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Single-family housing permits rose 2.7 percent from January 2013 to 600,000 single family units, and increased 25.52 percent above the level seen in February 2012. (SoldAtTheTop)

Housing construction shows broad growth in February

By Guest blogger / 03.19.13

Today’s New Residential Construction Report showed broad improvement in February with solid increases for both single family permits and starts as well as improvement for total housing starts. 

Single family housing permits, the most leading of indicators, rose 2.7% from January to 600K single family units (SAAR), and increased 25.52% above the level seen in February 2012 but still remained an astonishing 66.63% below the peak in September 2005. 

Single family housing starts increased 0.5% from December to 618K units (SAAR), and rose 31.49% above the level seen in February 2012 but still remained 66.10% below the peak set in early 2006. 

Housing market activity declined in March, according to the National Association of Home Builders' latest Housing Market Index. (SoldAtTheTop)

Housing market activity drops in March

By Guest blogger / 03.18.13

Today, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) released their latest Housing Market Index (HMI) showing that assesments of housing activity declined in March with the composite HMI index falling to 44 while the "buyer traffic" index inscreased to 35.

It's important to note that March continued to show a flattening of sorts to future expectations, a development that is worth noting as the new home market moves through it's most active months at the start of the year (see Bob Tolls explanation for January - early spring being the new home markets most active period annually).

While all indicators have made truly spectacular improvements this year, it's important to note that conditions still remain fairly distressed by historic standards.

Although, looking at the data, it is fairly clear that the last few months of results indicate a major change in builder sentiment likely coming as a result of improvements in confidence given the notable rise in buyer traffic, reduced inventory and a more balanced monthly supply. 

The Federal Reserve released their monthly read of industrial production and capacity utilization Friday, showing a notable increase in February with total industrial production climbing 0.71 percent since January. (SoldAtTheTop)

Industrial production rises in February

By Guest blogger / 03.15.13

Today, the Federal Reserve released their monthly read of industrial production and capacity utilization showing a notable increase in February with total industrial production climbing 0.71% since January and rising 2.52% above the level seen in February 2012. 

Capacity utilization also rise climbing 0.55% from January rising 0.83% above the level seen in February of 2012 to stand at 79.63% 

It's important to recognize that though the "recovery" is well over two years old, both industrial production and capacity utilization are notably below the peaks set in late 2007. 

Jobless claims fell to 332,000 claims from 342,000 claims for the prior week, according to the latest jobless claims report. (SoldAtTheTop)

Jobless claims drop by 10,000

By Guest blogger / 03.14.13

Today’s jobless claims report showed a decline to both initial and continued unemployment claims as initial claims trended well below the closely watched 400K level. 

Seasonally adjusted “initial” unemployment claims declined by 10,000 to 332,000 claims from 342,000 claims for the prior week while seasonally adjusted “continued” claims declined by 89,000 claims to 3.024 million resulting in an “insured” unemployment rate of 2.4%.

 
Since the middle of 2008 though, two federal government sponsored “extended” unemployment benefit programs (the “extended benefits” and “EUC 2008” from recent legislation) have been picking up claimants that have fallen off of the traditional unemployment benefits rolls. 

Currently there are some 1.91 million people receiving federal “extended” unemployment benefits. 

Taken together with the latest 3.61 million people that are currently counted as receiving traditional continued unemployment benefits, there are 5.52 million people on state and federal unemployment rolls. 

The latest data from the Mortgage Bankers Association shows that mortgage rates jumped to 3.67 percent since the last week. (SoldAtTheTop)

Mortgage rates rise to 3.67 percent

By Guest blogger / 03.13.13

The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) publishes the results of a weekly applications survey that covers roughly 50 percent of all residential mortgage originations and tracks the average interest rate for 30 year and 15 year fixed rate mortgages as well as the volume of both purchase and refinance applications. 

The purchase application index has been highlighted as a particularly important data series as it very broadly captures the demand side of residential real estate for both new and existing home purchases. 

The latest data is showing that the average rate for a 30 year fixed rate mortgage (from FHA and conforming GSE data) increased 9 basis points to 3.67% since last week while the purchase application volume declined 3% and the refinance application volume declined 5% over the same period. 

Individuals receiving food stamps increased to 47.79 million in December 2012, according to the latest data from the Department of Agriculture. (SoldAtTheTop)

Food stamps use rises in December

By Guest blogger / 03.12.13

As a logical consequence of the prolonged economic downturn, participation in the federal food stamp program is continuing to rise.

In fact, household participation has been climbing so steadily that it has dwarfed the last peak (which looks like a minor blip by comparison) set as a result of the immediate fallout following hurricane Katrina.

The latest data released by the Department of Agriculture indicated that in December, 109,924 recipients were added to the food stamps program with the current total increasing 2.75% on a year-over-year basis.

Individuals receiving food stamp benefits increased to 47.79 million which, as a ratio of the overall civilian non-institutional population, increased 1.16% on the month to now stand at a whopping 19.55% of the population.

Households receiving food stamps benefits increased by 48,683 to 23.06 million with the current total rising 4.07% above the level seen a year earlier

As participation continues to swell, so too has the total nominal benefit cost climbing 2.78% on a year-over-year basis to $6.39 billion for the month.

This chart shows the change in the number of workers unemployed 27 weeks or more since 2000. The number of long term unemployed workers increased to 4.79 million in February. (SoldAtTheTop)

Jobs report not so great for the long term unemployed

By Guest blogger / 03.10.13

Friday's employment situation report showed that conditions for the long term unemployed worsened notably in February while still remaining distressed by historic standards.

Workers unemployed 27 weeks or more increased to 4.797 million or 40.2% of all unemployed workers while the median term of unemployment increased to 17.8 weeks and the average stay on unemployment increased to 36.9 weeks.

Looking at the charts below, you can see that today’s sorry situation far exceeds even the conditions seen during the double-dip recessionary period of the early 1980s, long considered by economists to be the worst period of unemployment since the Great Depression.

President-elect Franklin D. Roosevelt goes to his Inauguration with the outgoing President Herbert Hoover as they share a ride to the Capitol in Washington, D.C. Big government policies and philosophies, like the antiquated vaudeville style huckster politicians of 1930s, never hold up over time, SoldAtTheTop writes. (Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum/AP/File)

Big government doesn't work

By Guest blogger / 03.08.13

Big government doesn't work.  It's that simple.  Also, it's immoral to obligate generations of individuals to operate within and contribute to a system rife with massive policy delusions, particularly a system they had little to no part in creating.

Of course, that's using my definition of morality... policy junkies value things exactly the other way round. 

Who's right?

Watching some random FDR-era YoutTube videos brings some insights on the basis for "New Deal" policies but more importantly, you can feel the antiquity.  ( Continue… )

Jobless claims declined by 7,000 to 340,000 claims from 347,000 claims for the prior week. (SoldAtTheTop)

Jobless claims fall to 340,000

By Guest blogger / 03.07.13

Today’s jobless claims report showed a decline to initial unemployment claims and a slight increase to continued unemployment claims as initial claims trended below the closely watched 400K level. 

Seasonally adjusted “initial” unemployment claims declined by 7,000 to 340,000 claims from 347,000 claims for the prior week while seasonally adjusted “continued” claims increased by 3,000 claims to 3.094 million resulting in an “insured” unemployment rate of 2.4%. 

Since the middle of 2008 though, two federal government sponsored “extended” unemployment benefit programs (the “extended benefits” and “EUC 2008” from recent legislation) have been picking up claimants that have fallen off of the traditional unemployment benefits rolls. 

Currently there are some 1.78 million people receiving federal “extended” unemployment benefits. 

Taken together with the latest 3.53 million people that are currently counted as receiving traditional continued unemployment benefits, there are 5.31 million people on state and federal unemployment rolls. 

The latest data from the Mortgage Bankers Association shows that mortgage rates declined 7 basis points to 3.58 percent since last week. (SoldAtTheTop)

MBA: Mortgage rates drop to 3.58 percent

By Guest blogger / 03.06.13

The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) publishes the results of a weekly applications survey that covers roughly 50 percent of all residential mortgage originations and tracks the average interest rate for 30 year and 15 year fixed rate mortgages as well as the volume of both purchase and refinance applications. 

The purchase application index has been highlighted as a particularly important data series as it very broadly captures the demand side of residential real estate for both new and existing home purchases. 

The latest data is showing that the average rate for a 30 year fixed rate mortgage (from FHA and conforming GSE data) declined 7 basis points to 3.58% since last week while the purchase application volume jumped a notable 15% and the refinance application volume also rose 15% over the same period. 

The following chart shows the average interest rate for 30 year and 15 year fixed rate mortgages since 2006 as well as the purchase, refinance and composite loan volumes (click for larger dynamic full-screen version).

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