Tags: shiller | housing | hope | homes

Shiller: Housing Sector Shows 'Some Signs of Hope'

Tuesday, 29 May 2012 05:03 PM EDT

Hard data on the housing sector continue to depict a weak industry, but a closer look shows there's light at the end of the tunnel, says Robert Shiller, architect of the Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller home price index.

Home prices continue to fall on a nationwide basis.

The S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices for March indicated that the national composite fell by 2.0 percent in the first quarter of 2012 from the fourth quarter of last year and was down 1.9 percent versus the first quarter of 2011.

Editor's Note:
This Wasn’t an Accident — Experts Testify on Financial Meltdown

Home prices today are down 35 percent from their peak in 2006.

The March 10-City composite was down 2.8 percent from March of 2011, while the 20-City was down 2.6 percent on year.

Month-over-month, the March composite figures made little change, with average home prices in the 10-City composite down 0.1 percent compared with February and the 20-City figure coming in unchanged.

It's not all bad news, Shiller says.

Housing sectors in once red-hot markets like Phoenix that plunged in the downturn are seeing more activity, and the pace of decline in many parts of the country seems to be slowing.

"There's a lot of ambiguity about the future right now, but we are seeing some signs of hope," Shiller tells CNBC.

Seven cities – Charlotte, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Miami, Minneapolis and Phoenix – saw positive year-on-year gains in March when it came to home prices.

The other index designers agree that the embattled housing sector is showing signs of life.

"Digging into the details, it’s a whole lot better than the headlines," says David Blitzer, chairman of the index committee at Standard & Poor's, who appeared on CNBC alongside Shiller and the index's other co-author, Karl Case, who points out the indicators are very backward looking but still illustrate recovery.

"We lag, and the indicators for the last three, four months on the quantity side have been real positive, so we look like a bottom. You have to pick to find real negatives," says Case.

Others agree that the sector appears to be bottoming out, and even though the housing sector will spend time bumping along a bottom before finally moving upward at a sustained pace, a turning point is something to be happy about, especially if the more lagging indicators like the Case-Shiller index hint at improvements.

"It might be the last of the closely followed home price figures to reflect a turning point," says Jonathan Basile, an economist at Credit Suisse, according to the Associated Press.

Other experts point out that the market is bottoming out although far from rebounding.

"In my mind there is no question that housing has bottomed, in terms of home sales, home construction and home prices, but the recovery is still going to be very modest or very sluggish," says Mark Vitner, senior economist at Wells Fargo Securities in Charlotte, North Carolina, according to Reuters.

The big question remains is when housing prices will reach pre-recession levels — if they ever will.

"I worry that we might not see a really major turnaround in our lifetimes," Shiller said recently, according to Reuters.

Editor's Note: This Wasn’t an Accident — Experts Testify on Financial Meltdown

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Tuesday, 29 May 2012 05:03 PM
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