January housing starts rise 14.6%
Residential construction showed a rebound in January as housing starts improved to a pace of 596,000 — a 14.6% increase over the downwardly revised December pace of 520,000.
Compared with a year ago, total starts are down 2.6%, according to the Department of Commerce residential construction report released Wednesday.
Still, single-family starts showed a 1.0% decline to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 413,000.
The single-family pace is the lowest since May 2009.
Building permits also presented a discouraging picture. Privately owned housing units authorized by building permits in January were at a pace of 562,000 — that’s 10.4% below the revised December rate, and 10.7% below the January 2010 estimate.
On a regional basis, the statistics were mixed. In total starts, the Northeast was up 41.8% compared with December and up 11.4% compared with January 2010. But the region showed double-digit declines in single-family starts.
The Midwest showed the strongest month-over-month single-family housing starts increase: up 25.5%.
Builder confidence unchanged
Builder confidence in the market for newly built, single-family homes stayed at the same level for the fourth consecutive month in February, according to the latest National Association of Home Builders (NAHB)/Wells Fargo House Market Index (HMI).
"While builders are starting to see more interest among potential home buyers, we are also dealing with a multitude of challenges, including competition from foreclosure properties and inaccurate appraisals of new homes, which are limiting our ability to sell," said NAHB chairman Bob Nielsen, a home builder from Reno, Nev. "On top of that, an extremely tight lending environment continues to make it almost impossible to obtain credit for viable new and existing projects, and most do not see that situation improving anytime soon."
The NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index gauges builder perceptions of current single-family home sales and sales expectations for the next six months as "good," "fair" or "poor." The survey also asks builders to rate traffic of prospective buyers as "high to very high," "average" or "low to very low." Scores from each component are then used to calculate a seasonally adjusted index where any number over 50 indicates that more builders view sales conditions as good than poor.
The overall index number for February was 16. But two of three of the HMI’s component indexes edged slightly upward in February. The component gauging current sales conditions improved by two points to 17, while the component gauging sales expectations in the next six months rose a single point to 25. Meanwhile, the component gauging traffic of prospective buyers held unchanged at 12.
On a regional basis, HMI scores were mixed in February, with gains reported in two parts of the country and declines in two others. The Northeast registered a two-point gain to 22, the South posted a one-point gain to 18, the Midwest posted a one-point decline to 12, and the West posted a two-point decline to 13.
Activant, LMC extend agreement
Activant Solutions Inc. and Lumbermens Merchandising Corp. (LMC) have announced an expansion of their 20-year marketing relationship, which will offer the building materials co-op access to the Activant Eagle system and the Activant Catalyst platform. More than half of LMC’s 360 members run their businesses on Activant Solutions, according to the announcement.
The Wayne, Pa., buying group has also actively embarked on an Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) 820 initiative, designed to encourage the use of EDI technology to share remittance advice information across businesses.
“We are working closely with Activant to advance the use of EDI and other technologies that improve efficiencies for our dealers and LMC, while improving communications and lowering overall operating costs,” said Dave Gonze, senior VP finance and technology for LMC.