Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Case-Shiller Fiction Faction

The January 2013 numbers for S&P's Case-Shiller index are out. A quick scan of Google News headlines reveals many trumpeting the "biggest increase" etc since some arbitrary date, e.g. Home Prices in 20 U.S. Cities Climb by Most Since June 2006. I pondered the question of whether the U.S. housing market can be rejuvenated by trying to generate self-fulfilling expectations.

Here is a line chart of the seasonally adjusted 10- and 20- city composites:

[ Case-Shiller index (March 26, 2013)]

Clearly, the index is basically flat, with minor fluctuations based, since the first bottom in May 2009. After that, the index touched similar seasonally adjusted values in May 2010. That is, the celebration in the media is actually about going back to May 2010 prices!

Also, note that in January 2012 both the seasonally adjusted and not seasonally adjusted series were near or at their all time minimums since the Democrats took over Congress (January 2007).

Now, I do expect a bit of a boost to U.S. housing markets given that the E.U. seems intent on destroying the European banking system:

The euro fell on global markets after Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the Dutch chairman of the eurozone, announced that the heavy losses inflicted on depositors in Cyprus would be the template for future banking crises across Europe.

The question then is, are there enough Russian mobsters, Arab sheiks, and European politicians to create another housing bubble in the U.S.?

Oh, sorry, I forgot, money is free!

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