Interest Rate Roundup

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Pending home sales slump again

Pending home sales were just reported for June. They slumped another 2.6% in the month after a 29.9% plunge in May. That failed to meet market expectations for a 4% gain. Moreover, sales were weak in three out of four regions of the country -- down 0.2% in the West, down 9.5% in the Midwest, and down 12.2% in the Northeast. They ticked up 3.7% in the South. The index, at 75.7, is off 18.6% from its year-ago level and the lowest in history.

If you're looking for a pulse in the U.S. housing market, best of luck. I can't seem to find one. Pending home sales fell once again, with broad-based geographic declines and a nominal new low for the index, first published in 2001. Leading indicators like the Mortgage Bankers Association's index of purchase loan applications also can't get off the mat.

What's remarkable about the weakness is that it's coming at a time where mortgage rates are hovering around 4.5%. These aren't just the lowest mortgage rates in the past several years. Some research suggests they're the lowest since before the Wright Brothers first flew at Kitty Hawk! Unless and until we get a rebound in the labor market, we're just not going to see good things happening in housing.


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