"Economists are pessimists: they've predicted 8 of the last 3 depressions."
--Barry Asmus

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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

S&P Case-Shiller HPI

After the revelations of the DPRK's mad plan to breed an army of giant radioactive mushroom men to conquer the free world [1], the S&P Case-Shiller HPI will be both slightly boring and a welcome return to humdrum sanity.

The S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Indices are, of course, a series of indices tracking changes in home prices nationally (the US National Index), in a 20-city region (the 20-city composite index), a 10-city region (the 10-city composite index), and then twenty individual metro area indices. It is normalized to have a value of 100 in Q1 2000. Data is released with a two month lag.

While the Street is interested this index, most analysts don't really spend any time trying to predict the results. Still, they like to see rising home values because this tends to spur new home construction. And, as we know, new home construction spurs GDP-enhancing economic activity. Also, since the single most valuable investment most everyone in the US has is their home, improving home values are seen as a signal of increasing personal wealth.

Speaking of results, you can read the press release right here. The highlights are:
* The US National Index has declined 2.0% from Q2 to Q3 2010, and is down 1.5% from Q3 2009 to Q3 2010, with the Q3 2010 level coming in at 135.48.
*The Composite-20 index is down 0.7% from August to September, but is up 0.6% from September 2009 to September 2010. The Level comes in at 147.49.
* The Composite-10 is down 0.5% from August to September, but is up 1.6% from September 2009 to September 2010. The Level comes in at 161.25.

Obviously, the results really aren't that good. Sure, the Composite-20 and Composite-10 look good, but almost all of the positive numbers come out of California. Everywhere else is either barely improving (Boston) or is watching their home values hurl themselves from a cliff like a mob of lemmings [2]. It is possible that some market analysts will declare the results positive (off the strength of the Composite-20 and Composite-10), but those analysts will most likely reside in California.

[1] You have to read between the lines, but why else would the DPRK announce both a uranium enrichment plant and new mushroom cultivation technologies on the same day?
[2] A mob of lemmings stampeded towards a cliff by filmmakers from the Walt Disney Corporation, that is. Lemmings don't actually hurl themselves from cliffs as a general rule. They have to be very depressed first.

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