~Welcome to the Econo-Almanac~

I started this website in mid-2004 to chronicle San Diego’s spectacular housing bubble.  The purpose of the site remains, as ever, to provide objective and evidence-based analysis of the San Diego housing market. A quick guide to the site follows:

  • New visitors are advised to begin with the Bubble Primer or (if wondering about the site name) the FAQ list.
  • Housing articles I’ve written are found in the main section below.
  • Discussion topics posted by site users are found in the “Active Forum Topics” box to the lower right.
  • This website is an avocation; by day I help people with their investments as a financial advisor*.  Market commentary, an overview of our investment approach, and more can be found on my firm's website.

Thanks for stopping by…

More Mixed Signals from the Job Market

Submitted by Rich Toscano on November 20, 2009 - 8:21pm

The annual change in the number of people employed at San Diego companies improved again last month. Between November 2008 and November 2009, local companies shed 52,200 jobs, a decline of 4.0 percent. Which, as miserable as it may sound, is the best year-over-year job number in six months:

continue reading at voiceofsandiego.org

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Dueling Job Surveys

Submitted by Rich Toscano on November 18, 2009 - 6:08pm

A commenter over at Piggington (my own little internet stomping ground) raised an interesting point in regard to last month's article on San Diego employment. The reader noted that the monthly data I cite measures the number of jobs held in San Diego with no regard for whether the job holders are actually San Diego residents. There is a separate data series that tracks the employment status of San Diego residents whether they are employed in the county or elsewhere. And, for the time being, the two job surveys are providing mixed signals.

continue reading at voiceofsandiego.org

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The Housing Battleship-Turned-Party Boat

Submitted by Rich Toscano on November 13, 2009 - 7:30pm

A while back, I noticed a funny thing about the year-over-year rate of change in the Case-Shiller index of San Diego home prices. It seemed that movements in the annual price change rate from positive to negative or from negative to positive provided a good indicator that the long-term price trend had changed direction.

Allow me to demonstrate with some graphs.

The graph below shows the home price index in blue with the year-over-year rate of change for the index in orange. It covers a ten-year period more or less centered around the early-1990s housing bust.

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October 2009 Resale Data Rodeo

Submitted by Rich Toscano on November 9, 2009 - 3:54pm

It looks like the spring/summer rally has continued into autumn, as the median price per square foot was up 1.5% from the prior month:

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Divining Case-Shiller

Submitted by Rich Toscano on October 29, 2009 - 6:53pm

The Case-Shiller index is the most accurate measure of aggregate home price changes, for reasons long-since described here. But it's been an ongoing gripe of mine (and everyone's) that the index lags so badly. The data that was just released a couple days ago on October 27, for instance, only tracks home prices through August.

So lately I've taken to using the median price per square foot data to guess, for lack of a better word, what the Case-Shiller index values for more recent months might be. An example of this estimation can be found in the graph below, which appeared in the writeup of the most recent median price data:

Here's how I arrive at these estimates. (Non-nerds may wish to fall asleep for the remainder of this paragraph)...

continue reading at voiceofsandiego.org

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Case-Shiller's Summer Super-Bounce Continued in August

Submitted by Rich Toscano on October 27, 2009 - 5:25pm

Nobody should be very surprised that the Case-Shiller index rose again in August.

This time around, the long-suffering low tier turned in the best performance with a robust 2.5 percent increase. The middle tier rose 1.6 percent for the month and the high tier increased .3 percent, with the aggregate index rising 1.6 percent.

Here's a graph of the three price tiers and the aggregate index since their bubble peaks:

continue reading at voiceofsandiego.org

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Foreclosures Edge Down Again

Submitted by Rich Toscano on October 25, 2009 - 8:32pm

Here, a little later than usual, is the monthly foreclosure activity update.

The following chart shows that default notices and trustee sales, respectively the initial and final stages of foreclosure, both declined last month.

But both defaults and trustee sales remain at levels that are, shall we say, elevated.

continue reading at voiceofsandiego.org

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Housing-Related Job Sectors Taking the Big Long-Term Hit

Submitted by Rich Toscano on October 20, 2009 - 8:42pm

Let's take a slightly different look at the construction, finance/real estate, and retail job sectors. I have long highlighted these three industries in my analysis because they were directly involved in the housing bubble, benefitting from the respective frenzies for building homes, lending funds, selling homes, and spending all the money that issued forth from the regional home equity ATM.

continue reading at voiceofsandiego.org

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Job Losses Shrink for a Second Month

Submitted by Rich Toscano on October 18, 2009 - 11:13am

The rate of year-over-year job losses in San Diego declined again last month, according to the latest estimates from the EDD. Between September 2008 and September 2009, the region lost 52,000 jobs. This is not great, obviously, but it's an improvement over recent months.

continue reading at voiceofsandiego.org

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September 2009 Resale Data Rodeo

Submitted by Rich Toscano on October 11, 2009 - 12:41pm

Some have asked what distinguishes a Data Rodeo from a Chartfest or for that matter the rarely seen Chart Extravaganza. The answer, which I will fabricate as I type this sentence, is that Data Rodeos are reserved for the monthly roundup of resale data, whereas the two alternate names are used for generic chart collections based upon the levels of extravagance and general chartiness contained therein.

I hope that clears everything up.

Prices

The rally in San Diego's median price per square foot continued through September, with the ppsf rising 2.2% for detached homes, 5.5% for (much more volatile) condos, and 3.1% for a volume-weighted aggregate.

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Government Intervention in the Housing Market a Fact of Life

Submitted by Rich Toscano on October 4, 2009 - 9:32pm

For a long time I have been discussing, with various degrees of rantiness, government intervention in the housing market. When I first touched on the subject in early 2007, before any bailouts had begun, some of the potential interventions I envisioned seemed kind of far-fetched. By late 2007, as I noted in a Manimal-referencing followup, many of these same interventions were already underway.

And now? The lengths to which the government has gone to prop up the housing market have surpassed even my own cynical expectations. By a long shot.

continue reading at voiceofsandiego.org

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Case-Shiller Chartfest

Submitted by Rich Toscano on September 30, 2009 - 3:37pm

The July update of the Case-Shiller San Diego home price index is in. The index increased by 2.5 percent from June -- a substantial (if expected) one-month bounce.

As usual, Kelly has done a nice writeup on month-to-month changes with and without seasonal adjustments. I'll supplement her piece with some visual aids.

First up is a look at the three price tiers and the aggregate price index from their respective peaks in the 2005-2006 region:

continue reading at voiceofsandiego.org

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Historical Home Sale Volume Measured in Dollars

Submitted by Rich Toscano on September 25, 2009 - 2:49pm

In response to last week's article on historical home sales, a reader requested charts expressing the sales data in terms of dollars' worth of homes sold instead of just the number of homes sold.

I had to cobble a few things together to make these charts. (Non-nerds may skip the rest of this paragraph). Ideally, the dollar volume of homes sold would be calculated by either just adding up individual prices of every sale or multiplying the average price times the number of units sold, which would both come out to a precise total of dollar volume. But I didn't have historical average prices. What I did have historical data on was the Case-Shiller index, which I rebased to the median price for all homes sold in San Diego in August 2009. This isn't exactly the same as the average price for any given month, for various reasons, but I suspect it will be close enough to get a general idea of what's going on.

Okay, everybody back? Here is the chart of existing home sales in terms of dollars since 1990, with the requisite 12-month average to smooth out the seasonal ups and downs:

continue reading at voiceofsandiego.org

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San Diego Job Losses Tentatively Slow

Submitted by Rich Toscano on September 21, 2009 - 7:31pm

According to the Employment Development Department's latest estimates, San Diego's year-over-year rate of job losses slowed for the first time in 2009. The region's employment decreased by 55,600 jobs between August 2008 and August 2009, a decline of 4.3 percent.

That is good news -- if the latest numbers turn out to provide an accurate picture of San Diego's employment situation.

continue reading at voiceofsandiego.org

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Despite Rebound, Home Sales Historically Weak

Submitted by Rich Toscano on September 17, 2009 - 8:54am

Home sales may have recovered strongly from the depths they plumbed in 2007 and 2008, but they are still anemic when compared to San Diego sales activity over the past couple of decades.

You wouldn't know it from looking at a chart of historical home sales. The number of sales, indicated by the blue line in the following graph, has recently vaulted up to the upper part of the historical range:

But it's not quite that simple. (Is it ever?)

continue reading at voiceofsandiego.org

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