Interest Rate Roundup

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

NAHB index plunges to record low of 9 ... Yes I said "9"

The National Association of Home Builders just released its latest Housing Market Index. I have to tell you, this November data is downright atrocious. The details ...

* The overall index plunged to 9 in November from 14 in October. This is a fresh record low for the series, which dates back to 1985. It's also much worse than the forecast for no change from the month before.

* Among the subindices, the one measuring current single family home sales dropped to 8 from 14 ... the one measuring expectations about future sales held steady at 19 ... while the one measuring prospective buyer traffic fell to 7 from 11.

* Regionally, builders couldn't catch a break. The Northeast index dropped to 11 from 16, the Midwest index slumped to 7 from 13, the South index fell to 11 from 16, and the West index plunged to 6 from 11.

If you're looking for a glimmer of hope for the housing market, you aren't going to find it in the latest figures. Builders are universally gloomy about the state of their business across all regions of the country. Readings on buyer traffic and current sales fell sharply, while expectations for future sales held at their record low from October.

The credit crunch is part of the problem. But so too is the broad deterioration we've seen in the U.S. economy in recent months. Some consumers can't afford to buy homes because they can't access mortgage financing or because they have lost their jobs. Others don't want to purchase because they're worried home prices will fall further. Ultimately, it will take lower home prices, even less building activity, and an economic recovery to lay the groundwork for a lasting market rebound. But that is in the future, not the present.


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