The University of Michigan Consumer Survey showed a decline in May to 58.4 (100 is baseline). Soaring inflation is a likely culprit.
But the truly horrible survey result is the UMich Buying Conditions for Houses, plunging to 45. The reason? Crazy, expensive house prices courtesy of The Federal Reserve and rising mortgages (also, courtesy of The Federal Reserve).
The buying conditions for houses is now the lowest in the history of the University of Michigan consumer survey. In fact, consumer sentiment for housing is far lower than during the awful housing bubble burst of 2008 and the subsequent financial crisis.
And the US economic surprise index has turned negative.
Here is Fed Chair Jerome Powell wielding his monetary bat called “Lucille.”
The reason why home prices are still raging at 17.3% YoY? The Fed’s monetary stimulypto is STILL in place! The Fed’s balance sheet (green line) is still staggering, and The Fed Funds target rate (white line) is a measly 1%.
Atlanta Fed President Raphael Bostic is talking about a pause in Fed tightening. Which they haven’t paused yet.
Fed Chair Jerome Powell is really “slowhand,” not Eric Clapton. Bostic is now a member of The Fed’s “Slowhand” strategy.
The inflation that is crushing Americans is due to energy and food price increases. That is, the non-core inflation. Under Biden, food is up 63%, gasoline is up 92% and diesel prices are up 112%. But The Fed doesn’t consider food and energy prices, per se.
If we look at the Taylor Rule considering fighting inflation including food and energy, The Fed would have to raise their target rate to … 21.38%.
Now, The Fed can clearly cool-off the housing market by raising rates. In fact, my fear is that they go too far and crash the housing market. The Fed will NEVER get to 20% again like we last saw under Volcker in 1981. 20% rates certainly cooled home prices back then and Fed rate hikes helped crash the housing market in 2008.
So, when The Fed says they want to be the inflation-fightin’ Fed, we must be aware what The Fed can and cannot do. They can’t tame the inflation beast in the form of food and energy prices (unless they crash the economy), but they can crush home prices.
Nothing has been the same since Covid and The Federal Reserve’s massive overreaction to the government shutdowns of the economy.
Notice how the University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index (white line) has plunged since Covid and the ensuing rise in inflation. University of Michigan’s Buying Conditions for Houses has also plunged to new depths.
Rising inflation (highest in 40 years) and hottest home price bubble (even hotter than the infamous housing bubble of 2005-2007) AND rising mortgage rates have placed a damper on home buying sentiment.