NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Most equity market strategists say the housing market should be the driver for an improving U.S. economy for the remainder of 2013 and beyond. Their theme is that rising home prices are a good thing, and that supply is low for both existing and new homes. In addition, mortgage rates remain low making homes affordable.
My theme is less optimistic with the housing market performing at half the pace of what the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) defines as normal. The NAHB Housing Market Index at 44 remains below the neutral 50 reading.
The NAHB considers single-family housing starts the most important measure and the April data showed that this key statistic fell by 2.1% to an annual rate of 610,000, just above the key 600,000 level.
The NAHB has numerous concerns about the sustainability of the market for new home construction and sales including; the cost of building new homes is on the rise due to tightened supplies of materials, lots and labor. In addition, community banks remain reluctant to increase exposures to construction and development loans given a still elevated $201.6 billion exposure established during the housing bubble years.The NAHB agrees with my assessment concluding that the market for new single family homes is "about half-way back to what could be considered a full recovery." The supply of existing homes slowed as major banks delayed the foreclosure process as home prices rise. Banks have also slowed down sales of homes in the category "Other Real Estate Owned". At the end of the first quarter banks had an inventory of $35.9 billion in OREO properties, up 195.5% from the end of 2007. At some point this hidden supply will return to the market.
In addition, as home prices rise fewer homes are underwater territory vs. mortgage debt, which will increase the supply of existing homes on the market. More "For Sale" signs are up in my community in Tampa Bay.
Select the service that is right for you!COMPARE ALL SERVICES
Jim Cramer and Stephanie Link actively manage a real portfolio and reveal their money management tactics while giving advanced notice before every trade.
- $2.5+ million portfolio
- Large-cap and dividend focus
- Intraday trade alerts from Cramer
- Weekly roundups
Access the tool that DOMINATES the Russell 2000 and the S&P 500.
- Buy, hold, or sell recommendations for over 4,300 stocks
- Unlimited research reports on your favorite stocks
- A custom stock screener
- Upgrade/downgrade alerts
Jim Cramer's protege, David Peltier, identifies the best of breed dividend stocks that will pay a reliable AND significant income stream.
- Diversified model portfolio of dividend stocks
- Alerts when market news affect the portfolio
- Bi-weekly updates with exact steps to take - BUY, HOLD, SELL
All of Real Money, plus 15 more of Wall Street's sharpest minds delivering actionable trading ideas, a comprehensive look at the market, and fundamental and technical analysis.
- Real Money + Doug Kass Plus 15 more Wall Street Pros
- Intraday commentary & news
- Ultra-actionable trading ideas
Our options trading pros provide daily market commentary and over 100 monthly option trading ideas and strategies to help you become a well-seasoned trader.
- 100+ monthly options trading ideas
- Actionable options commentary & news
- Real-time trading community
- Options TV