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Assessing the housing sector

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A few economists are contending that our housing market is now in a “double dip,” based in part on last week’s report of housing price indexes for September and October that were lower than they were during the summer. In my opinion, the data on housing prices and construction do not show any significant housing market change during the second half of 2010. When connecting the housing sector with the wider economy, three different measures of housing prices are helpful: inflation-adjusted housing prices, inflation-unadjusted housing prices and cost-adjusted housing prices. Inflation-adjusted housing prices tell us how much the prices of homes have changed relative to the prices of other consumer goods. If, for example, we want to know whether demand for housing these days is any different than it was before the housing bubble, it helps to check whether, from the 1990s through 2010, housing prices failed to increase as much as other prices have.

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