Wall Street is embroiled in a debate over whether the U.S. economy might slip into a recession. While the Federal Reserve’s latest minutes released on Wednesday indicates that their focus remains primarily on inflation, there’s reassurance that the likelihood of a downturn is not as imminent as previously assessed. Amongst the sectors of the economy, the housing market notably stands out, seemingly immune to the downturn speculations.
- Resilient Housing Market: Despite rising borrowing costs, the demand for houses remains robust. Prices have been steadily rising in various parts of the country, and this trajectory seems poised to continue.
- Goldman Sachs Revises Its Prediction: A noteworthy development comes from Goldman Sachs, who recently updated their home-price forecast. Initially predicting a 2.2% decline, they now project a 1.8% rise by the end of the year. They anticipate even higher increases in 2024, attributing this optimism to the tight housing supply.
- Sky-High Mortgage Rates: The Federal Reserve’s strategy to combat inflation by elevating borrowing costs has propelled mortgage rates to their highest in over two decades. According to Bankrate, the rate for a new 30-year mortgage soared to 7.31% this week, almost twice what it was in March 2022.
US 30-year fixed mortgage rate jumps to near 21-1/2-year high
- Potential Mortgage Concerns: This sharp rise in rates means the average monthly mortgage payment has now exceeded $2,600. Goldman Sachs’ recent research has raised red flags over such high borrowing costs and its potential consequences. Their report highlights how the average debt-to-income ratio for conforming purchase mortgages has surged past 38%, a notable deviation from norms observed post the Global Financial Crisis. Goldman’s housing affordability index has plunged to its least favorable position since its inception a quarter of a century ago.
- Rate Hikes Likely to Continue: Following the release of the Fed’s minutes, futures markets now suggest there’s about a 40% chance of another rate increase this year. The escalating yield on the 10-year Treasury note also remains a focal point, especially since mortgage rates generally follow its lead. Its recent spike to levels last seen in 2008 serves as a grim reminder of the previous housing market crash that spurred a worldwide crisis.
- The Bullish Bet on Housing: Despite the above concerns, Wall Street remains largely optimistic about the residential real estate sector. This sentiment is reflected in the soaring stocks of homebuilders, drawing massive investments from industry giants like Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway.
- A Different Story in Commercial Real Estate: Contrasting the residential sector, commercial real estate seems to be on shakier ground. Post-pandemic office vacancies combined with rising rates and looming renegotiations for commercial mortgages paint a challenging picture for the next couple of years. Notably, regional banks bear the brunt of this exposure.
While the housing market has been proving resilient in the face of economic uncertainties, the sharp rise in mortgage rates is a concern for potential homebuyers. With Wall Street leaning positively towards the residential sector, the next couple of years will be crucial in determining whether these bullish predictions hold true, especially against the backdrop of an uncertain commercial real estate landscape.