A Divergence In Homebuilders

Today’s National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index experienced its first negative reading in seven months. 🔻

The index dropped 5 points to 45 in September, with all three components declining. Current sales conditions slipped to 51, sales expectations in the next six months fell to 49, and buyer traffic dropped to 30.

Driving the weakness is primarily higher mortgage rates, which have been over 7% since June. The fact that prices have not come down much also hurts demand, causing builders to begin offering more incentives. This month, 32% of builders cut prices by an average of 6% in an attempt to spur demand. ✂️

As for who is left in the market? Roughly 42% of single-family home buyers this year were first-time buyers. Historically, that figure averages 27%, suggesting less investment activity as price growth slows and borrowing costs soar. 🏘️

While low existing home inventory remains a significant tailwind for homebuilders, they’re struggling with the supply side. Shortages of land (buildable lots), construction workers, and certain materials continue to drive up costs for the industry.

With the U.S. home construction ETF $ITB recently hitting all-time highs, many investors are considering whether it’s due to reverse course. As we can see by the chart below, the sector ETF and the homebuilder sentiment tend to track each other pretty closely. 🤝

With September’s decline in homebuilder sentiment marking its second consecutive lower “peak” in the last few years, many are asking whether its downtrend is set to continue. And if that is the case, does that mean homebuilding stocks will follow?

Time will tell. But today’s readings definitely had people trying to square homebuilder pessimism with investor optimism about the sector. 🤔

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