May 17, 2011

CNNMoney Fails to Send Out a Housing Starts/Permits Email Alert in What ‘Just So Happened’ to Be a Bad Month

Shortly after 8:30 this morning, I began thinking that my CNNMoney.com e-mail alerts had stopped arriving. So I went to the Census Bureau’s web site and learned that its monthly report on housing starts, building permits, and other construction-related news had indeed been released. The news for the already moribund industry was awful: Building permits in April fell by a seasonally adjusted 4% from March and by 12.0% from April 2010, while the comparable tumbles in housing starts were 10.6% and 23.9%, respectively.

Well, my opening and closing bell e-mails arrived as expected. So unless there was a technical glitch, this means that CNNMoney decided not to issue a post-8:30 alert for the bad housing news.

Let’s take a look at the two e-mails which did arrive. First, just after the opening bell:

CNNMoney051711at933am

Hmm. The housing news was still missing, as the e-mail assigned the opening sell-off to HP’s downbeat forecast.

Over at the Associated Press, Derek Kravitz the Creative was seeing things a little differently:

… through the first four months of this year, the pace of new-home construction is barely ahead of 2009′s — the worst year on records dating back a half-century.

The disappointing construction data contributed to a sell-off on Wall Street. The Dow Jones industrial average fell more than 110 points in mid-day trading.

In the closing-bell e-mail, CNNMoney at least acknowledged the existence of the bad housing news — barely:

CNNMoney051711at401pm

Actually, guys, the “grim” news on housing consists of many “readings,” several of which include:

  • Housing starts, as noted above. While in the neighborhood, so to speak, I should note that the raw (i.e., not seasonally adjusted data tells us that April’s 36,200 single-family starts came in a whopping 34.4% lower than April 2010′s 55,200.
  • Building permits, also noted above. 36,000 actual single-family building permits were issued in April. That’s the lowest April on records going back to 1959, and 21.9% lower than April 2010 — just in time for what was known in pre-Obama times as “peak buidling season.”
  • Homes under construction. That statistic, seasonally adjusted at 418,000, is the lowest on records going back to 1970, and, incredibly, the 21st consecutive record low or tying-the-record-low month. The lowest figure reported between 1970 and May 2009 was 629,000 in July 1992.
  • Housing units completed. The raw data for April was 43,100 units, which trailed April 2010 and April 2009 by 25.3% and 34.2%, respectively.

CNNMoney’s apparent failure to issue a separate housing-related e-mail is pretty interesting, given that it had no problem getting the following out in April:

CNNMoney041911at833am

Excuse me for suggesting that CNNMoney doesn’t appear to mind alerting readers to good housing news but holds back on bad news. It would appear that they’re afraid of unduly alarming the relatively disengaged who rely on CNNMoney headlines for an accurate overview of financial news. Why, if they’re not careful, their email alert subscribers might start thinking that the housing industry is in its worst shape since World War II. We can’t allow that.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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