The News Gets Only Better for Housing

Everything is coalescing nicely for a sustainable uptrend.

Last week, we reported that new-home starts and home-builder confidence continued to gain momentum. This week, new-home sales gained momentum, though it might not seem so on first blush. New-home sales for July came in at 412,000 units on an annualized rate. This was slightly below expectations, but sales for June and May were revised higher by a total of 28,000 units. The market is still trending in the right direction.

Lack of inventory has hampered new-home sales over the past year, but that should be less of an issue moving forward. Starts have ramped up, and that's reflected in more inventory. Supply of new homes increased to 205,000 units compared to 197,000 in June, which pulls up the monthly supply to six months at the current sales rate.

Moderating price appreciation will also help sales. The median price of a new home fell 3.7% to $269,800 in July. Year over year, the median price is up only 2.9%.

That year-over-year price gains are slowing is no surprise. The S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index has been reporting slower year-over-year gains in recent months. For the latest month, June, Case-Shiller shows the year-over-year increase for its 20-city index slowed to 8.1% versus 9.3% for May. Month over month, prices actually decreased in 13 of the cities Case-Shiller follows.

Slowing price appreciation will bring both new supply to market and increased buyer interest. The former will be less motivated to hold for a higher price; the latter will be motivated to buy into a more stable pricing market.

Existing-home sales are expected to improve in coming months. The Pending Home Sales Index posted a strong 3.3% increase in July. The monthly gain easily exceeded top-end expectation, and points to rising sales through 2014.

We see nothing but better days ahead.

Next Friday, another monthly jobs report will be issued. So far the economy has racked up six-consecutive months of 200,00+ monthly payroll increases. We expected a seventh month when the report for August is released. The consensus estimate is for 223,000 new jobs for the month. We would not be surprised to see more.

Job creation should continue at a brisk pace because the economy is almost certainly on the mend. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth was revised this week to 4.2% for the second quarter, up from the original estimate of 4.0%. All signs point to GDP growth maintaining this pace through the third and fourth quarters.

Now all we need is purchase-mortgage activity to trend higher. Perhaps a trend is in the works: Purchase activity was up 3% for the Aug. 22 week.

Information provided by Jessica Regan.

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