Market watch: Persimmon to provide silver lining for gloomy housing sector

A TRADING update from housebuilder Persimmon and a survey from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics) will give an indication of how the UK housing market is performing this winter.

Persimmon is likely to bring some cheer to investors tomorrow with news that its order book has grown, after saying in its last update that it was fully sold up for the year and had £460 million of sales already reserved beyond 2011.

The builder reported a spike in the number of site visits from first-time buyers during the second half of last year and analysts will be eager to learn whether that trend led to a noticeable pick-up in sales.

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Northland Securities says Persimmon’s “self-help” measures implemented after the housing market withered following the financial crisis should start improving the return on equity.

Rics’ December housing market survey, out on Tuesday, will provide details of supply and demand in the housing market as 2011 came to an end. Howard Archer, chief European and UK economist at IHS Global Insight, expects the market to remain in the doldrums and said more surveyors are likely to report that prices fell, reversing an improvement seen in the last survey.

He said: “While the November survey pointed to modestly improved housing activity, the fact remains that it was still muted compared to long-term norms and there has been little sign of any significant step up in housing market activity.”