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Gold Price Rises as Home Price Growth Hits Four-Year Low

Tuesday’s Case Shiller Home Price Index has revealed further decline in the housing industry with the growth of home prices hitting a four-year low, missing market expectations.

Key Takeaways

  • The value of US homes increased 5.2% annually in November according to the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller National Home Price Index, down 0.01% from October.
  • The 20-city composite rose 4.7% annually, down from 5% in October.
  • The 10-city composite dropped from 4.7% growth in October to 4.3% in November.

Home prices in the sluggish US housing market have been slowing down since last spring, particularly in large urban and metropolitan areas, due to affordability reduced by high mortgage interest rates.

Las Vegas, Phoenix, and Seattle saw the highest annual gains in the 20-city composite. Las Vegas homes rose in value by 12%, Phoenix homes rose 8.1%, and Seattle homes rose 6.3%. Only 7 cities out of 20 an increase in home values.

Perhaps worryingly, Seattle was among the cities that saw a monthly decline in property value even as the annual value increased, with Seattle posting a -0.07% loss of home value in November compared to October. San Francisco, Minneapolis, Denver, Chicago, Detroit, and Los Angeles all saw annual gains but monthly losses, with Washington seeing no change.

An average annual increase of around 5% would not typically considered abnormal or noteworthy, but the low supply and increased demand in the declining market have already pushed prices too high, making the recent figure difficult to interpret positively in terms of the health of the housing market.

However, the cool down in prices may allow more buyers to enter the market and perhaps stimulate the market in the mid-term.

Expert Outlook

“Home prices are still rising, but more slowly than in recent months,” said David M. Blitzer, chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices. “The pace of price increases are being dampened by declining sales of existing homes and weaker affordability. Sales peaked in November 2017 and drifted down through 2018. Affordability reflects higher prices and increased mortgage rates through much of last year.”

"Housing market conditions are mixed while analysts' comments express concerns that housing is weakening and could affect the broader economy. Current low inventories of homes for sale – about a four-month supply – are supporting home prices. New home construction trends, like sales of existing homes, peaked in late 2017 and are flat to down since then," added Blitzer.

Blitzer did point out that the strong labor market with growing employment and wage increases alleviates the situation, as does the recent slowdown in interest rates, meaning the market could begin to pick up come springtime. A recent drop in interest rates prompted a 23.5% increase in mortgage applications.

Market Reaction

Gold is trading up 0.58% today at $1,309.96 /oz with a high of $1,311.06 /oz and a low of $1,302.29 /oz. The weak housing market data could well have had an effect on the price of gold due to the potential implications the report has for the US economy as a whole, particularly in light of recent uncertainty regarding the shutdown and the US-China trade war.

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