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U.S. Existing Home Sales Pull Back More Than Expected In March

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A report released by the National Association of Realtors on Monday showed a significant pullback in U.S. existing home sales in the month of March.

NAR said existing home sales plunged by 4.9 percent to an annual rate of 5.21 million in March after soaring by 11.2 percent to a revised rate of 5.48 million in February.

Economists had expected existing home sales to tumble by 3.8 percent to a rate of 5.30 million from the 5.51 million originally reported for the previous month.

The bigger than expected pullback came after existing home sales reached their highest level in almost a year in February.

With the monthly drop, existing home sales in March were down by 5.4 percent compared to 5.51 million in the same month a year ago.

"It is not surprising to see a retreat after a powerful surge in sales in the prior month," said NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun. "Still, current sales activity is underperforming in relation to the strength in the jobs markets. The impact of lower mortgage rates has not yet been fully realized."

The report said the median existing home price in March was $259,400, up 3.7 percent from $250,100 in February and up 3.8 percent from $249,800 in March of 2018.

Total housing inventory increased to 1.68 million existing homes available for sale at the end of March, representing 3.9 months of supply at the current sales pace.

"Further increases in inventory are highly desirable to keep home prices in check," said Yun. "The sustained steady gains in home sales can occur when home price appreciation grows at roughly the same pace as wage growth."

NAR said single-family existing home sales slumped by 4.9 percent to an annual rate of 4.67 million in March, while existing condominium and co-op sales plummeted by 5.3 percent to a rate of 540,000.

On Tuesday, the Commerce Department is scheduled to release a separate report on new home sales in the month of March.

New home sales are expected to drop to an annual rate of 650,000 in March after jumping to a rate of 667,000 in February.

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