Monday, March 15, 2010

NAHB Builder Confidence declines in March

by Bill McBride on 3/15/2010 01:00:00 PM

Note: any number under 50 indicates that more builders view sales conditions as poor than good.

Residential NAHB Housing Market Index Click on graph for larger image in new window.

This graph shows the builder confidence index from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).

The housing market index (HMI) was at 15 in March. This is a decrease from 17 in February.

The record low was 8 set in January 2009. This is very low - and this is what I've expected - a long period of builder depression. The HMI has been in the 15 to 19 range since May 2009.

HMI and Starts Correlation This second graph compares the NAHB HMI (left scale) with single family housing starts (right scale). This includes the March release for the HMI and the January data for starts (February starts will be released tomorrow, Tuesday March 16th).

This shows that the HMI and single family starts mostly move generally in the same direction - although there is plenty of noise month-to-month.

And right now they are moving sideways - at best.

I was looking back through some old posts - and it seems like yesterday - but it was last summer that I wrote about how starts would probably move sideways for some time because of the large overhang of existing housing units (both owner occupied homes and rental units). I added some emphasis later in the year:

"To be blunt: Those expecting a sharp rebound in starts from the bottom are wrong. And remember - residential investment is usually the best leading indicator for the economy."
That still seems correct today.

Press release from the NAHB: (added) Foreclosures Weigh on Builder Confidence in March
Builder confidence in the market for newly built, single-family homes fell back two points to 15 in March as poor weather conditions and distressed property sales posed increasing challenges to both builders and buyers, according to the latest National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI), released today.

“Unusually poor weather conditions certainly had a negative effect on builders’ business in February,” said NAHB Chairman Bob Jones, a home builder from Bloomfield Hills, Mich. “At the same time, the continual flow of distressed properties priced below the cost of production is having an adverse effect on new-home appraisals and also making it tough for builders’ customers to sell their existing homes.”
Not much snow in March ...

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