US housing starts 74% below 2006 peak

US house Feb10.jpg15% of Americans were either in foreclosure, or at least one payment overdue, according to the Q4 Mortgage Bankers Association survey. This is a record high, but the MBA sees some signs that the numbers may have peaked. It is concerned, however, over the rise in the number of long-term unemployed, now a record 40% of total unemployed.
US housing was a $35bn market for chemicals as recently as 2006, when housing starts ran at a 2.2 million rate. They are now 74% below that level. January’s figures showed some sign of a bottoming, but were still just 591k. One sign of the current crisis is that, as shown in the above chart from, they need to rise c35%, just to get back to the lowest level ever seen in the period 1959-2008.
Update: In later news today, the S&P Case-Shiller Index of house prices fell 3.1% versus December 2008. 11.3 million US households are now in negative equity (where the house is worth less than the mortgage). This equals 24% of all US properties with mortgages.

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