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Economy in Brief

U.S. Home Builder Sentiment Slips
by Tom Moeller  February 18, 2020

The Composite Housing Market Index from the National Association of Home Builders-Wells Fargo fell slightly during February. The index level of 74 compared to 75 in January but remained up 19.4% y/y. It remained, however, near the expansion high. A reading of 75 had been expected in the INFORMA Global Markets survey. The NAHB figures are seasonally adjusted. Over the past 15 years, there has been a 70% correlation between the y/y change in the home builders index and the y/y change in new plus existing home sales.

The index of present sales conditions weakened 1.2% to 80 (+21.2% y/y), off for the second consecutive month. The index of expected conditions in the next six months also fell 1.2% (+16.2% y/y) to 79. The index measuring traffic of prospective buyers slipped 1.7% to 57 (+16.2% y/y) from January's expansion high of 58.

Regional readings remained mixed this month. The index reading for the West backed away from January's expansion high and fell 4.7% (+22.4% y/y) to 82. Declining 7.5% (+14.8% y/y) to 62 was the index for the Midwest. Moving higher, the index for the South improved 2.6% (+19.7% y/y) to a record high of 79. The index rose 8.1% (48.9% y/y) in the Northeast to 67.

The NAHB has compiled the Housing Market Index since 1985. It reflects survey questions which ask builders to rate sales and sales expectations as "good," "fair" or "poor" and traffic as "very high," "average" or "very low." The figures are diffusion indexes with values over 50 indicating a predominance of "good"/"very high" readings. In constructing the composite index, the weights assigned to the individual index components are: 0.5920 for single-family detached sales, present time, 0.1358 for single-family detached sales, next six months, and 0.2722 for traffic of prospective buyers. These data are included in Haver's SURVEYS database.

National Association of Home Builders Feb Jan Dec Feb Y/Y 2019 2018 2017
Composite Housing Market Index, SA (All Good=100) 74 75 76 19.4% 66 67 68
 Single-Family Sales: Present 80 81 84 21.2 72 73 74
 Single-Family Sales: Next Six Months 79 80 79 16.2 72 74 76
 Traffic of Prospective Buyers 57 58 57 18.8 49 50 50
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