The Econoday consensus estimate for September housing starts was 1.170 million at a seasonally-adjusted annualized rate (SAAR). The Census Bureau reported 1.127 million starts SAAR, a decline of 4.7%.

Similarly, the consensus estimate was 1.238 million new housing permits but the Census Bureau reported 1.215 million, a decline of 4.5%.

Mainstream Media Blames Hurricanes

Mortgage News Daily says Housing Starts Still Under The Weather; Single-Family Permits on The Mend.

Permits, down 4.5%, are definitely not on the mend although single-family permits rose 2.4%.

The Wall Street Journal reports Hurricanes Weighed on Housing Starts in September but the subtitle hints at the real story: "Housing starts decreased in five of the last six months."

Barron's has an accurate headline Housing Starts: Now That’s a Slip! but the story itself reeks of overoptimism.

The hurricanes that walloped Houston, Florida and Puerto Rico haven’t led to a burst of rebuilding — just yet, as government data released this morning shows. Yet there are underlying bright spots for the future within the data and from other corners of the housing market.

Consider mortgage applications to buy a new home, which rose 4% this week, boosting the year-on-year rate by two percentage points to 9%. Builders are also more confident that the market is improving.

Jefferies highlighted this upbeat comment from NAHB chief economist Robert Dietz: “With a tight inventory of existing homes and promising growth in household formation, we can expect the new home market continue to strengthen at a modest rate in the months ahead.”

Housing Starts

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Housing Starts Detail

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Housing Starts Percent Change From Year Ago

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Census Bureau Data

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Analysis

The total number of starts declined by 56,000 but starts in the South declined by 54,000. If one attributes 100% of the decline in the South to hurricanes, then starts still would have suffered a small loss.

However, it's unlikely hurricanes are responsible for the entire South decline. As the lead chart shows, housing is in a topping pattern.

That pattern might be broken, but builder optimism, especially in light of falling customer traffic appears unwarranted.

If housing and autos both have peaked, and I believe they have, there is little if anything left of this historically weak recovery.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock