Is that a glimmer of a housing turnaround?

A house sits for sale in North Aurora, Ill.

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KAI RYSSDAL: Let's be clear that what we've got is a glimmer. Just the faintest chance that maybe, perhaps, just possibly the housing market's turning around.

 We got the numbers for April new home sales this morning. And here's where the first caveat comes in: they're only about 15 percent of all homes sales Caveat number two is that we've all been here before — latching on to a moving target to try to pin down a huge part of the economy. Marketplace's Jill Barshay has caveats three through six.


JILL BARSHAY: Sales of new homes surged 16.2 percent in April — the biggest amount in 14 years. But the Commerce Department also reported the median price of a new home dropped by the largest amount on record.

So is the news good or bad?

Dave Seiders is chief economist at the National Association of Home Builders. He says this is just a spike in sales, and we're still in a depressed housing market.

DAVE SEIDERS: The builders are saddled with a very heavy inventory overhang. Over half the builders in my most recent survey saying they are cutting prices to try to move inventory.

Jeff Mezger runs one of the largest home builders in the United States. KB Home is offering discounts and incentives. Buyers are biting in the South.

JEFF MEZGER: We've been experiencing good results in the Carolinas and Georgia, where it really never boomed the way it did in Florida and California.

Seiders, the economist, says most of the homes that are moving are the lower-priced models. But he says it's good that houses are selling at all. The market won't return to health until the glut of homes is sold. And Seiders says that won't happen until later this year.

SEIDERS: Nothing has happened out there to make us think that there's a really fundamental turnaround in home-buying activity.

Indeed, luxury home builder Toll Brothers said today its profit fell 79 percent for the quarter. The company didn't offer any hope for an end to the drumbeat of bad news.

In Los Angeles, I'm Jill Barshay for Marketplace.

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