Comparing price growth for homes and stock shares

The FRED Blog has discussed how stock market fluctuations don’t accurately reflect overall economic conditions in the U.S. Today, we throw real estate prices into the mix and see what patterns we can find.

The FRED graph above tracks total stock shares in blue and Case-Shiller national home prices in red during the most recent economic downturn. We use an index equal to 100 in the first quarter of 2020, the start of the COVID-19-induced recession, to help us easily compare these growth rates over time.

Real estate prices took off during the second half of 2020. Stock prices slumped during the first half of the year and did not quite catch up by the second half. (The same pattern is visible when comparing the Case-Shiller home price index to the Dow Jones Industrial Average.) But during the first quarter of 2021, stock prices grew steadily and ended up topping the year-to-year growth in home prices. If this were a game of rock-paper-scissors, paper (stocks) would have beaten rock (real estate).

Now let’s look at these same asset prices during the previous economic contraction—the Great Recession. In this graph, we see the slump in stock prices was deeper and lasted longer. Although home prices also declined, they did so much more gradually. In that round, the house of bricks (real estate) beat the house of cards (stocks).

How these graphs were created: Search for and select “Total Share Prices for All Shares for the United States.” From the “Edit Graph” menu, use the “Add Line” tab to search for “S&P/Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price Index.” Again from the “Edit Graph” panel, select the “Edit Line 1” tab. In the “Units” drop-down menu, select “Index (Scale value to 100 for chosen date)” and choose “2020-02-01” for the first graph and “2007-12-01” for the second graph. Adjust the date range to mirror the dates shown in the blog post.

Suggested by Diego Mendez-Carbajo.