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Here Are Three Observations on Housing That Show There’s No Way Out

The Fed has created permanent housing crisis from which there is no escape.

Total US housing starts peaked in 1972. This chart shows actual (not seasonally manipulated) total starts, multifamily starts, and single family starts for each September since then.

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September Housing Starts- Click to enlarge

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I have 3 observations.

  1. The recovery in total starts since 2010 has regained less than the post 1972 average.
  2. Multifamily starts are near the peak levels of the 1978-87 decade, which is to say, nearing “as good as it gets,” and unlikely to be additionally accretive for the US economy.
  3. There is no single family housing market. It has recovered only to 1982 recession levels. Prior to the 2008-2012 housing depression, that was the worst housing market in the US since single family starts reporting began in 1959. The single family housing industry in the US is still in a depression.

This can only leave us to wonder what would happen if mortgage rates were to actually materially rise. You can bet that the Fed is wondering the same thing.

If rates did start rising, the housing industry might be stimulated a little at first as buyers and multifamily developers who were on the fence jump into the market to beat rising rates. But once that reluctant pool of fence sitters is exhausted, there would be no more buyers. The next step would be collapse.

The Fed’s only option would then seem to be more QE. We know that economies develop a greater and greater tolerance that drug over time. Japan and Europe are perfect cases in point. They are the walking dead. By keeping rates at zero the Fed has left itself, and us, no way out.

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Lee Adler

I’ve been publishing The Wall Street Examiner and its predecessor since October 2000. I also publish LiquidityTrader.com, and was lead analyst for Sure Money Investor, of blessed memory. I developed David Stockman's Contra Corner for Mr. Stockman. I’ve had a wide variety of finance related jobs since 1972, including a stint on Wall Street in both sales, analytical, and trading capacities. Prior to starting the Wall Street Examiner I was a commercial real estate appraiser in Florida for 15 years. I was considered an expert in the analysis of failed properties that ended up in the hands of bank REO divisions, the FDIC, and the RTC. Remember those guys? I also worked in the residential mortgage and real estate businesses in parts of the 1970s and 80s. I have been charting stocks and markets and doing analytical work since I was a teenager. I'm not some Ivory Tower academic, Wall Street guy. My perspective comes from having my boots on the ground and in the trenches, as a real estate broker, mortgage broker, trader, account rep, and analyst. I've watched most of the games these Wall Street wiseguys play from right up close. I know the drill from my 55 years of paying attention. And I'm happy to share that experience with you, right here. 

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