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December was a rough month for housing, writes the Wall Street Journal's Justin Lahart, referring to the 6.4% drop in existing home sales. Lahart says a January bounce may not happen.

One big quote: "While a bounce can’t be ruled out, the housing recovery’s best days probably are behind it," he writes.

The big picture: "The drop in home sales came despite a decline in mortgage rates."

  • Part of the problem was that the things that brought about the decline in rates — worries over the economy and tumbling stock prices — likely made would-be buyers nervous. And because it takes time to close on a house, the sales drop also probably reflected the higher rates in previous months.

The state of play: The shutdown is also likely to make things worse in coming months.

  • "There are about 800,000 federal employees who are either furloughed or working without pay as a result of the government shutdown. Buying a home can’t be top of mind for many of them."

On the other hand: Bank of America economist Michelle Meyer disagrees, writing in a note on Tuesday: "Don’t believe the narratives of a housing collapse."

  • Meyer argues that the challenges facing the housing sector “should only be a slight drag on growth” and notes, “the recent decline in mortgage rates is well timed, ahead of the spring selling season.”
  • "Sentiment among U.S. homebuilders rose last week for the first time in three months amid a decline in borrowing costs, even as home sales have slumped."
  • "We suspect that potential homebuyers who may have been scared from the market during the period of rising rates in the fall could see it as an opportunity to jump back in."

Go deeper: Home improvement retailers play down sluggish housing market

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Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 9 p.m. ET: 20,755,406 — Total deaths: 752,225— Total recoveries: 12,917,934Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 9 p.m. ET: 5,246,760 — Total deaths: 167,052 — Total recoveries: 1,774,648 — Total tests: 64,831,306Map.
  3. Politics: House Democrats to investigate scientist leading "Operation Warp Speed" vaccine projectMcConnell announces Senate will not hold votes until Sept. 8 unless stimulus deal is reached.
  4. 2020: Biden calls for 3-month national mask mandateBiden and Harris to receive coronavirus briefings 4 times a week.
  5. States: Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp to drop lawsuit over Atlanta's mask mandate.
  6. Business: Why the CARES Act makes 2020 the best year for companies to lose money.
  7. Public health: Fauci's guidance on pre-vaccine coronavirus treatments Cases are falling, but don't get too comfortable.

Trump says he intends to give RNC speech on White House lawn

President Trump speaking to reporters on South Lawn in July. Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

President Trump told the New York Post on Thursday that he plans to deliver his Republican National Convention speech from the White House lawn, despite bipartisan criticism of the optics and legality of the location.

Why it matters: Previous presidents avoided blurring staged campaign-style events — like party conventions — with official business of governing on the White House premises, per Politico.

Fauci's guidance on pre-vaccine coronavirus treatments

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Antibody drugs and various medicine cocktails against the coronavirus are progressing and may provide some relief before vaccines.

The big picture: Everyone wants to know how and when they can return to "normal" life, as vaccines are not expected to be ready for most Americans for at least a year. Two therapies are known to be helpful, and more could be announced by late September, NIAID Director Anthony Fauci tells Axios.