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US existing home sales fall in October

New-home construction in the US unexpectedly fell in December, indicating the industry lost some momentum entering 2016.

[WASHINGTON] Sales of existing US homes cooled in October after a September surge as the housing market trends higher at a modest pace, a real-estate industry group reported Monday.

Fewer people were buying single-family homes, the core of the US housing market, driving the pullback in October sales, the National Association of Realtors said.

"New and existing-home supply has struggled to improve so far this fall, leading to few choices for buyers and no easement of the ongoing affordability concerns still prevalent in some markets," said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, in a statement.

"Furthermore, the mixed signals of slowing economic growth and volatility in the financial markets slightly tempered demand and contributed to the decreasing pace of sales."

Sales of all previously owned homes fell 3.4 per cent to an annual rate of 5.36 million in October, from a strong jump to 5.55 million units in September, NAR said. The October sales pace was still 3.9 per cent higher than a year ago.

The October decline was a bit worse than the expected dip to a 5.50 million rate. Pending home sales had fallen for a second straight month in September, pointing to a slowdown.

Sales of single-family homes, the lion's share of the market, dropped 3.7 per cent from September, eclipsing the 1.6 per cent fall in condominium and co-op sales.

Prices continued to rise despite the drop in sales amid tight inventory of homes on the market.

The median existing-home price for all housing types in October was US$219,600, a gain of 5.8 per cent from a year ago.

Meanwhile, total housing inventory fell 2.3 per cent to 2.14 million existing homes available for sale at the end of October, 4.5 per cent lower than a year ago. At the current sales pace, unsold inventory was at a 4.8-month supply, up from 4.7 months in September.

Jim O'Sullivan, chief US economist at High Frequency Economics, highlighted that the October weakness had followed a strong September.

"Through the volatility, the trend still looks up, although these data raise the possibility that the rate of increase is slowing. More positively, we expect the even more volatile new-home sales series to be up sharply later this week, after a large decline in last month's report," he said.