5/19: MetroIntelligence Economic Update by P. DUFFY

Builder confidence index rebounds 7 points to 37 in May

Builder confidence in the market for newly-built single-family homes rebounded seven points to 37 in May, following the largest single monthly decline in the history of the index in April.  The HMI index gauging current sales conditions increased six points to 42, the component measuring sales expectations in the next six months jumped 10 points to 46 and the measure charting traffic of prospective buyers rose eight points to 21.



Redfin:  Home buying demand now 5.5 percent higher than before the pandemic

According to Redfin data, home-buying demand rebounded strongly over the past five weeks, and is now 5.5 percent higher than it was pre-pandemic.   New listings have increased every week for the past four weeks, but can’t keep up with demand, as inventory is down 24 percent.  Median listing prices are up 5 percent and low inventory has meant a return of bidding wars.  Buyers are also turning to online options, with more than one in four Redfin buyers recently taking their first home tour via video chat.



Retail sales fell 16.4 percent in April and 21.6 percent year-on-year

April retail sales plummeted by 16.4 percent from March, and were down 21.6 percent year-on-year. This decline was significantly above average analyst estimates of closer to 11 or 12 percent.  The steepest losses were noted by clothing stores (-78.8 percent), followed by electronics and appliances (-60.6 percent), furniture and home furnishings (-58.7 percent) sporting goods (-38.0 percent), and bars and restaurants (-29.5 percent). However, nonstore (online) retailers rose 8.4 percent.



Industrial production declined 11.2 percent in April and 15.0 percent year-on-year

Total industrial production fell 11.2 percent in April for its largest monthly drop in the 101-year history of the index, as the COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) pandemic led many factories to slow or suspend operations throughout the month.  At 92.6 percent of its 2012 average, the level of total industrial production was 15.0 percent lower in April than it was a year earlier.  Capacity utilization for the industrial sector decreased 8.3 percentage points to 64.9 percent in April, a rate that is 14.9 percentage points below its long-run (1972–2019) average and 1.8 percentage points below its all-time (since 1967) low set in 2009.



Consumer confidence inches up 2.6 percent in early May survey

Confidence inched upward in early May by 2.6 percent to 73.7 as the CARES relief checks improved consumers’ finances and widespread price discounting boosted their buying attitudes. Improved views on buying conditions were due to discounted prices and low interest rates, although their impact was partially offset by uncertainties about job and income prospects.


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