Interest Rate Roundup

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Pending home sales pop in March

The National Association of Realtors just released pending home sales figures for March. Sales rose 5.1%, topping expectations for a 1.5% gain (though last month's result was revised down to +0.7%). Sales also remain 11.5% lower than they were this time a year earlier. By region, the South was the strongest with a gain of 10.3% on the month, followed by the West at 3.1% and the Midwest at 3%. The Northeast showed a decline of 3.2%.

Like the other housing reports we've seen, the pending sales report continues to show weakness, although conditions did improve somewhat from February. Buyers simply lack a catalyst to bid aggressively for homes, keeping overall activity subdued.

Monday, April 25, 2011

New home sales pop in March

New home sales rebounded in March, gaining 11.1% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 300,000 from an upwardly revised 270,000 in February. That left sales slightly ahead of economists' projections, but still at a very low level. The number of homes for sale sank to another multi-decade low of 183,000, while the median price of a home rose 2.9% from February to a level of $213,000. That's still 4.9% from a year ago however, underscoring the fact that builders are having a difficult time competing against deeply discounted foreclosures and other used homes.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Housing starts rebound in March

We just got housing construction figures for March. Here's what the numbers showed:

* Housing starts rebounded 7.2% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 549,000 from 512,000 in February. That was a little bit better than the consensus forecast of 520,000. Building permit issuance gained even more -- 11.2% to a 594,000 SAAR from 534,000 in February.

* By property type, single family starts gained 7.7% while multifamily construction rose 5.8%. Single family permit issuance rose 5.7% while multifamily permitting spiked 25.2%.

* Regionally, starts rose in most of the country. They gained 5.4% in the Northeast, 27.6% in the West, and 32.3% in the Midwest. Starts fell 3.3% in the South. As for permits, the story was similar. Permit issuance was unchanged in the Northeast, but up 6.3% in the South, 6.9% in the Midwest, and 37.1% in the West.

The housing market tried to pick itself off the mat in March. Starts and permits both bounced after a dismal performance in February, with relatively widespread regional gains. But this tired old boxer isn't going to get back in the ring for a title bout anytime soon. Tougher mortgage qualification standards, competition from cheap "used" houses and condos, and the anemic economic rebound are all continuing to pressure new home builders. That will keep a lid on construction and permitting activity for the foreseeable future.

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