Tuesday, April 06, 2010

FOMC Minutes on Housing

by Bill McBride on 4/06/2010 07:31:00 PM

I want to highlight the housing comments in the FOMC minutes for the March 16, 2010 meeting:

Participants were also concerned that activity in the housing sector appeared to be leveling off in most regions despite various forms of government support, and they noted that commercial and industrial real estate markets continued to weaken. Indeed, housing sales and starts had flattened out at depressed levels, suggesting that previous improvements in those indicators may have largely reflected transitory effects from the first-time homebuyer tax credit rather than a fundamental strengthening of housing activity. Participants indicated that the pace of foreclosures was likely to remain quite high; indeed, recent data on the incidence of seriously delinquent mortgages pointed to the possibility that the foreclosure rate could move higher over coming quarters. Moreover, the prospect of further additions to the already very large inventory of vacant homes posed downside risks to home prices.
And from the staff:
The staff did make modest downward adjustments to its projections for real GDP growth in response to unfavorable news on housing activity, unexpectedly weak spending by state and local governments, and a substantial reduction in the estimated level of household income in the second half of 2009. The staff's forecast for the unemployment rate at the end of 2011 was about the same as in its previous projection.
This fits with my comments in response to Minneapolis Fed President Narayana Kocherlakota's speech today: It isn't the size of the sector, but the contribution during the recovery that matters - and housing is usually the largest contributor to economic growth early in a recovery. And as the FOMC notes, there isn't much contribution from residential investment right now (in fact the contribution from RI will probably be negative in Q1 2010).

And on employment, residential investment probably contibuted significantly to employment growth following previous recessions - especially for residential construction employment - although the BLS didn't break out residential construction for the earlier periods.

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