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Economy in Brief

U.S. Existing Home Sales Rose Last Month
by Tom Moeller January 26, 2009

Could the decline in home sales be stabilizing, perhaps due to lower prices? According to the National Association of Realtors, sales of existing homes rose 6.5% last month to 4.740M. The 9.4% November decline was slightly deeper than reported initially. Consensus expectations had been for sales of 4.40M homes. Total sales include sales of condos and co-ops.

Median home prices fell yet again during December. The 2.7% (NSA) decline followed a 3.3% November drop that was slightly deeper than initially reported. It was the sixth consecutive monthly drop and it lowered prices by 15.3% from December of 2007. Prices have fallen 23.4% since their peak in June 2007.

The number of unsold homes (condos & single-family) on the market dropped a sharp 11.7% (-7.5% y/y). At the current sales rate there was a 9.3 months' supply on the market which was the lowest since early during 2007. For single-family homes the inventory fell m/m to an 8.7 months supply at the current sales rate which also was the lowest since 2007.

Last month, sales of existing single-family homes recovered nearly all of the November decline with a 7.0% increase. Nevertheless, sales of existing homes remained down by nearly one-third from their peak in mid-2005.

By region, home sales in the West posted the strongest gain in December with a 13.6% rise. This gain recouped all of the declines during the prior two months and returned sales to the upward trend line that has been in place since the low in October of 2007. Sales in the South also gained 7.4% versus November but that level was the series' low for this cycle. Sales in the Midwest also rose by 4.0%. That too was off the series' low. Sales in the Northeast fell 1.4% after a huge 12.0% November drop. Single family home sales here were at their lowest since 1992.

Existing Home Sales (Thous) December y/y % November December '07 2008 2007 2006
Total 4,740 -3.5 4,450 4,910 4,897 5,672 6,508
  Northeast 720 -14.3 730 840 842 1,008 1,090
  Midwest 1,040 -10.3 1,000 1,160 1,129 1,331 1,491
  South 1,740 -11.2 1,620 1,960 1,863 2,240 2,576
  West 1,250 31.6 1,100 950 1,066 1,093 1,353
Single-Family 4,260 -1.4 3,980 4,320 4,345 4,958 5,703
Median Price, Total, $ 175,400 -15.3 180,300 207,000 197,217 216,617 222,000
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