Commerce Department Data Not as Cheery as We’d Like

Following the National Association of Realtors’ data release, today the Commerce Department unveiled its October housing information — and it paints an interesting picture.

  • Home sales were up 1.7 percent last month.
  • Median home prices dropped 8.6 percent from the month prior and is down 13 percent compared to the same time last year (its sharpest drop since September 1981).
  • New home inventories fell (one area in which a decline is a good thing!) 2.3 percent to from a nine-month
    supply to an 8.5 supply in October.

Some industry experts think the sales increase is linked to builders who are trying to do whatever they can — offering deals, holding auctions and more — to sell their array of unsold homes. Could be. We suggested some of the very same things in an earlier blog.

But is a spike in home sales reason for cautionary excitement — or just another blip on the big housing slump screen?

The answer possibly can be found in one of the Commerce Department’s other pieces of information, also released today. The department revised its September sales pace numbers — downward — to 716,000, from 777,000, the original figure.

Sure, revisions happen all the time — but when one drags what we all thought was a maybe OK month down to the lowest level in more than 10 years, as  AFP reported, it suddenly seems like more of a concern. (And makes you wonder what October’s revisions will look like.)

Some analysts, unfortunately, agree.

“The overall picture is housing is still going to decline at least for
the rest of this year,” said Adam York, economic analyst at Wachovia
Economics in Charlotte, North Carolina, told MSNBC. “We would not be willing to
call September the bottom.”

And there you have it: We’re still sinking. But maybe Wachovia will be willing to label October  the low point. We should know in about a month.