Housing is doing better. It's not doing great -- but it doesn't have to be right now, for either investors or the economy.
The National Association of Realtors said today that existing-home sales dropped 3.2% in July to an annual rate of 5.39 million units, with the median price rising 5.3% from a year ago to $244,100. That missed expectations for a 5.5 million-sale annual rate.
New home sales, meanwhile, hit a forecast-busting 654,000 units annually, the best in nine years, according to a Census Bureau report Tuesday. "[It] turned out to be the forecasting equivalent of Katie Ledecky against the field," Regions Financial chief economist Richard Moody said afterward.
The news is pretty good in the short term, but not all that huge in the context of time. New home sales are still weaker than in any year since 1992, as the Wall Street Journal's Nick Timiraos reported yesterday.
Adjusted for population, they're at about 63% of their 50-year average level -- way better than in 2011, but nowhere near heated, Trulia.com (Z) economist Ralph McLaughlin said. Existing-home sales are better -- they're right about where they were in the late 1990s amid the Internet boom. They're consistent with a strong economy, but they haven't matched the soon-regretted peaks of 2007, or even kept up with the population growth since 1998.
The housing market is, basically, good enough to do the job -- if the job is to push unemployment a little lower and demonstrate that consumers are willing to spend a little more each quarter and keep the nation's third-longest expansion since World War II moving.