Just when housing-watchers thought the industry couldn’t get any worse, it did. February turned out to be one of the weakest months ever for the U.S. housing sector. Starts, permits, and sales of existing homes all plunged in the month. The latest downbeat news was Wednesday’s report of a 16.9% freefall in new-home sales. Those sales are at their lowest since records began in 1963 — despite the fact that the U.S. population is 122 million residents larger than 48 years ago. Housing has been a large beneficiary of government-stimulus efforts. Yet, the sector remains an intractable foe for policymakers. While the U.S. economy can grow without housing, a recovering housing sector would shift growth to a higher pace that would boost labor markets and lift confidence.
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