Housing data are disappointing. Permits for new homes in March were down 2.4% from February with weakness concentrated in apartments and a slight increase in single family homes. Housing starts were up 2.8% in March from February and single family unit starts were up 6% on the month. However, at 946,000 starts at annual rates, housing construction remains weak. The NAHB Sentiment index was flat in April at 47.
The best thing one can say about housing is that this late (five years) into an economic expansion, housing should be passing the growth leadership to other parts of the economy. The difficulty with that bit is that housing still hasn’t seen a real rebound in starts – figures should be comfortably north of one million units at annual rates. Most likely signs of strength will continue to be limited to existing homes for awhile longer.