The Commerce Department reported(.pdf) that housing starts and permits for new construction came in well below expectations last month, casting fresh doubt on the sustainability of the housing market rebound.
Housing starts fell 9.3 percent in June to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 983,000, this coming after a drop of 7.3 percent in May that marked the worst two-month decline since late 2010, save for the sharp winter slowdown six months ago.
Building permits dropped 4.2 percent last month to a rate of 963,000 after a falling 5.1 percent the month prior, all but reversing the spring rebound.
From year ago levels, construction is still higher – up 7.5 percent for starts and 2.7 percent for permits – however, the recent trend should be disconcerting for anyone thinking that the construction industry was on a path back toward more normal levels as the latest readings are still nearly 50 percent below the pre-housing bubble norms.
In a separate report released yesterday, the National Association of Home Builders’ Housing Market Index rose to a six month high, due largely to an optimistic outlook for sales over the next six months.
In a survey where numbers above and below 50 indicate better or worse, respectively, the overall index jumped from 49 in June to 53 in July with the sales expectations component jumping 6 points to 64 and current sales rising 4 points to 57. Buyer traffic continues to be disappointing at just 39, however, it did rise 2 points this month.