Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Will Residential Investment Recover? (Calculated Risk)


Thoughts on Residential Investment Recovery

by CalculatedRisk on 4/19/2011 06:30:00 PM
A few thoughts looking out a few years ...

• Residential investment (RI) is the best leading indicator for the economy. This isn't perfect - nothing is - but RI is usually a strong leading indicator for the business cycle. The slump in RI helped me call the 2007 recession correctly, and the lack of a recovery in residential investment is a key reason the recovery has been sluggish and choppy so far. Note: Residential investment, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), includes new single family structures, multifamily structures, home improvement, broker's commissions, and a few minor categories.

• In 2011, residential investment will make a positive contribution to the economy for the first time since 2005. The five years of drag on GDP from RI (2006 through 2010) is the longest period on record, breaking the previous record of four years from 1930 to 1933 (yeah, the Great Depression). The positive contribution this year will mostly be due to a pickup in multifamily construction (apartments) and in home improvement. However single family housing starts will continue to struggle.

• This positive contribution from residential investment suggests the economy will continue to grow all year and also in 2012 (point 1: RI is best leading indicator). There are plenty of downside risks, but I expect the expansion to continue.

• A record low number of housing units will be added to the housing stock this year. With more jobs, and more household formation in 2011, the number of excess housing units will be reduced substantially this year – perhaps by 600,000 to 700,000 units (or more).

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