Interest Rate Roundup

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

New home sales fall 0.6% in May

The new home sales figures for May were released this morning. Here's a recap ...

* New home sales dipped 0.6% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 342,000 from 344,000 in April. The numbers are a disappointment, considering economists were expecting sales of 360,000. Results for the past few months were also downwardly revised by 32,000 units.

* Regionally, sales jumped 28.6% in the Northeast and 18.6% in the Midwest. They inched up 1.3% in the west, but fell 8.5% in the South, the nation's largest new home market (184,000 units sold at a seasonally adjusted annual rate vs. 80,000 in the West ... 51,000 in the Midwest ... and 27,000 in the Northeast).

* The raw number of homes for sale continued to decline, falling to 292,000 from 299,000 in April. That's the lowest reading going back to March 2001. The months supply at current sales pace indicator of inventory dipped to 10.2 from 10.4.

* The median price of a new home rose 4.2% last month to $221,600 from $212,600 in April. On a year-over-year basis, prices were down 3.4%, the best YOY showing since December.

Digging into the May new home sales figures, you see that sales rose in three out of four regions of the country. But they declined sharply in the South, the country's biggest new home market, so overall sales were a disappointment. On the other hand, for-sale inventory continues to decline -- a definite plus. And the year-over-year rate of home price depreciation eased markedly.

Overall, the story remains the same: The housing market is gradually stabilizing, but showing no sign whatsoever of a vigorous rebound. The biggest issues going forward remain unemployment and interest rates. The supply of new homes for sale is back in line with the long-term historical average. But if potential buyers are losing their jobs, and financing costs are going up, builders are going to have a tough time moving product.


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