The folks in the establishment press are looking for any sign of upward movement in the housing market, especially in new home construction, that they can portray positively as the beginning of a general recovery.
That desperate search explains the content of the following e-mail alert from CNN which arrived in my inbox this morning:
Some "surge." As seen here (scroll to the very end of the report), the actual, i.e., not seasonally adjusted, number of building permits issued in December was 47,700. That's fewer than the 49,200 permits issued in December 2009, and the second-lowest December in the 52 years the Census Bureau has been tracking permits.
Seasonal calculations like the one leading to the "surge" CNN cited are suspect because there has been a significant deviation from the norm during the most recent two years in housing. Such deviations can distort the results. The reality: Surge, schmurge.
Sadly, e-mails like the one CNN issued have a great deal of undeserved influence, especially among the relatively disengaged, who use such alerts to try to quickly get a handle on what's going on without having to dig around for it. In this case, they've been misled.
I'll have more to say about the disgraceful reporting of Wednesday's housing news, particularly by the Associated Press, tomorrow.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.