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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Releases of Deeds of Trust in Colorado Metros Stall in Spite of Record-Low Mortgage Rates

Releases of deeds of trust during the first half of 2014 were down significantly in Colorado metros compared to 2013 during the same period, and were flat from the first quarter of 2014 to the second quarter.

During the first half of 2013, there were 179,747 releases of deeds of trust in Colorado metros, and during the same period of 2014, there were 92,955 releases, for a year-over-year decline of 49.4 percent.

A release of a deed of trust is an event that occurs when a deed of trust (often referred to as  a mortgage) is paid off, either through refinance, sale, or when all payments have been completed on a home loan. It is a "positive" economic indicator in sense that areas with improving economies tend to generally also report increases in releases of deeds of trust.

For the second quarter alone, across Colorado's metropolitan counties, 46,696 deeds of trust were released. That's a 0.9 percent increase from the first quarter of 2014 when there were 46,259 releases.

Compared year over year for the second quarter alone,  releases were down 47.1 percent from the second quarter of 2013 when there were 88,217 releases. 2014's 2nd-Q releases were down 22.4 percent from the same period of 2012.

The first graph shows the quarterly total for releases. We can see that totals were near the lowest level recorded since 2008, and were quite low for all of the first half of 2014.

The second graph shows release totals compared against the same quarters for each year. Note that the second quarter of 2014 is the lowest quarterly total for releases recorded since 2008. The same was true of the first-quarter total. 

The low levels of release activity persisted in spite of the fact that mortgage rates continue at very low levels. Release activity is generally tied closely to movements in the mortgage rate, and refinances especially tend to increase as mortgage rates move down. However, in spite of low rates, releases have remained low, suggesting that the market for refinances has been largely exhausted. 

The third graph shows the relationship between the mortgage rate and release totals. While mortgage rates have increased from the extremely low levels seen during 2012 and 2013, rates still remain at historic lows under 4.5 percent. This, however, has failed to produce the sort of new loan activity seen during periods with rates that were 50 basis points higher, back in 2009. 

So far this year, compared to previous years, release activity is on schedule to finish down more than 50 percent compared to last year. The next graph shows total annual release activity, plus the first half of 2014:

Regional Comparisons 

Looking at release activity on a county by county basis, we find some significant changes in trends. The first chart shows quarter over quarter changes in each county surveyed. Douglas County, which, as a high-income county, typically tends to outpace other counties, but in this case saw a large drop off over the period.

The second chart shows year-over-year changes. In this case we find more uniformity in that all counties reported declines, year over year for the second quarter. Weld County, not surprisingly reported the smallest decline, owing at least partially to large amounts of oil-driven economic activity in the region.

The third chart shows year-over-year changes for the first half of each year. In this case,  all counties reported declines year over year with the smallest declines coming from Weld and Denver counties.

And finally, we can compare the counties more accurately by adjusting release activity for the total number of housing units in each county. In this case, we see the largest amount of release activity was in Weld, Larimer, and Jefferson counties, and the lowest amount was in Douglas County. 

It is unclear why Douglas County would show so little activity at this time, and it does suggest that some additional analysis is needed for the county in home sales and building permits and median home prices. 

Overall, these numbers point to a soft market for refinances, and to small number of new home sales, in spite of continued growth in median home prices in all areas. 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

CU-Boulder researchers' study shows fire severity has precedence

A new study that included researchers at the University of Colorado asserts that despite the series of damaging forest fires across the state in the past decade, they don't represent a dramatic departure from the historical norm.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Colorado Springs housing prices set record in June

From The Gazette:

There was no June swoon in Colorado Springs' re-sale housing market. In fact, just the opposite. Local single-family home prices set a record last month, while home sales soared - a surge that was possibly propelled, in part, by the sale of more higher-end homes and continued interest among buyers because of low mortgage rates, some local real estate experts said.

 Are June's increases a one-month aberration? Or are they the start of an upward trend on prices and sales for a market that's been somewhat soft this year? The experts said they can't predict, but were happy to see the latest numbers just the same.

 "The way it's going now, we'll have to wait a couple more months to see if it keeps up," said Jack Beuse, a broker with Paradigm Real Estate and board chairman of the Pikes Peak Association of Realtors. But, "it just looks like the numbers are quite good, which is refreshing," he added. "It's very nice."

  Read more.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Report: Colorado cities quick to climb out of recession, Denver No. 4

From the Denver Post
Denver had the fourth-best post-recession recovery among the 150 largest U.S. cities evaluated in a WalletHub study released Monday.
Only Laredo and Irving, Texas, and Fayetteville, N.C., ranked higher in the study, which ranked cities based on 18 measures, such as the inflow of college-educated workers, number of new businesses, unemployment rates, and home-price appreciation.
The ranking came in the wake of a report by the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment that Colorado's unemployment rate dipped to 5.5 percent in June, the 32nd consecutive month of job growth.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Initial unemployment claims in Colorado down 13 percent in May

Initial unemployment claims in Colorado fell to 2,713 during May 2014, dropping 13 percent, year over year, from 3,132 during May 2013. The first graph shows the general trend, which is clearly downward since the large surge during the most recent recession began in late 2008. May's initial claims were also down from April 2014, which reported a total of 3,133.

May's decline was the third month in a row during which initial claims dropped, year over year. Overall, May's drop at a level commonly seen during non-recessionary periods.
To check for seasonality, we compare to other Mays, and we find  that May 2014's total was the lowest May total since 2008, before the financial crisis. Claims are at a seven year low for May. 

New home sales in US West hit highest total since 2007

New single-family home sales in the U.S. West were up 30 percent from May 2013 to May 2014, coming in at 13,000 new homes sold, which was the highest total reported since August 2007.   

According to the most recent Census Bureau report on new home sales, new home sales in the West grew, year over year through 2012 and during much of 2012 and 2013.  For most of the first half of 2014 in the West, however, new home sales were down year over year in each month, but during May, new home sales surged to near an eight-year high. 

The report, which monitors sales activity for newly constructed houses, nonetheless showed that new home sales in the West remain down 65 percent from peak levels. 

The first graph shows monthly new home sales totals totals since 2000: 

Comparing monthly totals, we find that the first 4 months of 2014 were below or equal to the same month of 2013. In other words, 2014 was a lackluster year compared to 2013. Whether or not May's surge represents a new trend remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, the number of new homes for sale (as opposed to soldwas up 35 percent in May, year over year, rising from 31,000 during May 2013 to 42,000 during May 2014.  This reflects growth in new home production, which we know has increased throughout the region, including Colorado, in response to significant growth in home prices during 2013.  

But is new construction outpacing sales? We can guess at this by comparing actual sales with new homes for sale. 

To do this, we calculate inventory by subtracting the number of new home sales in a given month from the number of new homes for sale at the end of the previous month. We see in the graph that the inventory bottomed out in 2012, but has come up a little over the past year.  Inventory went back down with May's big month of sales. At this time, there does not appear to be a large inventory building. 

Colorado bankruptcies hit 8-year low in May 2014

According to the US bankruptcy court in Colorado, there were 1511 foreclosures filed in May 2014, which was the lowest May total filed since May 2007, and eight-year low. This puts bankruptcy activity back at pre-financial crisis levels.

The first graph shows foreclosures for each month compared to the same month in previous years:

There were 2,151 bankruptcy filigs during May 2013, and 1,527 during April of this year. 

We can also see form this graph that bankruptcies generally peak in March and decline through the rest of the year. 

The second graph shows the total number of bankruptcy filings in this time series from 2006 to May 2014.  We can see that, in the latest business cycle, that bankruptcy activity peaked during 2010 and 2011, and has been declining since. 

Bankruptcies have been declining, year over year, for the past 40 months. They were down 29.7 percent from May 2013 to May 2014. The final graph shows YOY drops: 

Overall bankruptcy activity continues to fall as employment remains relatively stable and interest rates remain relatively low, thus making debt service easier for consumers. 

Employed persons and labor force now back to peak levels

According to the household survey, the labor force in Colorado and total employed persons, are now back to peak levels, first reached during mid-2008. The establishment survey, which measures employer payrolls, has shown total payrolls back at peak levels for several months, but the household survey, which measures how many people who wish to be employed are actually employed, now shows that it took almost five years for the labor force to reach the old peak, and it took almost six years for total employment to regain its former peak.

The unemployment rate, which is calculated using the household survey, during May was 5.5 percent.  See here for more. 

According to the household survey, total employment peaked during July 2008. During May 2014, total employment is now 0.07 percent above the former peak.  The labor force size peaked during June 2009, and is now 1.9 percent above that level.

The first graph shows the trend over time:

From 2008 to 2010, Colorado employment fell 84,000 jobs, and then very slowly began to move back to the former peak over almost six years. 

Labor force size did not fall nearly as far, which of course, contributed to the very high unemployment rates following the 2008-2009 recession. 

To help remove seasonality and to let you compare each month, year over year, I've broken out the numbers by month in the second and third graphs: 

We can see that in recent months, the purple bars, which show the months of 2014, are well above the previous year (the dark blue bars). Both labor force growth and employment growth have accelerated in 2014. If we look at 2013's labor force, however, we see that growth was very small in much of 2013, which helped to push down the unemployment rate, but 2013's rather substantial declines in the unemployment rate did not reflect robust employment growth. For the month of May, we can see that May 2014's total for both labor force and employment were at new peak levels.

Finally, I'be graphed year-over-year growth to compare growth in labor force and employment. Note that employment has consistently outpaced labor force growth. This is not because employment growth has been so wonderful, but because labor force growth has been so lackluster. This has been a matter of discussion at the national level for some time, which labor force participation at 30-year lows. While healthier in Colorado than many places, the labor force does nonetheless reflect a significant number of discouraged workers and premature retirements in the face of a still-lackluster labor market. For comparison's sake, check out the situation at the end of the last expansion when labor force growth greatly outpaced new employment. At that time (early 2008) workers were still hopeful about the economy and considered themselves still in the labor force in spite of a slowly faltering economy. Today, potential workers are less sanguine about their chances.

1st Q 2014 vacancy survey for metro Denver single-fam houses, townhouses, condos

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Central and northern Colorado 'doing better'

The NYT reports that, not surprisingly, people in some counties in the United States are struggling far more than others. Clay County, Kentucky was identified as one of the hardest counties to be in right now. As you can see, however, central and northern Colorado is doing relatively well by this metric. If you click on the link, the map there is interactive.

Here's the methodology:

Annie Lowrey writes in the Times Magazine this week about the troubles of Clay County, Ky., which by several measures is the hardest place in America to live.
The Upshot came to this conclusion by looking at six data points for each county in the United States: education (percentage of residents with at least a bachelor’s degree), median household income, unemployment rate, disability rate, life expectancy and obesity. We then averaged each county’s relative rank in these categories to create an overall ranking.

Colorado's 2013 GDP vs. US numbers

Last month, the BEA released new GDP data for each state. I've pulled out Colorado's numbers and compared them to the national GDP trend.

The first graph shows GDP totals indexed to base year 1997. We see that in terms of GDP growth, Colorado has been generally tracking with the nation overall, although performing a little bit better.

The second graph shows the year-over-year change in GDP for both Colorado and the US. After the 2008-2009 recession, Colorado failed to outperform the US, and really only began to pull away from the national growth rate in 2013. Not surprisingly, however, growth rates in neither case are rivaling the growth rates seen during the dot-com boom. National growth is more lackluster than that seen during the last expansion (2003-2008) although Colorado's growth appears to be getting back to growth rates experienced near the end of the last expansion.
 Colorado's growth from 2012 to 2013 was largely propelled by growth in the agricultural and mining sectors. Economic activity in mining, which includes oil and gas extraction, was up 33.9 percent in Colorado, compared to only 4.5 percent nationwide. Agriculture was up 33.7 percent nationwide and 37.4 percent in Colorado, from 2012 to 2013, and construction was up by 10 percent in Colorado while it was up 5.2 percent nationwide. Manufacturing growth in both cases was small.
The above analysis uses Gross Domestic Product in current dollars from the BEA. Not seasonally adjusted.

Compared to all other states, Colorado, like most other oil and gas producing states, showed strong growth rates, and was in the top category for growth. North Dakota which is in the midst of an enormous oil and gas boom, outperformed all other states.

Note: The map shows different growth rates because it uses the BEA's real GDP percent change in 2009 chained dollars.

CoreLogic: Home price index up 8.6 percent in Colorado

The latest CoreLogic home price index data, released today, shows declining growth rates at the national level, but little movement for Colorado. The index for May 2014 showed the year over year change for the nation at 8.8 percent, which is down significantly from Feb 2014's growth rate of 12.2 percent. Meanwhile the Colorado year over year change was 8.6 percent, which was the lowest in six months, but isn't a big change when compared to the last year's worth of growth rates. The graph shows both Colorado and the nation:

With a growth rate of 8.6 percent,  Colorado HPI growth continues at a steady pace, and only 11 states showed higher year over year changes in their HPIs. Only California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New York, Oregon, Texas, and Washington reported larger increases. The largest increase was in Hawaii (13.2 percent) and the lowest was in Arkansas (1 percent).