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Housing Data Crush the Pollyannas

It was a set piece: real estate "expert" Barbara Corcoran counseling Americans on NBC's "Today" show Thursday morning that the time is right to buy their dream home.

Why?

The worst of the housing slide, she said brightly, is over, and housing's dismal data will soon be showing a rosier outlook.

What else would someone who made her fortune selling homes in Manhattan say? Corcoran's allegiance is to the home seller and agent, who desperately want trigger-pulling buyers. But you can't simply wish markets back on track, and the pixie dust that Corcoran has deployed so effectively over the course of her long career on individual home buyers is harder to dispense -- and to receive -- through a television screen than in person.

The encouraging vignette was initially belied by the June existing-home sales report issued July 25 by the Commerce Dept., then viciously undercut by new-home sales figures the agency released the following day. Those sales figures, which many pundits had predicted would show a modest month-to-month rise, showed a steep 6.6% decline to 834,000 from May's annual rate of 893,000 sales. Year-over-year, the fall was a dramatic (but nonetheless unsurprising) 22.3% against 2006 June figures. This June's level marks the second-slowest sales month in eight years; the slowest was this past March.

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