Sales of new single-family houses in January 2015 were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 481,000, down 0.2% from December’s big gains.
This is 0.2% below the revised December rate of 482,000, but is 5.3% above the January 2014 estimate of 457,000, considered a weak level.
Lindsey Piegza, chief economist at Sterne Agee, says she thinks this shows a housing market that’s flat.
“Coupled with a near 5% decline in existing sales, this morning's decline in new sales suggests the housing recovery remains muted. Yesterday's monetary policy testimony revealed a dovish Federal Reserve Chairman,” Piegza said. “Of course, given the slew of disappointing economic news including back-to-back months of negative retail sales, a one-year low on the ISM, and four months of negative durable orders in the last five, not to mention increasing concerns regarding a further decline in inflation and a still-sluggish housing market, and it's hard to imagine why the Fed wouldn't sound dovish in their assessment of the economy, as well as hesitant in their ability and willingness to initiate liftoff.
“This morning's home sales report further confirms the Fed's assessment of a ‘slow’ recovery in the US housing market and offers yet another reason for an extended timeline for liftoff,” she said.
Rick Sharga, executive vice president at Auction.com, told HousingWire he sees housing entering a "boring plateau."
"That's not a bad thing considering how bad the recession was -- there's a reason it was called the Great Recession," Sharga said. "We're entering a period of boring but slow, steady growth."
But Paul Diggle, property economist at Capital Economics, said the decline is more a hiccup and it should be taken in context.
“New home sales sustained almost all of December’s seven-year high in January, falling by a marginal 0.2% m/m. The strong labor market and loosening mortgage credit conditions mean that the outlook for new home sales is encouraging,” Diggle said. “New home sales would have risen were it not for a 51.6% m/m collapse in the Northeast. That reflects the impact of the Nor’easter that brought blizzard conditions to the region at the end of January, and should be reversed over the next few months.”
He said that despite this slowdown, he expects sales to continue to perform well over the course of 2015.
“After all, job creation is on fire and an acceleration in wage growth should soon follow, consumer confidence is elevated and mortgage credit conditions are loosening,” Diggle said. “Supply conditions loosened again in January. The inventory of new homes for sales increased by 1.4% m/m to a five-year high of 218,000. The steady rise in housing completions – which has been more consistent than starts – is behind this increase.”