Thursday, 18 September 2008

US Housing Bottom-Callers Still Early

Regular readers may have detected a note of sarcasm and contempt in my comments regarding the constant brigade of cheerleaders suggesting that both housing sales and prices have bottomed in the US.

Data released today from the Commerce Department showed that the bottom is definitely not in yet. From

Home building weakens further in August
Single-family building permits fall to 26-year low

Home building tumbled again in August, with the number of new building permits for single-family homes dropping to a 26-year low, the Commerce Department estimated Wednesday.

Starts of new homes fell 6.2% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 895,000, the lowest in 17 years, and much weaker than the 955,000 rate expected by economists surveyed by MarketWatch. See Economic Calendar.

Starts of single-family homes fell 1.9% to a 17-year low of 630,000 annualized units.

Building permits for single- and multiple-family dwellings fell 8.9% to a 26-year low of 854,000 annualized units, with permits for single-family homes dropping 5.1% to 554,000, also a 26-year low. Permits for single-family homes fell to the lowest levels in at least 20 years in the Midwest and West.

"Starts will almost surely fall below the 1-million-unit mark this year" for the first time since 1945, said Patrick Newport, an economist for Global Insight. "In the fourth quarter, we currently project that starts will drop to an annualized 813,000 units, which would also be a record post-war low."

Click on the link for the full story.

We were getting used to seeing new 26 year lows in various housing statistics but thats the first time I've seen talk of a 60 year low. If you want a silver lining in these numbers it is that at least builders are building less houses. Still, with record numbers of inventory, both home construction and prices will continue to fall.