Ignore the Headlines

Yesterday, it was The Guardian’s phoney “Euro Zone is saved” leak.  Today, it’s CNBC’s  “Housing Starts Jump 15%.”

Sure enough, when you dig into the story, you see that it was annualized multi-family starts that jumped (53%).  Single-family slumped — to a measly 1.7% annual increase.  Of course, that won’t stop the requisite bump in KB or Toll Bros.

Look two inches below the fold, where even CNBS reporters could have seen it, and you’ll see the sleight of hand that accompanies almost every economic headline that passes through the TPTB filter:  seasonal adjustments.  It’s the black hole of economic analysis from which even dismal news emerges as shiny as a new penny.

Year-to-date figures (which need no seasonal adjustments, unless you’re being metaphysical about it) reveal a 12% decrease in single-family starts over the same period in 2010.   But, “Single-Family Starts Plunge 12%” isn’t quite as cheery a headline, is it?

As I’ve said countless times in these pages and elsewhere, there is no recovery without a housing recovery.  Period.  Are you listening, Washington?

How do September 2011’s 37,700 single-family and 21,900 multi-family starts compare to the good old days?   In September 2005, those numbers were 1,747,000 and 303,000.

I guess we could be excited about the rebound in multi-family starts.  At least the millions of American homeowners being foreclosed on will have options.


Ignore the Headlines — 2 Comments

  1. Yes, those Sept 2005 figures really put the present day into perspective. I had no idea the gulf was so huge.

  2. I pulled up Bloomberg today and I thought, "Wow! That must have been why the market rallied yesterday." There is really no need for rose-colored glasses when Bloomberg's headlines are so giddy. Thanks for reviewing the report in more detail. I wouldn't have done it.