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LIVE MARKETS-Mind the gap: Pending home sales retreat, trade deficit hits record high

LIVE MARKETS-Mind the gap: Pending home sales retreat, trade deficit hits record high

reuters.com · 12/29/2021 11:00
LIVE MARKETS-Mind the gap: Pending home sales retreat, trade deficit hits record high

S&P 500, Dow edge up; Nasdaq slips

Materials lead S&P 500 sector gainers; comm svcs sole loser

Euro STOXX 600 index off ~0.3%

Dollar, gold dip; crude, bitcoin gain

U.S. 10-Year Treasury yield rises to ~1.54%

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Data released on Wednesday showed sky-rocketing home prices are weighing on the possibility of home ownership while the goods trade deficit - the chasm between imports and exports - yawned to its widest ever.

Signed contracts for the sales of pre-owned U.S. homes USNCH=ECI unexpectedly dropped by 2.2% last month, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR). nL1N2TD0VD

The reading marked a reversal from October's 7.5% surge and defied the 0.5% increase analysts expected.

Pending home sales, along with building permits and applications for loans to purchase homes, is among the sector's most forward-looking indicators, and provides further evidence that the housing market is beginning to buckle under the weight of its own success.

The pandemic sent homebuyers scurrying to the suburbs in a mad grab for elbow room and home office space, sending available homes on the market to record lows. That, in turn, has launched home prices into the stratosphere, a phenomenon illustrated by yesterday's Case-Shiller report.

This has resulted in evaporating affordability for many potential buyers, particularly at the low end of the market.

"Buyer competition alone is unrelenting, but home seekers have also had to contend with the negative impacts of supply chain disruptions and labor shortages this year," says Lawrence Yun, chief economist at NAR. "These aspects, along with the exorbitant prices and a lack of available homes, have created a much tougher buying season."

It should be noted, however, pending home sales data remains well above pre-pandemic levels, as illustrated by the graphic below:

Separately, the Commerce Department released its advance take on trade balance and wholesale inventories for November.

The report showed the gap between the value of merchandise imported from abroad versus domestic goods exported to U.S. trading partners USGBAL=ECI widened by nearly 18% to a record $97.78 billion, wiping out the narrowing of the deficit witnessed in October. nL1N2TD0XM

As the U.S. economic recovery from the global heath crisis outpaces much of the world, and with the dollar =USD steadily gaining strength since September - which has made American-made goods more expensive - the trade deficit has weighed on GDP for the last five consecutive quarters.

"Looking ahead, we expect the trade deficit to remain historically elevated until pandemic worries ease," writes Nancy Vanden Houten, lead U.S. economist at Oxford Economics. "Rising Covid cases abroad once again threaten to constrain global demand, risking an even wider deficit if export growth slows more than imports."

"However, wider vaccine diffusion and dissipating supply constraints over the coming quarters should allow for more normal trade flows," Houten adds.

For Reuters interactive graphic on the status of world vaccine deployment, click here.

On the other hand, in a positive sign for fourth-quarter economic growth, the value of goods stored in the warehouses of U.S. wholesalers USAWIN=ECI grew by 1.2%, marking a deceleration from the prior period's 2.2% increase.

Private inventories, stunted by ongoing supply chain challenges, weighed on GDP in the first half of the year but contributed two percentage points last quarter to the 2.3% headline print.

Market participants appear to be sitting this one out, as Wall Street is contending with light volume, while struggling to find the plot.

The blue-chip Dow .DJI is setting a tentative course for its sixth consecutive gain. That said, communication services .SPLRCL names are weighing on the Nasdaq .IXIC, while the S&P 500 .SPX hovers just above the flat line.

(Stephen Culp)



Wall Street's main indexes are little changed early Wednesday amid thin trading volumes, as caution kicked in after daily U.S. COVID-19 infections hit a record high. .N

Indeed, Monday and Tuesday of this week registered the two slowest volume days of 2021. And with total volume so far this week now just over 17 billion shares, the pace suggests this could potentially end up being the slowest weekly share turnover since the week ending February 21, 2020, when just 31.5 billion shares changed hands.

In any event, one mover today is the U.S. 10-Year Treasury yield US10YT=RR. Earlier, the yield hit a three-week high at 1.5310%.

Here is where markets stand in early trade:

(Terence Gabriel)



The Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI has now risen five straight days. That's its longest streak of higher daily closes since a seven-day run from March 5 to March 15 of this year.

That said, with CBT e-mini Dow Futures 1YMcv1 roughly flat in premarket trade, traders will have to wait to see on which side of the fence momentum will land.

On Tuesday, the blue-chip average flirted with its 36,432.22 Nov. 8 record close and its 36,565.73 Nov. 8 record intraday high. The DJI hit 36,527.26 before selling back to end at 36,398.21:

Since once again using the broken log-scale resistance line from 1929 as a launching pad in early December, and then the 200-day moving average (DMA) as support on December 20, a push to new highs can likely clear the way back up to the resistance line from early 2018, which now resides around 37,050.

This line remains an important barrier given that it capped strength in early November. Overwhelming it, however, would suggest potential for the 39,000 area in Q1 2022, if indeed, the S&P 500 .SPX more directly challenges its log-scale resistance line from 1929. Click here: nL1N2TD0HC

In any event, given the streak, and resistance at the Dow's record highs, some pullback would not be a surprise. However, the rising 50-DMA, which ended Tuesday around 35,675, can look to contain weakness.

A DJI reversal below more significant support ranging from the 200-DMA, which ended Tuesday around 34,710, to the Dec. 1 trough at 34,006.98, however, will have the potential to signal a major trend change.

(Terence Gabriel)



(Terence Gabriel is a Reuters market analyst. The views expressed are his own)