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Gaming Housing Statistics or Time Reveals Truth

Posted by Larry Doyle on November 18, 2009 10:46 AM |

Time reveals truth.

I love that pearl of wisdom shared by Danielle Park, my guest this past Sunday evening on No Quarter Radio’s Sense on Cents with Larry Doyle. I find it very applicable to the economic report released this morning on housing starts. What did that report indicate? Housing starts in October registered a supposed surprising decline of 10.6% to a seasonally adjusted 529, 000 annual rate.

Is this truly a surprise? Market analysts and government pundits who continually ‘oversell’ economic data as legitimate, when in fact that data is gamed via government props, need to show surprise when a report disappoints. If they do not act surprised, then they merely expose themselves and lose credibility.

The simple fact is the housing market in our country remains in decline. One merely needs to look at the continually increasing levels of delinquencies to understand that. I addressed this important data last May in writing, “The Most Critical Economic Statistic”:

Which economic statistic is the most important? Unemployment? Housing starts? Trade deficit? Inflation? Retail sales?

Well, they are all important . . . but as I review the many statistics, the economic data that I believe most significant are loan delinquencies. Now, mind you a delinquency does not mean that the loan has defaulted and been foreclosed upon. A delinquency is merely a late payment. Typically loans are classified as 30 day, 60 day, or 90 day delinquent. There is a very high correlation between delinquent loans and those that default.

Loans become delinquent for a whole host of fairly typical reasons. That said, in this economy the nature and array of reasons are growing. As a result, the ability of lenders to forecast and manage delinquencies is increasingly more challenging. Lenders will typically increase reserves as loans become more delinquent in anticipation of a natural rate of default.

Loan delinquencies will often occur even before unemployment hits or sales falter. As individuals or companies feel increasingly squeezed, the monthly loan payment becomes more difficult to make and delinquency results.

Delinquencies show no sign of abating. For a wealth of information on housing, I am happy to share a link to Mark Hanson Advisers, a site I recently found which provides true, cutting edge insights on housing.

While cheerleaders will look to parse each and every monthly statistic in an attempt to legitimize their work, do yourself the favor of looking at the major trend lines. Uncle Sam can attempt to ‘game this process,’ but I strongly recommend you do not ‘play’ his game. Why? The truth is not revealed in his game. When is the truth revealed? Over time.

Thank you Danielle. Thank you Mark.

Color from around the country as to developments within your local markets is very much appreciated.


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