Morning Report: Housing starts at a 12 year high

Vital Statistics:

 

Last Change
S&P futures 3200 3.25
Oil (WTI) 60.46 0.14
10 year government bond yield 1.87%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 3.97%

 

Stocks are flattish this morning on no real news. Bonds and MBS are flat.

 

Housing starts posted a 12 year high, coming in at 1.365 million units. Building Permits also moved up, rising 11% YOY to 1.485 million units. While 12 year highs seem like something big to cheer, in reality, we are still below our pre-bubble historical averages. Shortages of available homes are still at acute levels, however. This homebuilding cycle has a long way to run, and its positive impact on the economy could be one of the big surprises of 2020.

 

building permits

 

Builder confidence is at a 20 year high, according to the NAHB. “Builders are continuing to see the housing rebound that began in the spring, supported by a low supply of existing homes, low mortgage rates and a strong labor market,” said NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz. “While we are seeing near-term positive market conditions with a 50-year low for the unemployment rate and increased wage growth, we are still underbuilding due to supply-side constraints like labor and land availability. Higher development costs are hurting affordability and dampening more robust construction growth.”

 

Echoing this number, Toll Brothers noted on their earnings conference call that traffic and orders were better in the November – mid December period compared to July-October. Impressive indeed, given that this is the seasonally slow period.

 

Industrial production surprised to the upside, rising 1.1% compared to expectations of a 0.9% increase. Manufacturing production and capacity utilization also rose.

 

You can get a mortgage for under 1% in many European cities. Unsurprisingly, house prices are rising as a result. According to the NY Times: “Prices jumped at least 30 percent in Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Stockholm, Madrid and other metropolitan hot spots, and are up an average of over 40 percent in Portugal, Luxembourg, Slovakia and Ireland.” Denmark has negative mortgage rates. This is bubble material, and shows how central banks are playing with fire when setting interest rates below zero.

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