Economy Sends Mixed Signals

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Some pool-related economic indicators, which had been on the rise, paused in March, as the recovery seemed to hesitate.

Production of single-family homes slipped 4.8 percent for the month, according to newly released figures from HUD and the U.S. Census Bureau. This somewhat sobering number was balanced by growth in multifamily apartment units.

“The numbers are also in keeping with our latest surveys that show single-family builders are experiencing some difficulties in keeping up with rising demand for new homes due to increasing construction costs and other factors,” said Rick Judson, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and a home builder from Charlotte, N.C. 

Calling the latest data a “mixed bag” due to the opposite direction of single- and multifamily starts and a somewhat weaker amount of permit issuance, NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe said that nevertheless, the numbers indicate “a continuation of the slow, methodical march forward” that characterizes the housing recovery. He also noted that “The three-month moving average for single-family starts remained unchanged at 628,000 units in March – which is right on pace with NAHB’s forecast for a 25 percent gain in new-home production in 2013.” 

Elsewhere, the Conference Board reported a distinct decline in consumer confidence and expectations for job growth. 

“Consumer Confidence fell sharply in March, following February’s uptick,” said Lynn Franco, Director of Economic Indicators at The Conference Board. “This month’s retreat was driven primarily by a sharp decline in expectations, although consumers were also more pessimistic in their assessment of current conditions. The loss of confidence, particularly expectations, mirrors the losses experienced this past December and January.”  

Consumers’ appraisal of current conditions also declined in March. Those saying business conditions are “good” decreased to 16.0 percent from 17.6 percent, and those claiming jobs are “plentiful” decreased to 9.4 percent from 10.1 percent.

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