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U.S. Existing Home Sales Pull Back Less Than Expected In January

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Existing home sales in the U.S. pulled back in January after jumping in December, according to a report released by the National Association of Realtors on Friday, with existing home sales continuing a fluctuating pattern of monthly increases and declines.

NAR said existing home sales slumped by 1.3 percent to an annual rate of 5.46 million in January after surging up by 3.9 percent to a revised rate of 5.53 million in December. Economists had expected existing home sales to tumble by 1.8 percent.

Despite the monthly decrease, the report noted existing home sales in January were up by 9.6 percent compared to the same month a year ago.

"Existing-home sales are off to a strong start at 5.46 million," NAR's chief economist Lawrence Yun. "The trend line for housing starts is increasing and showing steady improvement, which should ultimately lead to more home sales."

The pullback in existing home sales in January came as home sales in the West region plunged by 9.4 percent to a rate of 1.060 million.

On the other hand, existing home sales in the Midwest jumped by 2.4 percent to a rate of 1.290 million, while home sales in the South and Northeast were nearly unchanged.

NAR said the median existing home price for all housing types was $266,300 in January, down 3 percent from $274,500 in December but up 6.8 percent from $249,400 in the same month a year ago.

"Mortgage rates have helped with affordability, but it is supply conditions that are driving price growth," Yun said.

The report said housing inventory at the end of January totaled 1.42 million units, up 2.2 percent from December but down 10.7 percent from a year ago.

The unsold inventory represents 3.1 months of supply at the current sales pace, up from the 3.0-month figure recorded in December but down from the 3.8-month figure recorded in January 2019.

Single-family home sales tumbled by 2.6 percent to an annual rate of 4.85 million in January, while existing condominium and co-op sales slumped by 1.6 percent to a rate of 610,000.

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

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