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How Are Autos and Housing Really Doing?

Housing and autos are in the news, but how's business? Answer: the bottom is still murky.

Let's review how both businesses are doing.

Housing

The Case-Shiller home prices for January, a 20-city composite, was down 19 percent compared to the year before. The index represents about one-third of the country.

This is disappointing, but remember it is a January number. The good news is that both existing and new home sales in February showed an improvement in sales trends. Sales lead pricing.

I'd be even more optimistic if it wasn't for Lennar's disappointing quarterly report. Recall KB Home actually had positive order growth Friday, but Lennar did not: net orders declined 27 percent, not as bad as some expected but still disappointing.

Autos

Good news:

1) New GM and Fordincentive programs should help.

2) Rising used car prices should also help make new cars more competitive.

3) Talk about new government programs: a scrappage program, tax incentives for buying a car.

The bad news:

1) Like housing, vehicle traffic in March appears to be little changed.

2) Inventory levels remain stubbornly high.

Bottom line: While there are some glimmers of hope, the housing and auto "bottoms" remain murky at best.

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