Data Points to Upside in Housing (XHB)

June 15, 2012 2:40 PM EDT
Conflicting data points can make evaluating the state of the housing market difficult. Considering inventory, foreclosure filings, housing starts, delinquencies rates, etc., etc. -- the list goes on and on -- and even the best analysis is often times murky.

The most fun housing data point of all has to be "shadow inventory." Homes listed in shadow inventory are homes that are in foreclosure but haven’t yet been put on the market by the bank. Without accounting for shadow inventory, calculating how much total inventory exists would be very difficult, and supply and demand analysis would be useless.

For now, shadow inventory levels appear to be easing in the U.S., according to data from CoreLogic which showed a 15 percent year-over-year decline to 1.5 million units, or 4 months of supply. The metric was down from a 6 month year-over-year supply previously.

Here are a few other data points to consider: total inventory levels have fallen 28 percent since 2010; delinquent loans improved to 720,000 units; South California median home prices in May improved 5.4 percent year-over-year; mortgage rates recently fell to 3.67 percent; and June MBA mortgage applications were up 18 percent.

Analysts at Williams Financial recently summed the garbled bits of data into the following statement:

“While the latest foreclosure estimates appear to have reversed course nationally after 2 years of improvement, we view the uptick as an overall positive. The uncertainty around the timing and quantity of homes in the pipeline has exerted downward pricing pressure. While the release may have short term pricing implications, we believe the increasing short sale activity, which generally sell at a slight premium to foreclosures, and healthy investor appetite will likely further accelerate the absorption pace, providing pricing support which should aid the overall housing recovery.”

In short, consider taking a look at SPDR S&P Homebuilders ETF (NYSE: XHB).

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