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Housing Market Weakness Persists


July 22 — There was no sign of a recovery in the latest round of housing market statistics released this week. Builder Confidence
Builder confidence in the market for newly-built, single-family homes fell for a second consecutive month in July, according to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB)/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI).

The HMI fell to 14 in July, two points lower than the downwardly revised June figure. The lower HMI reflects a number of conditions—hesitant home buyers, tight credit and continuing competition from lower-priced foreclosed and distressed properties—said David Crowe, NAHB chief economist.

"The pause in sales followiing expiration of the home buyer tax credits is turning out to be longer than anticipated due to the sluggish pace of improvement in the rest of the economy," Crowe explained. "That said, we do believe that favorable factors such as low mortgage rates, affordable prices and demographic trends will help revive consumer demand for new homes this year, and that new-home sales will improve by 10% in 2010 over 2009."

Read the HMI Index news release.

June Housing Starts
Seasonally-adjusted June housing starts, as reported by the U.S. Census Bureau were 5% below the revised May estimate and 5.8% below those of the June 2009. Building permits in June were 2.1% above the revised May rate, but 2.3% below the year-ago rate.

Read the Census Bureau news release.

June Existing Home Sales
Existing home sales in June fell 5.1% from the pace in May, but were 9.8% above June 2009 sales on a seasonally-adjusted basis, reported the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun said the market shows uncharacteristic yet understandable swings as buyers responded to the tax credits. June sales still refelct the impact of the tax credit, he added.

"Broadly speaking, sales closed after the home buyer tax credit will be significantly lower compared to the credit-induced spring surge," Yun said. "Only when jobs are created at a sufficient pace will home sales return to sustainable healthy levels."

Total housing inventory rose 2.5% in June, NAR reported. That amounted to an 8.9 month supply at the current sales pace, up from an 8.3 month supply in May.

Read the NAR news release.

Home Prices in May
U.S. house prices rose 0.5% from April to May, reported the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) in its most recent monthly House Pricer Index survey. The April Index was also revised upward, from 0.8% to 0.9%.

For the 12 months ending in May, U.S. house prices fell 1.2%. The Index is now 12.3% below its April 2007 peak.

Read the FHFA news release.