Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Searching for Green Shoots No. 2

"Housing Starts Soared in May," Or so the Bloomberg headline says. Could this be another "green shoot"?! Could this be more evidence that we are not mired in a severe economic crisis, but just a little downturn that will self-correct by November of this year or so? [Just in time for Obama's Health Care "Reform" debate in congress?]

I mean after all, the post-war (that's WW II) economy was driven fundamentally by the project of building American suburbia to its present high state of development. If house building is "soaring," then we are all safe to pick up with the American Dream right where we left it about a year ago.

Well, at least the US Census Dept. release their data for us to examine for ourselves, so we don't have to rely on the cheerleaders in the press.

Here's what US Census actually reported in this morning's press release:

Privately-owned housing starts in May were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 532,000. This is 17.2 percent (±14.4%) above the revised April estimate of 454,000, but is 45.2 percent (±5.8%) below the May 2008 rate of 971,000.

Wow, May 2009 came in 17.2% above April 2009! Housing Starts a soaring to be sure! Just don't look beyond that first number Mr. and Mrs. American Citizen, please do not look beyond that first number! PLEASE! The S&P 500 NEEDS to go up, particularly the financial stocks!

But ... if you do look ... you will see that housing starts are 45.2% lower than just one year ago (not really a soaring figure; more of a sobering figure).

Well, sure the month to month gain is positive right? -- Hey, wait a second, what are those pesky numbers in parentheses (±14.4%) -- CRAP, since the 17.2% number is an ESTIMATE based on a sample not on all the actual houses being started ... it means that there is error and the true value is equally likely to lie somewhere between a meager 2.8% increase and a much more impressive 31.6% increase. ANY value in that range has the same chance of being the true value as the 17.2% number.

Of course, month to month changes are notoriously not meaningful. It is much better to see where we are in terms of the long-term historical trends....

Check out the following graph:

Oh for crying-out-loud! Are you kidding me?!

Housing starts are still mired at the lowest levels of activity in 50 years! 50 YEARS! Housing is in a full blown depression, the current levels have not been recorded since census started keeping track. I mean come on people.

"Housing Starts Soared in May,"

Selling your book again, are you Bloomie?

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