Do You Know Where to Buy/Sell S&P/Case-Shiller Housing Index Derivatives?

This shouldn’t be a hard question to answer, but I’m having trouble with it. I’m looking for an online brokerage where I can buy and sell futures and options contracts based on the the S&P/Case-Shiller Housing Index. The S&P/Case-Shiller Housing Indexes are one of the newest innovations in tracking the value of home prices across the US.

A few years ago, Robert Shiller wrote a book called “The New Financial Order,” (although I didn’t get around to reading it until last June, during the evenings between the eBay Live 2006 event in Las Vegas). Robert Shiller had written a book in 2000 called “Irrational Exuberance“, and as you can guess by the title, it had quite a bit to do with market bubbles and what was happening with Internet stocks in 2000 when it was .

In his new book, Shiller argues that risk in the 21st century will be manageable by leveraging the innovations from the 20th century around risk management towards the truly large risks that individuals bear. For example, every individual bears a disproportionate amount of “local housing market risk”, because most of their assets are tied up in a house whose value is tied to the area of the country where they happen to live. Shiller also provides examples like “livelihood risk”, where people currently bear a huge risk that the profession that they are trained in will be unmarketable or less valuable in future years and unless you are in a particularly safe market, New York Sublets for example, then you might be in hot water.

Shiller proposes several steps towards solving these problems for individuals, beginning with the definition of well known, well defined indexes to measure them. Then, with derivatives like futures and options, these risks can be hedged by individuals as needed.

For example, a young software engineer could buy a put-option on the 20-year future income of a US-based software engineer. If it turns out that software engineers in the US have lower income in 20-years, the put should help hedge some of that risk, and potentially even fund re-training if needed.

Well, quickly after the book was released, Shiller followed through with indeces defining the local housing prices in 12 major US markets, and one aggregate index across them.

They are called the S&P/Case-Shilling Housing Indexes, and they are defined and marketed by Macromarkets, an interesting company to say the least:

MacroMarkets LLC is a growth company on a mission to add liquidity to valuable economic interests and important asset classes throughout the world. Our principal focus: to cultivate new markets which facilitate investment and risk management via innovative financial instruments.

The firm is led by a seasoned management team with over 100 years of collective Wall Street experience with structured products, exchange-traded funds, housing markets, mortgage- and asset-backed securities.

MacroMarkets holds multiple patents for MACROS®, a novel securities structure that can be applied to any asset class that can be reliably indexed. It also possesses exclusive licensing rights to The Case-Shiller Indexes® for the purposes of developing, structuring and trading financial instruments.

In May 2006, in partnership with MacroMarkets, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) successfully launched Housing Futures and Options for U.S. residential real estate. This landmark development created the first exchange-traded financial products for directly investing in and hedging U.S. housing. Various over-the-counter (OTC) U.S. housing-linked derivative financial products will also be originated and traded this year. Like the CME Housing Futures and Options, these OTC products will be linked to and settled upon the S&P/Case-Shiller® Home Price Indices.

So, I was interested in checking out the prices on potentially hedging local home prices in the San Francisco Bay Area for the next few years. I was just curious whether or not it would make sense to do on an individual basis. After all, Herb Greenberg says California real estate prices may dictate the movement of the national economy this time…

Problem is, I can’t find a quote for these futures or options, and I can’t find a brokerage where I could potentially trade them. This article suggests you can, and I found ticker symbols for both futures and options on the website. But I can’t seem to find a quote service or brokerage that understands them.

So, I’m asking my readers… anyone know the answer here?

6 thoughts on “Do You Know Where to Buy/Sell S&P/Case-Shiller Housing Index Derivatives?

  1. Keep digging – The CME website (www.cme.com) has a list of registered brokers that can buy and sell futures and options based on the Case-Shiller index. Go to the “overview” page discussing the Housing Index, and look at the bottom of the page for the “quicklinks” – its there (http://www.cme.com/trading/prd/re/housing_FO.html). The information on the CME website is fascinating – you can get real time quotes on futures contracts, and a full description of the terms and pricing of the intial contracts.

    Good luck.

  2. You can get a quote from the CME: http://housing.cme.com/ (registration required).

    I doubt these are tradeable via an online broker. For one thing, I believe CME is exclusively an open outcry exchange (i.e. no computer/digital trading) so online broker integration would be tough. Plus, what day trader is interested in trading butter futures?

    You may need to find a futures broker at a full service shop.

  3. Pingback: Real Estate, Case-Shiller Index, Investing, Home Prices

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