James Mackintosh

FT Alphaville today has a nice chart suggesting London house prices are down by more than a quarter in real terms.

Here’s an alternative thought: the quality of measurement of London house prices has collapsed. This chart shows London house prices after inflation as measured by LSL/Acadametrics, the Office for National Statistics, Nationwide, and the Halifax index Alphaville used. I used CPI, rather than the discredited RPI, for most of them, but showed the effects of both RPI and CPI for the Acadametrics series.

London housing indices

Halifax down at the bottom there is clearly out of line with the rest, although Nationwide’s index still shows a hefty real terms loss, of 9 per cent. Read more

James Mackintosh

Americans have been wondering if the housing market is in a double bubble for a little while, since Professor Robert Shiller, co-creator of the Case-Shiller house price indices, raised the danger.

The real action has been in housebuilders, though. Their valuations, based on price to estimated book value, peaked in May above where they stood at the height of the property bubble in 2005/6. Prices look very much like the rebound bubble in the Nasdaq, in the Dow Jones Industrials in the late 1930s and in the Nikkei 225 (although it wasn’t quite so big). This chart shows the Nasdaq and Nikkei time-shifted so the peaks overlap with the 2005 peak in housebuilding shares:

Housebuilders, Nasdaq and Nikkei

I’ve circled the point where the rebound went wrong again: seven to eight years later for both Nasdaq and, less spectacularly, the Nikkei (the Dow’s second depression-era boom-bust came in 1937, also eight years after the original bubble).

More fab charts, including one must-see on why US housing isn’t as affordable as everyone thinks, after the break. Read more

James Mackintosh

The US housing recovery is gathering steam, and bullish economists are hopeful it will give a handy boost to growth, at a time when the US faces more austerity than most of Europe, thanks to the tax hikes agreed in the fiscal cliff compromise.

Credit Suisse has produced a nice chart showing just how big the recovery in housebuilding has been: private housing starts are now running at a higher rate than at the trough of previous recessions all the way back to 1960.

Housing starts since 1960

Source: Credit Suisse

 Read more

James Mackintosh

Investors in luxury goods producers tend to spend a lot of time following what’s going on in China, for good reason. China’s legions of corrupt officials have a penchant for bling (as well as luxury cars and gambling), and plenty of ability to garner the cash needed for fancy western watches and handbags. Lately they’ve been cutting back, as the slowing economy and rising scrutiny from bloggers and the public makes open diplays of wealth less acceptable.

It might be easier simply to focus on what is going on in the US. Are households finding their share portfolios rising faster than their house prices? Shares are easier to cash in to fund that oh-so-desirable Cartier watch, although most people would have to sell their house to afford a £1.2m handbagRead more

James Mackintosh

John Authers, my predecessor as Short View writer and co-author of this blog, published some interesting graphs this week about London property, as he worries about a bubble.

I don’t often disagree with him, but on property I think he’s missing a trick. He pointed out that Miami’s housing bubble was far worse than London’s, but that London’s price rise is now approaching where Miami was:

London v Miami property since 2000, rebased


But these prices (rebased to January 2000) were in local currency terms. And London’s property market is so important to the country, and its buyers so international, that it makes more sense to compare these prices in constant-currency terms.

That’s easily done by converting London prices to dollars and then rebasing:

So from an international perspective the boom in London prices was every bit as big as in Miami; they just peaked slightly later. The bust was of the same magnitude, and even more extreme, since it took place through the collapse of sterling rather than the somewhat less rapid fall in property prices. Read more