Windows

There are plenty of reasons to think that the market could yet melt up. Leading indicators seem to be OK, the all-important ISM Manufacturing Index confirms the broadly upbeat tone and sell-side cheerleaders talk up their surveys of truckers and other economically sensitive power-plays. And lest we forget, despite all the cooing on intentions to the contrary, monetary stimulus remains colossal. And yet we just had some housing data from the Commerce Department that appeared to have a few windows missing. Amongst a string of squidgy numbers, news agencies that picked up the report, announced that building permits had “tumbled” to a twelve month low. Those who forecast such things expected something a bit better. As they often do. Ominously too, lumber prices are now rising again, and copper is also breaking out. So much so, it appears they have almost run out at the LME. Housing matters as it represents the biggest chunk of household wealth and so weak data could quickly become a sticky issue. One research outlet puts together a Mortgage Finance Company Index, which is, as you might hope, an Index of the five largest publicly traded mortgage lenders in the US. Think names like Rocket Mortgage and Home Point Capital. The index has lost almost half of its value since the end of last year. As in minus 50%. Why, into a red-hot market, is that? The stock market is notoriously, a forward looking beast. Gulp. The recent strength in housing market is largely built on the ongoing crisis-era low-rate shemozzle, perpetuated by a Central Bank that says one thing and appears to do another. The promises of imminent tapering and potential rate hikes into 2022 has seen a re-pricing of assets, but given all the debt and demands of a government agenda that would give any conservative minded economist a nasty turn, there is an argument to be made that the mandarins – despite what they say – will be unable to raise rates in any meaningful manner. If that were to be the case, then the housing market might be on firmer ground and all the other stocks geared into it might not follow the same path as the punch-drunk mortgage lenders. Ifs, buts and maybes.