Interest Rate Roundup

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

New home sales implode in February

The latest new home sales figures were just released and the news wasn't pretty. To recap:

* New home sales plunged 16.9% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 250,000 in February from 301,000 a month earlier. That was far below the 290,000 average forecast of economists and the worst reading in the 48 years the government has been keeping track. It also comes on top of a 9.6% drop in January.

* The number of homes for sale held steady at 186,000 units, the lowest since November 1967. But the slowdown in sales caused the "month supply at current sales pace" indicator to blow out to 8.9 from 7.4. That's the highest since August 2010.

* Median prices plunged 13.9% on the month to $202,100 from $234,800. That was also an 8.9% year-over-year drop and it leaves prices at the lowest level since December 2003.

The latest home sales figures stink, plain and simple. Sales fell in every region of the country, led by the Northeast and Midwest. Overall transactions hit the lowest level in almost a half-century. Plus, home prices slumped sharply to the lowest in more than seven years.

There literally is nothing good to say here, other than that builders are responding rationally to tough market conditions by not adding more inventory to the mix. As we slowly work down the overhang of existing homes on the market, stability will return to pricing and builders will find themselves in a better place. Until then? They'll continue to batten down the hatches and try to ride these lousy conditions out.


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