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New home sales disappoint

By Holden Lewis ·
Monday, July 26, 2010
Posted: 12 pm ET

I see headlines that say there was a rebound in June for new home sales. I'm not convinced. The housing market still stinks.

New houses were sold in June at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 330,000 units, according to the Census. That's a big improvement over May's seasonally adjusted rate. Doesn't mean much. Instead, let's ignore the seasonally adjusted annual rates and look at the actual number of houses sold.

About 30,000 new houses were sold in June. Compare that to the 37,000 houses that were sold in June 2009. And the median price is down, too -- half of new houses sold in June cost less than $213,400. That's $1,300 less than the median price in June 2009.

The stat that popped out at me is a number that I hadn't noticed in previous releases: "median months for sale." This is the median number of months that pass between the time a house is completed and when the builder sells it. That figure was 12.4 months in June. This means that in June, when a typical new house was sold, it had been sitting empty, for sale, since the May or June of 2009.

We're years away from a healthy housing market. If you're ready to buy a house at a bargain price, check out our mortgage calculators.

The June home sales report was the first of this week's major economic releases. On Tuesday we get the Case-Shiller 20-city home price index, which is expected to show an increase. Later Tuesday morning we get the consumer confidence report.

Wednesday brings the latest Fed Beige Book. And Friday sees the important gross domestic product report for the second quarter, along with its measure of inflation, the GDP chain deflator. I expect mortgage rates to move up and down in advance of the GDP report, so nailing down the lowest rate this week will feel like playing Whac-A-Mole.

Do you long to receive 140-character blurbs about mortgage rates? Really? OK, well, if that floats your boat, then follow me on Twitter @HoldenL.

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