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US house prices climbed 0.5% in January as inventory tight

[BOSTON] US home prices rose in January as shoppers competed for a limited inventory of listings.

Prices increased 0.5 per cent on a seasonally adjusted basis from December, the Federal Housing Finance Agency said Tuesday in a report from Washington. The gain matched the median estimate of 19 economists, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Prices climbed 6 per cent from a year earlier.

The low number of homes on the market is holding back home sales and driving up prices. Closings on purchases of existing homes decreased 7.1 per cent to a 5.08 million annual rate in February, a three-month low, after a 5.47 million pace in January, the National Association of Realtors reported on Monday.

"There isn't a lot of supply being built and markets are extremely tight," Gennadiy Goldberg, rate strategist for TD Securities USA LLC in New York, said in a phone interview Monday. "We expect prices to be pressured higher."

Prices increased from a year earlier in all regions, led by the South Atlantic - including Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia - with an 8.9 per cent gain. Prices climbed 7.4 per cent in the Pacific area, with California, Oregon and Hawaii. The Middle Atlantic region - New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania - had the smallest increase, 1.7 per cent.

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The FHFA index measures transactions for single-family properties financed with mortgages owned or securitized by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. It doesn't provide specific prices. The median price of an existing single-family home in the US was US$215,000 in January, up 8.3 per cent from a year earlier, according to the Realtors group.


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