Tuesday, December 23, 2014

New Home Sales: November 2014

Today, the U.S. Census Department released its monthly New Residential Home Sales Report for November showing sales declining 1.6% from October and falling 1.6% below the level seen in November 2013 remaining near an historically low level with 438K SAAR units.

The monthly supply increased to 5.8 months while the median selling price increased 1.35% and the average selling price declined 4.29% from the year ago level.

The following chart show the extent of sales decline to date (click for full-larger version).

GDP: Q3 2014 (Final Estimate)

Today, the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) released their final "estimate" of the Q1 2014 GDP report showing that the economy grew strongly in the third quarter with real GDP improving at an annualized rate of 5.0% from Q2 2014.

On a year-over-year basis, real GDP increased 2.70% while the quarter-to-quarter non-annualized percent change was an increase of 1.22%.

Existing Home Sales Report: November 2014

Yesterday, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) released their Existing Home Sales Report for November showing weak sales with total home sales falling 6.1% since October but still climbing 2.1% above the level seen in November 2013.

Single family home sales also slumped with sales falling 6.3 from October but still climbing 2.4% above the level seen in November 2013 while the median selling price increased 5.6% above the level seen a year earlier.

Inventory of single family homes decreased from October to 1.86 million units but rose 1.6% above the level seen in November 2013 which, along with the sales pace, resulted in a monthly supply of 5.2 months.

The following charts (click for full-screen dynamic version) shows national existing single family home sales, median home prices, inventory and months of supply since 2005.

The Chicago Fed National Activity Index: November 2014

The latest release of the Chicago Federal Reserve National Activity Index (CFNAI) indicated that the national economic activity strengthened in November with the index climbing to a level of 0.73 from a level of 0.31 in October while the three month moving average also improved to a level of 0.48.

The CFNAI is a weighted average of 85 indicators of national economic activity collected into four overall categories of “production and income”, “employment, unemployment and income”, “personal consumption and housing” and “sales, orders and inventories”.

The Chicago Fed regards a value of zero for the total index as indicating that the national economy is expanding at its historical trend rate while a negative value indicates below average growth.

A value at or below -0.70 for the three month moving average of the national activity index (CFNAI-MA3) indicates that the national economy has either just entered or continues in recession.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Reading Rates: MBA Application Survey – December 17 2014

The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) publishes the results of a weekly applications survey that covers roughly 50 percent of all residential mortgage originations and tracks the average interest rate for 30 year and 15 year fixed rate mortgages as well as the volume of both purchase and refinance applications.

The purchase application index has been highlighted as a particularly important data series as it very broadly captures the demand side of residential real estate for both new and existing home purchases.

The latest data is showing that the average rate for a 30 year fixed rate mortgage (from FHA and conforming GSE data) decreased 5 basis points to 3.97% since last week while the purchase application volume declined 7% and the refinance application volume went flat over the same period.

The following chart shows the average interest rate for 30 year and 15 year fixed rate mortgages since 2006 as well as the purchase, refinance and composite loan volumes (click for larger dynamic full-screen version).

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

New Residential Construction Report: November 2014

Today’s New Residential Construction Report showed notable declines to both permits and starts with total permit activity declining a notable 5.2% since October while total starts declined 1.6% over the same period.

Single family housing permits, the most leading of indicators, declined 1.2% from October to 639K single family units (SAAR), and declined 0.9% below the level seen in November 2013 and still remained well below levels seen at the peak in September 2005.

Homebuilder Blues: NAHB/Wells Fargo Home Builder Ratings December 2014

Yesterday, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) released their latest Housing Market Index (HMI) showing that assessments of housing activity went flat in December with the composite HMI index falling slightly to 57 from 58 the prior month while the "buyer traffic" index remained at a level of 45.

Industrial Production and Capacity Utilization: November 2014

Yesterday, the Federal Reserve released their monthly read of industrial production and capacity utilization showing an increase in November with total industrial production rising 1.26% since October and climbing 5.21% above the level seen in November 2013.

Capacity utilization also rose increasing 0.9% from October and 1.13% above the level seen in November 2013 to stand at 79.34%

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Retail Sales: November 2014

Today, the U.S. Census Bureau released its latest nominal read of retail sales showing improving activity in November with sales increasing 0.7% from October and rising 5.1% on a year-over-year basis on an aggregate of all items including food, fuel and healthcare services.

Nominal "discretionary" retail sales including home furnishings, home garden and building materials, consumer electronics and department store sales improved, rising 1.03% from October and 4.29% above the level seen in November 2013 while, adjusting for inflation, “real” discretionary retail sales increased 0.8% on the month and rising 2.46% since November 2013.

Weekly Unemployment Claims: Initial and Continued December 11 2014

Today’s jobless claims report showed an decline to initial unemployment claims and an increase to continued unemployment claims as seasonally adjusted initial claims trended below the 300K level.

Seasonally adjusted “initial” unemployment claims declined 3,000 to 294,000 claims while seasonally adjusted “continued” claims increased by 142,000 to 2.514 million resulting in an “insured” unemployment rate of 1.9%.

Saturday, December 06, 2014

SNAP Food Stamp Participation: September 2014

As a logical consequence of the prolonged economic downturn, participation in the federal food stamp program is continuing to rise.

The latest data released by the Department of Agriculture indicated that in September, 16,412 individual recipients were removed from the food stamps program with the current total declining 1.79% on a year-over-year basis.

Individuals receiving food stamp benefits declined to 46.45 million which, as a ratio of the overall civilian non-institutional population now stands at a whopping 18.70% of the population.

Households receiving food stamps benefits increased to 22.75 million households with the current total falling 1.08% below the level seen a year earlier

Total nominal benefit cost declined 8.75% on a year-over-year basis to $5.74 billion for the month.

Employment Situation: Nonfarm Payrolls and Civilian Unemployment November 2014

Today's Employment Situation Report indicated that in November, net non-farm payrolls increased by a notable 321,000 jobs overall with the private non-farm payrolls sub-component adding 314,000 jobs while the civilian unemployment rate went flat at 5.8% over the same period.

Net private sector jobs increased 0.27% since last month climbing 2.30% above the level seen a year ago and climbing 2.11% above the peak level of employment seen in December 2007 prior to the Great Recession.

Employment Situation: Unemployment Duration November 2014

Today's employment situation report showed that conditions for the long term unemployed were mixed in November while still remaining distressed by historic standards.

Workers unemployed 27 weeks or more declined to 2.815 million or 30.7% of all unemployed workers while the median term of unemployment decreased to 12.8 weeks and the average stay on unemployment increased to 33.0 weeks.

Employment Situation: Total Unemployment November 2014

Today's Employment Situation report showed that in November “total unemployment” including all marginally attached workers declined to 11.4% while the traditionally reported unemployment rate went flat at 5.8%.

The traditional unemployment rate is calculated from the monthly household survey results using a fairly explicit definition of “unemployed” (essentially unemployed and currently looking for full time employment) leaving many workers to be considered effectively “on the margin” either employed in part time work when full time is preferred or simply unemployed and no longer looking for work.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics considers “marginally attached” workers (including discouraged workers) and persons who have settled for part time employment to be “underutilized” labor.

The broadest view of unemployment would include both traditionally unemployed workers and all other underutilized workers.

To calculate the “total” rate of unemployment we would simply use this larger group rather than the smaller and more restrictive “unemployed” group used in the traditional unemployment rate calculation.