It hasn’t been a good start to the week for economic data. After weaker than expected readings in the Empire Manufacturing report, Capacity Utilization, and Industrial Production, NAHB Home Builder sentiment for the month of March also missed the mark. While economists were expecting the headline reading to come in at 56, which would have been a slight improvement compared to February’s reading of 55, the actual reading came in at just 53, which was the weakest reading since July. With today’s weaker than expected report, home builder sentiment has now been weaker than expected in four straight and five of the last six months.
The table to the right shows the breakdown of the March NAHB sentiment survey by category and region. As shown, both Present Sales and Traffic showed declines this month, while Future Sales were unchanged at 59. On a regional basis, sentiment in the Northeast declined to 39. Given the weather and the fact that Boston has seen its snowiest winter on record, it should not be a surprise that sentiment in the Northeast was weak. What was surprising, however, was the big drop in sentiment out West. That region saw the largest decline in sentiment for the month of March, even though this winter has been unseasonably warm.