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Economy in Brief

U.S. Pending Home Sales Unchanged in January
by Tom Moeller March 6, 2008

The National Association of Realtors reported that the January level of pending sales of existing homes was unchanged from December. The reading contrasted slightly with Consensus expectations for a modest decline. The latest level also was unchanged from last year's low reached in August.

These figures are analogous to the new home sales data from the Commerce Dept. They measure existing home sales when the sales contract is signed, not at the time the sale is closed.

In contrast to the stability in overall sales, pending home sales in the Northeast continued to fall. The 4.1% m/m January decline was the sixth in the last seven months and sales were down 40.1% from the monthly peak early in 2005. Sales in the South also were quite weak in January and fell 6.1% m/m, the fourth down month in a row. Sales were off 35.5% from the 2005 peak.

Sales in the Midwest recently have shown some stability. They rose 0.6% in January and were up 7.4% from the low last August. Nevertheless, sales were one third lower than the 2004 peak. Out West sales recovered in January. The 13.0% rise was first m/m gain on record but sales were still 44.6% below the late 2005 peak.

The Realtors also indicated in an earlier report that the number of homes on the market and available for sale rose 5.5% (18.4% y/y) in January.

The pending home sales data are available in Haver's PREALTOR database and the number of homes on the market are in the REALTOR database.

Pending Home Sales (2001=100)  January December Y/Y 2007 2006  2005
Total 85.9  85.9    -19.6% 95.7 112.1  124.3
  Northeast 69.6 72.6 -28.0 85.6 98.5 108.3
  Midwest 85.2 84.7 -13.3 89.6 102.0 116.4
  South 89.5 95.3 -23.8 107.3 127.3 134.8
  West 93.8 83.0 -12.7 92.3 109.5 128.6
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