Using Evidence for Decisions

cropped-bob-shapiro.jpg   By Bob Shapiro

Sometimes numbers can give different messages depending on how you look at them. With a Presidential election a month and a half away, this can be a problem.

For example, stats were released on Tuesday for Housing Starts and also for Housing Permits. The Starts number for August was down about 6% from the July figure, while the Permits were down just slightly.

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Of potentially more concern, both sets were under forecast for August and Permits were revised down a lot from the previously released July report. At the same time, the Permits were less than Starts for both months.

So, what’s going on? Is this proof that the Economy tanking? I have to give you a definite… maybe.

The downward revisions for all four numbers is obvious negative evidence. There’s no debate there. But there’s more to the story.

The months that most homebuyers purchase their homes are during the Spring. After that, sales peter out until the fewest homes are sold during the Winter. But, a 6% drop from July to August in sales is a bit more than I would expect.

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As for Permits, they generally should run higher than Starts, since in most places you can’t start building unless you have a permit. And, not all permits actually are used.

But, Starts were below Permits for both months. That’s a big downside preview of future starts in my book. Since we should anticipate a building slowdown in Autumn and then Winter, it makes sense that Permits should turn down before Starts, so that mitigates the falloff somewhat.

It still looks like a slowdown to me, but we’ll have to keep looking at the future releases.

Now, my wishy-washy language so far may be frustrating for you. Which is it – boom or bust? Well, as Yogi Berra said, “It’s not easy making predictions, especially about the future.”

So, as you read stories during the next 6 weeks, please keep in mind that the interpretation for simple facts may not be simple. Question what you read. Look at both sides.

Most Americans get their information largely from sources which confirm their views. (I do it, too.)

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For those of you who still are undecided for November, checking the opposing views – and considering the agenda of all views – is vital.

And, reconsider your own agenda. What do you want for America? Growth or continued decline? More Freedom or less? Better security or not? America first, or the US as just part of the World at large?

Your vote should count. So, make it count.

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