The latest Government house building numbers strongly suggest that a shade more than 100,000 homes will be built in England in 2009.

This would represent a 40% drop on the peak year of 2007 and make 2009 a record peacetime low.

There are hints of hope in the figures with the starts figures rising. But if we look at the 12-monthly number we see that the accumulated starts over the past year are low, which does not bode well for an upturn in completions. Still, it is a start in the right direction.

Starts and completions Sep qt 2009.GIF

Starts and completions Sep yr 2009.gifThe chances are that completions on an annual basis may drift below the 100,000 mark before rising towards the end of next year.

But fundamentally we have a market where, despite an improved outlook for sales in the short term, there is no particular appetite among house builders to boost production significantly.

We can expect to see the rise in the completion figures out of their slump to be fairly modest, but not glacial. And, as things stand, it does look as if we should see growth in house building (that is the bit that happens between a start and a completion) establish itself more robustly next year.

It must be said that the cock-up in the figures last time around has rather damaged the credibility of the numbers, but the current pattern when looked at on a 12-monthly basis does seem to match the noise coming up from the ground.

All in all, from such a low base, house building does look like a growth prospect for suppliers. Not that the market prospects are without risk and uncertainty.