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Mike Carr: Dismal Home-Sales Data Eliminate Real Estate as US Savior

Wednesday, 30 May 2012 10:38 AM

In a sign that confirms real estate won't be leading the economy higher this year, the National Association of Realtors reported that their Pending Home Sales Index declined a steeper than expected 5.5 percent in April.

Experts with Reuters had been expecting the index to be about 1 percent lower after a big jump in March.

In another disappointing sign for the market, the March index was revised lower.

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The Pending Sales Index is one of the few forward-looking indicators available for the housing market.

The widely followed S&P/Case-Shiller index has a two-month lag and uses a three-month average to track price changes. The most recent data, which showed a 2.6 percent drop in prices for March compared to a year ago, was reported at the end of May and was based on data from the first three months of the year.

Taken together, both reports seem to indicate that the housing market is continuing to bounce along at the low price levels seen for the past three years.

But there is a silver lining in the dark cloud of low housing prices. Winners include young families who can find affordable homes. Their gain comes at the expense of more established families that are forced to sell at lower prices than they would like to see.

On the whole, the housing market is probably a neutral factor in economic growth for now.

As Harvard University economics professor Edward Glaeser pointed out in a recent Bloomberg article, “Housing prices stayed static for six long years after 1991, and in real terms, housing prices were no higher in 1998 than they were in 1991. Yet real GDP grew an impressive 28 percent between 1991 and 1998. It’s a myth that the housing market must recover before the larger economy can surge.”

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Wednesday, 30 May 2012 10:38 AM
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