US house prices carry on falling


Every month, it seems, the US housing market gets worse. Spring should have provided some respite, as it is the peak time for sales. But instead, as the chart shows, the benchmark S&P/Case-Shiller house price index fell again to a new record low, and is now 14% below this time last year. ‘There are very few silver linings that one can see in the data’, said S&P, adding that ‘most of the nation appears to be on a downward path’. They calculate that the current downturn far exceeds that of 1990-1, when ‘the annual rate bottomed at -2.8%’.

Equally, US auto markets are facing their worst year in over a decade. Sales are expected to be 15 million this year, versus 16.2 million last year. Home equity loans used to fund nearly 10% of new car sales, but are increasingly difficult to obtain as house prices fall. Auto lenders have also become increasingly wary, as their losses are now 30% higher than in 2002, at the bottom of the last downturn. And used car prices are down 6% already this year, putting further pressure on the industry.

The outlook for chemical sales into these two critical markets seems likely to become increasingly difficult as we move through the rest of year.

About Paul Hodges

Paul Hodges is Chairman of International eChem, trusted commercial advisers to the global chemical industry. Paul is also an invited member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council. The aim of this blog is to share ideas about the influences that may shape the chemical industry over the next 12 – 18 months. It will try to look behind today’s headlines, to understand what may happen next in important issues such as oil prices, economic growth and the environment. We may also have some fun, investigating a few of the more offbeat events that take place from time to time. Please do join me and share your thoughts. Between us, we will hopefully develop useful insights into the key factors that will drive the industry's future performance.

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