Home resales at 1-1/2 year-high, supply falls


U.S. home resales rose to a 1-1/2 year high in January, pushing the supply of properties on the market to the lowest level in almost seven years in a hopeful sign for the housing sector.
The National Association of Realtors said on Wednesday existing home sales increased 4.3 percent to an annual rate of 4.57 million units last month, the fastest pace since May 2010.
It was the latest sign the housing market may be coming off the floor. While economists attributed some of the rise to unseasonably warm winter weather, they also said it signaled genuine improvement.
Sales were up across all four regions of the country, with the West recording the biggest gain — an 8.8 percent increase.
“At least some of the improvement in the last few months could have reflected milder winter weather, but for the most part, it seems that the housing sector may have turned the corner,” said Guy Berger, an economist at RBS in Stamford, Connecticut.
The tenor of the report was weakened somewhat by a sharp downward revision to December’s sales data to show only a 4.38 million unit sales rate rather than the previously reported 4.61 million unit pace.
A brightening economic outlook, marked by a strengthening labor market and buoyant factories, is giving the housing market some lift. Confidence among homebuilders is near five-year highs and they are breaking more ground on new housing projects.