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Monday, September 26, 2011

Misc: Dallas Fed Manufacturing Survey picks up, Home Sales Distressing Gap

by Calculated Risk on 9/26/2011 12:09:00 PM

On New Home sales: Since new home sales are reported when contracts are signed, and consumer sentiment fell off a cliff in August following the debt ceiling debate, I thought we might see an even large decline for August new home sales. This was still a weak report - the 16th month in a row with sales around 300 thousand SAAR - but I thought it might even be worse.

Dallas Fed: Texas Manufacturing Activity Picks Up

Texas factory activity increased in September, according to business executives responding to the Texas Manufacturing Outlook Survey. The production index, a key measure of state manufacturing conditions, rose from 1.1 to 5.9, suggesting growth picked up this month after stalling in August.

Most other measures of current manufacturing conditions also indicated growth in September. The new orders index edged down from 4.8 to 3.6 this month, suggesting order volumes continued to increase, but at a slightly decelerated pace. The shipments index rose from 6.7 to 9.4, reaching its highest level since March. The capacity utilization index remained in negative territory in September but rose from –2.8 to –1.3.

Perceptions of general business conditions worsened in September. The general business activity index remained negative for the fifth month in a row and fell from –11.4 to –14.4; ten percent of manufacturers perceived an increase in activity this month, while one quarter noted a decrease. The company outlook index fell from 7.2 in August to a near-zero reading in September. Still, the great majority of respondents said their outlooks were unchanged or improved from last month.

Labor market indicators reflected higher labor demand growth. The employment index came in at 13.4, up notably from 5.4 in August. One quarter of manufacturers reported hiring new workers, while 12 percent reported layoffs. The hours worked index moved back into positive territory in September, suggesting average workweeks lengthened.
Some improvement. There will be two more regional manufacturing surveys released this week and the ISM survey next week.

• Distressing Gap: The following graph shows existing home sales (left axis) and new home sales (right axis) through August. This graph starts in 1994, but the relationship has been fairly steady back to the '60s.

Then along came the housing bubble and bust, and the "distressing gap" appeared due mostly to distressed sales. The flood of distressed sales has kept existing home sales elevated, and depressed new home sales since builders can't compete with the low prices of all the foreclosed properties.

Distressing Gap Click on graph for larger image in graph gallery.

I expect this gap to close over the next few years once the number of distressed sales starts to decline.

Note: Existing home sales are counted when transactions are closed, and new home sales are counted when contracts are signed. So the timing of sales is different. Also the National Association of Realtors (NAR) is working on a benchmark revision for existing home sales numbers and I expect significant downward revisions to sales estimates for the last few years - perhaps as much as 10% to 15% for 2009 and 2010. Even with these revisions, most of the "distressing gap" will remain.

On August Home Sales:
New Home Sales decline slightly in August
• Last week: Existing Home Sales in August: 5.0 million SAAR, 8.5 months of supply
• Graph Galleries: New Home Sales and Existing Home Sales