Eq: Total Market

(New York)

There is a little known recession predictor that has done a good job historically of predicting when the economy is about to go into reverse: conception rate. Based on analysis from 1989 to 2016, a period with over 100 million US births, three economists have found that conception rate consistently dropped just prior to recessions. Conception rate is different than birth rate in that it measures the decision to have a baby, not the actual birth of one. The economists found that months or quarters before a recession, the decision to have a baby declined.

FINSUM: So conception rate and birth rate are different, but obviously very linked. So, what is scary to find out is that the US birth rate just hit its lowest level since 1987. Reason to worry?

(New York)

Investors beware, credit quality is quickly eroding in the real estate sector. While lending standards started strong after the Crisis, they have eroded significantly in the last few years as investor demand for yields has pushed lenders further down the credit spectrum and eroded protections. The credit quality of both prime and sub-prime borrowers has fallen and the popularity of CRT (credit risk transfer) securities, or mortgage bonds not fully backed by Fannie and Freddie, has risen. Worryingly, yields have not reacted to the decline in quality, as such risky CRT bonds have recently traded at less than a 100 bp premium to Treasuries.

FINSUM: So the big worry with mortgage bonds is that they always collapse faster than any model can predict. Because mortgage payments are so linked to the underlying economy and employment, when a recession happens, the defaults just flood in. We could be headed in that direction.


There are a lot of investors worried about the US housing market at the moment. As rates rise, and a potential recession looms, some think housing could falter. On the flipside, however, it is often considered that home supply is low and demand is high, which has been pushing up prices and shows no signs of abating. Now, there is another factor to consider—US building materials prices are surging. Everything from lumber (up 16%) to insulation is jumping in price. Homebuilders say that despite the rise in costs, they have been able to offset the increases by hiking their prices, which they say consumers have been willing to pay.

FINSUM: The appetite for homes and new construction seems very strong at the moment, and certainly good enough to carry the market for a while yet.

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