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Homes Are “Unaffordable” In 99% Of US Counties

Homes Are "Unaffordable" In 99% Of US Counties

Authored by Michael Snyder via The Economic Collapse,

If you are looking to buy a home right…

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Homes Are "Unaffordable" In 99% Of US Counties

Authored by Michael Snyder via The Economic Collapse,

If you are looking to buy a home right now, I feel so sorry for you.  The other day when I wrote that “life in America has never been more unaffordable than it is right now”, some people thought that I was exaggerating.  But the truth is that I was not exaggerating one bit.  The cost of living has risen to extremely painful levels, and this is particularly true when it comes to housing.  Since 2019, the median price of a home in the United States has risen by more than $100,000.  And thanks to the Federal Reserve, we are now facing dramatically higher interest rates. 

As a result, housing has become extraordinarily unaffordable.  In fact, a new report that was just released determined that homes are currently “unaffordable” in 99 percent of U.S. counties

The typical American cannot afford to buy a home in a growing number of communities across the nation, according to common lending standards.

That’s the main takeaway from a new report from real estate data provider ATTOM. Researchers examined the median home prices last year for roughly 575 U.S. counties and found that home prices in 99% of those areas are beyond the reach of the average income earner, who makes $71,214 a year, according to ATTOM.

In the entire history of our country, we have never seen anything like this before.

A combination of insanely high home prices and suffocatingly high mortgage rates have literally frozen the housing market.

Until something changes, millions of potential buyers and millions of potential sellers will remain sidelined

Housing experts point to couple trends driving up housing costs. Mortgage rates have topped 7%, adding hundreds of dollars per month to a potential house payment. At the same time, homeowners who locked in at lower mortgage rates during the pandemic have opted not to sell out of fear of having to buy another property at today’s elevated rates, depleting the supply of homes for sale.

“The only people who are selling right now are people who really need to move because of a life event — divorce, marriage, new baby, new job, etc.,” Daryl Fairweather, chief economist of Redfin, told CBS MoneyWatch.

Considering everything that I just shared with you, it should be no surprise that pending home sales in August were 18.7 percent lower than they were a year ago…

Pending home sales plunged in the U.S. last month as high mortgage rates deterred more would-be buyers and sellers from making deals.

The National Association of Realtors’ Pending Home Sales Index tumbled 7.1% to 71.8 in August, a much greater decline than the 0.8% drop analysts polled by Refinitiv expected.

Year over year, pending transactions are down 18.7%, the NAR’s data shows.

According to one analyst, a potential buyer would need an income of more than $125,000 a year in order to qualify for a mortgage on an average U.S. home right now…

The steep drop in pending sales in August, on the heels of reports of slower existing and new home sales at the end of the summer, suggests that the market is cooling, said Lisa Sturtevant, chief economist at Bright Multiple Listing Service.

Overall, she said, total home sales this year could be below 4.2 million; that would be the lowest level since 2010.

With mortgage rates near and above 7% for all of August, purchasers’ buying power was crushed, and for many the math for buying a home just did not work.

“At a mortgage rate of 7%, a homebuyer would need an income of over $125,000 to qualify for a loan to purchase a $400,000 home,” said Sturtevant.

So the vast majority of us are just going to have to wait until the market shifts.

Of course housing is not the only thing that has become ridiculously expensive.

According to CNN, the price of a box of Girl Scout cookies is going up to six dollars this year…

Girl Scout cookies are getting more expensive. In some places, at least.

At least one New York State chapter, the Girl Scouts Heart of the Hudson, told troop parents and other members of the community in an email this week that all cookies will be sold for $6 per box this coming cookie season — which takes place from about January to April annually nationwide – up from $5 last year.

“In order to combat rising production and material costs, GSHH will be increasing the price of all cookie packages to $6.00,” the chapter’s interim CEO wrote, adding “we expect our neighboring councils to announce similar increases in the coming weeks and months.”

I remember the days when it was common for people to buy dozens of boxes every year.

But now if you want to do that you will need to sell an organ.

Our standard of living is being steadily eroded, and meanwhile economic conditions continue to slow down all over the country.

Earlier today, I was saddened to learn that Epic Games is laying off workers

Epic Games, the maker of Fortnite, said on Thursday that it will lay off 16% of its staff, around 830 employees, as it attempts to reverse what CEO Tim Sweeney called “unrealistic” spending.

In a letter to employees Thursday, Sweeney said the video game company had been “spending way more money than we earn, investing in the next evolution of Epic.”

“I had long been optimistic that we could power through this transition without layoffs, but in retrospect I see that this was unrealistic,” Sweeney said in the letter, which the company shared publicly.

If even Epic Games is struggling now, what does that say about the overall state of our economy?

I am so concerned about where things are headed in the months ahead.

A major economic downturn is looming, the most chaotic presidential election in our history will happen next year, and we are already witnessing widespread rioting and looting all over the nation.

In fact, looters in Philadelphia just made headlines for a second consecutive night

Looting has rocked Philadelphia for a second night in a row as brazen thieves ransacked a liquor store.

Shocking footage out of the City of Brotherly Love showed Fine Wine And Good Spirits smashed apart in the latest flash rob mob crime.

The brutes made off with the safe and raided the lottery machine on a night when liquor stores were shut down by the authorities.

For a long time, I have been encouraging my readers to consider relocating if they live in any of our major cities.

But now thanks to a combination of ridiculously high home prices and the highest mortgage rates we have seen in ages, most Americans simply cannot afford to move.

Unfortunately, most people will be forced to remain where they are as the events of the next few years shake this nation to the core.

*  *  *

Michael’s new book entitled “End Times” is now available in paperback and for the Kindle on Amazon.com, and you can check out his new Substack newsletter right here.

Tyler Durden Sun, 10/01/2023 - 11:40

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Dozens Of Major Companies Say 2024 Will Be The Year Of Cost Cutting

Dozens Of Major Companies Say 2024 Will Be The Year Of Cost Cutting

We already know that the Biden administration and the BLS are ignoring…

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Dozens Of Major Companies Say 2024 Will Be The Year Of Cost Cutting

We already know that the Biden administration and the BLS are ignoring the massive layoffs happening across corporate America in favor of pushing some asinine narrative that 'Bidenomics', whatever that even means, is somehow creating jobs other than 2nd and 3rd jobs for senior citizens driving Uber when they should be retired. 

Now, it's becoming clear that 2024 could be the year when corporations continue 'cost cutting', which could mean a number of strategies, almost all of which result in less employees and less pay instead of more. 

Executives from various industries, including toy, cosmetics, and technology sectors, are cutting costs and jobs, even in profitable companies such as Mattel, PayPal, Cisco, Nike, Estée Lauder, and Levi Strauss, CNBC wrote this week.

Macy's plans to shut five stores and cut over 2,300 jobs, while airlines like JetBlue and Spirit offer buyouts, and United reduces in-flight services. This trend is driven by consumer caution and investor pressure for companies to adapt to changing demand and higher expenses, the report says.

Significant labor contracts in sectors like airlines and UPS have raised costs, challenging businesses accustomed to passing these on to consumers. Remember those celebrations people were having about UPS drivers winning their new contracts just months ago? UPS is already laying off drivers as a result.

Walmart is expanding its store network, contrasting with the broader cost-cutting movement. Major banks have already reduced their workforce significantly, anticipating economic shifts. U.S. companies announced significant job cuts in January, indicating a focus on profit optimization amid steady earnings reports without relying on substantial price or sales increases.

A full list of major companies that have laid off workers or implemented strategies to cut costs include:

  • Mattel
  • PayPal
  • Cisco
  • Nike
  • Estée Lauder
  • Levi Strauss
  • Macy’s
  • JetBlue Airways
  • Spirit Airlines
  • United Airlines
  • UPS
  • Meta (parent of Facebook and Instagram)
  • Amazon
  • Alphabet (parent of Google)
  • Microsoft
  • Warner Bros. Discovery
  • Disney
  • Paramount Global
  • Comcast (parent company of NBCUniversal)
  • Delta Air Lines
  • General Motors
  • Ford Motor
  • Stellantis
  • Chipotle
  • Wells Fargo
  • Goldman Sachs
  • Walmart
  • Target
  • Home Depot

Meta's restructuring in 2023 set a precedent for tech giants like Amazon, Alphabet, Microsoft, and Cisco to reduce their workforces. But the trend extends beyond tech, with UPS cutting 12,000 jobs and others in retail and entertainment also announcing layoffs.

Significant cost savings have been announced by major corporations, including Warner Bros. Discovery and Disney, with the latter aiming for $7.5 billion in savings.

Paramount Global and NBCUniversal have also trimmed their staffs. Cost-cutting measures have reached various sectors, including airlines adjusting services and deferring expenses, and automakers scaling back investments due to challenges in demand and EV adoption.

“You’re seeing a rebalancing happening in the labor markets, in the capital markets. And that rebalancing is still going to play out and gradually lead to a more sustainable environment of lower inflation and lower interest rates, and perhaps a little bit slower growth, said Gregory Daco, chief economist for EY.

He continued, telling CNBC: “You are in an environment where cost fatigue is very much part of the equation for consumers and business leaders. The cost of most everything is much higher than it was before the pandemic, whether it’s goods, inputs, equipment, labor, even interest rates.”

Even Chipotle is experimenting with robots to boost efficiency. These adjustments reflect a broader recalibration after the pandemic's disruptions, with companies aiming for a sustainable balance in a potentially slower economic growth environment.

Tyler Durden Wed, 02/21/2024 - 05:45

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Walmart Hits Record High After Earnings Beat, Despite Soft Guidance, Warning About “Choiceful” Consumers Spending Less

Walmart Hits Record High After Earnings Beat, Despite Soft Guidance, Warning About "Choiceful" Consumers Spending Less

Walmart shares hit…

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Walmart Hits Record High After Earnings Beat, Despite Soft Guidance, Warning About "Choiceful" Consumers Spending Less

Walmart shares hit a new all-time high after the largest bricks and mortar retailer reported earnings that beat expectations despite providing guidance that was marginally softer, as choosy shoppers nevertheless kept buying in its stores.

Here is what the company report for the final quarter of 2023:

  • Adjusted EPS $1.80 (excluding impact, net of tax, from a net gain of $0.23 on equity and other investments) vs. $1.71 y/y, beating estimate of $1.65
  • Revenue $173.39 billion, +5.7% y/y, beating estimate $170.66 billion
    • Total US comparable sales ex-gas +3.9%, estimate +3.2%
    • Walmart-only US stores comparable sales ex-gas +4%, estimate +3.12%
    • Sam's Club US comparable sales ex-gas +3.1%, estimate +2.99%
  • Change in US E-Commerce sales +17%, beating estimate +15.5%
  • Adjusted operating income $7.25 billion, beating estimate $6.79 billion

Of the metrics reported, however, the most important one is that Walmart’s same-store sales (ex fuel), rose 4% YoY for US stores (of which net sales was 3.% and eCommerce added 17%). Wall Street was expecting 3.1% so the number was clearly a beat and was driven by "strength in grocery, health and wellness, offset by softness in general merchandise", and was the result of higher transactions (+4.3%) offsetting average ticket prices, which dropped 0.3% YoY. Still, the number is a far cry from the 8.3% comp sales a year ago.

In keeping with the noted softness in general merchandise, the world’s largest retailer delivered softer guidance for the current fiscal year, as it expects consumers to be selective in their spending:

  • For full-year 2025, WMT sees
    • Net sales +3% to +4%, slower than growth from the prior year, and adjusted EPS $6.70 to $7.12, slightly disappointing vs the median consensus estimate of $7.09
    • Capital expenditures approximately 3.0% to 3.5% of net sales
  • For Q1, 2025, WMT sees sees adjusted EPS $1.48 to $1.56.

Discussing the quarter, CEO Doug McMillan said that "we crossed $100 billion in eCommerce sales and drove share gains as our customer experience metrics improved, evenduring our highest volume days leading up to the holidays"

Commenting on customer "selectivity", CFO John Rainey said that “they are being choiceful" as consumers continue to spend less per trip but have been shopping frequently, adding that the company expects some resilience to continue for the rest of the year.

There was more good news: Walmart is gaining share in nearly every category, according to Rainey, with e-commerce among the factors driving growth as the company trims losses associated with handling online orders. Furthermore, while deflation is still a possibility, the company expects it to be less likely based on what it observed during the latest quarter.

That said, while grabbing more spending with low-priced groceries and other basics, Walmart has been cautious in recent months about the health of the consumer amid persistent inflation and higher interest rates. As noted above, US consumers have been buying cheaper products and seeking value, as they pull back from discretionary products like general merchandise. That has resulted in softer sales for some retailers, including Target Corp. and Home Depot Inc. Other big-box retailers are set to report their quarterly earnings in the coming weeks.

As Bloomberg notes, the recent moderation in inflation is another challenge for Walmart and other retail operators that have passed down price increases to consumers over the past few years. This has contributed to higher dollar sales for companies, followed by an uptick in revenue during the pandemic when people bought more groceries and home goods. Such increases are slowing overall, though inflation remains stubborn in some areas like groceries and shelter.

Similar to all of its major competitors, Walmart has been beefing up automation in warehouses and stores in recent years, while remodeling locations to make them more modern. Pickup and delivery businesses continue to expand, driving share gains among upper-income households and fueling growth of the Walmart+ membership program.

Separately, Walmart said it agreed to buy smart-TV maker Vizio Holding Corp. for about $2.3 billion. The deal would accelerate the retailer’s advertising business, called Walmart Connect, and help Walmart and its advertisers engage more with customers. Walmart has been expanding Walmart Connect and other nonretail businesses that have faster growth and better margins. The deal announcement confirmed a Wall Street Journal report from last week. Vizio shares soared 15% in Tuesday premarket trading.

As for WMT, the Bentonville, after the stock gained 16% over the past year, it jumped another 5.7% on Tuesday rising to a new all time high as investors were clearly satisfied with what they saw.

Full investor presentation below (pdf link)

Tyler Durden Tue, 02/20/2024 - 10:17

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Estimating US Recession Risk Using Economic Data For States

What are the choices for monitoring and estimating recession risk? Slightly lower than the number of stars in the universe. Ok, I’m exaggerating, but…

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What are the choices for monitoring and estimating recession risk? Slightly lower than the number of stars in the universe. Ok, I’m exaggerating, but not much. The good news: the search for robust, relatively reliable indicators narrows the field dramatically. But there’s always more to learn, in part because the supply of data sets is vast, increasingly so. Which brings me to another indicator that looks promising: state coincident indexes.

Every state’s economy is, in some degree, unique, although the gravitational pull of the national economy casts a long shadow. Tracking each state economy separately, and then aggregating the results, provides a different spin on the US business cycle compared with national indicators. Think of it as a bottom-up model vs. the standard top-down approach via US retail sales, industrial production, etc.

Conveniently, the Philly Fed publishes monthly coincident indicators for each state. Aggregating the 50 signals into a composite index provides a somewhat different view of the US business cycle vs. traditional top-down metrics. There are several ways to process the numbers – my preference, shown in the chart below, is a 3-month-change model. If a state’s 3-month change is negative (positive), the signal is negative (positive). Summing the negatives and positives provides a national profile. The current reading is 0.48 — in other words, 48% of the states are posting negative 3-month changes for their respective coincident indicator. As shown below, the composite reading maps fairly closely with NBER-defined downturns, and so the current signal is issuing a warning, albeit a warning that has yet to provide what might be thought of as passing the point of no return. But it’s close.

The readings vary from 0 (no negative 3-month changes) to 1.0 (all 50 states are reporting negative 3-month changes). A quick review of the historical record suggests that the US is on the verge of slipping into recession.

But before we ring the alarm bell, there are some caveats to consider. First, a similarly high reading 20-plus years ago turned out to be a false signal. The next couple of months will likely determine if a repeat performance is brewing, or not.

Second, no one indicator is flawless, as we’ve learned over the last couple of years – especially in recent history, when pandemic-related events have created no shortage of macro surprises.

Another reason to reserve judgment, at least for now: a range of other business cycle indicators tracked in The US Business Cycle Risk Report (a sister publication of CapitalSpectator.com) continue to show a clear growth bias. But as reported in this week’s issue, there are some nascent signs of softer economic activity and so it’s possible that the coincident state indicators are an early warning that the tide is shifting.

The most reliable methodology for estimating recession risk in real time is building an ensemble model that combines various modeling applications that are complimentary. Although any one model will excel at a given point in time, quite often the best-performing indicator changes through time. To minimize the risk that’s inherent in any one signal, The US Business Cycle Risk Report crunches the numbers on multiple indicators, which has proven to be close to optimal for balancing the need for timely signals that minimize false signaling.

Despite the caveats, the coincident state model adds another dimension to the mix and provides some complimentary input to The US Business Cycle Risk Report’s existing suite of indicators. Accordingly, I’ll be adding the composite state coincident data to the newsletter’s weekly updates.

The next batch of coincident state updates for January is scheduled for later this month. Meantime, I’ll be carefully reviewing the incoming data for fresh clues that support or reject the suggestion that trouble’s brewing via the state coincident indicators.


How is recession risk evolving? Monitor the outlook with a subscription to:
The US Business Cycle Risk Report


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