US: FHFA House Price Index

Thu Sep 21 08:00:00 CDT 2017

Consensus Consensus Range Actual Previous Revised
M/M change 0.4% 0.1% to 0.5% 0.2% 0.1%
Y/Y change 6.3% 6.5% 6.6%

Indications on home prices have been cooling including July's FHFA house price index which managed only a 0.2 percent gain with the year-on-year rate down 2 tenths to 6.3 percent. Regional data show both the Mountain and Pacific states still out in front at yearly rates of plus 8.2 percent each. Lagging but still respectable is the Mid-Atlantic at plus 4.4 percent.

Though slowing, price growth of roughly 6 percent is still very strong especially in a low interest rate, low inflation economy. And slowing appreciation will help improve affordability and perhaps give a boost to sales as well. Today's report will likely limit expectations for strength in next week's Case-Shiller data which likewise have been slowing.

Market Consensus Before Announcement
The FHFA house price index has been slowing though from strong levels, up only 0.1 percent in the June report with Econoday's consensus for July, however, at a solid 0.4 percent gain. Year-on-year rates have also been slowing but are still trending in the high 6 percent range.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) House Price Index (HPI) covers single-family housing, using data provided by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The House Price Index is derived from transactions involving conforming conventional mortgages purchased or securitized by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. In contrast to other house price indexes, the sample is limited by the ceiling amount for conforming loans purchased by these government-sponsored enterprises (GSE). Mortgages insured by the FHA, VA, or other federal entities are excluded because they are not "conventional" loans. The FHFA House Price Index is a repeat transactions measure. It compares prices or appraised values for similar houses.

Home values affect much in the economy - especially the housing and consumer sectors. Periods of rising home values encourage new construction while periods of soft home prices can damp housing starts. Changes in home values play key roles in consumer spending and in consumer financial health. During the first half of this decade sharply rising home prices boosted how much home equity households held. In turn, this increased consumers' ability to spend, based on wealth effects and from being able to draw upon expanding home equity lines of credit.

With the onset of the credit crunch in mid-2007, weakness in home prices has had the reverse impact on the economy. New housing construction has been impaired and consumers have not been able to draw on home equity lines of credit as in recent years. But an additional problem for consumers is that a decline in home values reduces the ability of a home owner to refinance. During 2007, 2008, and into 2009 this became a major problem for subprime mortgage borrowers as adjustable rate mortgages reached the end of the low, "teaser rate" phase and ratcheted upward. Many subprime borrowers had bet on higher home values to lead to refinancing into an affordable fixed rate mortgage but with home equity values down, some lenders balked at refinancing subprime borrowers.