Markets & Economy

Has U.S. housing recovery slipped?

Several reliable sources indicate that we could be in for trouble -- but are they right?
  • Fannie Mae, Seeking Alpha and First American Financial Corp. recently released data indicating that the housing market is slipping.
  • The FHFA, Black Knight and ECRI show the market as stable -- not improving, but not slipping.
  • Housing stats have been on a stable up-slope for years, but this evident flattening wobble bears careful watching.

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Sometimes I mention “suspicious data” on the way to blowing up the source or the analysis, but this time the sources are all okay and point in a similar direction: The U.S. housing recovery has slipped. What the sources say Fannie Mae last week announced that its Home Purchase Sentiment Index slid to an 18-month low. Not a big slide, and survey-based, but a consistent finding by an unbiased source. Fannie Mae's HPSI for March 2016. Seeking Alpha found a distinct topping in new home sales beginning last summer and flattening in just the December-February period. Its analysis does not use units alone -- low inventory would account for such a plateau -- but instead units multiplied by price, so you'd think rising prices should remove the low-inventory impact. First American Financial Corp’s Real Estate Sentiment Index found in the first three months of 2016 a 4.4 percent decline in title agents' expectations for home sales activity from the last three months of 2015...