INDICATOR: March Housing Sales
KEY DATA: New Home Sales: -14.5%; Year-over-Year: -13.3%/Existing Home Sales: -0.2%; Year-over-Year: -7.5%
IN A NUTSHELL: "Yikes, the housing market is starting to falter again."
WHAT IT MEANS: Going into March, I thought that neither snow, nor cold, nor higher prices, nor higher mortgage rates would stay homebuyers from their appointed rounds. Boy was I wrong. At least in March, few came back into the market as new home demand plummeted. Yesterday we saw that existing home purchases also fell, but only modestly. Still, over the year, both new and existing home sales were down quite sharply. The biggest problem appears to be in the new housing segment, where demand declined to their lowest level in eight months. Distressingly, it was not due to a paucity of homes for sale as the inventory was up. Was it weather? Hard to argue that. Purchases were off everywhere but in the Northeast, which had a pretty miserable first part of the month. Indeed, the Northeast also led the way with a large gain in existing home sales. Meanwhile, demand fell in the South and West for both new and "previously owned" units. Only in the Midwest was there some mix as new home demand was off but existing sales improved. Prices, on a year-over-year basis, are still rising, but at a decelerating pace.