The National Association of Home Builders released the stats for U.S housing starts in March, and the starts missed the mark. Economists were looking for a sharp rebound from 897,000 units annualized in February to 1 million units annualized in March. Starts rose to only 924,000, although the NAHB made an upward revision to February’s number. Given that new home sales are up sharply, new home inventories are near record lows, and builder optimism is high, it seems illogical that starts are not doing better. Perhaps there is still some winter hangover effect.
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In other report news, jobless claims for March rose to 294,000, which is in line with expectations and still consistent with a very good job market.
Neither of this morning’s reports moved the markets. Ahead of the economic numbers, Dow futures were down about 65 points and bond prices were slightly higher. The weakness in stocks is being attributed to weakness in European stocks. European stocks have been on a tear, but those markets are off today with the German index down 1.6%. The reason? Stock traders are finally watching the Greek bond market.
Dwight Johnston is the chief economist of the California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues and president of Dwight Johnston Economics. He is the author of a popular commentary site and is a frequent speaker at credit union board planning sessions and industry conferences.