In a positive jolt out of the housing sector, new home sales picked up sharply in February to a 539,000 annual rate. Adding to the good news is a big upward revision to January, to 500,000 from 481,000. These are the first two 500,000 readings going all the way back to April and May of 2008.
The gain drew down what was already thin supply on the market, to 4.7 months at the current sales rate vs 5.1 and 5.3 months in the prior two reports. The current reading is the lowest since June 2013 and will undoubtedly encourage builders to expand construction.
The lack of supply, however, did not lift prices where the median fell a sharp 4.8 percent in the month to $275,500. Sellers, in fact, seem to be giving price concessions with the year-on-year price up only 2.6 percent.
Looking at sales by region shows a big surge in the Northeast where, however, sales levels compared to other regions are very low. Sales in the Midwest, which is also a small region for new home sales, fell sharply in the month as they did in the West, a large region for sales that represents 23 percent of all sales. Sales, however, were very strong in the South, a region that makes up a whopping 59 percent of all sales and where sales are back to where they were in February 2008.
Due to seasonal adjustments, the winter months are always bumpy for housing data. But today’s report stands in contrast to what has been a dreary run of weak data out of the housing sector. And it does point to momentum going into the critical spring selling season.