Nation & World

Pending home sales unexpectedly drop

Decline adds to market woes

Bloomberg

A real estate agent removes an “open house” sign from in the front yard of a home for sale.
Bloomberg A real estate agent removes an “open house” sign from in the front yard of a home for sale.

Contract signings to purchase previously owned U.S. homes unexpectedly fell in April, adding to signs the housing market is struggling to regain momentum.

The index of pending home sales declined 1.5 percent from the previous month, missing all economist estimates, after a 3.9 percent increase in March, according to data Thursday from the National Association of Realtors in Washington, D.C.

Pending home sales are often looked to as a leading indicator of existing home purchases and a measure of the health of the housing market in the coming months.

“Though the latest monthly figure shows a mild decline in contract signings, mortgage applications and consumer confidence have been steadily rising,” NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun said in a statement. “It’s inevitable for sales to turn higher in a few months.”

The measure was up 0.4 percent from a year earlier on an unadjusted basis, the first positive reading in a year, suggesting some stabilization.

The monthly decline adds to signs of a soft housing market amid an economy that may be losing some steam.

Previous data showed sales of both new and existing homes fell in April while single-family housing permits dropped to the lowest level in almost two years.

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At the same time, low mortgage rates, more affordable properties and rising wages should support demand, and contract activity remains higher than in late 2018.

Contracts decreased from the previous month in three of four regions, led by a 2.5 percent drop in the South. The Midwest was the only area to record a gain, at 1.3 percent.

Forecasts for monthly pending home sales in a Bloomberg survey of economists ranged from a 1 percent drop to a 1.6 percent gain.

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