Pending home sales flatline in January
* Pending home sales were unchanged from December, compared to expectations for a monthly decline of 1%.
* On a year-over-year basis, the seasonally adjusted sales index was down 20.8%. The index level -- 85.9 -- is just slightly above the 85.5 low to date, which was set in August.
* Pending sales fell in two regions and rose in the other two. They were down 4.1% in the Northeast, and down 6.1% in the South, but up 0.6% in the Midwest and up 13% in the West.
My take? The housing market remains stuck in the doldrums. Inventory levels are high, buyer confidence is down, and the economic outlook is uncertain. The Federal Reserve is trying to light a fire under housing demand by cutting short-term rates. But credit market turmoil and stingier lenders are thwarting its efforts so far. Bottom line: A lasting recovery isn't likely until 2009.