November Existing Home Sales

NAROFF ECONOMIC ADVISORS, Inc.
Joel L. Naroff
President and Chief Economist

INDICATOR: November Existing Home Sales
KEY DATA: Sales: +4.0%; Year-over-Year: 12.2%; Prices (Nov ’10-Nov ‘11): -3.5%;

IN A NUTSHELL: “It turns out the housing collapse was greater than thought but at least the process of digging out from the deep hole is beginning.”

WHAT IT MEANS: The housing market is healing, albeit slowly. Starts are improving and now we see that existing home sales are on the rise. Demand rose solidly in November led by a jump in single-family activity. Condo purchases were flat. The gains were across the nation though there was nearly a double-digit rise in the Northeast. So far in 2011, total sales are running almost two percent above the 2010 level. The increases were pretty evenly distributed between the single-family and condo markets. That said, the level of demand is unbelievably low. The National Association of Realtors revised the data for the period 2007 through 2010 and reduced total sales by over 14% or by about three million fewer sales. In other words, the meteor that cratered the housing market was a lot larger than initially estimated. And you thought the dinosaurs had problems. The reduction is in synch with the larger decline in GDP during the recession that was reported by the Bureau of Economic Affairs. As for prices, they are continuing to slide and for the first eleven months of the year, the median price has dropped nearly 5%, again with condos down a little more than single-family units.

MARKETS AND FED POLICY IMPLICATIONS: While some may concentrate on the huge downward revision to sales, the real story is the current trend in housing demand and that seems to be up a little. When you look at growth, it is the change in activity not the level of activity. Sales bottomed in July and have been moving up fairly steadily since. Unfortunately, the large number of distressed homes being purchased is reducing not only sales but supply as well. People with well-maintained homes know they cannot get their desired price, even if buyers are willing to pay it, as long as distressed homes are used as comps. It looks like these “normal” homeowners are simply keeping their houses off the market and that is reducing the number of homes for sale. That makes the supply of homes number somewhat useless as it implies that once conditions turn around, the ‘for sale’ signs will pop up like crazy. The latent supply is there, the actual supply is not. Regardless, this is another positive report that should make it clear that the economy is heading into 2012 with growing momentum. Unless Europe crashes and burns, and never underestimate the ability of politicians in any part of the world to do the wrong thing, growth in the U.S. next year could be decent. That is my forecast and I am sticking to it, at least for now.
RE/MAX Connection Realtors disclaimer:
RE/MAX Connection Realtors are not licensed financial advisors, and are not providing any financial advice, you should consult with a licensed financial advisor prior to making any financial decisions. RE/MAX Connection Realtors are only providing this economic statement from Naroff Economic Advisors, Inc. for informational purposes.
Our company accepts no liability for the content of this email/blog, or for the consequences of any actions taken on the basis of the information provided. Any views or opinions presented in this email/blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the company. Finally, the recipient should check this email and any attachments for the presence of viruses. The company accepts no liability for any damage caused by any virus transmitted by this email.
RE/MAX Connection Realtors, 1000 East Lincoln Drive, Suite 2, Marlton, NJ 08053 www.goconnectionnj.com

October Housing Starts/Weekly Unemployment Claims

NAROFF ECONOMIC ADVISORS, Inc.
Joel L. Naroff
President and Chief Economist

INDICATOR: October Housing Starts/Weekly Unemployment Claims
KEY DATA: Starts: -0.3%; 1-Family: +3.9%; Permits: +0.9%; 1-Family: +5.1%; Unemployment Claims: 388,000

IN A NUTSHELL: “Housing is firming and some improvement may be in the cards, adding to the view that this recovery is becoming broader based.”

WHAT IT MEANS: The housing sector is a long way away from being healthy but maybe it is starting to get strong enough to move out of the ICU to the recovery room. Housing starts eased a touch in October and on the surface that does not look to be anything positive. However, there was a sharp increase in September and the modest decline indicates the sector managed to sustain that upturn. There was a nice increase in single-family activity but that was offset by a larger drop in the volatile multifamily segment. With the demand for rental housing rising, I expect the multifamily component to keep rising going forward – it just may be in fits and starts. Indeed, with permit requests jumping, improving starts numbers should be seen in the November or December data. Builders are quickly taking those permits and turning them into starts as can be seen in the further decline in the permits authorized but not started pace as well as the increase in the homes under construction rate. As for the labor market, there was a nice drop in new claims for unemployment insurance and it wasn’t just a one week wonder. These data can and do bounce around and the more stable four-week moving average fell below the critical 400,000 level, signifying the likelihood of future declines in the unemployment rate.

MARKETS AND FED POLICY IMPLICATIONS: Another day of pretty good numbers. Don’t expect housing to add lots of jobs or power the economic comeback, but it sure looks like it will be adding to growth going forward. Indeed, the Home Builders Associations confidence measure has jumped two consecutive months as developers seem to be seeing clearly improving conditions. Housing has typically been the first stage of the recovery rocket and its failure to ignite has been a key factor in the sluggish expansion. That the sector may finally be adding jobs is a positive sign. When added to the drop in the claims numbers, you can see that economic conditions are moving upward at an accelerating pace. However, and there is always a however, two major roadblocks stand in the way of solid growth: Rising oil prices and European debt issues. While a European collapse would cause the most problems, I believe that is not likely. If we get what most economists believe will be a mild to moderate European recession, the recovery will be slowed but not killed. But with oil above $100 a barrel, the prospects of $4.00 a gallon of gasoline is of major concern. Worse, the combination of a European downturn and high gasoline prices could move us back to where we were in the spring when the economy was making minimal headway. So, while I like what I see in the economic data, I recognize that we are not out of the woods by any means. That is something the Fed members are quite cognizant of and why Mr. Bernanke is so willing to stick his neck out and say he will keep rates low until mid-2013. As for investors, it remains Europe, Europe, Europe and it will stay that way for a long time.
RE/MAX Connection Realtors disclaimer:
RE/MAX Connection Realtors are not licensed financial advisors, and are not providing any financial advice, you should consult with a licensed financial advisor prior to making any financial decisions. RE/MAX Connection Realtors are only providing this economic statement from Naroff Economic Advisors, Inc. for informational purposes.
Our company accepts no liability for the content of this email/blog, or for the consequences of any actions taken on the basis of the information provided. Any views or opinions presented in this email/blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the company. Finally, the recipient should check this email and any attachments for the presence of viruses. The company accepts no liability for any damage caused by any virus transmitted by this email.
RE/MAX Connection Realtors, 1000 East Lincoln Drive, Suite 2, Marlton, NJ 08053 www.goconnectionnj.com

November 2, 2011 FOMC Decision

NAROFF ECONOMIC ADVISORS, Inc.
Joel L. Naroff
President and Chief Economist

November 2, 2011 FOMC Decision

“…economic growth strengthened somewhat in the third quarter, reflecting in part a reversal of the temporary factors that had weighed on growth earlier in the year.”

Rate Decision: Fed funds rate maintained at a range between 0% and 0.25%

The FOMC ended its two-day meeting with a lot of information. The Committee released its usual statement, an updated economic forecast that took us through 2014 and Mr. Bernanke met the press to answer questions. When all was said and done, we discovered that the Fed thought things got a little better in the fall, the outlook for the future was still somewhat bleak and even lower than the June forecast and the Committee, according to Mr. Bernanke, had everything on the table if conditions didn’t improve.

Let’s start with the statement. The only real change came in the description of the economy. Instead of talking about “continued weakness” there was now a reference to a somewhat stronger growth rate. Of course, the members did note that “recent indicators point to continuing weakness in overall labor market conditions, and the unemployment rate remains elevated”, so you can say that the perception is still of an underperforming economy.

The FOMC did not indicate it would do anything in addition to its current “maturity extension” program commonly referred to as “operation twist”. However, during the press conference, Mr. Bernanke made it clear that additional actions would be taken if necessary. That is not likely to occur anytime soon. However, since the outlook is for the unemployment rate to remain elevated through 2014, it would not be a major surprise if there was another round of quantitative easing. I don’t expect that to happen as I believe growth will be decent enough for the Fed to not have to throw another policy against the wall and hope it sticks. Indeed, even with correct policy, long term growth is likely to be in the 2.2% to 3% range, according to the Fed’s latest forecast. That is less than many are hoping for and basically says that happy days are not going to be here for quite some time.

RE/MAX Connection Realtors disclaimer:
RE/MAX Connection Realtors are not licensed financial advisors, and are not providing any financial advice, you should consult with a licensed financial advisor prior to making any financial decisions. RE/MAX Connection Realtors are only providing this economic statement from Naroff Economic Advisors, Inc. for informational purposes.
Our company accepts no liability for the content of this email/blog, or for the consequences of any actions taken on the basis of the information provided. Any views or opinions presented in this email/blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the company. Finally, the recipient should check this email and any attachments for the presence of viruses. The company accepts no liability for any damage caused by any virus transmitted by this email.
RE/MAX Connection Realtors, 1000 East Lincoln Drive, Suite 2, Marlton, NJ 08053 www.goconnectionnj.com

September Durable Goods Orders

NAROFF ECONOMIC ADVISORS, Inc.
Joel L. Naroff
President and Chief Economist

INDICATOR: September Durable Goods Orders
KEY DATA: Orders: -0.8%; Excluding Aircraft: +2.0%; Backlogs: +0.8%

IN A NUTSHELL: “Businesses continue to invest at a robust pace and that bodes well for not just current but future growth as well.”

WHAT IT MEANS: Can we finally put to bed the notion that the economy is teetering on the brink of a double-dip recession? Durable goods order fell in September but only because the hugely volatile aircraft sector tanked. Excluding both domestic and defense aircraft orders, where increases or decreases don’t do much to near term activity, demand for big-ticket items soared. Strong gains were reported in computers, metals, machinery and electrical equipment. The closely watched measure of business capital spending, non-defense/non-aircraft capital goods orders, jumped sharply. There were some declines in communications equipment and vehicles but with vehicle sales firming, that is likely to reverse in the future. Looking outward, the rising orders are causing backlogs to build dramatically and that implies industrial production and most likely hiring will be solid in the months to come.

MARKETS AND FED POLICY IMPLICATIONS: This was a robust report that continues the long line of data that indicates the economy did pretty well during the summer. It is hard to believe that businesses would invest heavily if they are not seeing the demand needed to support those expenditures. We get GDP tomorrow and I think it could surprise by coming in over 3%. Whether that calms nerves about the economy is a different story, since job gains continue to lag. Until payrolls rise more rapidly and the unemployment rate falls, the perception will be that the economy is in the dumps. Clearly, it is not. As for investors, it still seems to be about Europe and for fairly good reason. While most economists agree that the alternative to a decisive solution of the sovereign debt issue is chaos, that doesn’t mean the politicians believe that to be the case. So every time things look bright, the markets soar but when a solution gets pushed down the road, investors panic. Until a defensible policy is agree upon, look for market volatility to continue even if it appears that the U.S. economy is healing.
RE/MAX Connection Realtors disclaimer:
RE/MAX Connection Realtors are not licensed financial advisors, and are not providing any financial advice, you should consult with a licensed financial advisor prior to making any financial decisions. RE/MAX Connection Realtors are only providing this economic statement from Naroff Economic Advisors, Inc. for informational purposes.
Our company accepts no liability for the content of this email/blog, or for the consequences of any actions taken on the basis of the information provided. Any views or opinions presented in this email/blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the company. Finally, the recipient should check this email and any attachments for the presence of viruses. The company accepts no liability for any damage caused by any virus transmitted by this email.
RE/MAX Connection Realtors, 1000 East Lincoln Drive, Suite 2, Marlton, NJ 08053 www.goconnectionnj.com

September Employment Situation

NAROFF ECONOMIC ADVISORS, Inc.
Joel L. Naroff
President and Chief Economist

INDICATOR: September Employment Situation
KEY DATA: Payrolls: 103,000; Private Sector: 137,000; Government: -34,000; Unemployment Rate: 9.1% (unchanged)

IN A NUTSHELL: “Better than expected is nice but we need employment gains to grow a lot faster if the unemployment rate is to come down.”

WHAT IT MEANS: Well, the sky is not falling just yet. Businesses continue to add workers and it is hard to see how we could be in recession if payrolls are growing. Still, the job gains in September were not great. The private sector’s increase was bloated by a return of about 45,000 striking communications workers. They were considered off the rolls in August. A strong gain was posted in the construction sector as nonresidential activity picked up solidly. Let’s wait to see if this is a trend. Retail, telecommunications, health care and professional services all were up. On the other hand, manufacturers became more conservative and cut their workforces a touch. The uncertainty about the world economy seems to be trumping solid order growth. Finance, transportation and wholesaling were also off. But the big negative was government workers, especially local education. Meanwhile, state governments added workers. And I thought it was the state governments that were having fiscal problems. The number of people finding positions was not enough to lower the unemployment rate, which remained at a way too high 9.1%. A rise in the labor force, which I have noted in the past is a sign of growing confidence, offset a rise in employment. The trend in job growth may be changing. Both the July and August numbers were revised upward, by a total of almost 100,000, and that may indicate there is some acceleration in hiring going on. Also, hours worked and wages rose so income gains have improved.

MARKETS AND FED POLICY IMPLICATIONS: It’s incredible how low our sights have been set. The idea that 103,000 workers being added in one month is good and should buoy investors is depressing. We need to be seeing job gains in the 200,000 range. But to get there the public sector has play its part, or at least stop getting so much in the way. In past recoveries, we might have had 25,000 jobs added, a swing of about 60,000 in the September total. In addition, home construction, a huge driver of job gains, needs to improve. With construction weak and government negative, the chances of getting back to strong payroll growth in the near future are not great. I see that happening, but closer to next spring when government layoffs should ease and construction may be somewhat better. Still, the markets should like this number, if investors can see past Greece and the downgrades of European banks. This is not a report that will tell the Fed that Operation Twist (the Fed calls it a “maturity extension program”) is unnecessary. Indeed, it only reinforces the view that with government cutting back, monetary policy is the only tool left to bolster growth.
RE/MAX Connection Realtors disclaimer:
RE/MAX Connection Realtors are not licensed financial advisors, and are not providing any financial advice, you should consult with a licensed financial advisor prior to making any financial decisions. RE/MAX Connection Realtors are only providing this economic statement from Naroff Economic Advisors, Inc. for informational purposes.
Our company accepts no liability for the content of this email/blog, or for the consequences of any actions taken on the basis of the information provided. Any views or opinions presented in this email/blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the company. Finally, the recipient should check this email and any attachments for the presence of viruses. The company accepts no liability for any damage caused by any virus transmitted by this email.
RE/MAX Connection Realtors, 1000 East Lincoln Drive, Suite 2, Marlton, NJ 08053 www.goconnectionnj.com

August New Home Sales

NAROFF ECONOMIC ADVISORS, Inc.
Joel L. Naroff
President and Chief Economist

INDICATOR: August New Home Sales
KEY DATA: Sales: 295,000 unit annualized (down 2.3%): Median Prices (8 ’10-8 ’11): -7.7%

IN A NUTSHELL: “Builders are not building, supply is falling, distressed homes are too cheaply priced and it is difficult to get a mortgage and people are surprised that housing sales are going nowhere?”

WHAT IT MEANS: It would be nice if housing sales pick up but it didn’t happen in August, at least for new homes. Exiting house sales did improve and that is indeed the issue for builders. With so many distressed houses on the market selling for such low costs, frequently below replacement cost, it is extremely difficult for developers to compete. To do that, they have to down sell and that is what is happening. Forty seven percent of the newly built homes sold went for less than $200,000. The sales decline in August was propelled by a sharp cut back in the Northeast and West and a more moderate decline in the South. The Midwest posted a solid increase. Prices are falling but that probably reflects the need to build smaller, less luxurious and less costly homes in order to match the homes that are on the market.

MARKETS AND FED POLICY IMPLICATIONS: The new home market is in the dumps and there is little reason to think it can right itself anytime soon. The problems are huge: Distressed houses are selling for prices that are at times impossible to match, appraisals are difficult because comparables are often distressed houses, many households don’t have much or equity any left in their homes so they cannot trade up or down to a new house and financial institutions are cautious in their lending, partly due to regulatory issues. We are going to have to get used to a slowly improving market at best. That does not bode well for the economy or jobs as this sector generates so many new positions. Indeed, the housing and credit issues seen here are a clear indicator of why this recovery always was going to be and for a while will continue to be disappointing. Anyone who says we can have a strong recovery without housing is missing the point. But we can have a recovery anyway; it’s just that it will not live up to hopes or expectations. Since it is doubtful the overhang of distressed houses will be alleviated anytime soon and housing construction will not soar until that happens, we need to get used to what the economy is capable of and that, unfortunately, is only moderate growth.
RE/MAX Connection Realtors disclaimer:
RE/MAX Connection Realtors are not licensed financial advisors, and are not providing any financial advice, you should consult with a licensed financial advisor prior to making any financial decisions. RE/MAX Connection Realtors are only providing this economic statement from Naroff Economic Advisors, Inc. for informational purposes.
Our company accepts no liability for the content of this email/blog, or for the consequences of any actions taken on the basis of the information provided. Any views or opinions presented in this email/blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the company. Finally, the recipient should check this email and any attachments for the presence of viruses. The company accepts no liability for any damage caused by any virus transmitted by this email.
RE/MAX Connection Realtors, 1000 East Lincoln Drive, Suite 2, Marlton, NJ 08053 www.goconnectionnj.com

September 21, 2011 FOMC Decision

NAROFF ECONOMIC ADVISORS, Inc.
Joel L. Naroff
President and Chief Economist

September 21, 2011 FOMC Decision

“To support a stronger economic recovery and to help ensure that inflation, over time, is at levels consistent with the dual mandate, the Committee decided today to extend the average maturity of its holdings of securities.”

Rate Decision: Fed funds rate maintained at a range between 0% and 0.25%

The FOMC met today and announced it would drive down longer term rates. With the economy recovering slowly and with “significant downside risks to the economic outlook, including strains in global financial markets”, it was deemed necessary to do a lot more than had already been done. Indeed, the size of the program, $400 billion of purchases of assets with maturities of six years or longer offset by sales of assets with maturities of three years or less, is somewhat greater than expected. But given the warning that the modest recovery could get worse, a large program made sense. You either go all in at this point or fold your cards and the Mr. Bernanke has gone all in.

Will this so-called “operation twist” work? Clearly, the emphasis on driving down longer term rates is an attempt to get mortgage borrowing and capital spending going a lot faster. But businesses are flush with cash already and it isn’t rates that are stopping them from hiring or investing more. Companies are just uncertain about the direction of the economy and demand is not growing fast enough to require greater job growth. Households are reducing their debt, not adding to it, and as we saw from today’s National Association of Realtors existing home sales report, failed contracts are growing. That is more an issue of appraisals and cautious lending practices than rate levels.

Where this will work is in the refinancing sphere. If you can get the refinancing done, the additional cash flow will help both consumer and business spending. On the mortgage side, the lowering of rates coupled with the Fed’s decisions to “reinvest principal payments from its holdings of agency debt and agency mortgage-backed securities in agency mortgage-backed securities” should drive down mortgage rates to levels that will entice an awful lot of potential buyers and refinancers. Again, with the issue being appraisals not rates, this may not work that well but you have to give then kudos for trying to help the housing market.

Looking outward, once confidence returns, the lower rates, which should continue well into 2013, will become a major positive. As the economy improves and the desire to borrow grows, the extraordinary low rates will likely lead to rapid increases in borrowing. But that is likely to be in the future, not in the next six months. And it is that potentially strong growth in borrowing that presents the risk of inflation ramping up. But again, that is not right now.

The Fed is in a tough position. Fiscal policy is becoming more restrictive just as the risks to a disappointing recovery from Europe ramp up. The Fed Chairman is betting that any future (2 years or more down the road) inflation pressures can be handled. Instead, Mr. Bernanke wants to do whatever he can to prevent a double-dip. Given the state of confidence and the political gridlock, I believe the risks are worth taking even though three members of the FOMC differed and cast dissenting votes.

One final comment: Politicians of all stripes are taking shots at the Fed. That is their right but it shouldn’t be happening. You cannot say that the recovery is too weak and jobs have to be created and then do nothing, especially if there are dark clouds out there that could rain on the limping parade. Demanding that the Fed to “don’t just do something, stand there” is not reasonable and probably self defeating. The last thing a Fed Chair wants to be perceived as being is intimidated by politicians. An independent Fed, even a wrong-headed Fed, is a lot better than a politically driven Fed and you can be sure that this and every other Fed has not been politically driven.

RE/MAX Connection Realtors disclaimer:
RE/MAX Connection Realtors are not licensed financial advisors, and are not providing any financial advice, you should consult with a licensed financial advisor prior to making any financial decisions. RE/MAX Connection Realtors are only providing this economic statement from Naroff Economic Advisors, Inc. for informational purposes.
Our company accepts no liability for the content of this email/blog, or for the consequences of any actions taken on the basis of the information provided. Any views or opinions presented in this email/blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the company. Finally, the recipient should check this email and any attachments for the presence of viruses. The company accepts no liability for any damage caused by any virus transmitted by this email.
RE/MAX Connection Realtors, 1000 East Lincoln Drive, Suite 2, Marlton, NJ 08053 www.goconnectionnj.com

July New Home Sales

NAROFF ECONOMIC ADVISORS, Inc.
Joel L. Naroff
President and Chief Economist

INDICATOR: July New Home Sales
KEY DATA: Sales: 298,000 units annualized (down 0.7%); Median Prices (Year-over-Year): +4.7%

IN A NUTSHELL: “With all the uncertainty about the debt ceiling and the economy, it is not surprising that buyers shied away from signing on the bottom line to buy new homes.”

WHAT IT MEANS: New home sales edged down once again as buyers just don’t want to commit to anything right now. The level of sales is pitiful, being only slightly above the all-time low set last summer. Thus, while the year-over-year increase of nearly 7% might look good, it is simply coming off the lowest of lows. Regionally, the sales numbers are totally bizarre and reflect the limited size of the market. In the Northeast, purchases doubled. Of course there were almost no homes sold in June so the increase only brought demand back to more “normal” levels. There was a small increase in the Midwest but moderate declines in the South and West. Builders recognize their plight and they are basically doing no speculative building. The number of homes for sale fell. You probably have to go back to Colonial times to see the number of houses on the market this low (okay, that’s a small exaggeration but you get the picture). As for prices, they were up fairly solidly over July 2010 levels. A somewhat larger percentage of the homes selling for over $500,000 pulled up prices.

MARKETS AND FED POLICY IMPLICATIONS: This report reminds us that the recovery cannot count on the housing sector adding much to growth. That is hardly a surprise. The pressures facing home builders do not end with the economy as they also have to face the reality of price cutting in the distressed home segment of the market. Worse, the level is so low that even strong increases in sales and housing starts will not add that much to growth. But as long as residential activity does add a little to growth, which it is likely to do, we are okay. With the Fed going on its “camping trip” to Jackson Hole this week, everyone is waiting to see what, if anything, Mr. Bernanke has up his sleeve this year. I suspect he will simply lay out the tool box and make it clear that the FOMC is “locked and loaded” and ready to pull the trigger on any and all the policy tools it has available. Whether those policies constitute treason, I leave up to the reader, but with the Fed the only game in town, the pressure is on to make sure the slow recovery does not fail. Mr. Bernanke is an expert on the Great Depression and he knows policy missteps cut short the attempts at recovery. While moving to restrictive fiscal policy may be the same mistake made in the 1930s, the Fed will reiterate that it will pump as much into the economy as it can. Whether lower rates can do anything is another story.
RE/MAX Connection Realtors disclaimer:
RE/MAX Connection Realtors are not licensed financial advisors, and are not providing any financial advice, you should consult with a licensed financial advisor prior to making any financial decisions. RE/MAX Connection Realtors are only providing this economic statement from Naroff Economic Advisors, Inc. for informational purposes.
Our company accepts no liability for the content of this email/blog, or for the consequences of any actions taken on the basis of the information provided. Any views or opinions presented in this email/blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the company. Finally, the recipient should check this email and any attachments for the presence of viruses. The company accepts no liability for any damage caused by any virus transmitted by this email.
RE/MAX Connection Realtors, 1000 East Lincoln Drive, Suite 2, Marlton, NJ 08053 www.goconnectionnj.com

July Existing Home Sales

NAROFF ECONOMIC ADVISORS, Inc.
Joel L. Naroff
President and Chief Economist

INDICATOR: July Existing Home Sales
KEY DATA: Sales: -3.5%; July ’10-July ’11: +21%

IN A NUTSHELL: “”Housing continues to wander aimlessly along despite historically low mortgage rates.”

WHAT IT MEANS: The housing market is still not showing any signs that it is gaining traction. The National Association of Realtors reported that existing home sales fell in July as a large decline in the West offset modest increases in demand in the Northeast and Midwest. There was a small drop in the South. Condo sales are holding up but the stressed out, foreclosure dominated single-family segment continues to drop. Prices are easing as well but some of that may be the continued impact of distressed homes rather than the give and take of buyers and sellers for non-distressed homes. Sellers are recognizing the problems in moving homes by holding houses off the market and the inventory is falling.

MARKETS AND FED POLICY IMPLICATIONS: The Realtors commented, as have most observers of the market, that the appraisal process is causing negotiated deals to fail. If the contract price is not supported by appraisals, which may be affected by distressed homes and limited realistic comparisons, the mortgage will not be written. Only the best borrowers are getting mortgages and that is not enough to drive the market forward. Anyone who has tried to refinance lately, and I am one of those people, know how ridiculous the appraisal process can be. During the bubble, every home seemed to meet the appraisal standard and that ebullience help inflate the bubble. Now we have the opposite where it is frequently impossible for sellers to get a reasonable price even when buyers are willing to pay that price. And with banks so worried about loans failing, the conservative nature of the lending process is and will continue to limit the ability of the housing market to recover. This report, coupled with a rise in inflation, a jump in unemployment claims and a sharp drop in the Philadelphia Fed’s regional survey is only adding to the worries about Europe. European growth is faltering as the cure for their debt and deficits issues is killing growth. But that is no surprise. In the short term, budget cuts reduce economic growth and that is happening with a vengeance in a number of European nations. So why are so many people surprised when European growth numbers are weak? Got me. But that slowdown has implications for the rest of the world, especially if some European banks run into trouble. U.S. banks are linked to European banks and that creates worries that the financial sector will be hit again. That hurts confidence about future U.S. growth. Still, a double-dip recession is hardly baked in the cake and I will remind people that Wall Street and Main Street are not one and the same anymore.
RE/MAX Connection Realtors disclaimer:
RE/MAX Connection Realtors are not licensed financial advisors, and are not providing any financial advice, you should consult with a licensed financial advisor prior to making any financial decisions. RE/MAX Connection Realtors are only providing this economic statement from Naroff Economic Advisors, Inc. for informational purposes.
Our company accepts no liability for the content of this email/blog, or for the consequences of any actions taken on the basis of the information provided. Any views or opinions presented in this email/blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the company. Finally, the recipient should check this email and any attachments for the presence of viruses. The company accepts no liability for any damage caused by any virus transmitted by this email.
RE/MAX Connection Realtors, 1000 East Lincoln Drive, Suite 2, Marlton, NJ 08053 www.goconnectionnj.com

July Housing Starts and Permits

NAROFF ECONOMIC ADVISORS, Inc.
Joel L. Naroff
President and Chief Economist

INDICATOR: July Housing Starts and Permits
KEY DATA: Starts: -1.5%; 5+ Units: +6.3%; Permits: -3.2%;

IN A NUTSHELL: “Home construction may not be the leader of the pack but it no longer looks like it will hold things back.”

WHAT IT MEANS: Housing activity is a key factor in the sluggish recovery and there are no great expectations that the sector will return to being robust for quite a while. Given that reality, what I have been looking for is the sector to move forward at a pace which will actually add to growth and that may be happening. After a solid rise in June, there was a modest decline in construction in July. To me, this represents not a backward movement but a solidification of the gains that were made. Housing starts are also up nearly 10% from July 2010, so maybe the improvement is really underway. The multifamily segment rose strongly and since rental housing looks to be the place to be given the inability to buy new homes, this is a good sign that the market is working. Improvement was seen in the East and West. However, a large decline in the Midwest largely created the drop in housing starts. Was weather a factor? That is not clear but a nearly 23% fall off seems to point to a special circumstance not a trend. There was a much more moderate decline in the South. Looking forward, permit requests also eased back but again they are up compared to last year. The number of homes under construction continues to drop, which is disturbing as it implies payrolls are not rising. This is due to the large number of houses that have been completed recently.

MARKETS AND FED POLICY IMPLICATIONS: Housing is coming back slowly but it is coming back. We too often forget that most of the problems arose in just a handful of major construction regions. A large part of the country did not participate in the housing bubble at nearly the same pace and are now beginning to come back. Don’t expect to see strong levels of construction anytime soon as the areas where so much of the construction used to take place are where the excess supply due to the distressed housing inventory exists. But if we see housing starts rise in other areas, which is most of the rest of the nation, then we know the sector is healing. I think that process has begun and I am buoyed by that. As for investors, the world is now the worry, especially Europe even as it appears the U.S. economy is beginning to show that it remains quite resilient. Watch August vehicle sales. With demand up in July, a good sales pace would signal the consumer is spending better than expected and with construction in the positive column, we could see third quarter growth better than the weak pace most economists now project.
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