"Lost In Construction" - Relative Difference Between Housing Starts And Completions Hits Record

While one can discuss seasonal factors, such as abnormally warm weather, as a driver of today's beat in Housing Starts, a far less noted number for headline purposes is the other side of the equation - Housing Completions. Because after all, every house that is started has to be completed at some point. One look at the chart below, shows why completions is quietly ignored, as it presents a far less optimistic picture about the housing market. Indeed, printing at 530k seasonally adjusted annualized units, the completions number was just the second lowest in decades, better only than the 509K from January 2011. And where this becomes rather glaring is when looking at the relative, or percentage, spread between Starts and Completions: at 31.9%, this was the highest in, well, as far as our data series goes back to. Does this mean that homebuilders are merely "breaking ground" for book keeping purposes, just to "paint the tape" and then quietly fading away into the night? We will know for sure in February when we get at least one more data print to validate or deny the recent troubling trend, but for the time being, to paraphrase a famous Bill Murray movie, is there something here being "lost in construction?" Or, far more simply, is this merely the latest ploy to paint not the tape so much as the economy in an election year with the latest incarnation of "cash for clunking construction"?