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The Atlanta Fed's macroblog provides commentary on economic topics including monetary policy, macroeconomic developments, financial issues and Southeast regional trends.

Authors for macroblog are Dave Altig and other Atlanta Fed economists.


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October 19, 2012


Investor Participation in the Home-Buying Market

What is the investor share of the home-buying market, and in what direction is the trend moving? We have been asking ourselves this question for the past few months, because the answer can help to inform what type of housing recovery we are seeing. Is it being driven by owner occupants or investors?

If it is being driven by investors, does this signal an emerging aversion to homeownership? Or, instead, does this simply signal that owner occupants are unable access mortgage finance and that, for now, owner occupants will be unable to maintain the share of market they once held? If we see that the owner occupant share is increasing, this observation could offer some support that the housing recovery has legs. The conclusion that the investor share is increasing, then, may suggest that we will see home sales activity fall off once prices rise to the point that it no longer makes sense for investors to continue buying.

To help us pinpoint the share and trend in the investor participation in the home-buying market, we polled our real estate business contacts to get a better sense for our regional portrait of investor market share. When asked to describe the distribution of home buyers in their market, our business contacts from the Southeast (excluding Florida) noted that one-fifth of home sales, on average, were to investors. Once we added Florida into our tally of Southeast contacts, just over one-fourth of sales, on average, were to investors.

121019_tbl1


Since this was the first time we posed this question to our business contacts, we lacked information on the directional trend. To address this information gap, we asked our business contacts how sales to investors had changed between the second and third quarters of 2012. More than half reported no change or a slight decline in home sales to investors, unless you include the Florida observations. A closer look at Florida reveals that nearly two-thirds of our business contacts reported that sales to investors in Florida have increased over the past quarter. The investor dynamic in Florida all seems to add up, especially given the strong demand from international buyers and cash investors in South Florida. This dynamic was discussed in the latest issue of EconSouth.


We thought it would also be informative to ask our business contacts about their expectations for future investor home buying activity. For the Southeast less Florida, more than half of our business contacts indicated that they did not expect there to be much change in investor market share over the next year. For Florida, more than half of the business contacts continued to indicate that they expected share of sales to investors to increase.


While the intelligence gathered from our business contacts aligns nicely with external data sources, we still had a few concerns that made us question the directional trend of these data.

The first source of concern is two-fold. First, brokers serve as a key input to our business contact poll and others like it. In and of itself, this is not a big deal because brokers are valued business contacts that provide us with a frequent and timely pulse on changing conditions in local real estate markets. What is slightly problematic is that brokers often rely heavily on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), which brings me to my second point. We have also been hearing through business contacts (and this is echoed in the media here) that the composition of the investor pool has shifted from primarily smaller mom/pop-type investors to larger institutional investors that, more often than not, purchase properties at auction or directly from banks. Often, these sales take place before the properties get listed on MLS.

So, how involved are brokers in transactions that take place before MLS? Is this particular slice of investment activity being picked up by our sources? If not, how much do we really know about the share and directional trend of investor participation in the home buyer market?

Media coverage (here, for example) of these institutional investors often describes scenes at local auction in which institutional investors outbid smaller investors and have gone so far as to expand their presence and show up at auctions where properties at the fringe (in less desirable locations) are being sold. This piece of information, alone, leads me to believe that these larger investors have displaced smaller investors. Therefore, it would not necessarily be correct to think of properties acquired by institutional investors as something in addition to the properties purchased by smaller mom/pop investors. Instead, many of the mom/pop investors have been priced out of the market and replaced by institutional investors.

Another related concern involves the timing and strategy of these institutional investors. Why would institutional investors flood local real estate markets at the same time that inventory is tightening and home prices are beginning to stabilize and modestly increase in many markets? Wouldn't this squeeze their yields and make it less desirable for them to continue to ramp up their efforts?

To help provide some insight into the institutional investor, I created a table of information to provide a profile on a few institutional investors often cited by the press. It is important to mention that this table was not intended to be all-encompassing and that the source of information is entirely secondary.

121019_tbl2


What this table implies is that institutional investors ramped up activity earlier this year and have indeed concentrated their investment activity within a handful of markets that were hit hard by the housing downturn. Acquisition strategies for these larger investors focus on mostly low-priced, distressed properties.

This makes sense. The markets hit hardest by the housing downturn are also the markets where distressed properties make up a significant portion of the available homes for sale. However, data from CoreLogic indicates that the share of distressed sales is steadily declining over time. As the distressed sales share continues to shrink and home prices continue to rise, it stands to reason that investment activity will shrink (or continue to shrink).

It was recently noted that Och-Ziff Capital Management Group LLC, a large institutional investor (not outlined in the table above), announced that it intends to exit this line of business. Perhaps it is just a matter of time before other large investors follow suit.

Dave AltigBy Jessica Dill, a senior analyst in the Atlanta Fed’s Center for Real Estate Analytics

 


October 19, 2012 in Housing, Real Estate | Permalink

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Another approach to this general topic is to track sales vs. mortgage purchase applications. Sales to investors generally do not require a single property mortgage. Sales were much stronger than applications in 2011 and the first half of 2012. More recently applications have picked up. This is consistent with investors being more active last year and early this year. Owner occupants now seem to have become more dominant.

Posted by: Douglas Lee | October 22, 2012 at 01:24 PM

Hi Jessica. You are correct. The markets hit hardest by the housing downturn are also the markets where distressed properties make up a significant portion of the available homes for sale.

Posted by: regulatory arbitrage | October 24, 2012 at 11:42 AM

Hi Jessica. I totally agree with you. the markets hit hardest by the housing downturn are also the markets where distressed properties make up a significant portion of the available homes for sale.

Posted by: adr arbitrage | November 06, 2012 at 02:52 PM

Jessica, this seems to be the case everywhere. Living in Panama there are a number of Americans who initially moved down here in the boom and had properties back home. Some of them have had to let those properties go, as even if they returned home, they would not be able to keep up the payments and the cost of living.

Posted by: Jeanne Smith | December 01, 2012 at 01:14 PM

Another one in agreement, downturn causes a lot of stress on the market all over the World. We just had our Auturm Statement here in the UK and there it was good for business bad for the individual.

Posted by: Dean K | December 06, 2012 at 03:27 AM

The housing market is different all over the World, but each Country has some dstressed areas more than others. Good article will return and read more. Thank you Jessica.

Posted by: Peter | December 07, 2012 at 08:57 AM

The markets hit hardest by the housing downturn are also the markets where distressed properties make up a significant portion of the available homes for sale.

Posted by: our website | January 25, 2013 at 09:02 AM

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October 12, 2012


The (Maybe Not So) Simple Arithmetic of Unemployment and Labor Force Participation

I have precisely zero interest in jumping into any fray from the before and after of Wednesday's Wall Street Journal opinion piece by Jack Welch, wherein he defends his previous comments on the reliability of reported unemployment statistics. But there is one particular statement in that editorial that offers up what is sometimes called a teachable moment, to wit,

By definition, fewer people in the workforce leads to better unemployment numbers.

By definition, that's not really correct. Consider a really simple example. Suppose:

Population = 200

Number of Employed People = 92

Number of Unemployed People = 8

Labor Force (Employed + Unemployed) = 100

In this example the labor force participation rate is 0.50 (the labor force divided by the population) and the unemployment rate 0.08, or 8 percent (the number of unemployed divided by the labor force).

Now suppose that five people drop out of the labor force (which would mean that labor force participation would decline from 0.5 to 0.475). What happens to the unemployment rate? Well, it depends what those 5 people were doing before they left the labor force. If they were unemployed, then unemployment falls to 3, the labor force falls to 95, and the unemployment rate is about 3.2 percent (or 0.0316 times 100). But if the 5 people who dropped out the labor force had been previously employed, the unemployment rate would actually rise to about 8.4 percent (because the number of unemployed would still be 8, but it would now be divided by 95 instead of 100).

Hope that clears it up.

Note: You can take a look some actual data on flows into and out of employment, unemployment, and not in the labor force here.

David Altig By Dave Altig, executive vice president and research director at the Atlanta Fed

October 12, 2012 | Permalink

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Comments

Dave - thank you for this example. It is simple and to the point and does a great job explaining the numbers "behind" the numbers in this situation. I recommended it to a teacher and her students and they found it to be very helpful in the classroom.

Posted by: Todd Zartman | October 12, 2012 at 01:19 PM

There is no chance that the BLS changed the results of the September CPS in favor of one party. On the other hand, the sample of 70000 households with approximately 200,000 people might not be enough to gaurantee the uncertainty desired during the election race. The fall in the rate of unemployment by 0.3% corresponds to the change in employment status to 300 people. The BLS (TP 66) states that the inherent uncertainty of unemploymemt rate (i.e. the uncertainty associated with measuring and non measuring errors)is 0.2%. Therefore, the outcome of 7.8% might be internally biased, although not intentionally as some experts suggest.

I also think that many experts undertand Welch's statement as suggesting a proportional fall as an extension of ceteris paribus principle. Your take might be counterproductive as it looks like a lawer trick before the court.

Posted by: kio | October 13, 2012 at 03:20 AM

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October 10, 2012


Divergent Jobs Reports: Will the Real State of the Labor Market Please Stand Up?

The September employment report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) was predestined to create a significant amount of buzz. But the confluence of headline jobs growth at a modest clip of 114,000 and a surprisingly large 0.3 percentage point reduction in the unemployment rate has made the report more buzz-worthy than we (here at macroblog) expected. Although some of the commentary has been more heat than light, there have been some particularly good reminders of the difference between the establishment survey data, from which the headline jobs figure is derived, and the household survey data, from which come the unemployment statistics. The discussions on Greg Mankiw's blog and by Catherine Rampell (at The New York Times's Economix blog) are especially useful. Or, perhaps even better, you can go to the source at the BLS.

It's important to remember that both surveys are subject to error and, because of its much smaller sample size, the household survey can be subject to particularly sizeable swings. Specifically, the standard error of the household survey's monthly change in employment is 436,000(!). Based on the most extreme assumptions about flows in and out of unemployment and in and out of the labor force, understating or overstating actual employment by 436,000 would imply a measured unemployment rate ranging from 7.5 percent to 8.1 percent. (The BLS estimate of the standard error for unemployment puts a range on September's number of 7.6 percent to 8 percent.)

In his post, Greg Mankiw makes reference to a Brookings Institution paper by George Perry from a few years back that offers what is probably good advice: since both the payroll and household surveys are subject to error, and since the errors in each are likely unrelated to one another, the clearest picture about what is happening to employment in real time can be gleaned by combining information from both.

In fact, in a directional sense, both the household and payroll surveys are giving the same signals. In the table below, we compare the recent trends in monthly job gains measured in both surveys. The coverage in the two reports is slightly different. Unlike the payroll count, the household survey includes the self-employed and counts multiple jobs held by a single person as a single instance of employment. Because of this, the BLS also reports an adjusted version of the household survey, called the payroll concept adjusted employment measure. This payroll-consistent measure is designed to control for definitional differences across the household and establishment reports and also makes statistical adjustments for changes to the population controls in various years. So we include the data from this measure in the last column of the table.

121010_tbl

Overall, all three measures suggest a weaker trend over the last six months than over the last nine months. All three measures also indicate that things were somewhat stronger on average in the last three months than in the prior three months. The bottom line in our view is that, though the employment levels can be quite different across the three measures, all suggest that the jobs picture has improved somewhat in the past three months.

The suggestion in George Perry's Brookings paper—combining the household and establishment data—can be implemented by constructing a weighted average of the two surveys. In our variation we put weights in proportion to the inverse of the sampling variability of the payroll and household surveys, which would roughly imply an 80 percent weight on the establishment measure and 20 percent on the payroll-consistent household measure. The estimates using these weights are reported in the last column of the table above. Because the component employment measures display directionally similar trends in recent months, the weighted average does as well. 

In a speech given a few weeks ago, Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart, our boss here, offered the opinion that

Taking a two-year view, the trend rate of gains in employment has been roughly 150,000 per month. This pace would be sufficient, at current levels of participation in the workforce, to sustain a steady, gradual reduction of the unemployment rate.

As the September employment reports show, predicting the unemployment rate month to month can be tricky business, and there may be better ways than just extrapolating from the jobs data. But thus far we are inclined to think that slow but steady progress on the jobs front is still the best story.

David Altig By Dave Altig, executive vice president and research director at the Atlanta Fed

October 10, 2012 in Employment, Labor Markets | Permalink

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The problem is the focus on seasonally adjusted data. The NSA data trends are very clear and consistent. See http://wp.me/p2r1d8-vkW and http://wp.me/p2r1d8-v8r

Posted by: Lee Adler / The Wall Street Examiner | October 10, 2012 at 05:58 PM

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October 09, 2012


Supporting Price Stability

All of the five questions that Chairman Ben Bernanke addressed in his October 1 speech to the Economic Club of Indiana rank high on the list of most frequently asked questions I encounter in my own travels about the Southeast. But if I had to choose a number one question, on the scale of intensity if not frequency, it would probably be this one: "What is the risk that the Fed's accommodative monetary policy will lead to inflation?"

The Chairman gave a fine answer, of course, and I hope it is especially noted that Mr. Bernanke was not dismissive that risks do exist:

"I'm confident that we have the necessary tools to withdraw policy accommodation when needed, and that we can do so in a way that allows us to shrink our balance sheet in a deliberate and orderly way. ...

"Of course, having effective tools is one thing; using them in a timely way, neither too early nor too late, is another. Determining precisely the right time to 'take away the punch bowl' is always a challenge for central bankers, but that is true whether they are using traditional or nontraditional policy tools. I can assure you that my colleagues and I will carefully consider how best to foster both of our mandated objectives, maximum employment and price stability, when the time comes to make these decisions."

While the world waits for "take away the punch bowl" time to arrive, here is another question that I think worthy of consideration: "Looking back over the past several years, what is the risk that the Fed's price stability mandate would have been compromised absent accommodative monetary policy?"

As the Chairman noted in his speech, it isn't easy to take the evidence at hand and argue any inconsistency between the Federal Open Market Committee's (FOMC) policy actions and its price stability mandate:

"I will start by pointing out that the Federal Reserve's price stability record is excellent, and we are fully committed to maintaining it. Inflation has averaged close to 2 percent per year for several decades, and that's about where it is today. In particular, the low interest rate policies the Fed has been following for about five years now have not led to increased inflation. Moreover, according to a variety of measures, the public's expectations of inflation over the long run remain quite stable within the range that they have been for many years."

To the question I posed earlier, I am tempted to take those observations one step further. Without the policy steps taken by the FOMC over the past several years, the "excellent" price stability record would indeed have been compromised.

Consider the so-called five-year/five-year-forward breakeven inflation rate, a closely monitored market-based measure of longer-term inflation expectations. If you are not completely familiar with this statistic—and you can skip this paragraph if you are—think about buying a Treasury security five years from now that will mature five years after you buy it. When you make such a purchase, you are going to care about the rate of inflation that prevails between a period that spans from five years from today (when you buy the security) through 10 years from today (when the asset matures and pays off). By comparing the difference between the yield on a Treasury security that provides some insurance against inflation and one that does not, we can estimate what the people buying these securities believe about future inflation. The reason is that, if the two securities are otherwise similar, you would only buy the security that does not provide inflation insurance if the interest rate you get is high enough relative to inflation-protected security to compensate you for the inflation that you expect over the five years that you hold the asset. In other words, the difference in the interest rates across an inflation-protected Treasury and a plain-vanilla Treasury that does not provide protection should mainly reflect the market's expected rate of inflation.

When you look at a chart of these market-based inflation expectations along with the general timing of the FOMC's policy actions, from the first large-scale asset purchase in 2008–2009 (QE1) to the second asset purchase program (QE2) in 2010 to the maturity extension program (Operation Twist) in 2011, the relationship between monetary policy and inflation expectations is pretty clear:

In each case, policy actions were generally taken in periods when the momentum of inflation expectations was discernibly downward. A simple-minded conclusion is that FOMC actions have been consistent with holding the bottom on inflation expectations. A bolder conclusion would be that as inflation expectations go, so eventually goes inflation and, had these monetary policy actions not been taken, the Fed's price stability objectives would have been jeopardized.

Statements like this do not come without caveats. A perfectly clean measure of inflation expectations requires that Treasuries that do and do not carry inflation protection really are otherwise identical. If that is not the case, differences in rates on the two types of assets can be driven by changes in things like market liquidity, and not changes in inflation expectations. Calculations of five-year/five-year-forward breakeven rates attempt to control for some of these non-inflation differences, but certainly only do so imperfectly.

Perhaps more pertinent to the current policy discussion, inflation expectations have, in fact, moved up following the latest policy action—which I guess people are destined to call QE3. But unlike the periods around QE1, QE2, and Twist, QE3 was not preceded by a period of generally falling longer-term breakeven inflation rates. So this time around there will be another, and perhaps more challenging, chance to test the proposition that monetary accommodation is consistent with price stability. As for previous actions, however, I'm pretty comfortable arguing the case that the price stability mandate was not only consistent with accommodation, it actually required it.

Dave AltigBy Dave Altig, executive vice president and research director at the Atlanta Fed

 


October 9, 2012 in Monetary Policy | Permalink

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Perhaps the market simply expects financial repression to continue indefinitely, as is happening now amid negative real interest rats on Fed purchases, and has happened previously for decades and longer.

It's best to look at measures not distorted now, or able to be distorted in the future, since the market is well aware of these possibilities.

For example, what do gold prices and their movement in front of, an in response to QE announcements, signal about inflation expectations - certainly not deflation.


Posted by: HistorySquared | October 16, 2012 at 04:47 PM

As per Federal bank technical research report one should go short in this counter. Federal bank is looking quite weak at current level and is expected to fall further. Positional traders can go short in Federal bank from current level for good gains.

Posted by: Intraday Tips | October 18, 2012 at 03:02 AM

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October 04, 2012


Trends in Small Business Lending

The Atlanta Fed's latest semiannual Small Business Survey is active through October 22, 2012. If you own a small business and would like to participate, send an e-mail to SmallBusinessResearch@atl.frb.org.

In our previous survey conducted in April 2012, we found that firms applying for credit at large national banks had notably less success than firms that applied to small banks.

121003a

We also found that the firms applying to large banks tended to be much younger than the firms that applied to small banks. We speculated that this "age factor" could be contributing to the lower overall success rates at large banks.

A difference between small businesses' success at large and small banks has also been documented by the online credit facilitator Biz2Credit. Biz2Credit works a bit like an online dating service—after answering a series of questions (and providing the typical financial documents required by lenders), small businesses are presented with five potential "matches." To determine the best five matches, Biz2Credit identifies what lenders are looking for—usually a certain credit score, a minimum number of years in business, an established banking relationship, and targeted industries.

The resulting credit applications are the basis for the Biz2Credit Small Business Lending Index. Biz2Credit also reports approval rates from the matching process for large banks, small banks, credit unions, and alternative lenders. These approval rates are plotted on the chart below.

121003b

Much like we saw in the Small Business Survey, Biz2Credit reports that small firms have had consistently less success in obtaining credit at large banks.
Confirming our results encourages us that our April observation was a good one. But confirmation isn't explanation—what accounts for the different experiences small businesses have in securing credit from small banks versus big banks? And so, we dig deeper.

Note: According to Biz2Credit, its index is based on 1,000 of the 10,000-plus applications submitted each month. To be included, the business has to have at least a 680 credit score, be at least two years old, and have an established relationship with the bank to which it is applying. Selection methods are also applied to provide for national representation.

Photo of Ellyn TerryBy Ellyn Terry, senior economic research analyst at the Atlanta Fed

October 4, 2012 in Banking, Small Business | Permalink

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According to Biz2Credit, its index is based on 1,000 of the 10,000-plus applications submitted each month.

Posted by: jewelry supplies | December 05, 2012 at 04:53 AM

Much like we saw in the Small Business Survey, Biz2Credit reports that small firms have had consistently less success in obtaining credit at large banks.

Posted by: badrum badkar | December 06, 2012 at 12:49 AM

To be included, the business has to have at least a 680 credit score, be at least two years old,

Posted by: Marvel War of Heroes hack | December 10, 2012 at 12:02 AM

Biz2Credit reports that small firms have had consistently less success in obtaining credit at large banks.

Posted by: nursing training | December 13, 2012 at 05:10 AM

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