In reporting "surprising good news on sales of existing homes," ABC ignored 24 percent decline in sales from Feb. 2007

››› ››› JULIE MILLICAN

Introducing a report on "surprising good news on sales of existing homes," ABC* News' Charles Gibson stated that "[a]fter falling for six straight months, sales rose almost 3 percent in February." But neither Gibson, nor correspondent Sharyn Alfonsi in the subsequent report, noted that home sales were still down nearly 24 percent from February 2007.

On the March 24 broadcast of ABC's World News, anchor Charles Gibson introduced a report on "surprising good news on sales of existing homes," stating: "After falling for six straight months, sales rose almost 3 percent in February." Gibson added: "But the better-than-expected number comes at a cost, as prices of those homes that did sell were down 8 percent from a year ago." However, neither Gibson nor ABC News correspondent Sharyn Alfonsi, who did a subsequent report on the topic, noted that despite the almost 3 percent increase in existing home sales from January to February, home sales are still down nearly 24 percent from February 2007.

By contrast, on the same night's broadcast of NBC's Nightly News, anchor Brian Williams reported: "Sales of existing homes jumped just under 3 percent the month of February, but behind the headline number, the news wasn't so great, sadly. Sales were down 24 percent from the same time last year. Prices fell 8 percent, the biggest drop on record in the U.S." Similarly, on the March 24 broadcast of the CBS Evening News, correspondent Anthony Mason noted that, "nationally, home sales are still down nearly 24 percent from a year ago."

On March 24, the National Association of Realtors released a statement on existing home sales from February, in which, among other things, the organization noted: "Existing-home sales -- including single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops -- rose 2.9 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.03 million units in February from a pace of 4.89 million in January, but remain 23.8 percent below the 6.60 million-unit level in February 2007. The sales pace has been in a fairly narrow range since last September." The Associated Press reported on March 25 that the Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller index, "a widely-watched index of U.S. home prices," found that home prices "fell 11.4 percent in January, its steepest drop since data for the indicator was first collected in 1987." According to the AP, "The index tracks the prices of single-family homes in 10 major metropolitan areas in the U.S."

From the March 24 edition of ABC's World News with Charles Gibson:

GIBSON: Next, we turn to the economy and today's surprising good news on sales of existing homes. After falling for six straight months, sales rose almost 3 percent in February. But the better-than-expected number comes at a cost, as prices of those homes that did sell were down 8 percent from a year ago. ABC's Sharyn Alfonsi is here to report -- Sharyn.

ALFONSI: Well, Charlie, this report was a real surprise to everyone. After a steady drumbeat of bad news from the housing market, a sliver of hope -- analysts say after a long winter frozen in place, the market is finally starting to warm up.

[...]

ALFONSI: From January to February, existing home sales were up more than 11 percent in the Northeast. Sales also started to improve in the Midwest and in the South.

PAT LASHINSKY (Zip Realty CEO): We're seeing lots of consumer demand. Buyers are out; they're interested. They're trying to find good deals.

ALFONSI: There are plenty of them.

[...]

ALFONSI: And the big question is: Have we hit rock bottom? Analysts say to keep your eye on how long it takes to sell a home. Two years ago, homes would sell in about 45 days; today, it's averaging six to nine months. So, Charlie, there's still a long way to go.

From the March 24 edition of the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric:

MASON: The Northeast saw the biggest sales jump in February, up more than 11 percent. Sales were also up more than 2 percent in the Midwest and in the South, while sales fell slightly in the West.

But nationally, home sales are still down nearly 24 percent from a year ago.

NIGEL GAULT (Global Insight Inc. economist): I think it's too soon to say that we've hit bottom, but we are starting to see some signs that maybe the bottom isn't too far away.

From the March 24 edition of NBC's Nightly News with Brian Williams:

WILLIAMS: Unexpected uptick in home sales helped spur today's rally. Sales of existing homes jumped just under 3 percent the month of February, but behind the headline number, the news wasn't so great, sadly. Sales were down 24 percent from the same time last year. Prices fell 8 percent, the biggest drop on record in the U.S.

* Previously misidentified as NBC. Media Matters for America regrets the error.

Posted In
Economy
Network/Outlet
ABC
Person
Charlie Gibson, Sharyn Alfonsi
Show/Publication
ABC World News Tonight
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