Starts very weak, but permits up. It’s about permits, so we’ll see if they level off or continue to rise:

102001

Highlights

Starts are mixed but permits are up in what is a deceptively solid housing starts & permits report. Starts plunged what looks like a shocking 9.0 percent in September, to a 1.047 million annualized rate. But the drop is tied entirely to the volatile multi-family component where starts fell a massive 38 percent in the month to a 264,000 rate. The more important single-family component is up sharply in its own right, 8.1 percent higher to a 783,000 rate.

Permits for both components are up with single-family 0.4 percent higher to a 739,000 rate and with multi-family, in contrast to the big decline in starts, up 17 percent to 486,000. Together, permits are up 6.3 percent to a 1.225 million rate that far exceeds Econoday’s top estimate of 1.182.

By region, year-on-year starts are down the most in the Northeast (minus 32 percent) and the South (minus 16 percent) while permits are up the most in the Northeast (plus 13.9 percent) and West which is a focused region for the nation’s builders (plus 13.3 percent). The negative headline aside, there are more positives in this report than negatives, positives that include gains for single-family starts and permits in what are pluses for new home sales.

102002
Neither of these looks like anything better than flat to me in what remains a depressed housing market:

102003

102004
Permits have been volatile, sometimes spiking higher temporarily due to tax considerations, and with year end coming up that could be the case again:

102005
Nor do mortgage purchase applications show any sign of meaningful growth:

102006

102007

102008

102009