Housing numbers up – and down
December 28, 2006,
Washington-- The broadU.S.housing market showed some ambiguous signs of bottoming out during November, with all three sectors of the market making gains.
Underlining the November dilemma, when measured on a seasonally adjusted basis, sales of pricey new homes improved by 3.4%, to 1.05 million units, rebounding from a 3.8% drop the month before.
But the raw, unadjusted numbers out of the Commerce Department, show new home sales at a substantially lower level during the month, at 72,000 -- their lowest level in almost four years. And when measured on a seasonally adjusted basis, to even out seasonal shifts and monthly variances, new home sales were still down by 16.8% from their 13-month high of 1.26 million units recorded last December.
Making headway, in addition to new home sales, seasonally adjusted housing starts jumped up by 6.7% to 1.6 million units, after falling back by 6.7% in October. And with builders growing antsy as interest rates rise and houses go unsold, starts are still 29.9% beneath their 13-month high of 2.3 million units set in February. Even though starts improved somewhat during November, in a sign of a continuing slowdown, the number of building permits taken out by home builders continued to slide in November, falling by 5.2% to 191,000, down more than 20% from a high of 239,000 units in June.
Sales of existing homes, which account for more than two-thirds of all housing activity, were virtually flat, edging up just 0.6% to a seasonally adjusted 6.3 million units. Even with the November gain, resales were off by 10.7% from their year high of 7.0 million units last November.