales and cash-out refi’s  – note – the following is an excerpt from the latest issue of my  Short Seller’s Journal :

untitledI continue to see with my own eyeballs, which I trust a lot more than the manipulated b.s. reported by the National Association of Realtors and the Government’s Census Bureau, a stunning number of “for sale” and “for rent” signs all around central Denver. Note that Colorado has 11,000 people per month moving here, so if inventory in both homes for sale and rentals are visibly increasing here it means they are increasing everywhere.

I’ve heard horror stories about the south Florida market from several sources. A colleague who runs a real estate brokerage firm in Houston published a report last week on a growing glut in luxury apartments in Houston:  LINK.

I bought Toll Brothers (TOL) December $28-strike puts on Thursday for 64 cents. The stock at the time was $29.40. It closed Friday at $28.25. I also bought Pulte Home (PHM) January $18-strike puts for 72 cents. The stock at the time was $18.65. It closed Friday at $18.32.

I did this after chatting with the friend of mine mentioned earlier who is a mortgage broker. We are working on a refi for my significant other, which is why he called me on Thursday to see if I wanted to rate-lock her loan after informing me that the mortgage market was getting “funky” and spreads were widening.

Finally, again just like the mid-2000’s housing bubble, NYC is showing definitive signs that its housing market is crumbling very quickly. Landlord rent concessions soared 24% in October, more than double the 10.4% concession rate in October 2015. Typical concessions include one free month or payment of broker fees at lease signing. Days to lease an apartment on average increased 15% over 2015 in October to 46 days. And inventory listings are up 23% year over year.

DR Horton (DHI) reported earnings on Tuesday. It missed both revenues and earnings. The stock was hit 5.4% that day and closed even lower by Friday. Any stock that sold off on Thursday and Friday while the stock market was going orbital has real problems. DHI reported the slowest order growth rate in three years. More troubling from my perspective is that, with the market obviously slowing down, DHI’s inventories continue to balloon, increasing by $537 million to $8.3 billion vs $7.8 billion at the end of September 2015. The Company’s cancellation rate jumped to 28% from 23% last year. Again, this smells exactly like 2008…perhaps this part of the reason the Dow Jones Home Construction index looks so ugly:

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The graph above shows the Dow Jones Home Construction index vs the S&P 500 for the past year. Since hitting 601 on July 26, the index is down 14%. It’s down 16.5% from its 52 week high of 618 on December 1, 2015. As you can see, the index is below both its 50 and 200 dma’s (yellow line and red line, respectively). The 50 dma is about to cross below the 200 dma, another potentially highly bearish techincal indicator. Perhaps first and foremost is the fact that the homebuilders were extremely weak relative to the buying frenzy that gripped the market Wed thru Friday.

In my opinion, it’s safe to put a fork in the housing market. And this is the primary reason that it smells to me a lot like 2008.

You can access  the Short Seller’s Journal with this LINK or by clicking on the graphic to the right.  Almost all of the ideas I have presented since NewSSJ Graphicearly August have been working, some have been yielding tremendous returns.   It’s a weekly report for $20/month with no minimum subscription requirement.  I provide options trading ideas as well as disclose all of my trading activity from the short-side.

The Housing Bubble Is Popping

The Seasonally Adjusted Annualized Rate (SAAR) economic numbers are now manipulated beyond the definitional meaning of the word “absurd.”  This is especially true with the housing market and auto sales reports.  – Investment Research Dynamics

Today the NAR released its “pending home sales” index.  On a “seasonally adjusted annualized rate” basis, it showed 1.3% gain over June.  June’s original report was revised lower from +.8% to -.2%.  Mathematically, this downward revision enabled the National Association of Realtors to report a gain from June to July.  Keep in mind this is on a “seasonally adjusted” and “annualized rate” basis.

Now for the real story – at least as real as the reliability of the NAR’s data sampling  Untitledtechniques.   In the same report the NAR shows the “not seasonal adjusted” numbers. (click on image to enlarge) On a year over year basis for July, pending home sales were down 2.2%.  They were down 13% from June.   This is  significant for two reasons.  Using a year to year comparison for July removes seasonality and it removes the “seasonal adjustments.”   Just as important, if you look at historical data for existing home sales by month, “seasonality” between June and July is non-existent – i.e. in some years June sales exceed July and in other years July exceeds June.

The not seasonally adjusted data series is much more reflective  of the real trend in the housing market that has developed this summer than is the manipulated SAAR number vomited by the NAR’s data manipulators.  The 13% from June to July should shock the hell out of housing market perma-bulls.

FURTHERMORE, the not seasonally adjusted numbers are consistent with the highly correlated mortgage purchase applications data.   “Pending” sales are based contracts signed.  Concomitantly with signing a contract – the NAR reported that 80% of all existing home buyers in July used a mortgage – the buyer needs to file a purchase application.  But the Mortgage Bankers Association reported that mortgage purchase applications hit a 6-month low in July.    The mortgage applications data contradicts the NAR’s pending home sales report on a SAAR basis but is entirely consistent with the pattern in the not seasonally adjusted data.

The not seasonally adjusted data are pointing to a rapidly developing housing market implosion – 13% drop in contracts signed from June to July in a two-month period that has little if any seasonality and with 30-yr fixed mortgage rates hitting all-time lows.
Just like the big bubble which finally exploded in 2007-2008, I was early in my call on Housing Bubble 2.0  (HB 2.0).   Because it takes a lot of capital and “inertia” to move the housing market, directional movements take time to develop and they become fast-moving trains with no brakes – until they either hit a wall or hit the ground.  But change in direction happens suddenly.

When prices are moving up, the market becomes very illiquid on the “offered’ side and buyers become ravenous.  This occurred because the Fed dedicated $2 trillion of it’s QE to the mortgage market and the Government made Government-guaranteed mortgages much easier for buyers by taking the down payment requirement down to 3% and in some cases 0%.   But when the market rolls over, supply quickly builds and demand disappears and the market becomes very illiquid on the “bid” side.  The market is about to become very illiquid on the buyer side of the equation.

I made this call in my latest Short Seller’s Journal this past week:

The housing market is heading south now as well. It’s been my view, and I’ve supported this view with detailed analysis of new and existing home sales on my blog, that both the Government (new home sales report) and the National Association of Realtors (existing home sales report) are using their mysteriously calculated “seasonal adjustments” to inflate the true level of homes being sold on a monthly basis. MOREOVER, and this point is crucial to understand, to the extent that there are flaws in the “seasonal adjustments,” the “annualized rate” calculation compounds these flaws by a factor of 12.

As an example, last week’s new home sales report, which showed an unexpected and absurd 72,000 (SAAR) new homes sold in July vs expectations and 154,000 more homes sold vs. July 2015. However, the report also shows the “not seasonally adjusted, not annualized number for July, which never makes its way into the media reports. In that section it shows only 16,000 more homes vs the 154k SAAR headline sold year over for July AND a decline in sales from June to July of 6,000 homes. In other words, the sensationalized headline reports were manufactured out of thin air from the “seasonal adjustments” applied to the monthly numbers and then converted into an annualized rate

As you can see, the Government’s new home sales report is utterly unbelievable. In fact, the Mortgage Bankers Association has reported that mortgage applications to purchase homes hit a 6-month low in July. New home sales are based on contracts signed. With 93% of all new home buyers using a mortgage, if mortgage applications are not being filed, contracts are not being signed. It’s really that simple.

The NAR’s existing home sales report was well below consensus expectations and showed a 3.2% drop in existing home sales from June and a 1.6% drop from July 2015. These numbers are based on closings. Again, if mortgage purchase applications dropped in June and July, we can expect (or at least should expect )that existing home sales reports for at least the next two months will show further declines. Furthermore, the NAR uses the same statistical “adjustment” model as the Government. To the extent that the NAR’s SAAR numbers showed a decline, the true decline is likely much greater.

After the employment, GDP and inflation reports, the home sales reports from both the Government and the National Association of Realtors are among the most highly manipulated economic data reports.  The data is heavily modeled and massaged via the “seasonal adjustments.”

The truth from the ground, based on the extensive footwork due diligence I conduct plus emails from readers around the country reporting similar observations, is that the inventory of home listings of soaring (the published inventory reports by design have 2-3 month lag), prices are dropping quickly, the time it takes to sell a home is increasing significantly and, most important, the potential pool of middle class home buyers no longer have an income level that will support the size of mortgage it takes to “buy” a home.

Short-sell ideas are starting to work again.   The short-sell selections in my Short Seller’s Journal have now worked four weeks in a row.   My pick from 3 weeks ago is down 6%.  At one point it was down 10%.  The pick from two weeks ago gave subscribers a quick 13% drop after it reported earnings and it’s still down 10%.   My pick from last week is down nearly $2  (2.3%)  after 2 1/2 days of trading  but the puts are up 42%.  I am also making several homebuilder short recommendations now each week.

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