Wednesday, January 20, 2010

New Residential Construction Report: December 2009

Today’s New Residential Construction Report continued to indicate a weak recovery for the new home market showing the continued year-over-year increases to both permits and starts.

It’s clear now that the government’s housing stimulus tax credit and loose FHA lending policies have worked to prop both new and existing home sales.

The government’s efforts, which now include an extension of an even more broad housing tax credit, have sponsored demand and provided the new home market with a more fertile environment to clear.

Nonetheless, at 456K single family units (SAAR), the level of national housing starts still remains substantially below that seen in October 2008.

With the substantial headwinds of rising unemployment, epic levels of foreclosure and delinquency, mounting bankruptcies, contracting consumer credit, and falling wages, an overhang of inventory and still falling home prices, the environment for “organic” home sales remains weak and likely very fragile.

Any substantial departure from the current perception of a strong “V”-shaped recovery (i.e. stock selloff, protracted high unemployment, etc.) would likely send both new and existing home sales down for another go at the lows seen last March.

Single family housing permits, the most leading of indicators, increased a whopping 37.3% nationally as compared to December 2008 but still remains an astonishing 69.42% below the peak in January 2005.

To illustrate the extent to which permits and starts have declined, I have created the following charts (click for larger versions) that show the percentage changes of the current values on a year-over-year basis as well as compared to the peak year of 2004.