July 18, 2018

June 2018 Residential Construction: Weak News, With a Possibly Positive Explanation

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 11:38 am

From the Census Bureau (eventual permanent link) — It’s only one month, but it’s a real clunker:

Privately-owned housing units authorized by building permits in June were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,273,000. This is 2.2 percent (±1.2 percent) below the revised May rate of 1,301,000 and is 3.0 percent (±1.1 percent) below the June 2017 rate of 1,312,000. Single-family authorizations in June were at a rate of 850,000; this is 0.8 percent (±1.5 percent)* above the revised May figure of 843,000. Authorizations of units in buildings with five units or more were at a rate of 387,000 in June.

Privately-owned housing starts in June were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,173,000. This is 12.3 percent (±8.3 percent) below the revised May estimate of 1,337,000 and is 4.2 percent (±10.2 percent)* below the June 2017 rate of 1,225,000. Single-family housing starts in June were at a rate of 858,000; this is 9.1 percent (±8.8 percent) below the revised May figure of 944,000. The June rate for units in buildings with five units or more was 304,000.

The silver lining is that permits for single-family units held their own. Single-family starts did not. (The seasonally adjusted results are consisted with the underlying raw numbers.)

Sticking with seasonally adjusted single-family results, the home-construction metrics for the five months of this year were pretty strong. If there’s a quirk in June’s comedown, it may be that builders may have been in an unusual rush to complete already-started units in time for the summer selling season and weren’t that inclined to start new ones.

But why would this year be any different than previous years in that regard?

If there’s a scenario where the selling-season rush theory makes sense, it would be that this year’s improving economy, the prospect of higher interest rates, and perhaps the tax cuts combined to cause a boomlet in single-family construction starts in this year’s earlier months (up 9 percent over the first five months of 2017, and 17 percent greater than the first five months of 2016).

But June’s completions, while respectable, especially compared to starts, weren’t huge.

So it’s too early to tell if June was a one-off or the beginning of a troubling trend.

Also lurking in the background is the reality that many first-time homebuyers are burdened with extraordinary levels of student-loan debt and can’t qualify for mortgage financing.

Wednesday Off-Topic (Moderated) Open Thread (071818)

Filed under: Lucid Links — Tom @ 10:00 am

This open thread is meant for commenters to post on items either briefly noted below (if any) or otherwise not covered at this blog. Rules are here.

Positivity: Kavanaugh’s friends describe man of humility, service, faith

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 9:55 am

From Washington:

Jul 17, 2018 / 03:04 pm

Long-time friends and associates of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh say he is a sincere Catholic, committed to living the tenets of his faith.

Last week, President Trump nominated Kavanaugh to serve as Associate United States Supreme Court. In a short speech following the announcement, Kavanaugh highlighted his commitment to his faith and his family.

“I’ve known Brett – Judge Kavanaugh – for 20 years,” Shannen Coffin, an attorney in Washington, D.C., told CNA. “He’s a very smart person, but he’s a regular guy, too. He’s a devoted father, and spouse.”

Judge Kavanaugh has spent the last 12 years on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals but despite that formidable judicial record, Coffin says that there are “no airs about” him and he has a “humility in his approach to judging.”

“He’s also the guy who after a day of long meetings with senators, you know, and without fanfare, was serving food to the homeless.”

Coffin said that Kavanaugh “views the role of a judge in the constitutional system not as a political job, but as a job of interpreting statutes and interpreting the Constitution.”

On the topic of religious liberty, Coffin was quick to dismiss anyone who had doubts that Kavanaugh would be a staunch protector of religious freedoms.

“I think they’re fools,” he said bluntly. “I don’t have any hesitations in thinking that this is a great appointment for those concerned about religious liberty.”

Kavanaugh is a “vigilant defender of religious liberty,” Coffin said, as evidenced by his line of questioning in the recent court case brought against the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, (WMATA) by the Archdiocese of Washington. While that case has yet to be decided, Kavanaugh’s questions and reasoning made it clear that he thought WMATA had acted illegally by prohibiting religious-themed advertisements.

“What really should impress Catholics is that this is a guy who is committed to the fundamental text of the Constitution and protecting those liberties preserved in the Constitution.” …

Go here for the rest of the story.