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U.S. Pending Home Sales Unexpectedly Drop 0.5% In May

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Reflecting a large decline in contract activity in the South, the National Association of Realtors released a report on Wednesday showing an unexpected decrease in pending home sales in the U.S. in the month of May.

NAR said its pending home sales index fell by 0.5 percent to 105.9 in May after slumping by 1.3 percent to 106.4 in April. Economists had expected pending home sales to climb by 0.5 percent.

With the unexpected decline, pending home sales in May were down by 2.2 percent compared to the same month a year ago, reflecting the fifth straight month pending sales decreased year-over-year.

A pending home sale is one in which a contract was signed but not yet closed. Normally, it takes four to six weeks to close a contracted sale.

"Pending home sales underperformed once again in May, declining for the second straight month and coming in at the second lowest level over the past year," said NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun.

He added, "Realtors in most of the country continue to describe their markets as highly competitive and fast moving, but without enough new and existing inventory for sale, activity has essentially stalled."

The unexpected drop in pending home sales was due to a notable decrease in the South, where pending home sales slumped by 3.5 percent.

On the other hand, pending home sales in the West rose by 0.6 percent, and pending home sales in the Northeast and Midwest jumped by 2.0 percent and 2.9 percent, respectively.

Yun now forecasts for existing home sales to dip by 0.4 percent to 5.49 million in 2018 from 5.51 million in 2017.

The national median existing home price is expected to increase around 5.0 percent. In 2017, existing sales increased 1.1 percent and prices rose 5.7 percent.

On Monday, the Commerce Department released a separate report showing a bigger than expected rebound in new home sales in May.

The Commerce Department said new home sales spiked by 6.7 percent to an annual rate of 689,000 in May after plunging by 3.7 percent to a revised rate of 646,000 in April. Economists had expected new home sales to climb by 1.5 percent.

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