Housing market mixed; still fragile

Single family housing permitsincreased 0.9 percent from last month to 445,000 single family units, but single family housing starts declined 1.0 percent to 508,000 units.

This chart shows the number of single family housing permits issued year over year since 2001 (in thousands). Permits issued went up in January, but housing starts fell slightly.

Today’s New Residential Construction Report showed mixed results in January with single family permits increased from November while starts declined over the same period.

Single family housing permits, the most leading of indicators, increased 0.9% from last month to 445K single family units (SAAR), and increased 6.2% above the level seen in January 2011 but remaining an astonishing 75.25% below the peak in September 2005.

Single family housing starts declined 1.0% to 508K units (SAAR), and climbed 16.2% above the level seen in January 2011 but remaining a stunning 72.13% below the peak set in early 2006.

With the substantial headwinds of elevated unemployment, epic levels of foreclosure and delinquency, mounting bankruptcies, contracting consumer credit, and falling real wages, an overhang of inventory and still falling home prices, the environment for “organic” home sales remains weak and likely very fragile.

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