Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Uptick or Upstart? New Home Starts: UP

Just out, The Commerce Department reports this morning that:
The Commerce Department said the jump in housing starts to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 583,000 units was the biggest percentage rise since January 1990.

That was also the first increase since April last year, when they advanced by 1.6 percent.
And the kicker? This is not what "the markets" had expected. Market analysts were expecting a smaller number.
Analysts polled by Reuters had expected an annual rate of 450,000 units for February.
The question now might be: with so many months of sinking new start numbers, is this just a natural uptick quirk within the larger trend, or is this a new inflection point that will reverse the trend?

Rest assured we are watching very very closely.

On a separate but related note, producer prices were announced at .1% rise, below market expectations. However the markets watch the "core" number, which excludes the traditionally more volatile energy and food costs. Those prices were slightly higher than expected. All said, this is very good news this morning. But with so much debt-financed stimulus, we have to keep an eye on inflationary dynamics. This isn't enough to be concerned this morning.
U.S. producer prices rose by less than expected in February as the pace of energy price increases slowed, government data on Tuesday showed, but prices excluding food and energy came in a bit above forecast.