WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) — U.S. home prices rose in September for the sixth month, signaling that the housing market is “in the midst of a recovery,” according to the S&P/Case-Shiller home-price index released Tuesday. The S&P/Case-Shiller 20-city composite posted a 0.3% increase in September following a 0.8% gain in August. Home prices are up 3% from the prior year. “We are entering the seasonally weak part of the year. Despite the seasons, housing continues to improve,” said David Blitzer, chairman of the index committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices. Among the 20 cities tracked by the index, 13 posted monthly gains in September. Tuesday’s report on home prices is the latest news on a strengthening housing market. There have also been recent gains in new construction, home-builder sentiment, and existing-home sales. However, while persistently low mortgage rates are attracting some buyers, consumers still face tight credit standards, and officials say factors such as tight lending terms will block a powerful housing recovery. Indeed, despite recent gains, prices are about 30% below peak levels in 2006, according to Case-Shiller data
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WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) — Existing-home sales rose in February to reach the highest rate in more than three years, another sign of a strengthening housing market, as inventories posted an unusually large gain in the month, a trade group said Thursday.
Economists polled by MarketWatch had expected a pace of 5.02 million for February, compared with an original estimate of a 4.92 million rate in January. See economic calendar. On Thursday, NAR upwardly revised January’s rate to 4.94 million.
While sales remain below prerecession and bubble levels, low mortgage rates and an improving jobs picture are supporting demand. Also, rising prices are encouraging activity, luring sellers to place homes on the market.
Inventories rose 9.6% in February to 1.94 million existing homes available for sale. The months’ supply of existing homes rose to 4.7 in February from 4.3 in January, the first increase since April, but still a relatively low figure. January’s months’ supply was the lowest since May 2005.
Compared with February 2012, the median sales price rose 11.6% to $173,600. Elsewhere Thursday, a federal agency reported that home prices in January climbed 6.5% from the same period in the prior year. Read more about the government’s estimate.
“The trend in home sales still looks up; with inventories down sharply, prices are rising as well,” Jim O’Sullivan, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics, wrote in a research note. “While levels are still low, housing is now the strongest part of the economy in growth terms.”
Other housing data released this week indicated a housing market that is growing stronger over the long term, despite some mixed recent indicators. Construction on new U.S. homes recently nudged up, and confidence among home builders declined. Read more about construction.Read more about builder confidence.
Going forward, there’s concern that overly stringent lending standards and ongoing high unemployment could cut the housing market’s improvement.
Still, analysts expect the housing market to continue to add to economic growth this year given the Federal Reserve’s backing and an economy that is adding jobs. Indeed, a recent reading on building permits, which are a sign of future demand, hit the highest level since June 2008.
By Ruth Mantell
By Jeffry Bartash
WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) – Sales of new single-family homes in the U.S. climbed to an annual rate of 372,000 in July from 359,000 in June, the Commerce Department said Thursday. Sales in June revised up from an original reading of 350,000. Economists polled by MarketWatch had forecast new home sales to rise to a seasonally adjusted 365,000 last month. The biggest increase took place in the Northeast, where sales rose nearly 77% after falling 55% in June. Sales also rose 7.7% in the Midwest. In the South, sales declined by 1.6% and purchases fell 0.9% in the West. New home sales are 25.3% higher compared to one year ago. The median price of new homes, meanwhile, dropped 2.1% to $224,200 last month from $229,100 in June. And the supply of new homes available for purchase on the U.S. market fell to 4.6 months at the current sales pace from 4.8 months in the prior month. The combination of faster sales and a slow rate of construction resulted in the number of new homes on sale falling to a record low of 142,000 in July.
By Steve Goldstein
WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) — Sales of existing homes climbed 2.3% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.47 million in July, the National Association of Realtors reported Wednesday, coming in roughly in line with the 4.5 million consensus. The median price of existing homes climbed 9.4% year-on-year to $187,300, and inventories rose 1.3% to 2.4 million units, representing 6.4 months of supply.
By Jeffry Bartash
WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) – Construction on new U.S. homes in June rose 6.9% to an annual rate of 760,000, the highest level since October 2008, but building permits fell slightly, the Commerce Department reported Wednesday. Housing starts in May were revised up to 711,000 from an original reading of 708,000. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch had expected housing starts to rise in June to an annual rate of 750,000 on a seasonally adjusted basis. Permits for new construction, viewed as a gauge of future demand, edged 3.7% lower to an annual rate of 755,000 from 784,000 in May. Permits for single-family homes, which account for three-quarters of the housing market, rose a scant 0.6% to an annual rate of 493,000 last month. More than half of the increase in housing starts in June involved buildings with five or more units.
By Jeffry Bartash
WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) – Sales of new single-family homes rose to an annual rate of 369,000 in May to mark the highest level in more than two years, the U.S. Commerce Department reported Monday. Sales for April were unchanged at 343,000, seasonally adjusted. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch had expected new-home sales to rise to annual rate of 348,000 in May. The median sales price fell 0.6% to $234,500 last month. Lower prices, low interest rates and warmer weather likely gave a small boost to sales. The supply of new homes on the market, at current sales pace, fell to 4.7 months from 5.0 in April. Even with the latest increase, however, sales of new homes are far below the normal level and reflect an industry still trying to dig out of its worst slump in modern times.
By Ruth Mantell
WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) – Mortgage rates hit record lows in the week ending June 7, with the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage average declining to 3.67% from 3.75% in the prior week, Freddie Mac said Thursday in its weekly report. These data go back to 1971. The rate was 4.49% a year earlier. To obtain the latest 30-year rate, payment of an average 0.7 point was required, according to Freddie, a buyer of residential mortgages. “Fixed mortgage rates reached new record lows for the sixth consecutive week as long-term Treasury bond yields declined further following downwardly revised economic growth and job creation data,” said Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac’s chief economist. The 15-year fixed-rate mortgage also hit a record low in the most recent week, falling to 2.94% from 2.97% in the prior week. These data go back to 1991. Meanwhile, the average rate on the 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage remained at 2.84%. The 1-year Treasury-indexed ARM rose to 2.79% from 2.75%