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Shane Oliver, Head of Investment Strategy & Chief Economist The US housing sector turning 1 or 2 Headingthe corner EDITION 9 – 16 MARCH 2012 Oliver’s quietly bottomed and is now on the rise again thanks to a surge in shale oil production. The US has huge reserves of shale oil Insights and advances in fracking technology (by which shale kilometres below the surface is fractured using explosives, allowing oil to be released and ﬂow to the surface) and oil prices around US$100 Key points per barrel are making it economic for these reserves to be tapped. > Bulletsit’s too early to call the end of the secular bear While Some even see the US becoming self sufﬁcient in oil again in the decades ahead. market in US shares, there are some signs of light in the US economy, notably in manufacturing, energy production and US housing bottoming housing. A collapse in the US housing sector was at the core of the sub- > In particular, after triggering the global ﬁnancial crisis, the prime mortgage crisis in the US which subsequently morphed US housing slump appears to be over and a recovery in into the global ﬁnancial crisis. US house prices and housing prospect. construction surged into the middle of the last decade as lax lending standards underpinned a huge surge in home ownership. > This will help prolong the current US economic recovery, Boom turned to bust, starting around 2006 as housing supply boost household wealth and over time and add to global started to surge and it became harder for sub-prime borrowers commodity demand. to reﬁnance their loans. Foreclosures rose, made worse in turn by rising unemployment as the whole process fed on itself. The subsequent slump has seen a 34% plunge in house prices. This Introduction has seen the volume of private residential investment collapse Starting with the bursting of the technology bubble in 2000, by about 60% from its peak in the mid 1990s, resulting in a huge the fortunes of the US economy have waned. Since then, the drag on US gross domestic product (GDP) growth. US has seen two recessions with the last being the worst since the 1930s, a rising trend in unemployment, the bursting of a Why the worst is likely over for US housing corporate debt bubble with the tech wreck and the bursting of a There are good reasons to believe that the US housing market is housing debt bubble with the sub-prime mortgage crisis. So it’s bottoming and starting to recover. little wonder the US share market has been spinning its wheels The ﬁrst thing to note is that most US housing indicators have in a secular bear market. Some commentators even talk of a stabilised. Home sales have been bouncing along a bottom since permanent decline for the US. 2009. Housing starts and permits to build new houses have been The high level of US public debt, ongoing private sector deleveraging, bottoming since late 2009. Furthermore, the National Association less business friendly policies, demographic trends and the absence of Home Builder’s conditions index has now broken out on the of extreme share market undervaluation suggest the secular bear upside, pointing to a rise in starts ahead. market in US shares may not be over yet. That said, it would be Home builders conditions point to stronger housing starts dangerous to write the US off. Many did this in the 1970s only to see it roar back with a vengeance in the 1980s and 90s. More 2500 US Housing 80 70 importantly, there are some signs of light at the end of the tunnel for 2000 Starts, '000 (LHS) 60 the US in manufacturing, oil production and housing. This note takes 1500 50 a look at these sectors, focusing on the latter as housing was the 40 1000 30 original driver of the global ﬁnancial crisis. 20 500 National Assoc of Home Builders' US manufacturing renaissance conditions index (RHS) 10 0 0 Recently there have been numerous examples of companies 86 88 90 92 94 96 98 00 02 04 06 08 10 12 setting up manufacturing plants or expanding production in Source: Bloomberg, AMP Capital the US over locations in Canada, Mexico, Japan or the emerging Second, the number of vacant homes is now starting to fall world. These include Maserati, Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Kia, Intel, sharply. Over time the equilibrium number of vacant homes has Whirlpool and Caterpillar. In fact for the ﬁrst time in over 35 increased in line with the rising population. This is proxied by years, annual growth in manufacturing employment is exceeding the long-term trend line in the next chart. It can be seen that employment growth elsewhere in the US economy. The key the gap between the actual number of vacant homes and its drivers of America’s manufacturing renaissance are restrained long-term trend is now closing rapidly. Related to this, household unit labour costs in manufacturing (which have been unchanged formation is likely to rise sharply. Since 2006 it has been running for the past 30 years), rising wages in emerging countries, the well below that implied by population growth and has collapsed low US dollar (US$) after a decade long slump, and cheap energy from a record 2 million to around 700,000 last year. This reﬂects prices helped by surging natural gas supply. While it’s early days tough economic conditions causing young people to stay at home yet, America’s manufacturing renaissance has further to go. with their parents for longer and is likely to rebound as economic conditions improve. If the number of vacant homes continues to Surging oil production decline at the same rate as the last couple of years and household US natural gas supply has been surging for years resulting in formation picks up then the overhang of housing will likely be low prices. More signiﬁcantly, a few years ago US oil production gone by year end. The US inventory of vacant houses has almost fallen back Similarly, house price to income and house price to rent ratios to its long-term trend have collapsed, pointing to good value in US housing. 12000 US house prices back to fair value or cheap Thousands Total vacant 10000 houses 30 % deviation from long-term average 25 8000 20 6000 15 US house price to Long-term trend 10 rent ratio 4000 5 2000 0 65 70 75 80 85 90 95 00 05 10 -5 US house price to -10 income ratio Source: US Census, AMP Capital -15 1991 1995 1999 2003 2007 2011 Third, the stock of unsold new homes has largely vanished. It is now at its lowest level since the 1950s. This seems more extreme Source: OECD, AMP Capital when it is compared with the fact that the US population has The improvement in US house price valuation measures stands more than doubled since then. in stark contrast to the still very overvalued Australian housing market…but that’s a different story. Note both the US and The stock of unsold single family homes for sale has almost Australian charts use OECD data for consistency. vanished 600 .... in stark contract to Australian housing which remains very Thousands 550 expensive 500 60 450 50 % deviation from long-term average 400 40 350 30 300 Australian house 250 20 price to rent ratio Australian house price 200 10 to income ratio 150 0 100 -10 65 70 75 80 85 90 95 00 05 10 -20 Source: Bloomberg, AMP Capital -30 1991 1995 1999 2003 2007 2011 Fourth, while the US mortgage foreclosure rate remains high, Source: OECD, AMP Capital the delinquency rate is slowing as are the number of new The bottom line is that the US housing market appears to have foreclosures, pointing to a decline in foreclosures ahead. bottomed with recovery in both activity and prices likely. Falling mortgage delinquencies point to falling foreclosures What a recovery in US housing would mean? 11 5 % 10 A recovery in US housing has several implications. 4 9 > First, by reversing a signiﬁcant drag on the US economy 8 % Dwellings in 3 7 foreclosure (RHS) it should help perpetuate economic recovery. 6 2 > Second, this is likely to be reinforced by a boost to US 5 4 1 household wealth as house prices stabilise and recover. Delinquency rate, % (LHS) 3 0 > Third, residential construction is a key user of raw materials 98 99 00 01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 Source: Mortgage Bankers Assoc of America, AMP Capital like copper, therefore a recovery in US housing construction should boost global commodity demand. Finally, housing affordability has reached a record level. While this has not been acted upon given the excess supply of housing and tough Concluding comments economic conditions, we are likely to see greater demand for houses as the excess supply dwindles and economic conditions improve. While the secular bear market in US shares that began 12 years ago may have further to go, there are a number of positives US housing affordability is at record high suggesting there is light at the end of the tunnel. In particular 200 the US housing sector appears to be bottoming. 180 Dr Shane Oliver 160 Head of Investment Strategy and Chief Economist 140 AMP Capital Investors 120 100 80 60 70 73 76 79 82 85 88 91 94 97 00 03 06 09 12 Source: Bloomberg, AMP Capital Contact us For more information, please contact a Hillross ﬁnancial planner on 1800 445 767 or visit www.hillross.com.au Financial Advisers Your Business Development Important note: While every care has been taken in the preparation of this document, Manager or call 1300 139 267 AMP Capital Investors Limited (ABN 59 001 777 591) (AFSL 232497) makes no representation or warranty as to the accuracy or completeness of any statement in it including, without limitation, any forecasts. Past performance is not a reliable indicator Personal Investors Your Financial Adviser or call of future performance. This document has been prepared for the purpose of providing us on 1800 188 013 general information, without taking account of any particular investor’s objectives, OI_160312 ﬁnancial situation or needs. An investor should, before making any investment Wholesale Investors AMP Capital’s Client Services decisions, consider the appropriateness of the information in this document, and Team on 1800 658 404 seek professional advice, having regard to the investor’s objectives, ﬁnancial situation ... and needs. This document is solely for the use of the party to whom it is provided.
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