NEW$ & VIEW$ (1 MAY 2013)

It seems that U.S. housing is the only area offering fresh positive stuff these days. That is if you are not in the market for a new house.

 

Housing Market Heating Up

Home prices are rising at the fastest rate in seven years, as buyers return to a market where property is in short supply.

Prices increased 9.3% in February from a year earlier while mortgage-interest rates hovered near record lows, according to the Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller index that tracks home prices in 20 major metropolitan areas. All 20 cities posted year-over-year gains for the second consecutive month, which hasn’t happened since 2005, before the crash.

In some of the hardest-hit markets, the gains have been particularly heady. Home prices rose 23% from one year ago in Phoenix and 18.9% in San Francisco. Nationally, the median home price in March stood at $184,300, well below the peak of $230,400 in 2006 but up from $154,600 in January 2012. (…)

For now, recent data suggest home-price gains are likely to continue. Sales of previously owned homes rose by 10.3% from one year ago in March, even as supplies of homes for sale fell by 16.8%. The Wall Street Journal’s quarterly survey of market conditions in 28 metropolitan areas showed very low supplies of homes available in a rising number of markets, including a less-than-three-month supply in a dozen markets, including the two hottest—Phoenix and San Francisco. (…)

At current mortgage rates near 3.5%, home values would need to rise by 32% nationally—and by as much as 48% in markets across the Midwest and north Florida—for affordability to return to its long-run average, according to an analysis by John Burns Real Estate Consulting in Irvine, Calif.

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Confused smile  Krueger: Sequester Hits Harder, Earlier Than Expected

The economic fallout from deep federal government spending cuts has come sooner than expected, White House chief economist Alan Krueger said Tuesday.

Storm cloud  ADP Says U.S. Companies Employed Fewer Workers Than Forecast

Companies added 119,000 workers to payrolls in April, figures from Roseland, New Jersey-based ADP Research Institute showed today.

Storm cloud  China Manufacturing Weakens

A gauge of China’s manufacturing activity showed fresh signs of weakness in April, undercutting hopes of a stronger upturn in demand from the world’s second-largest economy.

[image]The official Purchasing Managers’ Index came in at 50.6 in April, below expectations of a reading in line with the 50.9 recorded in March.

Note that the seasonally adjusted (by ISI) number is 49.1 vs 49.6 in March.

All but one of the official PMI subindexes—with the exception of a steady measure of raw material stockpiles—were down in April from the previous month.

  • Pointing up  The official PMI sub-index for new orders fell to 51.7 in April from 52.3 in March while the measure of new export orders slid into contraction territory with a reading of 48.6 in April, compared with 50.9 in March.
  • The sub-index for purchasing prices of raw materials tumbled 10.5 percentage points to 40.1 percent, the first reading below 50 after the sub-index stayed above the demarcation level for seven consecutive months.
  • The sub-index for finished goods inventories moved down 2.5 percentage points from the previous month to 47.7 percent, while the sub-index for production shrank slightly by 0.1percentage points to 52.6 percent.
  • The CFLP data also showed that the employment sub-index for April declined 0.8 percentage points to 49.0 percent, indicating job cuts, while the sub-index for supplier delivery times fell slightly to 50.8 percent.

Lightning  Eurozone retail sales continue to fall sharply in April

Markit’s retail PMI® data signalled little respite for the Eurozone’s retailers at the start of the second quarter. Sales fell on a monthly basis for a survey record eighteenth consecutive month, and the rate of
decline remained sharp despite easing slightly since March. Retailers subsequently cut more staff and lowered their purchasing activity.

Retail PMI data by country signalled steep falls in sales in both France and Italy, and an ongoing flat trend in Germany. The month-on-month rate of decline in France eased from March’s record pace, but remained severe.

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(…)  Retailers across the Eurozone continued to cut workforces in April, extending the current sequence of job shedding to over a year. Moreover,
the rate of decline was little-changed from March’s 43-month record. Retail employment rose in Germany for the thirty-fifth successive month, but at only a marginal rate, while job shedding at French and Italian retailers remained sharp in the context of historic survey data.

(…) retailers’ gross margins continued to fall sharply, and they cut the value of purchases for the twenty-first successive month. Subsequently, stocks of goods for resale declined for the eight consecutive month, the
second-longest sequence in the survey history.

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Denmark Exhausts Stimulus Avenues as Housing Losses Persist

Denmark’s government says it has exhausted all avenues for adding stimulus as the economy shows signs of sinking into its third recession since the global financial crisis started.

“We’ve used whatever leeway there is,” Economy Minister Margrethe Vestager said in a telephone interview from Copenhagen late yesterday. “There’s no more space to stimulate the Danish economy.”

Seoul offers exporters $10bn of help
Companies dealing with sluggish global demand and weaker yen

South Korea exported goods and services worth $46.3bn in April, the government said on Wednesday. This was a 0.4 per cent year-on-year rise, but down by 2.4 per cent from March’s figure.

Seoul said it would seek to revive export growth by increasing from Won71tn ($64.5bn) to Won82.1tn the value of public loan programmes aimed at small and midsized exporters. (…)

However, he cautioned that Seoul would closely monitor the weakening Japanese yen, a source of growing concern for South Korean policy makers. This follows a warning last month from finance minister Hyun Oh-seok that the yen’s slide was already having an impact on the South Korean economy.

Despite a recent fall in the US dollar value of the South Korean won, it has strengthened by 21 per cent against the yen over the past seven months, as markets anticipate expansionary fiscal and monetary policy under Japan’s new government. (…)

On Monday, data showed that South Korea’s industrial production suffered a month-on-month fall of 2.6 per cent in March: the third successive decline.

Smile  Solid rises in output and new orders support continued expansion of Japanese manufacturing economy

imageThe headline seasonally adjusted Markit/JMMA Purchasing Managers’ Index™ (PMI™) rose to 51.1 in April, up from March’s 50.4 and a 13-month high. The PMI has shown steady improvement since the start of 2013 and has posted readings above the 50.0 no-change mark in each of the past two survey periods.

April’s survey data indicated a further rise in manufacturing output. Growth was modest, but still the sharpest in over a year as a particularly strong performance from the investment goods category offset ongoing weakness in the consumer and intermediate sectors.

Similar market group trends were observed for new orders data, with investment goods producers supporting a solid increase in sales for the sector as a whole. There was evidence of improved domestic and overseas demand, with clients reportedly investing in plant equipment and raising inventory holdings. A depreciation of the yen helped to support a solid rise in new export sales.

SENTIMENT WATCH: BAD SURPRISES? SO WHAT!

The chart below shows the 26-week rolling correlation of the Economic Surprise Index and changes in the S&P 500. A declining line represents periods where economic data and the S&P are becoming less correlated, or even moving inversely to each other. The most recent correlation below -0.7 indicates that stocks and negative economic data are moving in almost perfectly opposite directions. (Bill Hester via John Hussman)

 

Lightning  Slovenia Junks Its Bond Sale After Downgrade

Slovenia stunned investors when it halted a bond sale just before Moody’s downgraded the country’s debt to “junk.”

The government said it would proceed with the bond issue. However, Slovenia will likely see higher borrowing costs, some investors said. Now that its bonds are rated junk, they will be off limits to investors that buy only investment-grade debt. Slovenia’s 10-year bond yielded 5.847% on Tuesday, compared with 5.69% a day earlier. (…)

Moody’s said it was concerned about Slovenia’s undercapitalized banking sector and deteriorating government balance sheet.

Rift Emerges Over Saudi Oil Policy

A rare public dispute over oil policy in Saudi Arabia emerged as the kingdom’s oil minister and a senior member of its royal family disagreed over long-term production targets for the world’s largest crude exporter.

The Middle Eastern kingdom, which produces around 10% of the world’s oil, needs to increase its crude production capacity by a fifth to 15 million barrels a day by 2020 in order to meet rising domestic consumption and maintain its current export capacity, said Prince Turki al-Faisal, a former intelligence chief and ambassador for the kingdom. (…)

The comments from the prince, who has no formal government position, but is a prominent member of the kingdom’s royal family, were contradicted by Saudi Oil Minister, Ali al-Naimi. There is currently no need to increase crude production capacity beyond 12.5 million barrels a day, Mr. Naimi said.

Saudi Arabia currently produces around 9 million barrels a day of oil, leaving 3.5 million barrels a day as spare capacity. (…)

Prince Faisal’s comments also run counter to the official position of the state-controlled Saudi Arabian Oil Co., also known as Aramco. Aramco declined to comment Tuesday, but its top executive has previously ruled out increasing capacity to 15 million barrels a day despite acknowledging that domestic use of crude would rise and thus limit exports.

Aramco’s Chief Executive Khalid al-Falih ruled out increasing Saudi production capacity to 15 million barrels a day in 2011, despite acknowledging that domestic use of crude would rise and thus limit exports, because he said expansion plans in other producing countries such as Iraq and Brazil should be enough to satisfy world markets. (…)

Saudi Arabia last year consumed around 3 million barrels per day of oil, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, almost double its 2000 level and putting it on track to use more than 5 million barrels a day if a 7% annual growth rate were to continue.

Aramco’s Mr. al-Falih acknowledged in 2011 that, if left unchecked, domestic energy consumption would rise to 8.2 million barrels of oil a day by 2030. (…)

Remember: the Saudis need $100 oil to balance their budget.

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