I'm not sure which is tougher to take: the drumbeat of news about housing and its spillover into the rest of the economy, or the almost daily release of statistics indicating that, yes, housing economics have in fact plunked into the proverbial water closet.
Of course sandwiched in this barrage of statistics are the forlorn earnings releases from the builders. Last week it was Lennar
But I find it harder to deal with the deluge of numbers that collectively only add to housing's bleak picture. On Tuesday, for instance, we were hit by the National Association of Realtors' seasonally adjusted index of pending sales of existing homes. In August the index slipped to a record low 6.5% below July and 21.5% from August 2006.
Those figures followed Thursday's Commerce Department new-home sales figure (off 8.3% from July), which itself followed the National Association of Home Builders' index of builders sentiments (they're hardly upbeat), which in turn followed the Commerce Department's housing starts and building permits numbers. These figures similarly followed ... oh, you get the picture.
The fact is, as you know, housing's a mess. Further, most of the figures that are trumpeted monthly by the folks at Commerce, the homebuilders' group, or the realtors' association, are seriously flawed in one way or another. Take Tuesday's pending sales number, for instance. As with builders' sales, where cancellation rates ultimately represent a meaningful share -- up to half -- of all contracts signed, the pending sales figure is far worse than it initially appears. That's because in today's newly restrictive lending climate, perhaps one-third of the deals included in the calculations won't ever make it to closing.
So here's my Foolish suggestion: Take at least a six-month hiatus from worrying about housing and its accompanying statistical drumbeat. Spend the time researching sectors that are more promising -- energy or technology, for instance. Your portfolio and your attitude will thank you for it.
To build on related Foolishness: