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U.S. Existing Home Sales Unexpectedly Unchanged In August

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With sales growth in the Northeast and Midwest offset by downturns in the South and West, the National Association of Realtors released a report on Thursday showing existing home sales in the U.S. were unexpectedly flat in the month of August.

NAR said existing home sales came in at an annual rate of 5.34 million in August, unchanged from July. Economists had expected existing home sales to rise by 0.3 percent following the 0.7 percent drop in the previous month.

"Strong gains in the Northeast and a moderate uptick in the Midwest helped to balance out any losses in the South and West, halting months of downward momentum," said NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun. "With inventory stabilizing and modestly rising, buyers appear ready to step back into the market."

The report said existing home sales in the Northeast jumped by 7.6 percent to a rate of 710,000, while sales in the West climbed by 2.4 percent to a rate of 1.280 million.

On the other hand, existing home sales in the West plunged by 5.9 percent to a rate of 1.120 million and sales in the South edged down by 0.4 percent to a rate of 2.230 million.

NAR said the median existing home price in August was $264,800, down 1.7 percent from $269,300 in July but up 4.6 percent from $253,100 in the same month a year ago.

The report also said total housing inventory at the end of August was unchanged from July at 1.92 million existing homes available for sale, up from 1.87 million a year ago.

Unsold inventory represents 4.3-months of supply at the current sales pace, constituent with July but up from 4.1 months a year ago.

"While inventory continues to show modest year over year gains, it is still far from a healthy level and new home construction is not keeping up to satisfy demand," Yun said.

He added, "Homes continue to fly off the shelves with a majority of properties selling within a month, indicating that more inventory - especially moderately priced, entry-level homes - would propel sales."

The report said single-family home sales and existing condominium and co-op sales were both unchanged from the previous month at 4.75 million and 590,000, respectively.

Next Wednesday, the Commerce Department is scheduled to release a separate report on new home sales in the month of August.

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