Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Homebuilding Drops as End of Tax Credit Loomed


Residential construction in the U.S. unexpectedly dropped in October amid concern a homebuyer tax credit would expire, illustrating the market’s dependence on government help to sustain a recovery as job losses mount.

Builders broke ground on 529,000 houses at an annual pace, down 11 percent from the prior month and the fewest since April’s record low, Commerce Department figures showed today in Washington. Data from the Labor Department signaled inflation will be of little concern for the Federal Reserve.

Homebuilding seized up as builders waited for President Barack Obama to extend a first-time buyer incentive, which has since been passed and expanded. The highest unemployment rate in 26 years and consumer prices that remain below Fed long-term goals indicate policy makers will need to nurture the economy by keeping interest rates near zero.

“The recovery isn’t well established enough yet to take away that support,” said Michael Feroli, an economist at JPMorgan Chase & Co. in New York, who previously worked at the Fed. “An early withdrawal of fiscal and monetary stimulus would probably be quite disruptive.”

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