Meanwhile, Helicopter Ben still says we need catastrophically low interest rates, as if they're what's keeping the economy from collapsing completely, not causing it to collapse completely. Is he stupid, or is he evil? I think you know what side of that coin I choose. This is all deliberate and purposeful.
- Associated Press -
The Commerce Department reported Wednesday that new home sales dropped 11.2 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual sales pace of 309,000 units, the lowest level on records going back nearly a half century. The big drop was a surprise to economists who were expecting a 5 percent increase over December's pace.
While winter storms were partly to blame, home sales have fallen for three straight months despite sweeping government support. Economists were already worried that an improvement in sales in the second half of last year could falter as various government support programs are withdrawn.
"There is no doubt that January and February are going to be messy months for housing, given the severe weather conditions, but that doesn't take away from the fact that the housing sector has taken another big step back, even with the government aid," Jennifer Lee, a senior economist at BMO Capital Markets, said in a research note.
A rebound in housing in the second half of last year helped to boost overall economic growth back into positive territory. Each new home built, for example, creates about three jobs for a year and generates about $90,000 in taxes paid to local and federal authorities, according to the
However, economists are worried that if housing falters in coming months, that will be one more headwind the recovery will have to overcome. The decline to an annual purchase rate of 309,000 in January was 6 percent below the previous record low set in January last year.
"I don't think we are going to have a double-dip recession in housing, but it is going to take us longer to recover from a very deep hole," said Patrick Newport, an economist at IHS Global Insight.
January's weakness was evident in all regions except the Midwest, where sales posted a 2.1 percent increase. Sales were down 35 percent in the Northeast, 12 percent in the West and almost 10 percent in the South.
The drop in sales pushed the median sales price down to $203,500. That was down 5.6 percent from December's median sales price of $215,600, and off 2.4 percent from year-ago prices.
New home sales for all of 2009 had fallen by almost 23 percent to 374,000, the worst year on record. The
January's data increased concerns that the housing rebound could falter in coming months as the government withdraws the support it has used to try to bolster the housing market. The real estate crisis was the epicenter of the country's overall recession, the worst downturn since the 1930s.
Bernanke, delivering the Fed's twice-a-year economic report to Congress, said that the Fed's record low interest rates were still needed to attack high unemployment levels and help the overall economy recover.