Morning Report: The Index of Leading Economic Indicators signals a recession

Vital Statistics:

S&P futures4,147-31.0
Oil (WTI)77.67-1.49
10 year government bond yield 3.55%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 6.54%

Stocks are lower this morning as earnings continue to come in. Bonds and MBS are up.

Existing home sales fell 2.4% in March, according to the National Association of Realtors. Sales were down 22% on a year-over-year basis. “Home sales are trying to recover and are highly sensitive to changes in mortgage rates,” said NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun. “Yet, at the same time, multiple offers on starter homes are quite common, implying more supply is needed to fully satisfy demand. It’s a unique housing market.”

The median home price fell 0.9% on a YOY basis to $379,300. Days on market fell to 29 days.

The Conference Board’s Index of Leading Economic Indicators fell by 1.2% in March. “The U.S. LEI fell to its lowest level since November of 2020, consistent with worsening economic conditions ahead,” said Justyna Zabinska-La Monica, Senior Manager, Business Cycle Indicators, at The Conference Board. “The weaknesses among the index’s components were widespread in March and have been so over the past six months, which pushed the growth rate of the LEI deeper into negative territory. Only stock prices and manufacturers’ new orders for consumer goods and materials contributed positively over the last six months. The Conference Board forecasts that economic weakness will intensify and spread more widely throughout the US economy over the coming months, leading to a recession starting in mid-2023.”

The Fed’s Beige Book showed the economy deteriorated in recent weeks. Overall, we are seeing evidence that pricing pressures are abating and the labor market is softening.

“Overall economic activity was little changed in recent weeks. Nine Districts reported either no change or only a slight change in activity this period while three indicated modest growth. Expectations for future growth were mostly unchanged as well; however, two Districts saw outlooks deteriorate. Consumer spending was generally seen as flat to down slightly amid continued reports of moderate price growth…On balance, residential real estate sales and new construction activity softened modestly. Nonresidential construction was little changed while sales and leasing activity was generally flat to down. Lending volumes and loan demand generally declined across consumer and business loan types…Employment growth moderated somewhat this period as several Districts reported a slower pace of growth than in recent Beige Book reports. A small number of firms reported mass layoffs, and those were centered at a subset of the largest companies. Some other firms opted to allow for natural attrition to occur, and to hire only for critically important roles…Overall price levels rose moderately during this reporting period, though the rate of price increases appeared to be slowing. Contacts noted modest-to-sharp declines in the prices of nonlabor inputs and significantly lower freight costs in recent weeks. Nevertheless, producer prices for finished goods rose modestly this period, albeit at a slightly slower pace. Selling price pressures eased broadly in manufacturing and services sectors. Consumer prices generally increased due to still-elevated demand as well as higher inventory and labor costs. Prices for homes and rents leveled out in most Districts but remained at near record highs. Contacts expected further relief from input cost pressures but anticipated changing their prices more frequently compared to previous years.”

Homebuilder D.R. Horton reported a 33% decrease in earnings per share, however guidance cheered the Street, which sent the stock up 7%.

“The spring selling season is off to an encouraging start with our net sales orders increasing 73% sequentially from the first quarter. Despite higher mortgage rates and inflationary pressures, demand improved during the
quarter due to normal seasonal factors, coupled with our use of incentives and pricing adjustments to adapt to changing market conditions. Although higher interest rates and economic uncertainty may persist for some time, the supply of both new and existing homes at affordable price points remains limited, and demographics supporting housing demand remain favorable.”


Author: Brent Nyitray

In the physical sciences, knowledge is cumulative. In the financial markets, it is cyclical

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