April 24 - Yale University Economics Professor Robert Shiller says a total recovery of the housing market may take a generation as new home sales falter and prices barely rise. Conway G. Gittens reports.
A mixed bag of housing reports suggests the market is still struggling to recover from the worst downturn since the 1930s. And Yale University Economics Professor Robert Shiller says a full recovery may take as long as a generation. SOUNDBITE: ROBERT SHILLER, YALE UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR/CO-FOUNDER S&P/CASE SHILLER REPORT (ENGLISH) SAYING: 'I worry that we might not see a major turnaround in our lifetimes. We don't know that this bubble is going to repeat. We had an enormous bubble in the early 20th century." The Standard & Poor's Case-Shiller home price index, which was co-founded by the professor, posted a tiny gain in February on a seasonally adjusted basis; the first uptick in prices in 10 months. The index covers 20 big cities, but nearly half of them recorded falling or flat pricing. On the sales front: the number of new homes sold in March dropped to a low not seen in four months. But there were some hopeful signs from the Commerce Department. Sales still beat analysts' forecasts and the data for the three months before that were upwardly revised. Also, the number of homes on the market slipped to a record low, which could eventually lead to higher selling prices. But despite low prices and historically low borrowing rates, buyers are not rushing to seal the deal, SOUNDBITE: ROBERT SHILLER, YALE UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR/CO-FOUNDER S&P/CASE SHILLER REPORT (ENGLISH) SAYING: "We've seen low mortgage rates for years now and so apparently it doesn't encourage people that much when they have anxiety about their job. They may have a job but they look at the unemployment rate and think: maybe I won't have a job. And there is still a lot of uncertainty in the air with high gas prices; with the European situation." Those anxieties have Americans largely sitting on the sidelines early in the key spring selling season. Conway Gittens, Reuters