Existing home sales fell 3.7% month-over-month (m/m) in March to an annual rate of 6.01 million units, a seven-month low, versus expectations of a decline to 6.14 million units from February's upwardly revised 6.24 million rate. However, existing home sales were up 12.3% year-over-year (y/y).
Compared to last month, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) said buying activity in all the major regions fell, but all regions rose y/y. Sales of single-family homes and purchases of condominiums and co-ops were both down month-over-month (m/m), but higher y/y. The median existing home price jumped 17.2% from a year ago to $329,100, marking the 108th straight month of y/y gains as prices rose in every region. Unsold inventory came in at a 2.1-months pace at the current sales rate, nudging off last month's 2.0-months pace, and down sharply from the 3.3-months pace a year earlier. Existing home sales reflect contract closings instead of signings and account for a large majority of the home sales market.
NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun said," Consumers are facing much higher home prices, rising mortgage rates, and falling affordability, however, buyers are still actively in the market," adding that, "The sales for March would have been measurably higher, had there been more inventory," he added. "Days-on-market are swift, multiple offers are prevalent, and buyer confidence is rising."
The Conference Board's Index of Leading Economic Indicators (LEI) for March rose 1.3% m/m, above the Bloomberg consensus estimate calling for a 1.0% m/m increase from February's downwardly revised 0.1% decrease. The LEI was positive for the tenth-straight month after the plunges in March and April of last year, due to all ten components contributing positively, suggesting economic momentum is increasing in the near term.
Weekly initial jobless claims came in at a level of 547,000 for the week ended April 17, compared to the Bloomberg estimate of an acceleration to 610,000 from the prior week's upwardly revised 576,000 level. The four-week moving average declined by 27,750 to 651,000, and continuing claims for the week ended April 10 decreased by 34,000 to 3,674,000, north of estimates of 3,650,000. The four-week moving average of continuing claims declined by 41,750 to 3,713,000.
The April Kansas City Fed Manufacturing Activity Index is set to come out shortly and is expected to rise to 28 from March's 26 level, moving further into expansion territory as denoted by a reading above zero.
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