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The Media Are Missing the Housing Bottom

Thursday, 24 Jul 2008 | 2:20 PM ET

Media reports painted a pessimistic picture of today’s release on existing home sales, which fell 15 percent from a year ago and recorded higher inventories. But inside the report was an awful lot of very good new news, which appear to be pointing to a bottom in the housing problem; in fact, maybe the tiniest beginnings of a recovery.

For example, the median existing home price has increased four consecutive months and is up 10 percent since February. Yes, it’s down 6 percent over the past year. But the monthly numbers show a gradual rebound. Actually, this median home price is $215,000 in June, compared to $196,000 last winter.

And there’s more. One of the hardest hit regions is the West, including California, Arizona, and Nevada. The other two bad states are Florida and Michigan. However, existing home sales in the western region are up four straight months, and are 17 percent above the low in October. At the same time, prices in the West have increased three straight months.

Meanwhile, overall national existing home sales are basically stabilizing at just under five million. And in the first and second quarters of 2008, these sales dropped slightly by 3 percent in each case, which is a whole lot better than the roughly 30 percent sales drops of the prior three quarters.

It’s a pity the mainstream media keeps searching for more and more pessimism. The reality is a possible upturn in the housing trend, and at the very least we are getting a bottom. Stocks sold off 165 points largely on media reports of terrible home sales and prices. But I am hoping the market comes to its senses and realizes the data are a whole lot better.

And on top of all that, just as housing may be on the mend, Congress is about to ratify a huge FHA-based bailout that could total $42 billion. Congressional solons are putting up $300 billion to refinance and insure distressed loans through the Federal Housing Administration. But this dubious government agency, with a whole history of bad portfolio management, may wind up taking in the very worst loans on the books.

Of course, taxpayers are on the hook. More government semi-socialism.

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  • Lawrence Kudlow is a CNBC senior contributor. Previously, Kudlow was anchor of CNBC's prime-time program "The Kudlow Report"