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US existing home sales jump to 5-1/2-year high

[WASHINGTON] US home resales surged to a 5-1/2-year high in May as first-time buyers piled into the market, the latest indication that housing and overall economic activity were gathering steam in the second quarter.

The National Association of Realtors said on Monday existing home sales increased 5.1 per cent to an annual rate of 5.35 million units, the highest level since November 2009.

The increase unwound April's surprise drop in purchases, which economists had dismissed as a blip given that forward-looking indicators on home sales, including mortgage applications, had been fairly strong during that period.

The Realtors group revised April's sales pace up to 5.09 million units from the previously reported 5.04 million units. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast home resales rising to a 5.26 million-unit pace last month.

First-time buyers accounted for 32 per cent of transactions, the largest share since September 2012.

May's sturdy home sales report added to last week's data on building permits in portraying an upbeat picture of the housing market. It joined strong retail sales, consumer sentiment and employment data reports in suggesting a building up of momentum in the economy after output contracted at the start of the year.

REUTERS