Tag Archives: U.S. Housing

U.S. housing starts approach 11-year high, permits weak

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. homebuilding surged to near an 11-year high in May amid an acceleration in both single-family and multi-family home construction, but a second straight monthly drop in permits suggested housing market activity would remain moderate.

Higher lumber prices as well as labor and land shortages have left builders unable to meet strong housing demand, which has depleted the number of properties available for sale. Housing demand is being fueled by the lowest unemployment rate in 18 years.

Continue reading U.S. housing starts approach 11-year high, permits weak

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U.S. Housing Starts Drop by Most Since ’16 to Nine-Month Low

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U.S. June Housing Starts, Permits Plunge to Nine-Month Low
U.S. June Housing Starts, Permits Plunge to Nine-Month Low

U.S. new-home groundbreaking and permits fell in June to the slowest paces in nine months, as higher mortgage rates and elevated costs for labor and materials pinch the housing market, government figures showed Wednesday.

HIGHLIGHTS OF HOUSING STARTS (JUNE)

  • Residential starts fell 12.3% to a 1.17m annualized rate (est. 1.32m) after downwardly revised 1.34m pace in prior month; biggest drop since Nov. 2016
  • Single-family home starts dropped 9.1%; multifamily starts dropped 19.8% 
  • Permits, a proxy for future construction of all types of homes, fell 2.2% to 1.27m rate (est. 1.33m) after unrevised 1.3m pace 

Key Takeaways

Shares of homebuilders fell after the report. While the data are volatile and often subject to significant revisions, the report suggests growth in the housing market may be more modest than previously thought amid constraints for both buyers and developers. Economists may wait for July data to judge whether the trend in construction has shifted. The figures mark the weakest activity since hurricanes Harvey and Irma struck the U.S. in August and September.

Potential customers are grappling with elevated interest rates and ever-rising home prices that are easily outpacing wage gains, even as a robust job market and tax cuts support demand. For builders, issues include elevated prices of lumber and other imported materials, partly due to tariffs. Developers have also cited difficulties finding qualified workers and ready-to-build lots.

The data follow a report Tuesday showing that a gauge of homebuilders’ confidence was unchanged in July from the prior month to match the lowest level this year. An index of the six-month sales outlook fell to the lowest since September, according to the survey from the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo.

Wednesday’s report wasn’t as bad as the main numbers indicate, according to Ian Shepherdson of Pantheon Macroeconomics, who pointed out that the “most important” number, single-family permits, rose 0.8 percent from the prior month. At the same time, the trends in both construction and sales of such homes “have been about flat, more or less, since last fall,” and the housing market has probably peaked for this expansion, he wrote in a note.

Analyst’s View

“You could explain a decline, but not a decline of that magnitude,” Hugh Johnson, chief investment officer of Hugh Johnson Advisors LLC. He said Wednesday’s figures were “a one-month glitch and we’ll be somewhat back on track in the coming months, led by an economy that’s expanding, incomes which are expanding, employment which has been surprisingly strong, and although mortgage rates are rising, they’re not rising nearly as fast as they could.”

What Our Economists Say

June housing starts disappointed, and suggests that the gradual recovery in the housing market may be moderating further. However, digging into the details, at least some of the slowing is due to supply shortages — which is consistent with an economy that continues to grow above trend. Expect some easing in the pace of economic activity in the second half of the year.

— Tim Mahedy and Carl Riccadonna, Bloomberg Economics

Other Details

  • Single-family home starts fell to a 858,000 rate, slowest since December, from 944,000 the prior month
  • Groundbreaking on multifamily homes, such as apartment buildings and condominiums, fell to an annual rate of 315,000; data on these projects can be volatile
  • All four regions posted declines in starts, led by a 35.8 percent drop in the Midwest and a 9.1 percent decrease in the South
  • Some 160,000 homes were authorized but not yet started in June, up from 158,000 in May; the number of housing units currently under construction was 1.12 million, down slightly from the prior month
  • Report shows wide margin of error, with a 90 percent chance that the June housing-starts figure was between a 20.6 percent and 4 percent drop
  • Report released jointly by the Census Bureau and Department of Housing and Urban Development in Washington

— With assistance by Vince Golle, and Kristy Scheuble

Continue reading U.S. Housing Starts Drop by Most Since ’16 to Nine-Month Low

U.S. Housing Starts Top Forecasts on Multifamily Construction

U.S. new-home construction rose by more than forecast in March on a rebound in multifamily starts, giving a boost to first-quarter economic growth, government figures showed Tuesday.

HIGHLIGHTS OF HOUSING STARTS (MARCH)

  • Residential starts rose 1.9% to 1.32m annualized rate (est. 1.27m) after upwardly revised 1.3 mln pace in prior month
  • Multifamily home starts rose 14.4%; single-family fell 3.7%
  • Permits, a proxy for future construction of all types of homes, rose 2.5% to 1.35m rate (est. 1.32m) after 1.32m pace 

Key Takeaways

The results show a tight job market, improved finances and consumers’ elevated confidence to purchase big-ticket items are supporting construction. That means homebuilding probably contributed to economic growth for the second consecutive quarter. 

The strength in March was concentrated in multifamily construction such as apartment buildings. That category tends to be volatile; March’s advance in starts followed a 10.2 percent drop in the prior month. Permits for single-family homes were a weak spot, dropping 5.5 percent, the biggest decline in seven years, to the lowest level since September.

While demand remains solid, a shortage of workers, rising costs for materials and a scarcity of ready-to-build lots are limiting gains in building activity. With borrowing costs rising, affordability is also becoming a hurdle, as property values outpace potential buyers’ income growth.

 
 

Sentiment among homebuilders fell in April for a fourth straight month amid limited land availability and higher lumber prices, according to data Monday from the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo.

Nevertheless, sentiment remains elevated, and in an indication that builders will remain busy in coming months, the number of homes under construction at the end of March reached 1.125 million, the highest level since July 2007. Single-family dwellings under construction inched up to 504,000, the most since mid-2008.

What Our Economists Say

The overall strength in March housing starts is all the more encouraging given that the colder-than-average weather is likely to have curtailed gains. Fundamentals appear to support a positive outlook for the construction sector, despite labor constraints and rising material costs. Demand should also be supported by a tight labor market and steady pay gains.

— Niraj Shah and Carl Riccadonna, Bloomberg Economics

Read more for the full reaction note.

Other Details

  • Single-family home starts fell to a 867,000 rate from 900,000 the prior month
  • Groundbreaking on multi-family homes rose to an annual rate of 452,000
  • Gains in housing starts were led by Midwest, with a 22.4 percent advance; Northeast rose 0.8 percent, while South and West dipped
  • Report shows wide margin of error, with a 90 percent chance that the March housing-starts figure was between a 10.5 percent drop and 14.3 percent gain
  • Report released jointly by the Census Bureau and Department of Housing and Urban Development in Washington

— With assistance by Chris Middleton

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