Pending home sales are up 5.3% today, handily beating the consensus expectations, which called for a 1.0% decline. Barry Ritholtz at The Big Picture has a different interpretation of the data in Media Gets Pending Home Sales Wrong (Again!) Not surprisingly, Barry is less optimistic about the state of the housing market and emphasizes the importance of looking at year over year changes instead of sequential monthly changes.
The homebuilders are a very interesting sector – and one worth following closely. Homebuilder stocks (as measured by the XHB ETF) actually peaked at 39.39 back in early February 2007, several months prior to the time frame covered in the chart below.
For a few months, homebuilders looked as if they had made a bottom in January, when they rallied more than 60% from their January low to their April high, only to grind down to a new bottom in July. The graphic shows a sharp two day bounce off of the July low, followed by a lot of sideways action over the course of the past three weeks. At this stage, the July bottom does not yet look convincing and XHB is actually trading down as I type this.
With foreclosure activity now accounting for an increasingly large percentage of all home sales, statistics such as selling price per square foot (see Solano County, in particular) may help to sort out some of the divergence between sales volume and sales price data.