U.S. automobile and real estate sales decline despite higher consumer confidence and low unemployment as of October 2018.

Fiona Sydney

2018-10-27 09:34:00 Sat ET

U.S. automobile and real estate sales decline despite higher consumer confidence and low unemployment as of October 2018. This slowdown arises from the current U.S. interest rate hike that helps wean the economy off near-zero rates. High costs of capital squeeze the automobile and real estate industries after the prior decade of monetary stimulus. The most expensive U.S. consumer purchases are cars and houses, and these consumer industries are quite sensitive to the cyclical ebbs and flows of credit supply expansion. Recent U.S. mortgage rates reach 5% for the first time since 2011, and thus new home sales tumble 5.5% in 2018Q3 to the lowest level in about 2 years.

Residential home sale declines are double-digits and quite severe in the northeast and west U.S. states. In light of higher mortgage rates and home prices, financial economists start to consider rental properties more cost-effective than residential home purchases. Meanwhile, most Case-Shiller home price indices begin to show the current trend that home price gains decelerate from March 2018 to September 2018. Wall Street seems to impose hefty penalties on automobile and real estate stocks. Many homebuilder ETFs such as XHB, TOL, and KBH have plunged about 30% year-to-date since January 2018. Also, several automobile stocks from Ford to GM show 25%+ price declines in the same time frame. The latter auto industry further suffers higher production costs due to Trump tariffs. These bearish traces suggest the inconvenient truth that the U.S. economy may have gone beyond the peak of real business cycles with low inflation and robust employment and capital investment growth.

 


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