~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 and more can be found on my firm's website.

Thanks for stopping by…

July Resale Housing Data (Chart) Rodeo

Submitted by Rich Toscano on August 29, 2011 - 10:46am
A chart-only edition of the July rodeo follows below.  Summary: prices very flat in the aggregate, but months of inventory creeping up a bit.



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Local Job Market Strengthened Again in July

Submitted by Rich Toscano on August 28, 2011 - 5:05pm
July was a good month for San Diego's job market, according to the Employment Development Department's local employment estimates.

You might not know it from looking at the raw numbers, as employment actually decreased between June and July.  But that is a seasonal effect that takes place each year, largely as a result of school getting out.



continue reading at voiceofsandiego.org

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Oops -- Were We Supposed to Buy Foreclosures With That $70 Million?

Submitted by Rich Toscano on August 24, 2011 - 4:03pm

Hi Piggs -- Apologies for the lack of content; I've become rather buried with that pesky day job once again. I'm going to try to get some material up this weekend.

In the meantime, I think many Piggs might be interested in this recent article from Will Carless at the voiceofsandiego.org:

The Housing Commission’s ‘Trojan Horse’

Back in the depths of the housing bust, the San Diego City Council ordained that the Affordable Housing Commission could start buying foreclosures.

At the time, I argued against this policy. Exactly how does spending taxpayer money to create artificial demand render homes more "affordable?" (Affordability being an outcome which, presumably, should desirable to a group called the "Affordable Housing Commission.") It doesn't, of course. I felt this was yet another bailout-style intervention that used taxpayer money in the pursuit of preventing homes from becoming affordable again.

Well, as Will's article makes clear, my argument was moot. The commission didn't use their money (and the reduced oversight they got as part of the deal) to buy foreclosures, but instead bought apartment buildings (not in foreclosure) and lent the money to developers to build more "affordable housing" apartments.

Regardless of what one thinks about what they originally said they were going to do, the point is that they didn't actually do it, which is fairly messed up. What makes this more messed up was outlined in Will's original piece, which makes it clear that the "affordable housing" they were funding was actually quite swanky and immensely cost-ineffective.

Enjoy these interesting and frustrating reads...

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Spring Home Price Bounce Masks Underlying Weakness

Submitted by Rich Toscano on July 26, 2011 - 6:53pm
Today's release of the Case-Shiller home price index showed a small (.2 percent) aggregate price increase in May for San Diego:



continue reading at voiceofsandiego.org
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San Diego Job Growth Defies National Weakness

Submitted by Rich Toscano on July 24, 2011 - 12:54pm
June's nationwide employment growth was famously dismal, with the entire US economy adding just 18,000 jobs for the month.  Fortunately for us San Diegans, things looked a lot better here at home.



continue reading at voiceofsandiego.org

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June 2011 Resale Data Rodeo: Taciturn Edition

Submitted by Rich Toscano on July 23, 2011 - 4:36pm
Hey Piggs -- I've been an extra busy bee this month, as the utter lack of new content would suggest.  I'm coming up for air to post a quick rodeo, but this month I'll let the graphs largely speak for themselves.  While nothing very interesting happened in the data last month, I will just note the following:
  1. Prices have been pretty weak considering seasonality, but
  2. ...the months-of-supply figure has been remarkably stable and rests at a level that probably precludes much in the way of downside.
Now, enjoy the soothing silence of the graphs to follow...


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Case-Shiller Up in April, But It's All Spring Bounce

Submitted by Rich Toscano on June 29, 2011 - 6:47pm
As foreshadowed by the median price data, the Case-Shiller index for San Diego home prices rose in April.  Here's a look at the CS index since the start of the rebound that began in early 2009:



continue reading at voiceofsandiego.org

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Job Growth Resumes Its Upward Slog

Submitted by Rich Toscano on June 22, 2011 - 7:33pm
San Diego employment increased in May, according to the Employment Development Department's latest batch of estimates. 

Let's look first at the seasonally-adjusted figures, which give a better read on month-to-month changes.  They show that employment was estimated to have increased in May after a languid start to the year:



continue reading at voiceofsandiego.org

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May 2011 Resale Data Rodeo

Submitted by Rich Toscano on June 13, 2011 - 7:04pm
All the gloom and doom about the national market notwithstanding, the median price per square foot of San Diego resale homes nudged up again in May:



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No Double Dip For San Diego Yet

Submitted by Rich Toscano on June 1, 2011 - 12:04pm
The median price data had indicated some home price stabilization through March, but the latest release of the Case-Shiller index suggests otherwise.  I'll talk a bit more below about the strengths and weaknesses of the CS index, but first let's have a look at the latest data.

The media has made much of the fact that the national Case-Shiller index hit a new post-boom low, officially ushering in a "double dip" in nationwide home price.  But while San Diego prices did drop in March,  the CS index indicates that we still held up above those 2009 lows:



(more charts plus some thoughts on the Case-Shiller index below)

continue reading at voiceofsandiego.org

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Job Market Faltered in April

Submitted by Rich Toscano on May 20, 2011 - 5:27pm
The California Employment Development Department's latest estimates indicate that, after adjusting for seasonal factors, San Diego employment declined slightly in April.  The EDD also revised the estimate of March employment downward.

Between the March revision and the April decline, there has been effectively no job growth since February:



continue reading at voiceofsandiego.org

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April 2011 Resale Data Rodeo

Submitted by Rich Toscano on May 11, 2011 - 4:42pm
The median price per square foot of San Diego resale homes was somewhat mixed last month: up .2% for single family homes, but down 1.7% for condos, and down .3% in aggregate.



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Low-Priced Home Whackage in February's Case-Shiller Index

Submitted by Rich Toscano on April 26, 2011 - 6:44pm

Home price data that is more timely than the Case-Shiller index has suggested that San Diego prices, on the whole, may be undergoing a bit of a spring thaw.  So I don't make too much of the fact that February's Case-Shiller index (which is calculated based on sales that took place in December, January, and February) declined by 1.3 percent in aggregate.

It is interesting, however, that the low-priced tier of the index dropped as much as it did.  After weathering the recent fall/winter lull better than the other tiers, the low-priced homes were spanked for 2.7 percent in February.  The middle tier was down 1.4 percent and the high tier by .5 percent for the month.



continue reading at voiceofsandiego.org

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Blast from the Past: Revisiting Moody's and Forbes' Colossally Inept 2006-Era Housing Forecast

Submitted by Rich Toscano on April 23, 2011 - 10:54am

Remember when housing started to falter back in 2006, and the mainstream economists' version of bearish tough talk was to predict that prices might just go up slightly less quickly in the future?

Tim of the always amusing Seattle Bubble blog recently dug up a prime example of that very thing, wherein Forbes magazine sternly informed readers:

"Get used to it--the seller's market is closing up shop."

...and:

"Now the question is more how hard is it going to land..."

Wow, that's some fairly bearish-sounding rhetoric.  I guess that's why Forbes' teamed up with Moody's to determine that prices would... pretty much just keep going up. (Fun graphs after the jump...)
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PCA 2010 Investment Performance

Submitted by Rich Toscano on April 18, 2011 - 10:28am
Pacific Capital Associates, the investment advisory firm of which I am co-owner, has just completed the independent verification of our investment performance through 2010.  The chart below indicates returns for our average discretionary managed portfolio since mid-2004, when we first got the ability to start tracking these numbers in a verifiable manner:



The thing that I am most pleased about with the 2010 performance is not the fact that we slightly outperformed the market (as measured by the S&P500) for the year, but that we did so while taking substantially less risk (notably, the average client account was down less than half as much as the market during the big Q2 correction).  More numbers and statistics, as well as loads of fun disclosures, can be found in our official investment track record.

More background on the above chart or the firm can be found in the post imaginatively titled My Day Job.

Things I am obliged to mention:
- Returns include reinvestment of all income. 
- Past performance is not indicative of future results.
- Investment advisory services and securities offered through Girard Securities, Inc., member SIPC/FINRA.

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