Economy Watch: Existing Homes Sales Rise in April

The National Association of Realtors reported that total existing-home sales rose 1.3 percent in April to an annualized rate of 4.65 million units, compared with 4.59 million units in March.

By Dees Stribling, Contributing Editor

The National Association of Realtors reported on Thursday that total existing-home sales rose 1.3 percent in April to an annualized rate of 4.65 million units, compared with 4.59 million units in March. Even so, compared with the same month a year earlier, the rate is 6.8 percent lower.

The association also reported that total U.S. housing inventory at the end of April jumped 16.8 percent to 2.29 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 5.9-month supply at the current sales pace, up from 5.1 months in March. Unsold inventory is 6.5 percent higher than a year ago, when there was a 5.2-month supply.

NAR puts median existing-home price for all housing types in April at $201,700, which is 5.2 percent above April 2013. During the first quarter of 2014, the median price was 8.6 percent above a year earlier. “Current price data suggests a trend of slower growth, which bodes well for preserving favorable affordability conditions in much of the country,” NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun notes.

Home price growth slows

Though home prices might still be up year-over-year, in its April Real Estate Market Report on Thursday, Zillow seemed to confirm a more recent pattern of slowing increases. According to its calculations, national home values fell 0.1 percent from in April compared with March to $170,200. On a year-over-year basis, home values were up 5.3 percent this April compared with April 2013. The last time Zillow put national home values at this level was in December 2004.

Zillow’s report focuses on metropolitan areas. In April, only 262 (51 percent) of the 510 metro markets showed monthly home value appreciation, while 410 (80 percent) saw annual home value appreciation. Among the 35 largest metro areas covered by Zillow, 12 exhibited monthly depreciation and two were flat in April. The biggest monthly declines were in San Antonio (down 0.9 percent) and Chicago (down 0.7 percent). Overall, national home values are still down 13.3 percent from their peak in May 2007.

Among the nation’s 35 largest metros, all but St. Louis and Kansas City experienced year-over-year home value increases month-over-month in April. Those with the most notable annual increases include Riverside, Calif. (up 22.4 percent), Las Vegas (up 22.1 percent), Sacramento (up 16.5 percent) and Orlando (up 16.4 percent).

Initial unemployment claims see uptick

For the week ending May 17 initial unemployment claims came in at an annualized rate of 326,000, an increase of 28,000 from the previous week, according to the U.S. Department of Labor on Thursday. The less jumpy four-week moving average was 322,500, a decrease of 1,000 from the previous week. Both figures are still low compared with the hardest years of the recession.

Wall Street had a modest up day on Thursday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average up 10.02 points, or 0.06 percent. The S&P 500 gained 0.24 percent and the Nasdaq was up 0.55 percent.

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