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Key Housing Indicators Pleasantly Surprise Analysts…Again

by Will Smith

The U.S. Department of Commerce today released national statistics on June housing starts and building permits, two numbers that are closely watched as leading indicators of the direction of the housing market. The annualized rate of housing starts in June was 582,000, up from 562,000 in May. And building permits came in at an annual rate of 563,000, up 8.7 percent from May’s 518,000.

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The housing starts number beat analysts’ estimates, which is the second time in a row that has happened. Last month analysts were expecting 485,000 but the number came in at 532,000 (which you’ll note was actually revised even higher in the interim, to 562,000).

The strong showing from the housing industry today is welcome in light of yesterday’s news that suggests the foreclosure problem is worsening. Foreclosure site RealtyTrac published its bi-annual report on foreclosure activity across the U.S. In the first half of 2009 there have been 1.9 million foreclosure filings on 1.5 million properties. That’s 9 percent more properties than during the second half of 2008 and 15 percent more than the first half of 2008. Foreclosures also increased 11 percent from the first quarter of this year to the second.

The Obama administration is acutely aware of the foreclosure problem, according to this article from The New York Times. The administration reportedly believes that its foreclosure-fighting program released earlier this year has been undermined by the lending industry’s inability (or unwillingness) to expeditiously modify troubled mortgages. The Times reports that the administration has demanded the attendance of representatives from the top 25 mortgage servicers at a meeting in Washington later this month. At that meeting administration officials are expected to lean heavily on the lenders to better handle mortgage modifications.

Recall that Freddie Mac earlier this week published this video to encourage consumers to organize their paperwork before calling their lender to request a mortgage modification. Being organized before the call enables the lender representative to more quickly assess the consumer’s situation and modify her mortgage. The video is a small campaign but indicative of how challenged lenders are by the mortgage modification requests flooding their call centers.

This article originally published at https://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/key_housing_indicators_pleasantly_surprise_analysts...again/1146

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