Though investors are still waiting on a couple more pieces of the puzzle (namely the new home sales stats for August, which comes from the Census Bureau), enough of February’s real estate data has been posted over the last couple of weeks to make a meaningful assessment of the real estate market’s – housing mostly – overall health. The following is a guest post from Avky Inc co-founder and Phoenix native Kyle Uchitel.
While far from ‘great’, the gloom-and-doom chatter and worries that the “real crash is yet to come” appear to be off-base as it stands right now.
A chart of all the critical data speaks for itself…. almost. A couple of details need to be highlighted.
Kyle Uchitel Presents Unemployment Highlights
One, starts (single-family as well as multi-unit structures) are technically trending higher now. These facts are made even more amazing in that this is the time of year when starts have already tapered off.
Two, there has yet to be any heavy inflow of ‘shadow inventory’. Part of that may be simply because so-many would-be sellers still know it’s going to be very difficult to sell a house. These people are simply sitting on the sidelines. Some if the lack of inflow of inventory may stem from the fact that the phantom inventory isn’t there.
While that’s the minority opinion to be sure, these same forecasters are rightfully reminding investors they are judging facts known to be true, rather than judging facts that are only assumed to be true. In other words, there’s no real evidence that the shadow inventory is looming out there, but there is evidence that the home market is off of life support (though that’s about it).
On the flipside – and this may well be the cause of the thus-far missing phantom inventory – home prices are still dropping. This indicates a lack of demand and/or a desire to scale down home sizes. New home sales are also still trending lower, which doesn’t necessarily bode poorly for the real estate market as a whole, but does bode poorly for the construction industry. And yes, it’s in conflict with the recent upturn in building starts.
News In The Economy
The only other significant news on the economic front wasn’t even all that significant – new unemployment claims pushed higher again. The reading of 465K was above expectations, though it was not an unusual reading for the last several months. Right in the middle of the range, in fact.
Continuing claims actually sank a bit, to 4.489M. Bear in mind that the continuing claims data was from the week before initial claims numbers above are considered.
As has been the case for quite some time, this is neither bullish not bearish for stocks. This is despite much of the media’s insistence that even the slightest misstep means Armageddon is around the corner. Weak? Yes. Disastrous? No.
Kyle Uchitel is a chemical engineer and co-founder of Avky Inc. He can be reached best on Twitter at @kyleuchitel.