In “Gimme Shelter”, The Rolling Stones sing:
“Ooh, a storm is threatening
My very life today
If I don’t get some shelter
Ooh yeah I’m gonna fade away”
CONCLUSION AND OVERVIEW
Not long after the end of the 2007-09 global economic disaster, American home prices embarked upon a sustained and substantial bull move. Economic growth, population increases, the American Dream’s ideology praising home ownership, widespread faith that a home represents a long run store of value, and tax incentives for home acquisition encouraged that rally. In recent years, the Federal Reserve’s sustained interest rate yield repression and extravagant money printing policies also boosted the consumer’s ability (reduced the cost) and inclination to buy homes. Homes, like stocks and corporate bonds and even many commodities, became part of the “search for yield” universe. The dramatic home price rally has not been confined to America.
The international coronavirus epidemic which emerged around first quarter 2020, made working in the office (or learning at school) appear dangerous. This inspired a ravenous appetite to acquire homes (or more space or quality at home) to escape health risks, encouraging the latest stages of the bullish house trend. Both central bankers and governments acted frantically to restore and ensure economic recovery and growth. Thus housing prices, benefited not only by the beloved Fed’s easy money policies, but also from monumental federal deficit spending.
Moreover, given the acceleration and substantial levels of American and international consumer price inflation over the past year or so, the general public increasingly has seen home ownership as an “inflation hedge”, not just as an indication of American Dream success and “the good life”.
Over the next several months, the intersection of the current major trend of increasing American and other interest rates alongside a gradually weakening United States (and worldwide) economy probably will significantly reduce the rate of American home price increases. Fears that a notable slowdown (or stagflation), and maybe even a recession, have developed. Even the ivory-towered Federal Reserve finally espied widespread and sustained inflation. So central bankers nowadays are engaging in monetary tightening. Further rounds of mammoth government deficit spending currently are unlikely. Public debt in the US and elsewhere rose immensely due to the huge government expenditures related to the coronavirus pandemic and the related quest to create and sustain economic recovery. As the US November 2022 election approaches, that country is unlikely to agree anytime soon on another similar deficit spending spree to spark economic growth. Some signs of moderation in housing statistics hint that home price increases probably will slow and that prices will level off. Thus the peak in American home prices will lag that in the S+P 500.
In regard to the present robust bull price pattern for US homes, there is a greater probability than most audiences believe that US home price increases will slow substantially. Nominal house prices eventually may even fall some. It surely is unpopular (and arguably heretical) nowadays to suggest that American and other national house prices eventually may decline. Yet history, including the passage from the Goldilocks Era to the global economic crisis period, demonstrates that home values, like other asset prices, can fall significantly.
“Runs for cover” increasingly are replacing “searches for yield” in the global securities playground by “investors” and other owners. Price declines in American and other stock marketplaces have interrelated with higher yields for (price slumps in) corporate debt securities and emerging marketplace US dollar-denominated sovereign notes and bonds.
Further declines in US consumer confidence probably will take place. Sustained lofty consumer price inflation (encouraged not only by core CPI components such as shelter, but also by high levels in food and fuel prices) distress consumers. At some point, generalized inflation accompanied by higher US Treasury and mortgage yields can slash home buying enthusiasm, especially if home-owning affordability tumbles. Although history shows that price and time relationships for the S+P 500 and US home prices are not precise, and though equities and houses have different supply/demand situations, stocks and home prices roughly “trade together” over the misty long run. In addition, substantial declines (and increases) in American consumer confidence intertwine with (confirm) major trends in the S+P 500. Consumer confidence has been slipping for several months; the S+P 500 probably established a major peak in early January 2022, and its decline of around twenty percent fits the conventional definition of a bear market.
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Gimme Shelter (and Food and Fuel) (6-5-22)