Perspectives Blog

What’s behind the weakness in U.S. housing?

Marie M. Schofield, CFA, Chief Economist and Senior Portfolio Manager | March 24, 2014

Existing U.S. home sales have been weak across all regions and this weakness pre-dates this year’s tough winter. Skyrocketing home prices, the surge in interest rates, and meager income growth have hit affordability and dented demand. Housing is no longer the accelerator for economic growth that it was earlier in the cycle. While the jury is out on just how much cold weather has impacted economic activity in recent months, we should keep in mi…

Missing links and multipliers

Marie M. Schofield, CFA, Chief Economist and Senior Portfolio Manager | June 9, 2014

Several forces are colliding now and causing a downshift in the trajectory of the U.S. housing recovery. Household formations remain at multi-year lows due in large part to mediocre income and job gains in combination with high student loan debt by 25 – 45 year old homebuyers. Fewer homeowners mean missing multipliers for growth. As a result, housing will prove less of an accelerator for economic growth in the period ahead. Having witnessed a…

How much and how fast?

Marie M. Schofield, CFA, Chief Economist and Senior Portfolio Manager | August 29, 2013

The recent rise in long-term interest rates could negatively impact the housing market, which has been a driver of economic recovery. The effect of higher interest rates will typically show up first in the data for new home sales data, which have dropped sharply. The combination of skyrocketing rates and more expensive and rising prices has likely impacted the marginal buyer’s affordability for a new home. One of the most worrisome aspects of…

Hanging in

Marie M. Schofield, CFA, Chief Economist and Senior Portfolio Manager | September 20, 2013

Recent retail sales data are well below expectations and probably an indication that consumers have become more cautious about spending. Financial conditions matter greatly, and the recent tightening is likely having some impact on housing activity and consumer attitudes. Spending follows wages and it will be difficult for retail spending to gain much traction with the tie to shallow compensation trends. The best one can say about consumer spe…

Special report – 2014 mid-year review and outlook

Columbia Management, Investment Team | June 16, 2014

…improvement in underlying economic trends. Cold weather and an inventory correction were blamed for most of the decline, and the reversal of these drags will temporarily lift second quarter growth to above trend. Importantly, housing has become less of an accelerator for the recovery, as affordability was dented due to higher interest rates and home prices. Consumer spending appears steady, although consumers appear less inclined to add to debt,…

Half-time report on the U.S. consumer

Marie M. Schofield, CFA, Chief Economist and Senior Portfolio Manager | July 28, 2014

…on has helped consumer pocketbooks. An exception to the slower growth trends within these latter two spending categories is health care (pharma and physician services), where real purchases are increasing about 2.5%, and also housing-related categories (furniture, building materials) which have climbed about 8% annually on the housing recovery. Consumption trends (real personal consumption expenditure) tend to be driven by the 87% share of non-du…

Gimme credit

Marie M. Schofield, CFA, Chief Economist and Senior Portfolio Manager | August 22, 2013

…t 0.2% in July, as auto sales weakened in the month. The proxy for Personal Consumption Expenditures (in GDP) rose 0.5%—decent, but revisions to prior months were downward. A bit more worrisome were the very weak results from housing-related spending (furniture, building materials, appliances), likely related to the softer housing activity seen recently and probably in response to the spike in interest rates seen in the second quarter. Some discr…