NYT Really Misses Housing Story Big Time

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Tuesday, 25 June 2013 20:56

The NYT headlined an article on the release of the newest Case-Shiller housing price data, "housing market shrugging off rise in mortgage interest rates." This may or may not be true, but the new Case-Shiller data will not provide us much information on this question.

The data released today was for the three month period ending in April. This means that the typical home in the sample was sold in March. It is also important to remember that the index picks up closings. Since it typically takes roughly two months between contracting and closing, the Case-Shiller data released today is telling us about house sales that were contracted back in January. That is not going to give us much information about how the housing market is responding to a rise in mortgage rates that has mostly occurred over the last two months.

The piece also tells readers:

"If mortgage rates rise to 4 percent by the end of the year, as the Mortgage Bankers Association forecasts, they will still be much lower than the rates most Americans have experienced over the last few decades. In May, the average interest rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage stood at 3.5 percent."

This statement is bizarre because interest rates have already crossed 4.0 percent. The Mortgage Bankers Association reported that the average contracted rate two weeks ago was 4.17 percent. It is almost certain to be higher now since Treasury rates have risen substantially in the last two weeks.