Real Estate News

Weathering the Storms

A View from the Beach
ECONOMIC COMMENTARY
November 7, 2017 –

 

The storms are over. The regions hit by the storms are recovering to various degrees. We all thought that the third quarter would see a pause because of the storms’ devastation. However, with a preliminary reading of 3.0% economic growth, a lot of forecasters were surprised. What this number tells us is one of two things. First, the national economy could be a lot stronger than we were thinking and should sprint in the fourth quarter. Or, since the hurricanes hit during the second half of the quarter, we may see a downward revision of this preliminary number.

We do know that the storms negatively affected the jobs numbers for September. We felt that October’s numbers would give us a better reading of the storms’ damage — with the revision of September’s numbers just as telling as the October results. It is hard to accomplish accurate surveys when people are in shelters and the power is out. So, how did the report come out? Indeed, the numbers for October were as expected, with an upward revision to September’s dismal numbers and a bounce back for October.

Looking at the two months together, we had approximately 140,000 jobs added each month, which is about 50,000 less than the previous year’s average. Wage growth for the month was dismal but the unemployment rate dropped one more time. Again, we expect additional recovery as the year ends, which is important because the latest meeting of the Federal Reserve indicated that they are still on track to raise rates one more time this year, and that means December, which is the only remaining meeting date. Add that to a new Fed Chairman nomination and haggling over the tax plan — especially the mortgage interest deduction — and it should be a very, very busy end of the year.

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Trick or Treat

A View from the Beach
ECONOMIC COMMENTARY
October 31, 2017 – 

We rarely get to publish on Halloween (technically once every seven years) and thus we could not resist the headline. There are many theories about the origins of Halloween and evidence of somewhat similar practices go back as far as the Middle Ages. Like other holidays in the United States, Halloween has evolved and grown and become a big commercial — or dare we say “sweet” — success. For some it is the real start of the holiday season in which our economy has grown so dependent upon.

Like every jobs report, every holiday season is a very important indicator of the direction of our economy. Consumer spending makes up about 70 percent of gross domestic product, and a solid chunk of it takes place in November and December, mainly in the form of gift purchases. A fifth of all retail sales occur in the year’s last two months, according to the National Retail Federation. Thus, these holidays are very, very important to our economy.

Speaking of the jobs report, the time has come for another reading. Last month the numbers were skewed as expected because of two major hurricanes. During this month’s statistical period we added another major hurricane and also devastating wildfires in Northern California. Thus, we are expecting major volatility in the numbers. This volatility may not only apply to the October numbers, but also to the revision of the September numbers already released. It will be hard for the markets to interpret these numbers, and therefore reactions may be muted as well.

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The Market’s Passion

A View from the Beach
ECONOMIC COMMENTARY
October 24, 2017 –

 

Sure, the stock market has risen for over eight years. But the run which started in October of 2016 is quite extraordinary, to say the least. Usually when bull markets get older, they fluctuate and run out of steam, but this one seems to have gotten quite a second wind. The question is — where is the excitement coming from?

When you look at the economy as a whole, the economy has gotten slightly stronger as the year goes on. Though, we should keep in mind that we may see a pause in this quarter with the natural disasters that have hit our country. Slightly stronger does not explain the jubilance the market seems to be experiencing. We believe that the passion is coming from not today’s performance, but is a response to hope for a major corporate tax cut. It is simple math. If a corporation’s tax liability goes down by 10 to 30 percent, their profits will go up barring other unforeseen circumstances. Higher profits make companies more valuable.

We caution that tax reform has not been enacted yet, and even if it is, we don’t know the final result. Regardless of what “side” you were on, the health care debate reminded us of how tough it is to implement changes in Washington — even when everyone knows something needs to be done. If our theory about tax reform is true, then any failure to enact significant tax reforms could be seen as a negative by the markets. Even if reforms are enacted, the markets might correct initially because the good news was built into the prices of stocks. We are not trying to predict the future, but when the markets have moved this far, it always is a good idea to be ready for at least a correction.

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Where’s the Beef?

A View from the Beach
ECONOMIC COMMENTARY
October 17, 2017 – 

 

During the past month or so, interest rates, oil prices and even gold prices have been rising. The stock market has been moving upward steadily as well, though stocks have been moving up for many years now and accelerating for the past year. With the Federal Reserve Board raising short-term rates and starting to sell assets, along with the many hurricanes we have witnessed, these higher prices are not unexpected.

In reality, it is amazing that interest rates and oil prices have stayed so low with all of these factors involved. We all would like to know where things are headed in the future–will they continue up or settle back down? The bottom line is, we can’t predict where prices and rates will go without knowing where the economy is headed. We do know the economy has been heading in the right direction since a pause which took place in the first quarter of the year.

However, we won’t have a great idea of where the economy is heading now because of the interruptions of major storms. We could have a very poor quarter or two and then have a major growth spurt because of the tremendous rebuilding that we will be undertaking. Markets always move on psychology because we can’t predict the future, but the markets are always looking for indicators of the future. Right now our indicators are likely to be even worse predictors of the future than normal. Thus, in answer to the question — where is the beef? It may be more hidden than usual.

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The Story Continues

A View from the Beach
ECONOMIC COMMENTARY
October 10, 2017 –

 

With the release of last month’s job numbers, we were able to get a glimpse of the major effects of three major hurricanes hitting within a few weeks. We have seen many pictures of devastation from Texas to Puerto Rico. The jobs report was one more picture which has made the national numbers look bad, even considering the drop in the national unemployment rate, but the national numbers still dwarf the drastic effects upon the local economies and millions of lives.

This story will not be a short story. It will be a novel with many chapters. It starts with mass devastation and the delivery of food and water, as well as other supplies of survival. It will end differently for many. Some will relocate and many others will be part of the rebuilding process. That rebuilding process will create thousands upon thousands of jobs. This is likely to result in construction job shortages in other parts of the country.

How long will it take to recover? No one knows the answer to that question. Many economic reports will be skewed as these regions go through the process. Even the federal budget deficits will be affected by a slowing economy and increased funds spent on recovery efforts. Along with the budget deficits, there will be a spike in mortgage defaults. But again, the housing stock will be rebuilt. For market analysts, this will be a very interesting story, but not nearly as meaningful as those affected locally.

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Clouded Jobs Report

A View from the Beach
ECONOMIC COMMENTARY
October 3, 2017 –  

The jobs report is a very significant economic indicator. Yet, it seems that every monthly jobs report takes on some extra form of significance. This one is certainly no exception, with the report coming in the midst of the recovery from two natural disasters hitting major population centers within the United States. Hurricanes Irma and Harvey caused major damage to some of the largest states in America — Florida and Texas — as well as affecting several other population areas.

Along with major damage, lives were changed radically. It is anticipated that we will certainly see the effects of these disasters in our economic numbers, and the jobs report should be the first major indicator. It was no surprise that initial claims for unemployment were up in the weeks after the hurricanes hit and that these additional claims were concentrated in the affected areas. The numbers may not be affected radically on a national level, but there are likely to be major changes regionally and these will affect the national numbers. How much? We will know by Friday.

The good news is that these numbers should be temporary, as many jobs will be created in the rebuilding of affected areas. So, the markets will be prepared for one or two down months, but should be anticipating a rebound pretty quickly. The Federal Reserve Board meets two more times this year and most are expecting one more rate increase in December. The size and extent of the damage and rebound may very well be one of the determining factors in this decision.

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Amazing Resiliency

A View from the Beach
ECONOMIC COMMENTARY
September 26, 2017 – 

Earlier this month, the bull market in stocks became the second strongest in history with a gain of over 260% from the bottom reached in 2009. It was already the second longest bull market in history. This is still way short of the strongest bull market in history, which achieved gains of almost 600% for the period of 1987 to 2000, but still very, very impressive. The secret to this market’s success? Steady growth with low inflation. Of course, you can also add that this bull market followed precipitous drops during the financial crisis and thus much of it was clawing its way back up.

Regardless of where it has come from, stocks have moved a long way through significant challenges and the question on everyone’s mind is — how long can this rally go on? As you would guess, there are opinions on both sides, with many analysts saying there is room to run, and others saying that stocks are being inflated by artificially low rates courtesy of the Federal Reserve Board.

The Fed met last week amid this rally, but at the same time also had to consider additional challenges, such as national disasters and a ramp-up of international tensions. The Fed’s decision to keep short-term interest rates unchanged and begin the paring of assets in October was right in line with pre-meeting expectations, though some had hoped for a delay based upon the recent challenges. Is the Fed justified in keeping rates so low, or should they hold off on the next hike expected in December — until they see how well our economy recovers longer-term from the hurricanes which have hit so hard? Only time will tell, as we cannot predict the future any better now than we could in 2009.

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