Thursday, August 15, 2013

New York's the Same, the World is Better, What's Going On?

I am no Wall Street guru, but I follow the market pretty closely these days, as well as economic indicators throughout the world. Here is what we've got going:   .

1) Interest rates made a rather large move (.25% not really a large move, but for bond traders it's a large move)

 2) Several large retailers - and today Cisco, which is like the GE of pure tech plays - have reported lower than expected 2nd quarter results (whose expectations? it's sort of an average taken across many investment firms' analysts' projections).

 3) Walmart also missed on revenues, though not earnings (earnings are the actual income reported after all expenses have been removed), and cut its own projections for the rest of the year.

 However, other things are not all bad! For instance:

 1) July unemployment nationwide FELL to 7.4%, the lowest since 2007 - that's a YEAR before the crap hit the fan in 2008. Remember that before the credit crunch caused by the failures of Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers and Washington Mutual, among many others. Many people forget that the downturn began in late 2004, when the first of the subprime mortgage crisis started to be felt.

 2) Europe, which caused an echo credit crunch on these shores as analysts scrambled to discern which of our multinational banks held how many Greek, Spanish, Irish, Cypriot, etc. bonds, has suddenly peaked its head out of the recession pit, according to the official statistics office of the European Union. China, too, has seen a slight rebound that is pulling materials and mining stocks up ever so slightly.

All that, plus lighter volume (which exaggerates price swings in an individual stock) made for a 200-point drop in the market today.

I watch the stock market because it seems to have more correlation to the real estate market in Manhattan (and increasingly, Brooklyn) than the markets in the rest of the country (which is why NYC's prices kept going up until almost the moment Bear Stearns went down). But it's hard to say what's the new normal here: the Dow made new highs nearly every week until April, had a correction in May, resumed upwards in June, and now in August (traditionally not a great month for the market) it's heading down again, mostly lazily but today in a more precipitous fashion. What will happen in September? What indeed? It's a soap opera that doesn't end.

My personal experience tells me that buyers are less likely to buy in New York when the market goes down. This might be because the buyer is actually employed in the financial industry, or it may be sympathetic concern, as most people in New York are at least cognizant of the market's moves, even if they aren't invested.

Dearth of buyers can lead to price drops, but only if there is a glut of properties relative to the number of buyers on the market. A quick glance at the live listings infographic provided by shows that active inventory (ie, properties currently listed for sale) has dropped nearly 20% in the past 3 months. In addition, properties in contract, after a huge 43% pop four to six months ago, has declined by 6% in the past three months. Finally, properties that have gone off market have increased over 15% in the past three months.

So, to summarize, fewer properties are on the market, at a rate that exceeds the drop in contracts signed. This means the inventory seems to be right-sizing itself. So, for the moment, prices in New York should remain unchanged.

We'll see how that works out when interest rates really begin to rise.

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