Thursday, April 16, 2009

Housing Starts

The Lehmann Letter ®

The Census Bureau published March housing starts figures today: .

The data were worse than February and a little better than January.

Here’s what’s happening: Single-family starts are stuck at about 350,000 and apartment-house construction wobbles at around 150,000, adding up to a miserable half-million total.

Look at the chart and you’ll see that’s lower than any other post-WWII recession.

Can housing escape this rut?

Housing Starts

(Click on chart to enlarge)

(Recessions shaded)

It’s hard to see how until the foreclosure-crisis abates. As long as foreclosures continue to overwhelm the industry, prices will continue to drop. That undermines builders and buyers. It’s difficult to build new homes and entice buyers to purchase them as long as the prices of existing home continue to fall and the market remains glutted with vacant homes.

Today the Obama administration launched its mortgage-rescue plan, designed to prevent foreclosure and keep owners in their homes. Is it is as good as we can realistically expect under the prevailing political circumstances? Yes. Is it sufficient to “stop” the foreclosures? We’ll see.

(The chart was taken from [Click on Seminars and then Charts.] Go there for additional charts on the economy and a list of economic indicators.)

© 2009 Michael B. Lehmann

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