The Econoday consensus was was for starts to rise 4.35%. Instead, starts fell 5.5%. Adding insult to injury, April was revised lower by 1.37 percentage points making the consensus estimate off by an amazing 11.22 percentage points.
The bad economic news keeps building, this time in the housing sector. Housing starts fell an unexpected 5.5 percent in May to a far lower-than-expected annualized rate of 1.092 million with permits likewise very weak, down 4.9 percent to a 1.168 million rate.
All components show declines with single-family starts down 3.9 percent to a 794,000 rate and permits down 1.9 percent to 779,000. Multi-family starts fell 9.7 percent to 298,000 with permits down 10.4 percent to 389,000. Total completions did rise 5.6 percent to a 1.164 million rate, which adds supply to a thin market, but homes under construction slipped 0.7 percent to 1.067 million.
Adding to the bad news are downward revisions to starts including April which is now at 1.156 vs an initial 1.172 million. Looking at the quarter-to-quarter comparison, starts have averaged 1.124 million so far in the second quarter, down a very sizable 9.2 percent from 1.238 million in the second quarter. Permits, at an average of 1.198 million, are down 4.9 percent.
Residential investment looks to be yet another negative for second-quarter GDP.
The negative report prompted the following statement from the National Association of Realtor’s Chief Economist Lawrence Yun. “Housing shortages look to intensify and may well turn into a housing emergency if the discrepancy between housing demand and housing supply widens further. The falling housing starts and housing permits in May are befuddling given the lack of homes for sale and the quick pace of selling a newly-constructed homes. Meanwhile, job creations of a consistent 2 million a year will push up housing demand further. One thing that moving up is the housing costs for consumers: higher home prices and higher rents.”
Yun is befuddled. That’s hardly surprising given that it does not take much to befuddle economists.
Let me clear up the confusion:
- People cannot afford homes so they are not buying them.
- Builders will not purposely build homes to sell at a loss.
- The alleged demand for new homes is imaginary.
Such analysis is beyond the scope of most economists, so I am happy to help out.
Mike “Mish” Shedlock