Economist: Housing Will Thrive After Fed Exit
Housing has experienced an incredible recovery. Though still far from the elevated levels of 2006, the S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Index has increased by 8 percent over the past year, and the S&P Homebuilding sector has enjoyed nearly triple the gains of the S&P 500 over the past year.
But is this growth organic, or is it simply a result of the artificially low interest rates fostered by the Federal Reserve's quantitative easing program?
"The housing recovery we have seen is not, in fact, a QE bubble," CIBC World Markets chief economist Avery Shenfeld told CNBC's "Futures Now."
This is not merely an academic question. As traders hold their breath for the Fed to begin tapering its asset purchases, the question of whether housing can continue to grow without the Fed has become critical.
Shenfeld believes that housing growth will not merely continue—it will accelerate, even if mortgage rates rise due to a Fed exit.
"Mortgage availability actually remains very, very tight," Shenfeld said. "I think that as the mortgage market recovers, which it will with recovering consumer credit, we'll get more support from mortgages for the housing rally in 2014, even if mortgage rates are in fact higher than they have been—because mortgage availability will be that much better."
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After all, mortgage rates are so low that a move higher should not do much damage, the economist said.
"Remember that today, we're sitting on 30-year mortgage rates that are under 4 percent," Shenfeld noted. "Even if we push those rates up another 50, 60 basis points, we're into the mid-4 percent range on a 30-year mortgage. Remember that in the last cycle, anything under 6 percent was a screaming bargain."
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Indeed, Shenfeld thinks that housing's growth will be great news for the economy—and the stock market—as a whole.
Looking at the stock market, "you've got homebuilders, you've got lumber producers, you have the people who sell the furniture and appliances to go into those new homes, or even into the turnaround of existing homes. I think that's a big part of the story," he said.
Shenfeld added: "I think when it comes to economic growth right now, there's no place like homebuilding."