Trends Persist Heading into 2014

Trends established in 2013 show signs of persisting into 2014... but for how long?

Take home prices, which continue to move strongly higher. The latest edition of the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index shows prices rose 1.05% in October. Year over year, prices are up 13.63% in the composite 20-city index to post the strongest year-over-year gain since February 2006.

There are a couple points worth noting: First, the latest index reading is for October, so it's two-month in arrears. That said, price data from other providers point to continued gains in November and December. The Case-Shiller index will very likely show that 2013 was a very good year for home prices.

It's also worth noting that there is some market rotation going on. Gains are no longer being paced by formerly depressed Phoenix and Las Vegas (where sales dropped to a five-year low in November). Instead, they are being paced by Detroit and Atlanta – markets that have been struggling until recently. This makes sense: Trees don't grow to the stratosphere and holes aren't dug to the center of the earth. There is a limit to how high or how low markets will go until they reverse course.

With that in mind, the Case-Shiller index has performed exceptionally well over the past two years. Aside from a hitch in 2010, the index has been on a tear since January 2009. This is unprecedented. And as we've noted before, it's also unsustainable. Once the last of the depressed markets rally, we expect national price appreciation, as well as price appreciation in more local markets, to slow. We wouldn't be surprised to see that begin as early as the first quarter of 2014.

The other major trend – rising mortgage rates – is showing signs of being sustained into 2014.'s national survey shows the rate on the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage rose six basis points to 4.69% in the past week. We're not surprised that rates moved higher, because the yield on the influential 10-year U.S. Treasury note is on the rise. In fact, the yield on the 10-year note is above 3%, the highest it has been in over two years.

The 30-year loan historically trades two percentage points above the 10-year note. Simple math, therefore, points to a 5% rate on the 30-year loan. We'll likely see 5% prevail by the end of the year, or even by mid-year.

On a more positive note, we see a trend reversal in existing home sales. After stagnating in the second half of 2013, sales should gain traction in 2014. We say that because we agree with NAR's chief economist Lawrence Yun and his assessment of the market. Says Yun, “ We may have reached a cyclical low because the positive fundamentals of job creation and household formation are likely to foster a fairly stable level of contract activity in 2014.”

We've expressed similar sentiments over the past few months. If our sentiment prevails, it's unlikely that markets will be derailed by higher lending rates and slowing home-price growth.

Courtesy of Jessica Regan.

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