Data for housing permits and starts and the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Sentitment Index offer conflicting stories about housing. Permits and Starts were up with permits rising 2.7% on the months and starts gaining 5.9% from June. However, much of the action was in apartment construction, not single family homes and the share of single family homes in total starts is down over the past year. Further, the total number of permits at 943,000 and starts at 896,000 remains less than robust. The NAHB sentiment figure was 59, the highest sicne 2005 but July was revsied down from 57 to 56. The strength may be a reflection of continuing reports of low inventories pushing prices higher as foreclosures run-off in many parts of the country. Housing starts averaged 877,000 over the last 13 months — nothing to write home about and nor enought to keep up with the secular growth in demand. Given that we’re moving into the slower fall-winter season, a sustained uptick from current levels in housing may be delayed until next Spring.
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