Good News On Durable Goods Not Such Good News On New Home Sales

I guess the meme that said we need to see housing rebound before we really start pulling out of the recession has been put on the shelf. A lackluster new home sales report for May was overshadowed by the durable goods report. The news is pushing up equities across the board.

Here is the news from the NYT on durable goods:

The Commerce Department said demand for durable goods rose 1.8 percent last month, far better than the 0.6 percent decline that economists expected. It matched the rise in April, with both months posting the best performance since December 2007, when the recession began.

Orders for non-defense capital goods, a proxy for business investment plans, rose 4.8 percent, the biggest increase since September 2004. That could signal that businesses have stopped trimming their investment spending.

The back-to-back monthly gains in orders for durable goods — items expected to last at least three years — were further evidence that a dismal stretch for manufacturers may be nearing an end. But analysts say any sustained rebound is months away.

“This is a pretty good report and welcome news in the hard-pressed (capital expenditure) sector,” M. Cary Leahey, an economist at New York-based consulting firm Decision Economics, wrote in a research note.

And also from the Times, the info on new home sales:

Still, new new-home sales dropped 0.6 percent in May to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 342,000, from a downwardly revised April rate of 344,000. Economists had expected a sales pace of 360,000 last month, according to Thomson Reuters. Sales were down nearly 33 percent from May last year.

The median sales price, $221,600, was down 3.4 percent from a year earlier but up 4.2 percent from April.

It’s probably a good idea to keep the durable goods order report in perspective. It’s a very volatile number, subject to significant revisions as well as wild month-to-month fluctuations. It’s nice to see an upward trend but part of it could be due to inventory rebuilding rather than strong end-user demand. Don’t get too excited.

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