Certain irresponsible news outlets *cough* Wall Street Journal cough are reporting that housing sales increased 2.9% in February.
While this is certainly true of the sales from January to February it doesn't matter because sales have to be tracked year over year, abbreviated to YoY by financial types, for the numbers to have any sort of statistical validity.
So this purported (and reported) 2.9% increase is really a 23.8% decrease over February 2007 ...
I'm using The Automatic Earth as my source rather than the direct article from the WSJ. Ilargi and Stoneleigh's efforts there are the very soul of journalism - source citing, fact checking, and no spin summation and analysis.
Here is the money quote from the WSJ's article.
"On Monday, new data suggested that pressures like these are starting to drive prices low enough to attract some buyers back into the market. Sales of previously occupied homes jumped 2.9% in February from the month before, the National Association of Realtors said, the first increase since July."
This is an outright lie. Home sales are always slow in January due to the Holiday season - the buyers and sellers are busy with family, as are the realtors. This would be obvious to anyone who has spent any time living in the United States, so I don't know who they think they were fooling.
Ilargi lays it right out for us:
And what were those numbers? The year-over-year data for existing home sales were DOWN 23.8% below February 2007 levels. That datapoint never found its way into the WSJ article at all. I cannot recall a more blatant misreporting of fact, or a larger or more embarrassing error in a front page WSJ article, ever.
So there you have it, folks. Things are so precarious in the financial world today that reporting has given way to outright damage control right on the front page of the Wall Street Journal.
I know The Automatic Earth is a heavy read, but please grit your teeth and wade through it if you're not up to speed. I trust these guys like I do Jerome a Paris and bonddad for getting the story written up and doing it right.