Macro Economic Mashup: Consumer Sentiment Hits a High But Case-Shiller Home Price Index Continues Decline

Markets are down this morning after macro economic news releases for consumer sentiment and housing:

Consumer Sentiment: Starting the Year on a High

Consumer Sentiment has been improving. This month the Consumer Confidence Index hit an 8-month high. The index rose to 60.6 (54.3 expected) from 54.1 last month.

Lynn Franco, Director of The Conference Board Consumer Research Center, said:

“Consumers have begun the year in better spirits. As a result, the Index is now near levels not seen since last spring (May 2010, Index 62.7). Consumers rated business and labor market conditions more favorably and expressed greater confidence that the economy will continue to expand and generate more jobs in the months ahead. Income expectations are also more positive. Although pessimists still outnumber optimists, the gap has narrowed.

Consumers’ assessment of current conditions was more positive in January. Those saying business conditions are “good” increased to 9.8 percent from 7.7 percent, while those saying business conditions are “bad” was virtually unchanged at 40.4 percent. Consumers’ appraisal of the job market was also more upbeat than last month. Those claiming jobs are “plentiful” rose to 5.2 percent from 4.2 percent, while those claiming jobs are “hard to get” declined to 43.4 percent from 46.0 percent.

Consumers’ short-term outlook was more optimistic than in December. Those anticipating an improvement in business conditions over the next six months increased to 19.0 percent from 16.8 percent, while those anticipating business conditions will worsen decreased to 11.3 percent from 11.8 percent. Consumers were also more optimistic about the job market. Those anticipating more jobs in the months ahead increased to 16.0 percent from 14.2 percent, while those expecting fewer jobs declined to 17.5 percent from 19.2 percent. The proportion of consumers expecting an increase in their incomes rose to 11.4 percent from 9.9 percent.”

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Case-Shiller Home Price Index: Can’t Stop the Drop

If you’ve heard Tom Petty’s song Free Fallin’, you’ve heard this one before. The S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Index 10-City Composite was down 0.4% and the 20-City Composite fell 1.6% from their November 2009 levels. Home prices fell in 19 of 20 MSAs and both Composites in November from their October levels.

The Composite indices remain above their spring 2009 lows; however, eight markets – Atlanta, Charlotte, Detroit, Las Vegas, Miami, Portland (OR), Seattle and Tampa – hit their lowest levels since home prices peaked in 2006 and 2007, meaning that average home prices in those markets have fallen even further than the lows set in the spring of 2009.

David M. Blitzer, Chairman of the Index Committee at Standard & Poor’s commented:

““With these numbers more analysts will be calling for a double-dip in home prices. Let’s take a moment to define a double-dip as seeing the 10- and 20-City Composites set new post-peak lows. The series are now only 4.8% and 3.3% above their April 2009 lows, suggesting that a double-dip could be confirmed before Spring. Certainly eight cities setting new lows, and with the only positive news concentrated in southern California and Washington DC, the data point to weakness in home prices.”

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